y wife and I aren’t perfect. Far from it, we argue, get frustrated at each other and sometimes don’t get this whole marriage thing right.It’s really hard and how could it not be.
We’ve got two kids and a house to clean, our careers to maintain, fitting in our own social lives and what seems to take a back seat is time with each other.
On paper, having a happy relationship seems impossible. There are so many more important things to worry about right?
A friend of mine once told me after she went through a messy divorce, the mistake they made was not being considerate of each other's needs. No time was given to each other because they never knew what the other person needed. Communication broke down and resentment crept in.
At the time (pre-kids) I didn’t get it. I thought “why didn’t you just hang out with each other”. I thought it was an easy fix.
But that's the thing, isn't it? We all have crazy lives that get even crazier when we have kids and the first things to be neglected are time to ourselves (to recharge) and time with your partner.
I get it now. Having kids is hard and, you know, it takes a lot of time and effort to keep them alive... Who would have thought?
That is your main focus, your relationship is secondary. The last thing you feel like doing at the end of the day is marriage maintenance. You want to sit on the couch, watch Netflix and eat ice cream.
Well, I’m here to tell you that ice cream tastes better when there are two spoons in the tub and that you can have a great relationship AND keep your kids alive. Wow!
Parenting burnout is real and I’m not here to tell you that you need to set aside more time for your partner, this often isn’t possible and honestly, is bullshit advice that makes everything harder. The real aim of the game is to optimise your processes and systems together so that your everyday life feels nourishing and you are supporting each other to keep things moving forward.
Actively working on your relationship is one of the best ways to make your life better. It can feel like you’re walking through mud if you and your partner are struggling so it's worth it too.
There are many things you can do to make both of your lives easier but in this article, we are going to cover one of the most effective ways to support your partner and avoid family burnout.
The Percentage Rule
Here’s how it works.
Your energy/tolerance/effort levels are rated from 1% - 100%. 100% being ready for anything, full of beans, handstand pushups - 1% being almost dead.
Ideally to maintain the household you need 100%, but here’s the magic, that number spreads across both of you.
In a perfect world, you would each contribute 50%, share the workload evenly and live in a fairytale. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
Throughout the day each of you could be at different levels, for example, in the morning your partner could be at 80% but in the afternoon they could be at 20%.
So using simple maths we know that in the afternoon, you may need to pick up the slack and give 80% to keep things moving forward and give your partner a break to recharge. This could be you taking on your partner's share of the cleaning for the day or going for a walk with the kids for a walk so they can get some rest.
I find that it usually evens out over some time anyway so you will both do your fair share eventually. Some days you might just need a little more help. With this system in place, you can just ask for it.
If at any point you are both at 80%, great! You can give 50% each to the household and have a little energy left over to hang out with each other.
Communication is key.
It may sound silly giving your partner a percentage but being specific is important. I will say to Katie “Im at 40% right now” and she will give me the space to recover by picking up the extra 10% of the work.
If I could have a running number floating above my head that would be amazing. Maybe in the metaverse? Make it happen Zuck.
But first, explain the process to your partner and make sure you both understand the system. If you start blurting out percentages without warning it might get a little confusing.
The percentage rule takes the guesswork out of knowing where your partner is at with their energy levels and allows you to react accordingly. Removing the frustration of thinking they don't consider how you’re feeling (mind readers don't exist!).
It’s been an amazing tool for us and has made it much easier to get the rest that we each need when we are feeling that parenting burnout.
Give it a try and let me know if it helps, @ me on Twitter!
The Percentage Rule is a technique I picked up on an Esther Perel interview a while ago. Esther is a Belgian psychotherapist who focuses on relational therapy, has written multiple books and has an amazing podcast, Where Should we Begin. A couple of Esther's books worth mentioning are Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.