Balancing Reciprocity and Mutuality

Aim for an equitable approach to shared responsibilities and decisions

My partner never kept up with chores, but I didn’t bring anything up until it boiled over.” – Hoyt, 43

As you learn to better divy up tasks and rely on each other, these opportunities for conflict and tension will decrease. 

Balance shared responsibilities 

An imbalance in responsibilities can lead to friction and one person feeling less valued in a relationship. 

It’s hard to perfectly split up all tasks 50/50, so try to balance out the overall time and effort for shared responsibilities. Some responsibilities can be alternated day-to-day or week-to-week. 

Here are some examples of responsibilities that couples can try to balance out (some of these may or may not apply, depending on your relationship):

  • Planning dates
  • Groceries, cooking and meal planning
  • Messaging or calling each other first
  • Initiating intimacy 
  • Running errands
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Where you spend your time (at one partner’s place or another)
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Caring for kids and/or pets 

Sometimes you might think you’re doing the right thing in a relationship, like not cooking because your partner does it without complaining, or letting them plan every date because you think they prefer to make the decisions. However, it’s important to check in and make sure you distribute tasks evenly without taking things for granted. 

In real life, situations will arise that push things out of balance, like a stressful or especially busy time of year, but remember to keep these temporary as you work to restore balance when able.

Make decisions together

This ensures that both parties feel heard and valued in the decision-making process.

Account for your partners needs

Any major decisions, whether directly involving your partner or not, are going to impact your partner’s life. 

When making decisions, it’s important to take your partner’s needs into consideration and communicate openly to understand their perspective. 

Here are a few situations where it’s important to discuss things with your partner first.

Major financial decisions

Such as large purchases, investments, or taking on debt.

Career decisions

Decisions that may impact your shared lifestyle or require relocation.

Family planning

Whether/when to start a family, how many children to have, or how to raise them

Changes in lifestyle or living arrangements

Such as making significant home renovations

Health-related decisions

Major medical procedures, treatments, or lifestyle changes

Social activities

How much time to spend with friends, how to divide time between different social activities, or whether to attend events as a couple or individually

Pursuing a hobby or interest

If it may require significant time or financial investment

Changes in personal beliefs or values

Such as losing touch with a shared religion or changing viewpoints on a major political issue

As we learned in our section on Communication, remember to be direct in voicing any major decisions you are contemplating, then actively listen to your partner’s side of things. 

Be clear about your wants and needs 

Some guys find it very difficult to not always put their partners’ needs above their own – if you struggle with this, try being more specific about stating your wants and needs. 

Otherwise, your partners may not know what we are actually thinking (even if it seems obvious to us). 

In the next section, we’ll explore methods to deepen trust, a fundamental element that underpins nearly every aspect of relationships.


Men's Health Week takes place annually in mid-June, during the week preceding Father’s Day. The week is not just a campaign, but a call to action for men to take better care of their health and for communities to support men in this endeavour.

Men's Health Week 2024