WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff

5 Chapters from My Story: Understanding the Origin of an Unbalanced Relationship

The journey to understanding unbalanced relationships often begins with a deep dive into personal history. By examining our past experiences, we can uncover the roots of imbalance and learn how to cultivate healthier dynamics. My story, like many others, is a testament to the complexities of relationship dynamics and the societal influences that shape them. Here are five pivotal chapters from my life that illustrate my journey and what inspired me to do the work I do.

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Chapter 1: The Whirlwind Romance

In 1995, I was a recent college graduate with a BA in sociology, passionate about social justice and feminism. I landed a job as a marketing assistant at a tech company, aiming to save money for grad school. Life took an unexpected turn when my college boyfriend broke up with me, and the new engineer at work, charming and confident, invited me to a party. This rebound quickly escalated into moving in together, getting a dog, and eventually marriage. My husband, ten years my senior, had grand ambitions for his future, and slowly, my aspirations took a backseat.

As we settled into married life, I found myself supporting his career and dreams while my own ambitions faded. The unbalanced relationship dynamics were subtle at first, masked by the excitement of new beginnings. Our shared life became a roadmap for his success, with my role increasingly revolving around his needs and goals.

The seeds of inequality were planted even as we planned our wedding. I took on the lion’s share of the planning duties, from choosing the venue to coordinating with vendors. My husband showed little interest or input, often dismissing my requests for his opinion with a casual “Whatever you think is best.” At the time, I saw this as an opportunity to create our perfect day, but in hindsight, it was an early indicator of the imbalance that would characterize our relationship. This experience foreshadowed a pattern where my efforts and contributions were expected but undervalued, setting the stage for the unbalanced dynamics that would follow.

Chapter 2: The Struggle for Balance

The arrival of our children marked a significant shift. My husband’s startup consumed most of his time, leaving me to handle the household and childcare. I left my job to be a full-time mom, believing it was a temporary sacrifice until his business took off. However, the promises of temporary hardship turned into a prolonged struggle.

My identity became entwined with motherhood, and the imbalance in our relationship grew more pronounced. My husband’s criticisms about household management and my appearance chipped away at my self-worth. Despite being a top-of-her-class feminist, I found myself questioning my value and capabilities. This chapter of my life was marked by a growing awareness of the unbalanced relationship but feeling powerless to change it.

The emotional toll of this unbalanced relationship began to manifest physically. Sleepless nights, constant fatigue, and bouts of anxiety became my new normal. While I found immense joy in my children, the combination of the intensity and boredom of being a stay-at-home mom was confusing and unsettling. My husband’s relentless focus on his business left little room for empathy or understanding, further deepening the chasm between us. This period was a crucible, forging a quiet but resilient determination within me to seek balance and reclaim my sense of self.

Chapter 3: Isolation and Anxiety

Our move to a bigger house in a prestigious neighborhood isolated me further. My husband’s career pressures intensified, and I was left to manage the home, children, and construction projects alone. The stress and isolation took a toll on my mental health, leading to anxiety and depression.

Seeking help from a psychiatrist only reinforced the imbalance. I was advised to take antidepressants and focus on making my husband happy. This dismissive attitude mirrored the societal expectations that women should prioritize their family’s needs over their own. The lack of support and understanding deepened my struggles, highlighting the systemic issues contributing to unbalanced relationships.

During this time, my attempts to communicate my distress to my husband were often met with frustration and dismissal. He saw my struggles as minor inconveniences compared to his business challenges, which further marginalized my experiences. The emotional labor of keeping our family together fell squarely on my shoulders. I navigated the construction chaos, placated unhappy neighbors, and tried to maintain a semblance of normalcy for our children. Each day felt like a battle, but the seeds of resilience were also being sown, laying the groundwork for my eventual journey towards balance and understanding.

Chapter 4: The Awakening

As our children grew older, I began to question the narrative I had accepted for so long. Conversations with other women revealed a shared experience of unbalanced domestic labor. This realization sparked my interest in understanding the broader societal patterns contributing to these dynamics.

I immersed myself in the works of feminist scholars and engaged in discussions about the value of unpaid labor. The shared experiences of other women validated my feelings and fueled my determination to address these imbalances. This chapter marked the beginning of my journey toward reclaiming my identity and advocating for equitable partnerships.

My awakening was also fueled by reconnecting with my academic interests. I started reading voraciously, consuming works by Arlie Hochschild, Ann Crittenden, and bell hooks, among others. These authors provided a framework to understand my experiences in the context of systemic gender inequality. The intellectual stimulation rekindled my passion for sociology and ignited a fire within me to challenge the status quo. I began attending workshops and conferences, engaging in conversations that further solidified my resolve to make a difference. This period was a critical turning point, transforming my anger and frustration into a powerful catalyst for change.

Chapter 5: Building Tend Task

The final chapter of this journey led to the creation of Tend Task, a platform dedicated to addressing the invisible labor that often goes unnoticed in relationships. By developing a tool to track and quantify domestic tasks, we aimed to bring visibility to the unbalanced workloads that many women bear.

Through Tend Task, I sought to provide a solution that empowers couples to share responsibilities more equitably. The goal was to foster an environment where both partners’ contributions are recognized and valued, paving the way for healthier, more balanced relationships.

Building Tend Task was not just about creating a product; it was about fostering a movement. We launched the platform with the hope that it would spark meaningful conversations and drive societal change. The initial response was overwhelming, with thousands of downloads and beautiful stories of transformation. Women shared how the app helped them articulate their needs and negotiate fairer divisions of labor with their partners. But, the journey was not without challenges. Many users struggled to overcome deeply ingrained cultural norms, and many more faced resistance from their partners. These experiences underscored the importance of continued advocacy and education. 

As Tend Task grew, it became clear that tracking and quantifying labor was only the first step. Many couples needed guidance on how to implement these insights into their daily lives effectively. This realization prompted us to expand our services to include coaching and premarital programs, developing programs designed to help young couples build the skills and understanding needed to avoid the pitfalls that led to my own unbalanced relationship.

Our coaching programs focus on deconstructing gender norms, communication, and an equitable division of labor. We provide couples with practical tools and strategies to foster mutual respect and support. The coaching sessions are tailored to address the unique dynamics of each relationship, ensuring that both partners feel heard and valued. By emphasizing the importance of shared responsibilities, we aim to create a foundation for lasting partnerships built on equality and mutual respect.

The premarital program — I Do Differently — is particularly close to my heart. This program is designed to guide couples through the early stages of their relationship, helping them establish healthy patterns before marriage. We use the wedding planning process to uncover hidden inequities and empower couples to build an intentional partnership based on teamwork and equality. By addressing these issues early on, we aim to prevent the imbalances that can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction later.

Incorporating these programs into Tend Task has been a transformative journey. The feedback from couples who have participated has been glowing. Many have shared how these programs have helped them navigate the complexities of modern relationships with greater ease and understanding. Seeing the positive impact on their lives has been incredibly rewarding and reinforces the importance of my work.

One of the most powerful aspects of our coaching and premarital programs is the emphasis on creating a shared vision for the future. We encourage couples to articulate their individual goals and dreams and find ways to support each other in achieving them. This approach helps to balance the power dynamics within the relationship and ensures that both partners feel equally invested in their shared life.

The transition to incorporating coaching and premarital programs has also involved building partnerships with wedding planners and officiants. Through workshops and collaborative efforts, we aim to integrate these programs into the wedding planning process. This not only enhances the services offered by wedding professionals but also provides couples with the tools they need to build strong, balanced relationships from the outset.

Conclusion: Embracing Equal Partnerships

Understanding the origin of unbalanced relationships requires introspection and a willingness to challenge societal norms. My journey from imbalance to harmony underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing the hidden dynamics that shape our relationships. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire others to seek balance and equality in their partnerships, creating a foundation for mutual respect and fulfillment.

If you’re navigating the complexities of an unbalanced relationship, know that you’re not alone. By shedding light on these issues and advocating for change, we can work together to build the loving, equal partnerships we deserve.

Call to Action

For those interested in learning more about creating balanced relationships, I invite you to explore Tend Task’s resources and coaching programs. Together, we can create a future where both partners thrive and support each other in their personal and professional journeys.