Friday I posted an email exchange I had with a frustrated wife whose husband is not a good planner when it comes to social, couple, or special-event or holiday time.
You can read that here:
I received a few emails over the weekend from men claiming that my title was sexist and that they do the majority of the romance and social planning. I also received an email from a lesbian reader pointing out that plenty of women in relationships with one another have this problem too.
Consider me chastened. The real question should have been phrased this way:
Why Do Some Partners Suck at Planning Stuff?
I hope you are all happy now and nobody will file a bar complaint against me for being sexist or intolerant.
It’s been a while since I posted the email back-and-forth with an advice-seeker and I wonder now why I’ve not done that recently. If you enjoyed it, please let me know in a comment and I’ll consider more of that.
Because I understand my audience’s laziness might be on a par with my own, I’ll copy/paste that exchange below, rather than making you click on that link above.
Unhappy Wife Emails Robin
Why do men suck?
Is that a rhetorical question?
Could you be a little more specific?
I love my husband. I truly do. What I don’t love is what feels like his complete lack of thoughtfulness when it comes to me.
Could you be a little more specific? Maybe he’s thoughtless because you lack specificity.
Huh? I don’t get it.
Never mind. Can you tell me how he isn’t thoughtful in some specific terms, otherwise known as “examples?”
Every year I have to plan my own birthday. Nothing is ever done for me for Mother’s Day. We never do anything social that I have not planned. He used to write me nice cards on special occasions but after three years of marriage he seems to have given up on that.
Let me guess: second marriage?
How’d you know?
I’ll ask the questions here, thank you very much. Let me guess again: long-term unhappy marriage for him?
Yes! How’d you know?
What did I tell you about asking questions? Jesus, maybe he doesn’t write you cards because he worries you can’t contemplate the words contained therein.
Never mind. Have you told him how you feel about this?
Yes, more times than I can count. He says he will do better but nothing ever changes.
Today was the final straw when I told him I was really wanting to go golfing but my playing partner wasn’t sure if they could make it. He told me “maybe I’ll see you out there because I’m golfing 9 holes this afternoon with Ted and Jim,” and when I said I didn’t want to golf alone so he wouldn’t see me if my partner can’t make it, he just said,”OK, then see you at home tonight!”
This is after he told me, by the way, that he didn’t want to make any plans tonight except staying home because he has plans every night next week.
Wow. He really does suck.
I know, right?
Unless you are presently 15 years old, please do not use that expression. I assume you aren’t 15 because you are married to someone who was in a long-term marriage prior to meeting and ignoring you, but who knows – you could be from Kentucky.
But Wait! There’s More!
In further communications with Penny I discovered that her husband’s former wife handled all event planning, whether it was just the two of them or anything else. He would actually get yelled at if he tried to impact the family calendar. His former wife was very controlling and he learned to just back away from what she considered her “territory.”
Penny also answered a series of questions about her husband that showed that they really love each other and that he is an exemplary husband in nearly every other aspect of the marriage but this one.
I asked about her birthday complaint and she admitted her husband usually asks what she wants to do for her birthday each year, and each year she insists she does not want to celebrate. She does this because she resents that he isn’t just planning something special without her assistance.
Finally, I received a somewhat sheepish email from Penny last night informing me that her husband surprised her on Mother’s Day by inviting her two kids from her previous marriage to a dinner he’d arranged at her favorite restaurant.
Advice for Penny
Penny, you need a wake-up call in the form of an old French proverb:
There is no perfect marriage, for there are no perfect men.
Of course that proverb, much as my blog title, is sexist. Let’s throw a little enlightenment and modernity into it, shall we?
There is no perfect marriage, for there are no perfect people.
Especially you, you whiny little brat.
One thing it took me a while to learn in all the years I’ve been married (15 cumulative between The Canary in a Coal Mine and Mr. Patience and Understanding) is that each person in a partnership has an equal responsibility for keeping that relationship healthy but each person can also play a very different role from the other.
Some people are better than their partner at:
- planning time alone together or with others
- earning and managing the family finances
- mowing the lawn
- keeping the garage organized and remember each spring it’s time to power wash the deck
- initiating sex
- taking care of the kids
The list is endless.
We all have different skills and areas in which we excel. I don’t expect Mr. Patience and Understanding to whip up a pumpkin soufflé for dinner tonight, and he isn’t waiting for me to learn how to pay bills on time or how to be either patient or understanding.
Poor little fella.
Penny, your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to resist taking personally the blind spot your husband has in this area.
Were I in your shoes, I’d take a look at the email conversation we had when you are frustrated with your husband’s poor planning and romance skills. Look at all the positives in your marriage. Be proud of those!
I am not suggesting you give up, however.
Instead, always remember what you have and all the numerous ways this marriage works so well for you both.
It is entirely possible that through direct conversation, rather than bitching at him (which you told me you do) or passive-aggressive pouting (your birthday behavior), you can get through to your husband.
To do this, you will need a Robin DesCamp script. These are becoming quite popular so please recognize how lucky you are to have me. That seems to be a problem of yours.
Penny and Husband Have a Talk!
Since he surprised you on Mother’s Day, this is the perfect time to initiate this conversation. Note this is a conversation, not a confrontation.
I want you to know how much it means to me that you created such a special Mother’s Day. I’ve gotten on you in the past about planning time together or with friends and family and maybe I haven’t always done it in the right way.
I’ve been thinking about all the different things we both bring to this marriage and because Robin DesCamp is a god-damned genius, I see now that I’ve been placing more emphasis on the things that you don’t do, rather than the wonderful things you do. I’m sorry about that.
We are very different people and you were in a marriage for 20 years in which you were not even allowed to plan things. I understand now why this sort of activity does not come naturally to you.
For what it’s worth, I appreciate all the wonderful things you bring to our marriage. I appreciate your love for me. I will try to be less sensitive about this issue but know this: you made me very happy when you made those Mother’s Day plans. I’d love it if you’d continue doing that sort of thing when it comes to mind, and I’ll be more honest, loving, and direct when I would like you to plan something specific.
For example, I’d love a dinner with our friends and family for my next birthday so mark your calendar, darling!
Now, can I give you a ______________? (readers, use your imagination)
Penny, I hope you don’t think I’ve been too harsh.
I’d hate to see you tank a perfectly lovely marriage over your disappointment that your husband is not perfect.
If you do, you will soon find out that the perfect partner does not exist and you will spend the rest of your life alone. I don’t think you want that. Who will plan your birthday party?