Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Having a High Maintenance Husband

I love B a lot, and while we do have our issues we are in general each other's best friend and supporter. However, being married to B is definitely a lot of work.

I don't mean this in the sense of the trope "marriage is hard work", meaning that getting along with your spouse can be a constant struggle (a concept I don't agree with).

I mean it literally: he needs/wants a lot of help from me, which consumes hours of my time. For example, I do all house chores except cooking (including all maintenance, shopping, bill paying); I keep track of all his obligations and remind him about them; I buy all his clothes and take him to get his hair cut; read and edit all of his drafts, papers and presentations, and so forth. In addition, B hates emailing (or communicating with people in general) and yet must constantly email people for work. So he saves up his emails over the course of the day, and then I must sit with him while he answers them, as moral support. There are many more tasks like this: the above are just a sampling.

Partly this is because we have a very clear/strict division of labor. So I don't just not cook, I don't know how to cook anything whatsoever. We never trade off cooking meals: either B cooks them or we go out. Similarly, B never does laundry (he doesn't actually know how the machine works, as I discovered a few weeks ago). I prefer it this way, because then 1. I never have to worry about the stuff which is B's responsibility and 2. we never fight about whose turn it is to do anything, or how to do it. However, it does mean that we are more dependent on each other (since if B isn't here then I am going to be eating cereal for dinner).

However, this division of responsibility extends beyond chores. I have put B in charge of large areas of my life, and he's done the same. For example, I rarely exercise unless he tells me to: because I've decided to put him in charge of me being healthy. I even blame him if I didn't exercise: "You didn't help me, so of course I didn't!" B frequently won't do his research (or emailing) unless I help him do it, under the same premise. Whenever I have goals, I expect B to work almost as hard as I do in helping me meet them (just a supportive attitude is not good enough), and he feels exactly the same way: entitled to (indefinite hours of) my labor. As a result, we are always putting very high demands on the other person.

It's my impression that most couples aren't like this: if someone needs to go see the doctor, or do something at work, they just do it themselves like a regular adult (rather than expecting their spouse to take care of them as if they were a child, as we do). Sometimes I worry that we are co-dependent and ought to do things differently. But it's hard to imagine being that independent, detached couple, and in a way I don't want to. To me, being so involved with each other's endeavors feels supportive and cozy. Both of us frequently feel overwhelmed or worried that we can't do things; having the other person as an assistant/backup really gives confidence.

--Exercise: 1 hour yoga.
--Diet: Breakfast: Focaccia with olive oil and vinegar; Lunch: BLT and two raspberry meringues; Snack: half a chocolate meringue (little R ate the other half: she was a fan); Dinner: Vegetarian sausage and rice; Drinks: bubble tea, cranberry juice, glass of wine
--Other: Drank 8 glasses water!!!


  1. I think living abroad without a lot of other people to rely on makes you lean more heavily on your spouse for support. Mike and I are all each other has, really, so we rely on each other more emotionally than many other couples we know. We don't have that kind of divide in our household with chores or helping each other with tasks though. If it works for you guys though, then that's great! For me, I think that over time I'd get resentful of having to help Mike to that extent...especially after we decide to have kids!

  2. I think it helps that I have a really easy baby (and only one!); if she was "high needs" things would probably have to be a lot different!