Acknowledging and learning from partnership imbalances OR "My stupid fiance won't help me with wedding planning"

By on Mar. 10th

offensively stupid cake topper

I love my fiance but GOD, he's such a fucking GUY.

It seems like all the wedding planning stuff ALWAYS FALLS TO ME. He says things like "Oh but honey, you're so good at it."

Why won't he help me!?

-Jen

Jen, this is a perennial question, and it seems to be almost as much of an issue with offbeat grooms as for more, well, stereotypical ones.

I wish I could completely skip over the gender issue on this one, but I have to at least acknowledge it. I don't know what there is to say about the fact that some men don't enjoy planning weddings. Is it an embodiment culture-driven gender influences? Probably. Could your guy be lazy? Maybe. Is making gender generalizations about it self-reinforcing these very gender influences you're decrying? Most likely. Are there lesbian couples who deal with this same interest-in-wedding-planning imbalance who don't reduce it to a gender issue? Yes.

We could debate why it happens and what it means and who's to blame for a long time. But really, that's not accomplishing much — what can you actually DO about it? What can you actually LEARN from it?

Let's get big picture about the issue. What it comes down to is that the two of you are hitting against an imbalance in your relationship. I'm not going to conjecture what that imbalance actually IS for you. It could be an imbalance of communication skills. (You're so good at making those vendor calls! They always clam up.) It could be an imbalance of time management skills. (You take care of your to do items right away. They always leave stuff 'til the last minute, meaning you have to do what every wife supposedly is doomed to: NAG.) It could be an imbalance of interest (You really want your vows to be artfully written. They just want to say "I do" and kiss.)

While the devil's in the details, ultimately they don't really matter. The fact that it's a wedding you're planning is almost irrelevant. The reality is that, from five years down the marriage road, I can tell you this:

YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE PARTNERSHIP IMBALANCES.

If you're hitting one for the first time while wedding planning, then I'm seriously impressed. The reality is that couples in long-term commitments will deal with constant bumps and land-mines as they navigate living a life together. You'll have imbalances of communication, time management, and interest. You'll have imbalances of skill, proclivity, and inclination.

One of you is going to REALLY care about the garden and one of you is going to care less and be embroiled in a video game. One of you is going to be obsessed with the stain on the carpet and one of you is going to shrug and go back to knitting. On a Saturday night, one of you is going to want to go out and see a play and the other one is going to want to inhale a novel and work on their bike.

Your skills and concerns are not always going to match.
Sometimes it'll be over the little stuff like gardens and video games. Sometimes it'll be over big stuff like when to put the dog to sleep or move across the country. Sometimes the little stuff will suddenly become the big stuff, and while you thought you were just imbalanced over who cleaned the kitchen, but you actually were imbalanced over whether you still wanted to be together at all.

But one thing is for certain: imbalances are guaranteed. What's key is that the imbalances actually balance out. I'm better at logisticating, so I take care of that stuff in my and Dre's life. Andreas is better at being emotionally grounded, so he takes care of keeping our home feeling sane. We have different skills, but we have roughly the same number of contributions to make to the relationship over-all, even if we're imbalanced on the specifics.

The key to dealing with these imbalances is appreciation. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes thinking about my strengths makes me want to think about my partner's weaknesses. I'm so good at logisticating — GAH, IN PART BECAUSE I HAVE TO BE BECAUSE HE SUCKS AT IT OH MY GOD REMEMBER THE TIME HE FORGOT HIS DRIVER'S LICENSE ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT!?!

Deep breath.

One thing is for certain: imbalances are guaranteed. What's key is that the imbalances actually balance out.

OK, so there are some skills that I've developed more than he has. Rather than think about the ways he sucks, I'm going to model my own strengths, and appreciate his.

I'm going to marvel the next time I watch him change someone's day through one of his yoga classes, and take the time to appreciate how amazing it is that when he comes home from teaching his ass-crack-of-dawn class, he always offers to make me breakfast.

I'm going to say this ridiculous thing to him that we've been saying to each other for over a decade now:
I appreciate you.

Yes, we actually say it like that. It's the most literal, straight-forward relationship statement ever.

I appreciate you.

Every time I get frustrated with an imbalance — something that I'm way better than him at — I try to take the time to appreciate the spaces where I occupy the other end of the imbalance. Like feeding myself. If it weren't for Andreas, half my meals would involve scraping microwaved cheese off a plate with my finger. He might not be the one who hunkers down with Turbo Tax to untangle the riddle of family budgets when everyone's self employed. But he's the one who brings me cups of tea, folds the laundry, and always drives when I'm too frazzled to pay attention.

There will be imbalances, but hopefully through practicing gratitude and taking a step back from the specifics, you can find the larger balances in your relationship. Your partner may not like planning this wedding, but do they fill your other needs? Are they great at dissecting fantasy novels or comparing obscure plot points of cult films? Are they excited to move across the country with you so you can finish your Masters? Do they hold you when you cry over the latest drama with your family? Do they support your visions? Do they uphold your values? Do they have strengths that perfectly match YOUR weaknesses?

You can hope so.

Ultimately, the issue isn't whether they're helping you with the wedding. Change your perspective: are they helping you out with your LIFE? For many of us, an imbalance in wedding planning is the perfect storm of imbalanced skills — gender issues, communication issues, interest issues — but when you take it out to the bigger picture and practice gratitude, hopefully you can see the ultimate balance to your relationship. If you don't, then that's a much larger issue than wedding planning. If there's a large scale imbalance, then you need to stop looking at wedding blogs and start looking at your relationship.

But chances are, when you take the time to truly appreciate your partner's strengths, when you take the time to stop what you're doing, take them in as they're working whatever magic it is that they rock so hard, and say to them "I appreciate you," chances are you're going to find the larger scale balance despite the immediate imbalances.

Oh and to bring it back to wedding planning: it should be FUN, at least some of the time. This is ultimately a party, and if planning a big party isn't fun at least SOME of the time for ONE of you, then you shouldn't do it. If both of you hate wedding planning, then scrap the plans and do a simple family-only ceremony or elope. The goal here is celebration — not drudgery. If your partner doesn't care, and you only care because you feel like you should — stop it!