My fiance won’t help me with wedding planning: Learning from partnership imbalances

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offensively stupid cake topper

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

My fiance won't help me with wedding planning at ALL. 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, 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:


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 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!

Comments on My fiance won’t help me with wedding planning: Learning from partnership imbalances

  1. So true and helpful… I have found myself doing the same things… when i get mad at him for making a mess or not getting things done I list the strengths he has and what I appreciate about him and it makes me not mad anymore. I tell him how much I appreciate him every day :). It's good to hear it from others 🙂

  2. Great post! I have definitely gotten caught up in the 'is he good for anything' thoughts when he doesn't care about catering or working out a household budget or folding laundry. It can be difficult to shift focus away from what you wish was being done, but he definitely has areas where he is good at things I am just terrible with (like making the final decision or talking to people). And if I pull on his strengths I find that he is usually able and willing to help (even if he may not totally love it).

  3. Very wise and valuable insight. I personally have no intuition regarding relationship mechanics. Not a clue. Seeing it broken down like this has lead to a minor epiphany on my part. I also like the universal application of learning to work and cooperate with any other person, not just a romantic interest.

  4. I think you've touched on two very big things:
    1.) BALANCE – Wedding planning, being the big behemoth cultural dramarama that it is, tends to magnify imbalance and relationship static. The question that you seriously need to evaluate is–have you been ignoring imbalance? I think relationship imbalance is something you need to tackle before the wedding, and not during a fit of "OMG YOU'RE NOT HELPING" rage. Then again, the balance could be that he has tried to participate and failed miserably–time for positive reinforcement!

    2.) INTEREST – Is he "letting" you do the work because he's not good at is, or is he "letting" you do the work because he's not interested in the outcome? If he seems to be shifty about wedding details and flippant, you need to find out why. I'm not suggesting that he might not want to get married, but instead that… well… maybe your wedding just doesn't have anything in it that's up his alley. I find myself coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas that sound AWESOME, but when I pitch it to my fiance, he just sort of tunes out, then encourages me to work on it. Then I realize–it sounded totally awesome to me, but in no way jives with his personality.

    • My partner and I (both women) were facing an inbalance of interest in wedding planning, until we really dug deep to find what she could really get excited about. She had been thinking of wedding planning as vendor calls, writing (invites and vows), timelines and budgets and seating charts – in other words, everything she hates and everything that comes somewhat naturally to me. Over the course of time (and after considerable frustation on both parts) we discovered that she hadn't realized we'd also need someone to work on alcohol, fire, music and weaponry (it's a pirate wedding) – all of which got her really excited. Now she spends every night searching online for rum drinks, torches, portable sound systems and jeweled daggers for cake cutting. I was starting to worry I was planning a wedding only I liked and/or cared about. Ends up we just had to identify what elements she could get into in order to bring our overall life balance into the micro-life that is our wedding.

    • In other words, Ariel and @dootsiebug really hit the nail on the head in our case 🙂

  5. This was a great post and exactly what I needed to hear at the moment. Thank you so much!

  6. I think this is nice and all, but really, a lot of dudes are free-loading on our work, and that's not cool, and we should call that out for what it is…

  7. My fiancee and I had a discussion about this same kind of imbalance in our wedding planning this past weekend. He too cited the "you're so good at it" line of logic. We're still in the earlier stages of the planning and I know for a fact that he is just as capable as I am of doing online research and making phone calls. I really pushed him to qualify why he thinks I'm better at wedding planning, instead of simply letting the idea of my being better stand as a fact, and found out that he thinks I have more and better ideas for how things can be done. This is true, but I pointed out that this was largely because I had made the time and commitment to thinking about how everything should work out and getting inspiration online and asking for advice from friends who are also planning weddings, not that I have some kind of inherent ability to plan weddings that he lacks. I don't know that my fiancee's going to be some kind of wedding planning rock star from now on, but I know he now realizes that "being good" at planning is something that he *can* attain by making the time and effort.

  8. I also realised that I liked making dresses, cakes and paper stuffs a lot before the wedding planning thing. Him – no so much.

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