How Do You Manage a Household without Losing the Romance?


Balancing the budget isn’t exactly sexy, y’know?

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

author and her husband looking down at a toddler in front of greenery

You know how when you’re getting married, all of the adult women in your life say things like, “OMG WHAT ARE YOUR COLORS?” and then on the side whisper things to you about how hard marriage is, and how you’ll put on a zillion pounds, and how having kids is the best but it’s also the worst, and the whole thing just feels… disorienting and depressing?

Or was that just me?

Over my (many) years running this site I’ve heard so many of us complain about the refrain of doom that is whispered in our ears getting married. “Marriage is just so hard. You’ll see….” Because it’s confusing, and negative, and just flat out not what we want to hear.

But here I am, somehow about to celebrate our eighth anniversary this summer. And having written about this process every step of the way for nine years, I can easily reach back in the archives and see documentation of the fact that, for us, the early months and years of marriage were nothing like those hints of doom and gloom. They were magical, and the intensity of the commitment we were making was nothing but amazing for us. It made us refocus our lives on what we wanted the most, throw out what wasn’t working, and build a super intentional life.

And, spoiler alert, I still think my marriage is a damn good thing. But these days I’m starting to tease out some of the missing nuance in all those whispers. And I think what I have to say about it is: life is hard. Sometimes it’s devastatingly hard, like when you lose two people you love in one month. Sometimes it’s big-new-commitment hard, like when you have your first baby and your husband takes a brand-new job all in the same month. And sometimes it’s just run of the mill hard, like when you’re raising two kids, running a business, building a career, maintaining a household, and trying to fit in time for each other on top of everything else. (And, you know, a million other kinds of hard not listed here.)

These days, our life is more run-of-the-mill hard. In fact, it’s so run of the mill, I’m not even sure I’d call it hard. It’s just life, with a lot of adult responsibilities. But in these moment of the daily grind, I’ve come to realize that our marriages serve two purposes. They are at once the thing that (hopefully) lifts our spirits and the working relationship that gets us through our days. They provide companionship, conversation, love, cuddles, sex, and dreams of the future. But in part, they’re also business partnerships—even though in modern society we largely pretend that they’re not.

In some ways, our spouses are our life co-workers. We divide chores, we do budgets, we negotiate time off, we rotate through childcare, we manage important life decisions together. And while I wouldn’t describe the latter as, “OMG YOU’LL SEE,” I would say that it contains a lot of the hard work of life (and that if we find a partner who’s a good fit for us as a life co-worker as well as a romantic partner, we’re damn lucky).

Which leads me to my question, to the rest of you. No matter how long you’ve been in your partnership, whether it’s five months or fifteen years, how do you manage that balance of life co-worker and romantic dreamboat? Do you find that you have a language for talking about the life-business partner part of your relationship, in a world that is always talking in heart eyes and Valentine’s Day cards?

Talk to me APW: How do you balance keeping the love alive, while keeping the electricity on?*

*(Something that I shit you not we failed at last month. Did we have the money? Yup. But somehow we mismanaged an ongoing auto payment. Adulthood FTW.)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Cbrown

    Co-workers in life…it works but it feels a bit cold. Maybe teammates?

    I tend to be pretty task oriented and can’t quite relax until the big stuff is done so it is a tough. One thing that has helped is that we work together – whether that’s me doing work-work and him doing house stuff. We tend to follow each other around like puppies (so I’ll be working at my desk in the guest room and he’ll be sitting on the bed doing the budget or researching something, with breaks for snuggles or a nap).

    We try to avoid a situation in which one of us is vegging on the couch while the other one is cooking dinner. We can then both relax together.

    • Amy March

      Awwww I both find following each other around like puppies completely adorable and would snap within 2 hours of that myself.

      • Cbrown

        Haha, I know, it’s not for everyone. I think it works because we are quite mellow. My parents were both working from home for awhile and my dad likes to pop in and say “whatcha’ doin’?” and get a snack from the kitchen and it drove her mad.

      • Omg me too!

    • Lawyerette510

      We often find ourselves inadvertently in the same room. We both work from home, and while our desks are in different rooms, often he’ll be in the chair near my desk, or I’ll take a nap on the bed near his, or we’ll both be in the living room. When our dog was alive, he’d be within a couple feet of us too, and that would too. There’s something wonderful about realizing even though there’s 1500 sq ft of space, you all choose to be within a couple yards of each other.

      • Cbrown

        Aww, that’s lovely! Our cat mostly follows us around and wants to be on our laps at all time (we joke he’s a dog in a cat suit).

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      I totally follow PADude around the house without meaning to. Our cats magically end up in whatever room we’re in, and I do the same thing to him. I don’t need to be interacting with him, but I like knowing he’s there. He fortunately doesn’t seem to mind.

      • rg223

        Hahaha, my husband is the follower in my relationship. I need space if I’m working, so I’ve had to set some boundaries with it. I love that other people do this too!

    • littleinfinity

      I like teammates! We have a team “mascot”. And we also follow each other around like puppies sometimes :) (although we have a small place so it’s kind of hard not to unless you make a specific effort).

  • Liz

    With a five-month-old baby, new jobs, a new house, and a postpartum hormonal self, our whole lives can feel like the logistics/business partner side of things. I know it’s not forever, but for now, the balance is really tough.

    So at this stage our language is sex. We are so tired and don’t always have time to shower each other with affection like we used to, so sex is the shortcut. It’s turned out to be a pretty incredible shortcut for when we have only a short amount of awake time during the day.

    One day we’ll get back to the affection-showering, but for now, we’re getting it on.

    • Jessica

      This is amazing.

    • Leah

      Yes this is totally us! So interesting because I haven’t ever heard anyone else describe it, but 9 months into having a baby we are TOTALLY using sex as an intimacy shortcut. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but after long day of 2 full time jobs + baby + life, we can crawl into bed and in very clear terms remind each other that we still love each other in that other non-coworker way. It really does do a huge amount to help us feel like we are not neglecting ourselves or each other or our romantic relationship, and we can wake up and face the next day of unsexy logistics feeling refreshed :)

      • Jo

        So… this sounds nice in theory, and I know my hubs would be/is so down with this strategy, but for me, words are the language (ha) that fills my heart, and I don’t know that sex is a workable shortcut for me on that.

        • Mary

          Same here. Since having a baby I have no desire for sex…actually the idea of sex is quite off putting. I don’t know how to bring the romance.

  • Jenny

    We still struggle with the balance, but I think we’ve both come to accept that finding that balance is WORK, and maintaining that balance is work. Because sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to commiserate with that we don’t have the budget to hire a babysitter and see a movie, and other times it’s not because it just makes one or both of us feel bad. As cliched as it is, communication is key. We talk about how life feels like more work than fun, and then figure out how to swing some fun that weekend/evening, or switch up an evening routine. One thing that I’ve worked on, is that “date nights” (that we can afford) are now more work and effort than they were pre kid. For a while I just couldn’t make myself feel like it was worth it to make dinner together, do the dishes and clean up, and then play scrabble, or quiddler, or quixx after doing dinner+bedtime with the toddler. Because I was tired/ we were tired and microwaving 2 burritos and not talking while we watch netflix is just easier. But that night after night isn’t really feeding our marriage, so we both put in the work, and know that this is a phase of life.

    These are things that have made the co-worker part of marriage easier.
    1. Delegation of tasks (he does car maintenance, I do budget etc). We have somethings we share, but not having to spend time figuring out who is taking out the trash, who is vaccuming, who is doing daycare pick up etc frees up time for our conversations to be less “worky”.
    2. Automation of tasks. (amazon subscribe and save, Hello fresh or blue apron on crazy weeks, auto bill pay, google calendar reminders for rent).

    • Amy March

      Yes, absolutely. I’m really finding that the more work I put into life the more enjoyment I get back. I may want to microwave something and watch The Bachelorette (pls tell me someone else is Team Rachel and loving it?) but making a meal and going for a walk is more rewarding.

      • Jess

        100% Team Rachel. This season is the greatest and I’ve got a group of friends coming over tonight to drink wine, eat popcorn, and watch.

        • lizzers

          PSA: there is no episode tonight because of the NBA finals. Yes, ABC has broken my heart as well.

          But since you brought it up Ms. March…I am SO Team Rachel. I’m in a weekly watch group with a group of women and it’s been so much more fulfilling to watch this season. I cannot get enough and I have LOTS of thoughts.

          • Amy March

            I hope you’re reading Ali Barthwell’s recaps because they are a game changer. And sorry everyone else for the random Bachelorette detour.

          • lizzers

            Yes! I actually read all her recaps (even for shows I don’t watch). My love for quality internet-based criticism runs deep.

          • Jess

            WHAT. TV Guide said it was still on. :(

      • Jenny

        Yes, I’m re-learning that, but it is so true that in many ways you get out what you put in.

    • PeaceIsTheWay

      Definitely agree that balance is work! Related to this, I find that initiating small gestures to show my husband I love him, like surprising him with cookies, encourage reciprocation. And vice versa: when my husband surprises me with a gift, I feel super inspired to return the gesture. I think it’s very important to be on the same page regarding a general approach to balancing life and romance, but there is also something to be said for not over-planning, which can make especially the romance side feel like an obligation. Putting yourself out there without an agreed-to expectation of reciprocity can be nerve-wracking, but often pays off.

  • A2

    This is so timely for me because I have recently come to the same revelation that yep, life is hard. We’ve had some big discussions lately about do we want to make major changes in our lives, and so far the consensus is that we’re more in need of small tweaks. But carving out the time to have that conversation? HARD, especially when you have two tiny humans to care for that need a lot of time and energy. Making the changes to our default settings to make those tweaks that lead to both of us being happier? HARD. But we have made changes (husband is doing watercolors and drawing again, after a nearly 3 year hiatus because babies; I am growing into a new role at work) and they are helping. What keeps us going is time to stop (or at least slow down), look each other in the eyes, and ask the questions that cause us both to open up. “How are you, really?” “What would make you happier?” “What are you dreaming of, and how can I support you in those efforts?” We have to be pretty intentional about making time for these conversations, and as two do-ers who are constantly running around checking things off our lists when the kids are sleeping, it’s easy to go on autopilot. But when I stop working from home and dry the dishes he is washing, or when we have an at-home date night (fancy snack + good beer + cards or a show on Netflix) we never, ever, regret it. Those are the times that keep us connected. And sex while the kids are napping :-)

    • Essssss

      Those are beautiful questions.

      • A2

        Thanks! Full credit goes to someone else, though I can’t remember where I got those from. Probably some article about how to have thought-provoking discussions with your spouse :-) But the thought-provoking part is less important than the discussion part; sometimes talking about current events, or baseball, or a vacation we’d like to take some day is enough to remind me that he’s my favorite person in the world to talk to and not just my co-parent and co-household-organizer.

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    This is what every conversation in our household seems to be geared around right now, with baby about a month away. Our doula had us sit down and fill out a paper that outlined our willingness to perform X% of postpartum duties. So, for example, my husband said he’s willing to do 80% of the cooking, which is more or less what he does now. But it was a really eye-opening exercise and we were able to discuss our own expectations in a fairly neutral way. With a new kid, our doula says that number one thing to avoid is The R Word (Resentment) and that even though it can feel like filling out a time sheet, literally having the numbers in front of you can help make the expectations clear as day. So the co-worker thing kind of sounds cold, like someone below said, but I also kind of get it!

    As for budgeting, my husband is a bonafide tech genius and has built programs for auto-managing our budget (not just auto-payments, but also balancing and forecasting), so we’re putting a lot of faith in our computers right now to take care of all that and we just do weekly check-ins.

    Annnnd as for romance? Check back with me in about 6 months when I’m not either huge and uncomfortable or dealing with crazy immediate postpartum stuff! :p We cuddle and kiss a lot still, and have sex when I’m physically able. We go on longish walks together with our dogs and thank each other for support every day. But right now, traditional “romance” isn’t even really a goal (but it will be!)

    • Cbrown

      That activity from the doula is really interesting. I don’t think we’ve really talked in detail about the realities of post-baby life? Baby is due in 6-ish weeks (but I’m suspecting an early arrival). I’m the brains, he’s the brawn when it comes to household tasks at the moment but that might need to shift.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Our doula is really big into the idea that birth is obviously really important, but should be treated like the opening act rather than the main event. Still really important to get right obviously, but ignoring the postpartum period sets a lot of people up for struggle. It’s part of why we hired her, since it’s so easy to become single-mindedly focused on labor. I’m still guilty of it even with her coaching.

        And I totally feel you on the brains/brawns thing! I’m due about the same time as you (give or take) and taking out the garbage is an Olympian task for me haha.

        • Cbrown

          I think I’ve reached peak pregnancy. I’m sitting on the floor in my office. I can go to regular yoga / walk just fine but sitting in a chair is so, so uncomfortable.

          • MDBethann

            I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant and sitting has been uncomfortable since the start of the 2nd trimester, at least this time around, so I totally feel you. I’m teleworking most of the time so I can work from my couch with my feet up. Train and car commutes are horrible.

            This is baby #2 for us, and the biggest thing I can say is to remember to be KIND to one another after baby arrives. You both will be tired because baby will always wake up both of you. Go easy on yourselves about a “messy” house (as long as the trash goes out and mold isn’t growing in the bathroom, you’re fine). But it’s ok for mama to do other house chores (like laundry) and to shower and let daddy do baby care too. Just remember to take turns with diapers and, when possible, feeding.

            After a few weeks of nursing (if you go that route), you can start pumping and then I highlight recommend having DH take a feeding or two. Our DD didn’t nurse well at all and I ended up pumping for the first few months. The upside of that was we got to trade off the overnight feedings – I would take the one around midnight/1am and then he would take the early morning feeding. It definitely helped him bond with our DD and she is such a daddy’s girl (at 2 1/2).

            Stock up frozen meals now if you can (i.e big batches of lasagna frozen in smaller containers, lots of soup, frozen pork BBQ, etc). Makes meals a lot easier when you are tired or baby wants to eat at odd times.

            With only one baby, you get to play “zone” defense – so whomever is capable takes on a task. Just remember to communicate and don’t assume. What will be interesting for us will be the switch from “zone” to “man to man” defense since we have a 2 1/2 year old as well.

            Good luck to you all!

    • Jessica

      Have you (or anyone) read “How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids” by Jancee Dunn? I heard an interview with her and it was super interesting, but obviously is geared more towards people with tiny humans on the team.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        No, but I’ve heard good things! I’m not personally worried about my husband taking on his fair share (if anything, he’s historically better at that than I am) but that’s apparently what a lot of pregnant women say so I am aware of that.

      • Teresa

        I did! It was really interesting, really funny and super thought provoking. I have a four month old (she was 2 months when I read it) and while I didn’t feel like we’d fallen into the patterns she talks about, we had in the past and worked our way out of them and it was a really great reminder. I’d say a worthwhile read–even if you don’t have kids, it would still be a valuable read and if you think you might want kids, even more so!

      • gipsygrrl

        Yes! I just read it. I had a big case of resentment about the way our division of labor has worked out after having a kiddo. The book was funny and interesting and at least got me thinking about some different options, so that’s something.

    • emilyg25

      That’s a great exercise! My husband is a natural care-taker and did pretty much everything except nurse in the first few weeks, when that’s about all I did. I think it can be easy for people to fall into a routine where mom does more baby care, but when that baby is born, you both have zero experience.

    • JSK

      We did a similar activity at our pre-baby class and it was super helpful. I vaguely understood how little time I would have post-baby, but it was good/bad to see it in black and white.

      SO awesome that you automated the budgetary stuff pre-baby! My husband and I were caught off guard by how…stupid(?) we were post baby and we definitely got out of the financial rhythm.

      One thing I felt really resentful about after our son was born (via unplanned c-section) was that my husband (seemingly) got to do all the fun things. He got to be the one to pick up groceries or lunch. He got to mow the lawn. He got to do the laundry. (Yeah, I know these things don’t sound fun, but compared to nursing 8 hours a day? WILD).

      Best of luck! The first bit is so hard and you’ll definitely have survival-mode days.

      • Jenny

        Yep! I was jealous of my husband for getting to go to class (and you know take exams on newborn at home levels of sleep) because he got to talk to other humans and eat lunch by himself.

    • gipsygrrl

      I really like that exercise too – I feel like I should do it with my husband now! Division of labor has been a huge issue for us. It’s crazy how quickly resentment can set in. And having a baby adds SO MUCH work (both in terms of chores and in terms of actual childcare) that it’s just hard to dole it all out equally without someone feeling like they’re getting the short end of the stick. It’s hard…

    • We did the same exercise with our doula and it really helped us clarify where we wanted and expected help from our tribe. We were lucky to have our moms come stay for the first month of Baby Pi’s life, and having an expectation of what “help us with the baby” meant was invaluable. And also I could clear with my husband that my first priority was learning how to breastfeed, take care of Baby Pi & maybe sneak in a shower, not doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom.

      • Jess

        Between K.’s comments about partner expectations and your comments about community wants, this exercise is getting fast tracked into my “talks to have about kids” list.

  • Lala

    No kids yet, but sometimes I think we are the only couple for whom budget convos can be a turn on. I think it’s because both of us are so grateful to have found someone with similar values and habits when it comes to money that these conversations, even when we have to negotiate things, remind us both of how lucky we feel to have found each other. Obviously not true for all budget and life convos (and any conversations involving money and our families of origin are always fraught…probably because that’s reminding us of the anxiety we are trying to leave behind), but there is something in particular about saving for our future and talking about it that reminds us of why we chose each other in the first place, and that is actually totally sexy. We are weird, and we do fight about other stuff, budgeting and adulting is just generally not one of them

    • I like going over the budget with my husband too!

    • theteenygirl

      No the only couple! We talk about our budgets and saving for the future and money in general basically on a daily basis. Sometimes we feel like we’re the only mid-twenties people who put such a focus on our budget in our relationship, but given the fact that so many relationships fail because of debt and money mismanagement… it’s kind of like our way of saying “I love you and I want a future together, so let’s have awesome finances and not hide anything”

    • Not Sarah

      You’re not alone! I find it really romantic too. I assume this is at least in part because our values are well aligned and it’s not a super stressful task. It could have easily been though with all the Life that has happened lately. (Layoff, surprise marriage, going back to school, HOA financial troubles, etc.)

    • Lisa

      I love budgeting with my partner, because it gives us a concrete way to talk about priorities and goals, which is super romantic. And we get to celebrate the accomplishment of those goals, reassess what we’re doing in our relationship, etc. Even though our budget has always been pretty tight, it’s really reassuring and relationship affirming to discuss and actively put money down on our future together.

      • MC

        Yep, 100% true for us too. I feel like our relationship has gotten so much stronger since we started talking about budgets together because we know we’re on the same page with priorities in our shared life.

      • Yes. We are revising our annual budget soon and it’s always a good time to have a general life goals, etc check and I enjoy it.

    • We have good solid budgeting convos, tbh!

    • Pterodactyl111

      Making concrete future plans is very romantic, it’s a very very real sign of your commitment to each other.

    • Cellistec

      Us too! We feel like we’re in between “life stages” right now (post-wedding, pre-house, pre-kids), so talking about the budget, especially what we’re saving for and when our debts are going to be paid off, is a great way to make our dreams feel like they’re within reach.

  • scw

    today is the tenth year anniversary of our first date and we’ve found in the last few years that shared hobbies are key for us. just like @disqus_muB26ElYPE:disqus and @amymarch:disqus say below, putting in a little effort (and putting down the netflix!) goes a long way.

    our most recent hobby–inspired by seeing a bald eagle next to a taco bell dumpster on inauguration day, I kid you not–is birding. it gets us moving, gives us a shared language and new experiences, and doesn’t cost anything except gas and the occasional post-hike ice cream cone.

    • Cbrown

      I have a colleague who is really in to birding and it is the cutest thing when he comes in after the weekend and updates us on his sightings.

      • scw

        I hope my colleagues and friends also feel this way!

        • Cbrown

          I love it when colleagues have unusual hobbies – I never know what I’m going to learn.

      • theteenygirl

        I really hope this is how my colleagues feel about me coming in every day giving people updates on my parrot! Everyone at work calls me the crazy bird lady because I talk about him THAT MUCH! I’ve thought about taking up birding but then I thought it might be TOO much haha

    • BECAUSE BIRDS ARE AWESOME

    • A single sarah

      Do you have a favorite birding app? I’ve inherited my grandfathers binoculars and want to dip my toe into birding a bit more.

      • scw

        I use the audubon bird guide app–it helps you ID birds, keep track of what you’ve seen, and see what others are seeing in your area. it links up with ebird too.

        http://www.audubon.org/apps

        • A single sarah

          Thanks! I really should find the local Audubon group. Perhaps after the next move.

        • Natalie

          +1 for anything that links with eBird.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        *blink*We have an actual book that my mom gave me. Because that is what she uses. It has never, ever occurred to me that there would be apps for birding.

        • scw

          I have books too! but I usually don’t take them out into the field with me because 1) it’s more to lug around and 2) one is a field guide my parents gave me when I was seven and I’d be really upset if something happened to it.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            We do our bird watching in our backyard, pretty much. My mom has a bajillion feeders and attracts all sorts of neat birds, so paying attention to the birds in the backyard was always just a way of life. At some point I was on the other side of the country and realized I didn’t know any of the local trees or flowers or birds, and it was suuuuuper unnerving.

        • A single Sarah

          I have his old book! It’s well loved. I use it when I’m watching the bird feeder, but as @scw said, not the weight I want to carry with me or risk hurting when I’m out on a hike.

      • Natalie

        I prefer the Sibly app for identifying birds, as I think his illustrations are the absolute best.

        For a way to record your sightings or see what birds other people have been seeing in a given location, try eBird.org and associated apps! It’s run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is a brilliant way for birders to help scientists collect super important data on birds around the world.

        • rg223

          Also, if you can ever do a visit to the Lab of Ornithology, holy shit! It’s awesome! (yep, just said “holy shit” about birding, that’s how cool it is)

      • april

        Download Merlin! It was created by Cornell Ornithology Lab, and it’s great for beginners. It has a feature that lets you answer a series of questions about the bird you saw (where was it, approximate size, dominant colors, what was it doing) then gives you a list of possible birds with photographs and audio recordings. Also, it’s free.

    • Eenie

      Seconding the shared experiences – we both got really into power lifting! We both work hard to carve out time for each other to do this activity – whether together or separately.

    • Cellistec

      “(and putting down the netflix!)”…busted. It’s so true.

      • Alanna Cartier

        Need to do this. I feel like we’re in a rut.

  • Doozy

    I’ve been thinking about the life co-working aspect of my relationship a lot. While we are having a tricky time figuring out aspects of it, I can see how my partner’s personality and strengths can play really well to mine. When you are managing a HUGE crush on someone outside of your relationship, looking at the strengths of your life coworking with your partner can help you ride the crush out. I think focusing on the romantic dreamboat side of your relationship can backfire if it butts up against the unrealistic perfection you have assigned your doozy of a crush.

  • PeaceIsTheWay

    My husband and I met at work, and were mutually appreciative coworkers for years before romance kindled. Working together in the sense of ‘both employed by the same corporation who pays both our salaries’ was awesome in some respects, and challenging in others, and I think both categories have transferred over into working together in the sense of ‘we’re on the same team as partners in marriage’.

    There was some sneaking away from the office to have fun together, and I think it’s definitely worthwhile recalling and recreating the excitement of escaping responsibilities to just enjoy each other because nothing in the world is as important as your love. Balance comes from not letting those moments actually cause you to miss deadlines, or to shirk married responsibilities like budgeting and childcare. A lot of times, I think we blame multiple responsibilities for taking away any time for romance, when in fact it’s less the responsibilities in and of themselves, and more the sense of weight and stress and being behind/overcommitted/overextended that results from all our responsibilities. The truth is, there almost always is some buffer. We were both great at our jobs and no-one even noticed when we played hooky. It comes down to prioritizing romance and not taking your other half for granted. I certainly don’t miss the anxiety of ‘will this work out? does he really like me? are we a good fit for forever?’ that accompanied the early rush of love. But while I can rely on my husband, I can trust him, I can know in my soul that he will always give me and our family his all … I can never fail to appreciate how amazing he is.

    Funnily enough, as soon as we started dating, working at the same job became much tougher than it had been before. All of a sudden, small miscommunications were blown way out of proportion; rather than rolling our eyes at a perceived slight and moving on professionally, we’d dwell on misunderstandings and read into them big questions for our relationship. We both struggled at first to keep our emotions out of the office, and eventually got better at communicating and compromising and remembering that we are on the same team. It was a tough learning curve that I think is paying big dividends down the line in our marriage. There is always potential for disagreement around household management, because people are different and lifestyle choices are huge decisions. For me – can’t speak for my husband, as we haven’t discussed this – a breakthrough came when I stopped trying to ‘keep my emotions out of it’. Marriage is not business. In marriage, it’s okay to be vulnerable, to snuggle, to sacrifice for another person, and to embrace the hard work of handling conflicts. I am relatively conflict averse, which worked well for me in school and in the office and on job interviews, but does not work well at all in marriage. I’ve gotten better but am still learning how to productively resolve conflicts rather than avoid them – obviously a vital skill in balancing life and romance! We don’t have one Pay The Bills mode and a different Keep The Love Alive mode. Doing chores or creating a furniture spreadsheet together involves a lot of snuggling, telling the other how much we adore them, making each other tea or snacks, and sending the occasional sweet text from the other side of the room. While this works for us, I would expect the opposite to be true for some other couples. But we try to weave romance and affection into the hard work of life with small gestures that add up.

    Sorry for the wall of text. It is an interesting topic :) I should mention we’ve been married for eight months, not eight years! It’s great to hear all the perspectives of others.

    • Liz

      “a breakthrough came when I stopped trying to ‘keep my emotions out of it'” – +1. Absolutely.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    We say “Thank you” a lot. We both do a lot of routine stuff. He’ll wash dishes or mow the lawn or vacuum. I’ll pick up cat food or make sure some important bill gets dropped in the mail. Saying thank you is a nice way of acknowledging that the little routine crap still takes an effort, and it helps the person doing it feel appreciated and not taken for granted.

    • Kara

      We’re the same way. We acknowledge what the other person is doing–and we are grateful for it! Also, a quick hug or kiss + a thank you is always a good reminder that what the other person is doing matters.

    • theteenygirl

      +1 to saying thank you! We say it to each other all the time, and then when we really really mean it we’ll add “I really appreciate you doing that for me” or “this means a lot to me” or “for taking care of me even though you’re tired” etc. etc.

      FH tends to just say “mmhm” or “yep” or even nothing at all after I say thank you though. Can anyone tell me if this is an American thing? Because as a Canadian if I ever didn’t say “you’re welcome” back to someone it would be perceived as very rude. Or maybe that’s just my experience.

      • Lisa

        That isn’t American. I always say you’re welcome.

      • Jessica

        I say “no problem” or “no worries” all the time, because “You’re welcome” sounds really formal to me.

      • Amy March

        No that’s not an American thing. Using “no prob” instead of “you’re welcome” is though.

      • Ashlah

        I have no idea where it came from, but I do feel weird saying “You’re welcome,” although it feels weirder at work than it does at home. I’ll sometimes say “No problem,” “Sure,” or “Mmhmm/uh-huh.” I definitely don’t mean anything by it, but it is something I try to reign in because I know some people do perceive it as rude not to say you’re welcome.

        • Mary Jo TC

          I also sometimes feel an inner resistance to saying ‘you’re welcome’ and I think it comes from the same place as my resistance to take a compliment. Over-modesty, self-effacement, unwillingness to acknowledge praise. Also, maybe the feeling of having high standards for yourself and not wanting to be praised or thanked for something you consider isn’t a big deal and should be taken for granted (even though you acknowledge you don’t really want to be taken for granted). It’s a weird feeling to try to unpack.

          • Ashlah

            I think you’re spot on. There’s something about saying “You’re welcome” that feels like I’m saying, “Yeah, you’d better be thanking me” even though that’s not at all what it means.

          • Amy March

            I think the opposite. I hate “no problem.” It implies that what I asked you to do was in fact a problem but you did it anyway. I think it’s a big generational shift.

            But as far as I know mmmmmm is accepted by no one.

          • Ashlah

            I know! I am fully aware of how it comes across to some people, and I’ve read think pieces on it regarding millenials vs boomers, and on and on.

            FWIW, not that it likely makes it any difference to you, “mmhm” (not mmmmmm) typed out looks a lot ruder than the quick, cheery way it comes out verbally. Tone-wise, it’s the same as the way one would say “No problem/no worries,” so if you don’t like that, you won’t like it either, but I don’t think it’s significantly worse.

          • Amy March

            It’s worse!! It’s not even being bothered to say words!

          • Lisa

            That’s funny, because I also dislike “no problem,” but I dislike it because I view it as reducing the importance of that act, no matter how small. As in, if it were a problem, that person might not do it. They’re only doing it because it easy for them. Similarly, “no worries” doesn’t make any sense to me, as I wasn’t worried about such a thing, but I still want to mark my appreciation. And I don’t like societal overuse of the word “worry” in general, because I think it perpetuates the myth of female neuroticism.

          • Cellistec

            Same here!

          • No joke, it probably took me a couple months of practice to say “you’re welcome” in way that sounded warm and reciprocal to my ears instead of snotty.

        • Lisa

          There’s been an interesting discussion going on about why millennials prefer to say “No problem” instead of “You’re welcome.” Basically it boils down to millennials thinking that acts of kindness are something that people should do for one another and are “not a problem,” whereas older generations look at favors as something that aren’t naturally owed to other people and have no issues accepting the thanks.

          • K. is skittish about disqus

            This makes sense to me, as a generalization. I definitely say “of course” because I’m often genuinely surprised someone is thanking me for something I thought was a given (though I always think it’s nice and appreciate it). But I try to make it more like, “Oh, of course, it was my pleasure/you’re very welcome!” rather than “Of course. Duh.”

            It reminds me of when I was a kid and my grandmother told me that I don’t need to thank waiters for doing their job, e.g., pouring water in my glass. (Spoiler alert: I still thank them every time)

          • Alli

            I’m definitely a “No problem” (as in “I have no problem with helping you out”) and “Of course” (as in “Of course I’ll help you any time”) kind of person. “You’re welcome” feels weird to me. I don’t even understand linguistically how that phrase works. Is it “You’re welcome to ask me for help” ??

          • Violet

            I think it’s “You are welcome to my services/assistance.”

          • Alli

            Ok that makes sense. Still feels weird to me, but it’s good to know!

          • Cellistec

            *mind blown*

          • There’s definitely a shift from “you’re welcome” to “no worries/problem” in the UK, though some of that might be perceived as americanisation of our language. One thing that is completely ingrained, across multiple generations, is that you always thank people for doing their jobs! A german tourist told me once that he’d noticed there was this weird noise everyone made when getting off a bus in the UK and wondered if I could clear up the mystery for him – it turns out it was “cheers”. Aside from the fact that “cheers” was only translated as “that thing every culture has a version of when they clink drinks” in his book, thanking a driver for getting you safely to your destination just isn’t a thing over there. Here, pretty much every interaction with a stranger involved either “thanks” or “sorry”!

          • Ashley Meredith

            I’m millennial and I would say it’s the opposite of that article for me. When anybody does me a favor, I’m really uncomfortable with it, feeling like they’ve gone out of their way and maybe it wasn’t something they wanted to do. So, assuming they feel the same way when I do something for them, I say “no problem” or “no worries” to reassure them that I didn’t mind doing it.

            It’s quite possible I would say those things even if I did mind doing it, but I don’t think saying them “implies” that I minded it, as someone said in this thread, or (obviously, in that case) that I wouldn’t do it if I did think it was a big deal.

          • Yael

            I wonder if it’s also a foreign language thing? As in – millennials may study more foreign languages in school (or at least a foreign language). I’m sure there is a way to say “you’re welcome” that in French or Spanish that doesn’t mean “no problem” but I can’t think of it off the top of my head. Interestingly, the same word for “please” is used to say “you’re welcome” in German and Russian.

          • Amy March

            Je vous en prie.

          • Yael

            Thank you!

          • Cellistec

            Yup, in Spanish it’s “de nada” – “it’s nothing.” Which sounds like “no problem” to me. Fascinating that “please” and “you’re welcome” are the same in some languages!

          • rg223

            I am late to this discussion, but I want to add that I HATE when people of an older generation get so worked up about “no problem” versus “you’re welcome.” You are older, you’ve seen a lot in your life, surely you know there are bigger problems in the world to worry about. Move onnnnnnnn…

        • idkmybffjill

          I say, “my pleasure” a lot and I don’t know why. It isn’t actually always my pleasure to do certain things.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        I try really hard to say “my pleasure” or “you’re welcome” because I think it’s nice, but I think it definitely can be seen as overly formal in the US. ETA: I end up saying, “Of course! :)” [smiley emoji to show emotion]

        Buuuuut just saying “mmhm” would still be too dismissive for me! ETA: But it depends SO much on tone.

        • theteenygirl

          Tone totally matters.. It took me a REALLY LONG TIME to realize that when he says “mmhm” he actually means “you’re welcome”. Like, pretty much every time he would say that I’d follow up with some variation of “are you okay? did you not want to do [the thing]? You didn’t have to..” so yeah now I’m starting to figure it out!

          • Amy March

            Yes also a difference in whether you think most important person to me –> treat them with A+ politeness or most important person –> they know I love them no need for that stuff. I think both work as long as you’re on the same page!

      • Not all of America, but I do think there’s maybe a regional component? In my experience “you’re welcome” is more common in the mid-west and east coast than it is the west? Like, I say it a lot but I work in customer service and picked it up from a co-worker who was from a different state — Most people my age where I live seem to go with the “no problem” or “of course.”

        • theteenygirl

          Actually come to think of it, he does say “of course” sometimes. Which I don’t think I’d ever heard before.

          • Haha, “of course” & “happy to help” are my informal go-to’s because I don’t like the slight negativity of “no problem.”

          • Lisa

            Yes, to this. I typically say “you’re welcome,” but saying “of course” or “happy to help” still seem graceful and polite, whereas “no problem” seems youthful and somehow flippant.

          • MDBethann

            I’m in the “happy to help” or “my pleasure” or “sure thing” camp. Sometimes I might say “no probem.” I do say “you’re welcome” depending on the formality of the situation. And I ALWAYS thank customer service staff and am teaching my toddler to do the same.

      • RisaPlata

        I say “no problem” or “no worries” most of the time and save “you’re welcome” for if it actually was a problem but I’m happy to make this effort for you. But my boss says “thank you” 3-6 times in a row, and I’ve stopped answering her after the first one. I get it, I’ve been thanked, and the words have lost all meaning. Let’s move on. I don’t want to say “you’re welcome” 3-6 times in a row. I have other things to do. (Words are not my love language.)

      • GotMarried!

        I think it’s the influence of Chick-fil-a down here in the south, but I know quote a few folks who now lean towards responding with “My Pleasure” when they receive thanks.

        • idkmybffjill

          omg me! yes. Just commented above. I use My Pleasure or Of Course all the time.

      • Hmm, sometimes I will say no problem, no worries (I used to say you’re welcome, but that has mostly disappeared I’ve noticed as I got older) etc, but if it was my husband, I might just say yep (especially for a regular chore thank you) because we are less formal.

      • Aubry

        I really notice that many americans do this (when I’m traveling in the states) and it also irks me a lot! I just consider it very rude, but see it in professions, service industry, etc. It’s an interesting thing I didn’t attribute to being Canadian until out of my element, but we do say thank you a lot! The “mmhm” is totally a “you’re welcome” in many cases.

      • Ella

        For an additional cultural perspective, from my experience, we (Australians) say 1. no worries, 2. no problem. I don’t know if I’ve *ever* said “you’re welcome.” I say “my pleasure” if that’s genuinely the case. I would find “mmhm” “yep” or silence all rude. Especially “yep,” mainly because “thank you” is not a question.

    • sofar

      YES! Thinking that your partner doesn’t notice any of the little things you do is a relationship-killer. And saying “thank you” is such an easy way to prevent that from happening.

  • emilyg25

    Drinks and talking. Every weekend night for as long as I can remember, my parents sit in the living room and listen to music and drink talk (or in Adirondack chairs in the backyard in summer). They bought us the same chairs as a wedding present. When I was in my 20s, I never understood how you could have stuff to talk about for 40 years, but now I get it.

    • Sarah E

      That’s the dream, right there.

    • sofar

      I think we have a winner. Your parents win!

    • Cellistec

      Note to self: include space in future house for comfy convo space. With table for beverages.

  • Sarah E

    Drinks and touching. When I’m ready to call it quits on responsibilities for the day, it’s nice to share some beers and relax together, even if it is Netflix and couch snuggling. Beers ease tough convos, or just bring spirits back to neutral after tough convos. As a touch-oriented person, remembering to touch/hug/kiss just whenever or when stress levels are up is really important. The heat recently descended with force locally, and my partner heats up and sweats profusely really quickly, and so the touch goes down. We finally turned the AC on, and I remembered, “Oh yeah, giving him a back rub feels great for me, too!”

    Playing with the pup is hit or miss. Good days when we’re already energetic, we laugh and have fun and it just gets a good sense of playfulness going (plus tires her out so she doesn’t bug us while we have human fun), though on low energy or bad pup days, it can be another annoying chore that has to be done to get some peace. Finding something playful to do always helps though– board game, trivia, time with friends, whatever.

  • Transnonymous

    Our marriage at a point where it’s hard in a unique way. Between the ongoing debate about moving away from our current location and determining the best points to come out to respective family members, there’s a lot of stress floating around in our lives. Plus, I’m expending a lot of mental energy in my daily life (being misgendered at work 8 hours a day and trying to sneak away to call doctors is hard, y’all) and requiring more self-care, which makes me feel guilty because my husband has to pick up a lot of the slack, especially because we’re on the cusp of losing contact with a good amount of his family.

    We’ve been keeping ourselves sane by pretending nothing is “wrong” sometimes. As valuable as it is to sit and have thoughtful conversations about my transition and our future, it’s been just as helpful to run errands, take care of household chores, and spend an evening playing video games together. Keeping up the mundane and the routine has been just as helpful for combatting our stress (if not more) than checking in regularly to make sure everyone is okay.

    • Jo

      Thank you for sharing your perspective with us, and very best wishes on your transition and for the continued strength and joy in your marriage! As was said above – doing hard things can also be the biggest payoff!!

  • Part of why I wanted to marry my husband is I really like how we work as a business partnership… Like we work well on *things* together, and I find that very fulfilling.

    I’ve noticed that the times where we have more romantic zhuzh are usually related to when we’re able to really grok each other as fully autonomous/individual people vs. as extensions of our marriage unit — Which even pre-kids, can be pretty hard? But for us having areas where we intentionally create space and newness is helpful. Also, resisting the urge to go too hard on Netflix ;)

  • Teresa

    Talking–about everything. We’ve been together almost 12 years, married almost 5 years and are 4 months postpartum. We spent a lot of time understanding that every issue we had was basically because we weren’t talking to each other and before we had our daughter, our marriage was in a great place. I think it still is, but we are also a bit in survival mode–babies are tiring and it is so much easier to just shut down and stare at your instagram feed instead of putting in the effort to have a conversation. We are talking about the fact that we need to talk more, but I think we are both trying to be more understanding of the fact that this is a temporary state, that sometimes just shutting down is okay, and that we still need to put in the effort.

    Right now, our connections come from saying thank you to each other for everyday things, from staring at our baby and then at each other with heart eyes and marveling at the fact that we made her together, lots of hugging and falling asleep holding hands. Also, we are big into rituals and celebrations–we celebrate the anniversary of us meeting, of us becoming official, of us getting married. We listen to the Beatles on Saturday mornings and Sinatra on Sundays, we celebrate Pizza Party Friday and Taco Tuesday or Fajita Monday every week, etc.

    I would love to hear from more of you about balancing spending time with each other and your exhaustion postpartum.

    • gipsygrrl

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the fact that it’s a temporary state – it’s survival mode. And I definitely think it’s good to recognize that it won’t be this crazy/exhausting forever. For us, it’s been like a gradual reawakening to enjoying each other’s company. And that awakening has happened as we actually start to have some TIME together. Now that the kiddo sleeps through the night and goes to bed at a normal time, spouse and I can actually spend a Saturday evening together having wine and a late dinner outside. And as some of the time-consuming baby tasks have fallen away (nursing, bottle-washing), we have more time in the evenings together. It’s taken a while, but slowly that postpartum intensity fades and is replaced by sleep and at least a little more time to spend as a couple… thankfully!!

    • mimi

      Sounds like a good start! And I can tell you from experience that it does get easier after a while postpartum. Parenting gets beyond the survival point, and you get back to “real life,” when they get closer to a year in my experience. Our daughter is now 21 months and while she still needs plenty of hands-on attention, it’s much easier to divide that attention between mama (who breastfed until 11 months) and dada and other caregivers (grandma, babysitters, etc). She started sleeping through the night regularly at 8 months and pretty much has ever since, which also helped both of us get back to normal. Until that point though, I just went to bed early most every night since I knew I would be up during the night. We took a short vacation (just a 3 night cruise) without baby when she was 6 months old and that was amazing for us to reconnect. We try to have a real date night with a babysitter at least once a month. I also try to have at least one girls’ night a month, and he goes out with his friends too. I’m expecting our second in September, so getting ready to go through it all again… except with a toddler this time as well!

  • emmers

    My husband and I have a pact where we tell each other if we did a household choir (think: putting away the dishes, cleaning the toilet, that kind of thing). We then thank each other for doing it. Most of that stuff I would never notice without being told (and vice versa), so we give each other an update so it doesn’t go unnoticed. That helps.

    • Jessica

      I’m thinking of starting this. About a month ago the house was in absolute shambles (the dust bunnies were starting a democratic governing system). While Husband was out doing whatever, I cleaned for a solid 2 hours. Then I come home from walking the dog and Husband asks what I did during the day. I looked at him, probably with a mix of resentment and disbelief that he did not notice, and informed him that I cleaned the house. He looked around and said “Oh. Thank you.”

      I just really thought he’d notice that he could put his feet on the ottoman again, which is what he was doing. Guess not!

      • Jess

        I recommend it. Doing this greatly increased my feeling of being noticed.

        It also decreased the number of dust bunny sovereign nations being formed! Turns out that sometimes telling someone you did a thing makes them feel like they need to reciprocate.

      • emmers

        I instituted it because I both really need the verbal thanks (I totally have a the “words of affirmation” love language), and also because it helps me be less resentful of doing chores if I know that he’s doing chores too. But I am sooo unobservant, and I really often would not notice stuff like a clean counter or clean floors. Hence the request for the verbal notification. I don’t know that he always gets why I want to know, but he still complies :). We’ve talked about how it’s important to me to know what’s going on and to get thanks from him when I tell him whatever chores I’ve done. It was maybe clunky at first, but now it’s mostly our routine :)

      • emmers

        And I’d totally be like your husband and wouldn’t notice all the cleaning usually!

        • Jessica

          A couple weeks after this incident, his sister’s family was coming over for brunch and I said “date night is the dog park, then cleaning the house.”

          We cleaned the house together. It went so much faster with him helping. But it was really hard not to snap at him when we were done and he remarked “I can’t remember the last time the house was this clean!”

          Boy, it was two weeks ago when I did the whole damn thing.

          • Ashley Meredith

            Sounds like a note to self to me: “Husband only notices house is clean when he helped clean it. Ergo, he gets to clean it more often.”

          • Kara E

            My husband notices tidy, not clean. I do it anyway – and try really hard to have the entry-way kitchen counter cleared off when he gets home since it’s the first thing he sees. Marital accord has been much improved with the addition of a 2x/month cleaning lady. This weekend, he kicked me and the kiddo out to go play/go to a birthday party/do errands while he tidied the house and reorganized the garage. Man, I love him!

    • LadyJanee

      I read something one time about treating your spouse like a stranger when it comes to chores – if a stranger did your dishes/took out the rubbish/did the laundry for you, you would thank them profusely, so when your spouse does it, you should thank them as well. It’s just a reminder to show your appreciation for each other, and it feels nice when I feel appreciated for doing some of the un-fun parts of adulting.

  • gipsygrrl

    Sacrificing for the things that I know bring my partner joy, as well as for the things that we love to do together. Every few months I look at the budget and think “we should cut out some of these date nights” or “do I really need to break my back to make sure he gets ski time in?”… but that stuff is worth it. We can cut back on the things that don’t mean as much to us. But the activities that bring us closer as a couple (like trying new restaurants together) and the things that I know make us our best selves… those are worth it. They’re worth the effort and the money and the grumbling about childcare because those things keep our relationship and our best selves alive and help us function through the everyday grind.

  • Em

    We managed fairly well before we had a baby. Now that our son is 15 months old, we are just starting to get better at communicating about the household of 3 and co-parenting (which is a lot harder than I thought!!). We have a long way to go, but if I would have read this post 6 months ago I probably would have started crying because it felt like we were on two different worlds.

    • gipsygrrl

      Hang in there! Totally hear you on the two different worlds thing. Having a kid just adds so much work – both in terms of physical chores and actual childcare duties… it’s hard to parse out who’s doing what. And it’s hard not to understand each other when you’re in your different spheres.

    • C.

      Same, with a 14 month old son. I feel like we’re finally getting into a parenting groove, rather just living day-to-day trying to keep our heads above water (keep the baby alive!). Now I find I’m not even sure if things need tweaking, or if I’m just worn out cause I have a kid. My husband started playing on a recreational team once a week which is great for him and makes him happy… but that’s one night I have to parent and do all the cleaning (we usually work together til the kid’s in bed and the house in clean enough to sit down). So I guess I could get a “night off”… but I’m not even sure what I would do with that time. I go running/work out in the basement 2 nights a week but that’s about 45 mins, not the whole evening. It’s tricky math!

      • Jocelyn Eileen

        Ohh do it! Even if your night off is “go to Target and browse everything while drinking an overpriced Starbucks coffee” it is so worth it! It took me awhile after our son was born to take a “night off” even though my husband kept telling me to do it it seemed idk silly or something but it made a huge difference for me mentally and secretly I think it keeps our parenting more on an even 50/50 split.

        • C.

          Okay this is motivating. I’m gonna do it! Now if only Target was still open in Canada :( :(

      • Em

        Hey even if you took that time every other week, or once a month. You deserve it. I just had to make an impromptu 6 hour car drive and had to leave my son at home. After 6 hours of being alone, I felt like my brain could actually function!! I knew I needed time to myself, but now that I’ve seen the results I’m talking to my husband about taking an afternoon off once a month.

      • spinning2heads

        YES. Take your night off! It doesn’t matter what you do with it. Go out and drive in circles. Go to the library and read. Go to the movies by yourself. Go sit in starbucks and stare into space. Doens’t matter, just do it!

      • mimi

        My friends and I created a “Ladies Gardening Club” that meets once a month. Really it’s a drinking/dinner eating club, but gardening club sounds better. That way I know that I have at least one night out a month with my friends. It’s not as much as once a week, but at least it’s something to look forward to!

    • Jess

      I’m anticipating the same kind of dissonance – Now With More Sleep Deprivation! – if we embark on child-rearing.

      We tend to pull away from each other after big life changes for a while (like with new jobs, moving in together, getting married) as we each try to figure out what that change means and how to cope.

      We’re learning to notice when that’s happening and earmark time to get away, but it can be a tough time in the interim.

    • Erica

      That’s a huge fear of mine I debate while my husband and I figure out if we want to have a child. I fear that we’ll just be so exhausted it’ll just eat up the magic of our relationship. That sounds selfish, but it’s still scary to me. My sister has a 15mo and it has been difficult, all you mums are super heros

      • Em

        It’s an understandable fear, and something to consider…but these early years, while exhausting, are only a handful. They have their own magic that is untouchable.

        • Erica

          Thank you, seriously <3

          • Em

            <3

    • rg223

      Oooof, yeah, the first year was rough for us too – and we had very different ideas about which parts were the roughest! FWIW, things have gotten SO much better in year two – hope you guys are on the same trajectory!

  • Bsquillo

    For me, vacations are super critical. I’m the kind of person who can always find more work to do when we’re in our normal at-home routine (send emails to the band? practice my instrument? pitch some more freelance work? organize a long-neglected pile of paperwork?), and it’s honestly difficult for me to totally switch off the to-do list in my brain in that environment. But traveling and changing our environment really helps me turn all that off and focus on my relationship with my husband. Sometimes this looks like big week-long trips that we’ve planned for months, and sometimes this is a spontaneous day trip for a hike or visit to a neighboring town.

    In general, this is what work-life balance tends to look like for me all the time anyways: hustling full throttle for a period of time, then relaxing equally as hard for a set period of time.

    • Lisa

      Yes, I am very much the same way. I joke that, when we go on these trips, we get to focus on why we like each other. My husband is a great “co-worker,” but I really enjoy getting to spend some time away from our life duties and explore the other side of our relationship.

    • Jess

      Yes. Vacations/Day Trips/Date Nights are KEY for us.

      In addition to being the kind of person so thinks “I should be doing something,” I also need to get some alone time after being around people all day at work, so I often can’t just be like, “Come sit here while we both work on stuff” because I’ll be too annoyed.

      So we plan a nice dinner at home, turning off the lights in the other areas so all we see is the dining table and candles (we like to cook together – your mileage may vary), or a night out, or go for a walk, or take a weekend away. Time when we can let go of things that need doing and refocus on being people who like each other.

    • nutbrownrose

      I literally never even realized the reason I like dinner out/ travelling with him is that we get to focus on each other. It totally switches off the to-do list if we’re focused on something else Our road trips are pretty quiet because we have a tendency to just chill together with the music on, but even that is a nice break from life. I think I’m also going to request that we eat dinner at the table with the TV off more often, because it feels like getting to know each other time instead of watch House of Cards time.

      • LadyJanee

        I requested that we start eating dinner at the table with no TV after we got engaged last year and it has been so great. We are both out of the house for long hours and so that’s basically the only time we see each other on work days and I got tired of spending that time with the TV on and no conversation. So we have committed to having the TV off for at least our entire meal so we can have some catch up time and it has been a fantastic habit to carry through.

  • Katie

    My husband and I have been married over four years, with two small children together. In the beginning, it was exciting and heart-pounding and catch-your-breath thrilling, but nowadays…? That “spouse being a co-worker” reference is totally foreign to me. I manage childcare – dropping the kids off, picking them up, scheduling appointments, taking them to the park, playing with them, etc. – and the household – laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping – and the finances – budgets, bills, etc. I daydream about a more equitable division of labor, about having a partner who supports me as much as I support him, and I love reading on this site about how awesome it can be, to be in a true partnership like that, but…that’s a just wishful thinking around here. A sweet romance novel. Not reality. The whole “marriage gets harder as the years pass” thing has become for me a “If you want shit done, you have to do it yourself” thing. I can waste time trying to persuade or explain to my husband how he can step up to help, or…I can spend a fraction of that time just doing it myself.

    • Oof, lady, I’m sorry.

      You did make the co-worker thing feel really sexy there though for a second. I’ll remind myself to count my blessings on that.

      • gipsygrrl

        I’d love to explore this more… this problem where on the one hand, you have to demand that your spouse step up, where on the other, you want to be a team, not come across as a nagging wife, still want to be the “cool girl” that doesn’t chase her spouse away with demands… do you know what I mean? I have a hard time with this. I’m great at asking to have my needs met in a mature and respectful way the first time, but when that doesn’t work (and you’re not ready to throw the whole marriage out the window), where do you go from there?

        • Alexandra

          I think this is a thing in 100% of the marriages I’ve observed, including my own. And I’m not sure there are easy answers, because husbands are all built differently and life circumstances are all different.

          For me, I have a sort of lowered expectations/boundary enforcement thing…it’s hard to explain…I am intentional about explaining what I need to my husband, and then I just don’t do whatever thing I’ve decided can’t be on my plate anymore. Kind of like what Meg said about pick ups/drop offs. Or housekeeping tasks.

          I’ve had to be ok with things not getting done the way I would do them, or sometimes not getting done at all. It took time for me to not respond with resentment to things like that. It helped for me to reflect on all the things my husband does that are easy for me to overlook, such as planning trips, taking care of the cars, organizing a lot of things, taxes, etc. I had to build up to the dirty bathroom/dirty kitchen/no clean clothes zen of “neither of us feel like it and we’d rather just cuddle on the couch while the kids are in bed”.

          Thankfully my husband is amazing and awesome about stepping up on things. But I also had to adjust my expectations. And become better about stepping up myself.

          • agree

            “I am intentional about explaining what I need to my husband, and then I just don’t do whatever thing I’ve decided can’t be on my plate anymore.”

            “I’ve had to be ok with things not getting done the way I would do them, or sometimes not getting done at all. It took time for me to not respond with resentment to things like that.”

            YES, times a million to this.

          • Natalie

            “It took time for me to not respond with resentment to things like that.
            It helped for me to reflect on all the things my husband does that are
            easy for me to overlook, such as planning trips, taking care of the
            cars, organizing a lot of things, taxes, etc.”

            This is me. I do way more of the daily household stuff like grocery shopping, cooking, dishes, & cleaning. But he does the random tasks that I hate so much I’ll ignore until they become emergencies, like taxes, car maintenance, calling the insurance agent, etc. I have to remind myself that those things take time, too, and I hate them more than I hate doing dishes. That really helps me reduce the resentment (even though I’m still pretty sure I spend more total time on household work).

        • I think there are no easy answers, for sure. But I definitely have no illusions of being the cool girl with my husband. Maybe the fact that we’ve been together… god… for 13 years now? Since we were basically kids? Helps? Donno!

          I am voracious in my pursuit of equality within our house. And some of that happens naturally. But things like having my name last in the hyphenation game? Pick ups and drop offs? Getting my career always treated as equal? Those are ROUGH convos that happen often. The name thing was six months of BRUTAL conversations, and some of the only tears I’ve seen my partner shed. And I’d just look at him and shrug, and be like “welcome to the club, this makes women cry every day of the year.” I get very IDGAF if I feel like the patriarchy is at the wheel.

          So yeah, I do totally want to discuss this more, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. But I also feel like I need to be full disclosure about the fact that we have the balance we do because of some BRUTAL conversations. I hear a lot of women say “Well X was just so important to my husband so I gave in.” And in my household that is often met with a shrug…

          • spinning2heads

            I think you should expand this into a whole post of it’s own. “How I fight against the patriarchy in my marriage” or something like that.

          • AP007

            Thank you for sharing. I, too, am struggling with the shift from ‘cool girl’ toward relentless because ‘cool girl’ is not working for me. We’re in the BRUTAL phase, and it is comforting to know that it might pay off later.

          • Mimi

            OMG the name change. Truly dreading the conversations that must be had before we apply for our marriage license next month. I know there are other APW posts…but any additional ones (especially about hyphenation or taking two legal last names) would be MUCH appreciated!

      • Jocelyn Eileen

        Oh yes definitely ALWAYS split daycare pickup and dropoff, we just have one child right now but I was adamant from the start that there is no way on earth I was going to be the sole person responsible for pickup/drop-off cause that just sets up a whole dynamic where one person becomes the sole person in charge of all of the logistics and I call bull on that. We had a child together and we both need to equally in the logistics of childcare.

    • PeaceIsTheWay

      Adding my sympathies – that sounds really rough! Like Meg, my husband and I have had some fights over equitable co-management of the household, but in my case, the roles were reversed. It’s my husband who more often feels the weight of having to drive cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and bills, and it’s me who ends up stunned (and hurt) to realize when I haven’t been carrying my side. I never dusted in my life before I met my husband, and I was way more laid back about laundry and way less likely to cook my own meals. From the beginning, I was always so impressed by how on top of everything my husband is. I absolutely want to be a true partner, and so I think a lot about what more I can be doing to make our house run smoothly and to plan for our future. I obviously don’t know your husband, but I would suggest taking the time to make it clear that you expect a true partnership, even if it would be quicker to just do stuff yourself. If he’s like me, there is really zero intention of taking advantage, and quite a bit of misunderstanding around what is expected. Like Meg, my husband demands that we are equal partners … and I am incredibly grateful that he does. Good luck!

      • That was the balance in our household till we had kids. I think it’s probably part of what’s made post kids life as equal as it has been??

    • RNLindsay

      To comment on this part of your post: “I can waste time trying to persuade or explain to my husband how he can step up to help, or…I can spend a fraction of that time just doing it myself.”
      Although it might take more time and energy in the moment to explain to your partner vs just doing it yourself – the hopeful outcome is that eventually he will start taking on some of those tasks. So although it might feel like time wasted in the moment, it will be time gained in the long run. For your sanity and to reduce the building of resentment, it might be worth it to do the explaining or demanding (such as Meg suggests)

  • CII

    Certainly, there are some chores that are just not fun (cleaning the cat box high among them), but a lot of household “chores” are actually activities my husband and I enjoy doing together. Cooking, cleaning up from dinner, gardening / taking care of the yard, grocery shopping, and 20-minute speed tidys…those are all tasks that are super rewarding and fun to do together.

    And maybe I’m unique in this regard, but when I come home and I have clean clothes because my husband did all the laundry, or a pet-free floor because he vacuumed? That’s super romantic to me.

    • CII

      Gah. Pet-fur free floor. I want my pets to still be there.

    • GotMarried!

      I’m with you. The most romantic thing my husband has done lately … taking my 13 year old dog to the vet because she was coughing yesterday. He grew up rather rural where you don’t really keep animals you don’t plan to eat, sell, or work and certainly don’t waste money on a pet. Swoon.

    • emmers

      I vaccumed and mopped (!) the floor recently, and my husband got kinda starry eyed :).

    • quiet000001

      Same. For both of us (for different reasons) adulting competently by the other person is totally a thing that generates happy feelings and warm fuzzies so it doesn’t feel like a thing we have to work super hard to balance with fun/romantic stuff in the way this piece is talking about things.

      We do have to remember to take the time to do fun things together also, but that is a time management and self care issue (so much stuff to be done all the time, need to remember to take a break) not a relationship issue as such.

      (Which is not to say that we don’t get cranky at each other or feel unappreciated occasionally, but we do usually do pretty well at communicating that stuff.)

  • Chloe Silva

    Family meeting. We have one evening a week where we have a nice dinner, and talk through any big (or little) things that need to be discussed. We have a template that we’ve changed a lot since starting, but in general, we use this time to discuss logistics, calendars, goals, and just stuff that we want to share with each other. I think it’s great for a lot of reasons, but specifically, it takes the burden of logistics and reminders off the rest of the week and we both know that the deadline for getting our stuff done is by next family meeting, so we don’t have to nag each other throughout the week. It’s been great for us as we navigate very different thinking and organizational styles.

    • Cellistec

      I love that idea. Is it just the two of you or are there kids involved? Sounds like it would be especially helpful when trying to keep kid stuff on the same page, not to mention modeling good communication.

  • Anon For This

    I am struggling with this right now, as I get through my first trimester of my first pregnancy. We’re both busy with work and every time I try to talk to my husband about how tired I am (because of the pregnancy), he immediately (sometimes interruptingly) says “me too, I’m exhausted.” I have tried to say no, I need you to listen right now, I need you to hear me telling you about what I’m experiencing and hear me asking for more help…but it’s been no use so far. It’s actually getting really depressing. I kind of wish I could go out of town while he rides out the next couple weeks of super busy work schedule, because I’ve definitely got some resentment building since he won’t engage in a conversation with me. So frustrating, and pretty unusual.

    • Amy March

      “Are you growing a baby? Then now is not your turn to be the most tired.”

      Srsly. Absurd.

    • OH GIRL. I HAVE BEEN THERE AND I SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN. ARE YOU GROWING A HUMAN FROM SCRATCH? NO? SIT THE FUCK DOWN.

      That’s how I feel about that. Pregnancy is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, for the record. And I have two really tiny kids.

      • Anon For This

        Thank you, that really helps honestly. It is *so so hard* and I still feel like I’m having such an easy time compared to stories I’ve heard! So sometimes I feel like “am I just not understanding him?” but you are right, he has not a fucking clue. I am starting to feel a little better but for a few weeks there was this exhaustion that was just…indescribable. Like nothing I’ve ever felt or imagined, and also completely unlike being sleep deprived so it’s hard to put into words. But goddammit, tonight I’m going to try.

        • Lawyerette510

          I don’t know first hand about the feeling you’re describing, but I think that framing it as a physiological tired that is the result of the pregnancy is important to communicate. I’d even suggest you be so explicit to tell him “this isn’t something you can ‘me too’ because it’s a different kind of tired. I need you to listen and be there, and not compare it to the tired from work tired.”

          • Anon For This

            Actually had a good conversation last night, probably the first of several, but I was definitely clear on how unhelpful (and NOPE) it is when he does the ‘me too’ thing, and like…I just really need you to pull from a little deeper than you usually do here, because I totally have to to survive right now! Thanks everyone for the validation…of course it’s clear now that you all say it :)

          • Lawyerette510

            Glad it was a good talk! One of my favorite things about APW is how we’re able to point things out and help people see things, because that can be so hard. And I can’t imagine pregnancy-related exhaustion makes it easier to see things super clearly. ;)

          • Anon For This

            “HOW IS PEET’S COFFEE COMPLETELY OUT OF ALL SUGAR?!!!! [raaaggge] oh here it is”

            yeah…there’s been some of that.

    • Anja

      physically your body is going through the ringer… and it will not be less intense later. Sorry, but truth. Recovering from birth (potentially *hopefully not* surgery) while nursing/caring for a new born. Your level of exhaustion is not the same as his. Even if he is up all night with a newborn too.

      So ya- best to have some words with him and get this straight now.

  • thisisforty

    Very timely in our life, although I don’t have answers. The words that have been running through my head lately are the daily grind… as in “I’m so tired of the daily grind.” I’m building a career and husband started a new business this year, plus his three children live with us. We are tapped out, exhausted. I have probably said “We just have to get through this year” a thousand times (that’s my hope that our careers will settle down some… fingers crossed).

    The really hard part is that we are hitting an obstacle that seems insurmountable–the oldest stepchild (inches away from being 18) is not very functional as an adult. She’s been evaluated multiple times over the years with only the vaguest of diagnoses (we’re talking behavior/mood disorder/thought disorder issues). I cannot see the future for her and we’re both so frustrated. She’s horrible to live with (I know, that sounds terrible. She is the most selfish person I’ve ever met… take, take, take). We’ve tried all kinds of medications, therapies, groups, trainings with very little effect. We’re utilizing government social programs and they aren’t very helpful (except for offering us tons of paper).

    What to do? The grind becomes a brick wall and it’s a terrible feeling. On top of the normal work-kids-home, stuff, this is crushing us.

  • Anon

    As someone who has had the experience of losing two loved ones in the same month (this month), I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through it without my husband. It’s the constant, knowing he’s there no matter what, that makes the hard stuff of life more bearable, and makes the mundane more adventurous than it would otherwise be.

  • Jo

    Thank you Meg, I needed this so badly today. We’re a few months behind you in the marriage timetable, and this is a big theme at the moment. We just did a big life transition – move and new job – and because of many adulting factors we haven’t been in our new place together more than 8 or 9 days total over the last two months. And it’s hard, not only because it sucks to be apart, but also because it makes the business partnership elements of marriage front and center, and more complicated, and highlights those areas where we’re not always in sync (and makes it harder to have those times when we are). So, yeah. Marriage isn’t easy, or fun, every day. And that’s not because marriage is hard, it’s because life is hard, like you said. And now I will sit back and rake in everyone’s strategies for navigating it (which I’m sure will also remind me of things that work for us that just aren’t at the front of my mind at the mo)…