How Do You Know What Responsibilities You Have in Your Marriage?

Sure, "till death do us part" and all that, but what matters day to day?

man and woman with feet touching

About a year before David and I started dating, back when we were just (platonic) best friends, we were sitting at the Irish pub downstairs from his apartment, eating shepherd’s pie while outlining our plans for future lifelong relationships.

“I’ve come up with a list,” I said.

He raised an eyebrow. “This should be good.”

“Okay, this is it: smart, makes me laugh, and doesn’t put up with my shit.”

David laughed. “Doesn’t put up with your shit? You’re kind of a handful. How are you going to pull that one off?”

The short answer was, apparently, marrying him. The long answer was that he has reminded me of that pronouncement hundreds of times during fights. “You said you didn’t want someone who put up with your shit,” he says (over and over), “so I’m calling you on it.” And while it’s deadly annoying to be reminded of that mid-argument… he’s not wrong. For us, at least, that’s part of what partnership is.

Which brings me to my question: What do we owe our partners? When all is said and done, what are the fundamental responsibilities we have to the person we’re spending our lives with, and what responsibilities do they have to us? If I’ve learned anything from all these years of writing about marriage, it’s that the ground rules of every relationship are different, and that there are as many different ideas about fundamental responsibilities as there are humans on the planet.

For us, I think it’s pretty simple. While there are a ton of nice-to-haves (dinners out? Sleeping at a hotel through the night? A girl can dream), my basic list shakes out about the same way it did that night when I was twenty-three and sketching out my future over beer:

  • Basic physical and emotional care. Is one of us struggling with depression, or having a weird pain that we don’t quite want to get checked out? It’s the other one’s job to make sure we get to the doctor, like it or not.
  • Making each other laugh. And sex too. But laughing might be even more important.
  • Pushing each other. Write that book. Push for the promotion. Take more time off to spend with the kids. Whatever the goal is, we push each other to go further than we would on our own. (I owe my two book deals to David’s insistent nudging, though every word of the books is mine.)
  • Not putting up with each other’s shit. As I suspected way back when, this is our most important rule. And as David suspected, it’s often the most unpleasant one to act on. But we’re on deck with each other, saying, “No, don’t send that angry email.” Saying, “Yes, you probably need to have that conversation you’re avoiding.” Saying, “I know three-year-olds are difficult, but you need to try to have more patience.” Saying, “Listen to me more.” Saying, “Hey, you need to go to therapy and deal with that.”

People often say they married their best friend, and… I actually did. I married my former platonic best friend. But I don’t consider him my best friend anymore, simply because we have responsibilities to each other that BFFs don’t. (Or at least ones that BFFs can avoid, if they want to.) For us, our marriage vows mean a commitment to having all those hard conversations, and stepping in to kindly inform our spouse that it’s possible (just possible) that they made a mistake, or are avoiding a responsibility, or generally acting poorly, and they should probably fix it. Our job is to step in and say the things the other person doesn’t want to hear, because the rest of the world probably isn’t going to tell them.

Sometimes it’s sort of miserable, and it’s a lot of work. But hey, I’m pretty sure that’s why we get the sex too. And the cute babies.

Every couple works differently. What do you consider your responsibilities to your partner, and they to you? What do you NOT consider to be their responsibility? (I don’t consider my happiness to be my spouse’s responsibility, for example.) Where do you feel like YOU’RE meeting your responsibilities to each other, and where do you think you’re falling short?

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  • Rememberthe5th

    One of our big responsibility (not only one, but big one), is that “it’s my responsibility to tell you what’s going on inside of me; it’s your responsibility to tell me what’s going on inside of you.”

    Simply put, I can’t expect that he’ll just *know* that I’ll need certain things (sometimes he does, we’ve known each other a long time), I have to communicate that – if I’m feeling like we need a date night, or that I want him to pursue me some – I need to tell him that. Same with him, if he needs some time to unwind from a bad day, or just wants to play some video games, we communicate that. It also applies when we’re hurt or upset with the other person, we can’t (well, shouldn’t) apply motive to their actions without talking about it. It keeps us from saying things like “You did Y, which means that you really don’t care about X – and that makes me upset”. We can say, “when you did Y, what was your reason behind that? Is it because you really don’t care about X? That was how I felt when you did that.”

    • LadyWoman

      A big yes to this. My husband has told me repeatedly that he appreciates knowing that when something is bothering me I will tell him and that if I don’t tell him I don’t get mad at him not knowing. I learned to work on this in a previous relationship where I never said what was going on inside me, was very unhappy, and took way too long to connect KNOWING someone couldn’t read my mind and still EXPECTING them to.

    • Jess

      I was going to type up the same thing. We are responsible for asking for what we want and saying how we feel.

      Am I sad and want a hug and maybe some time to curl up in a ball on the bed? It’s my responsibility to say that and ask for that time, or to ask R to cook dinner.

      Then, we are responsible for weighing what the other person needs against our own needs, and whenever possible make that allowance. We are responsible for taking the other persons emotions into consideration once they are known.

      Neither of us are mind readers, no matter how much we wish the other was.

      • Dess

        Yessss, “neither of us are mind readers” is part of our core as a couple.

    • Eenie

      Or as we say: you’re not allowed to silently be mad at me for not doing enough dishes.
      It’s always the dishes. We each will think we’re”ahead” and it all goes to shit if we don’t say anything!

    • Michela

      In a similar vein, we’re responsible for holding each other accountable- not just for the internal stuff we often don’t speak but also for the external, spoken goals we’ve outlined for our marriage.

      One of those goals is to move across the country next year, and we often check in with each other about our progress towards achieving that goal. Those conversations often involve him asking me if I’ve done any more research on companies I’d like to work for or if I’ve revamped my resume. I often ask him what progress he’s made to transition his business to a new operating director and if he’s done any research on field locations in California.

      Sometimes the conversations are simpler, “did you bring water with you to the fields today? It’ll be in the high-90s later” or “why don’t you take some introvert time; it’s been a busy weekend”.

      All of these conversations ensure we hold each other accountable for the goals we’ve set for ourselves and for our marriage.

    • Ella

      So, yes all of this, but does anyone else feel like your partner shouldn’t need to be told *everything*? If I’m sad, I want saying “I’m sad” to be enough. They might have to ask, “do you want to talk? do you want a hug? can I get you something?” but if you feel shitty, it feels too emotionally draining to actually decide and then articulate what you need.

  • LadyWoman

    I’ve found we owe it to each other to be thoughtful about our complaints/requests.

    By this I mean, if something bothers me, it’s better if I take a minute, hour, day, etc. to figure out WHY something bothers me, how much it bothers me, if it’s a one-time thing or a regular occurrence, and if it’s worth bringing up. (1) If it is worth talking about, I end up with reasonable information and possible solutions to present instead of just a complaint. (2) if it’s not worth bringing up, it actually bothers me less in the future because I can recognize why it’s not a big deal.

    My husband puts laundry ON TOP of the laundry basket lid and it bugged the crap out of me. I could nag him about it because it bugs me, but it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, pose a health or safety risk, and he’s not doing it because he’s dumb or lazy or expecting me to pick up after him. I know him well enough to know how easily distracted he is, I recognize that he is putting his laundry in essentially the correct location, and best of all he collects and washes all his own laundry. It bothers me less every time so now I just roll my eyes and smile a little when I have laundry and take his off the lid and throw it in with mine.

    • Michela

      I really need to get better at this.. Any tips??

      • Amy March

        Look for solutions that aren’t “partner just gets better at life and stops being so annoying.” Like, here, getting a laundry basket with no lid, getting separate laundry baskets so you aren’t running into his all the time, having no laundry basket at all and putting things in a giant pile on the floor/immediately into the washer. Every area of friction you can remove without one of you needing to change your basic habit frees up emotional energy for something else. If a product Target sells will remove the annoyance, that’s so much cheaper than marriage counselling.

        • Michela

          Ha! That’s great. Target should use that in an ad campaign, “lid-less hampers are cheaper than couples’ therapy”

          One big step towards resolving this issue has been to work out where it stems from in therapy. I’ve discovered my need to fight every.single.battle. comes from watching my parents argue, which was really just my dad beating a dead horse while my mom stayed silent. Little Me must have subconsciously decided “I will not stay quiet like that!” and here we are! Recognizing the source has helped me a lot (and I frequently repeat “we are not my parents” in my head when I need the reminder) but woof- those tendencies run deep! Maybe half the solution is as simple as you say.

          Besides, any excuse to make a Target run ; )

          • Lisa

            “We are not my parents” might need to become my new mantra.

          • Michela

            It really does help.xo

          • CMT

            Oh man, my parents have a very similar dynamic and I always thought the same thing about how I’d never let myself act like that. And I still look at my parents and think my mom lets my dad get away with way too much nagging and micromanaging. But after a couple of serious relationships, I’ve realized that there are some things that are not worth caring about. Things like the laundry hamper in LadyWoman’s example. I think part of it has come from getting older and part of it is due to the fact that my current boyfriend is a million times better than my ex at sharing domestic and emotional labor. I am way more open to compromise and letting the little things go now.

          • Michela

            Sending you empathetic vibes because wow do I feel you on this! It certainly helps to have a partner who is very different (as my guy is and your boyfriend sounds to be). And ultimately I think you’re right- some things just aren’t worth caring about.

            I also remind myself I can either have things done my way by doing them myself or I can have things done by him. Surprise surprise- often I just want things done!

        • SarahRose472

          Yes, this is great advice. About 99% of the time, people aren’t really going to change. So change the situation.

          For example: My husband NEVER notices what towel is his, he just takes whatever is closest. After many a time fuming and grouching at him after trying to dry myself with a cold, soaked towel, I finally figured out I just had to hang MY towels out of his view. Voila, problem solved.

        • Sarah

          So true. My boyfriend leaves his clothes on the bedroom floor and it used to drive me nuts (especially when I would step on a t-shirt and SURPRISE there was a belt buckle under it, ouch) until I bought him a little basket. Now he dumps his clothes in there, or if he leaves them on the floor I can just dump them in there instead of having to hang them back up or take them into the laundry. I used to get sick of his keys/wallet/phone on the kitchen bench too, so I put a little decorative dish on the sideboard where they can live. And when he asks me if I’ve seen his keys, I can say “are they in their dish where they belong? No? Well then I have no idea where else they could be” which is kind of passive aggressive, but it works because now his stuff never goes missing or gets in my way when I’m cooking.

        • Cbrown

          I’m pretty sure that’s the best life advice I’ve ever heard!

          “If a product Target sells will remove the annoyance, that’s so much cheaper than marriage counselling”

      • LadyWoman

        I’m pretty good at not making the immediate complaint, but that comes from a bad place of being afraid of being a burden or unlikable in ANY way and so bottling up my needs/emotions.

        In terms of thinking through my response, I’ve just practiced being willing to take a lot of time on it, sometimes enough that I feel a little silly thinking so much about it, but in the long run if it’s helpful I have to tell myself its not “silly”. Like, I’ll have my feelings hurt by some offhand comment of his, but then it takes me 20 minutes to figure out WHY it hurt and then go to him. And it actually takes some getting over awkward feelings as well, because when you don’t address something right away but come back and say, “hey, remember what you said 20 minutes ago?” and they DON’T, it’s feels weird :) But again, worth it!

        I turn this on my own actions/words too. I once made a comment about his father (who is a challenging but lovable guy for both of us) and about 15 minutes later I realized I might have hurt HIS feelings in X way and why. It felt uncomfortable, but went to him and said, “hey, remember what I said 20 minutes ago?” and explained why I thought it might have been hurtful and that even if he was ok with my comment, he could always let me know in the future if I crossed any lines.

        • Michela

          This is so lovely; thank you. I’ve found myself doing a similar thing- apologizing for something I said that might have been hurtful long after the fact- but I’m not so well-practiced in contemplating the issue on my own and working it out in my head before bringing it in conversation (see above comment about trying to undo my parents’ imbalanced arguing techniques). This is so helpful. Thank you!xo

          • LadyWoman

            I waaaay over think things in general, so it’s been great to have it be a valuable skill sometimes :)

      • BSM

        I think it just takes practice.

        For those little things that annoy me for no real reason (husband cuts bell peppers “wrong,” is extremely particular about how the top sheet is tucked in, bites down on his fork before closing his mouth making an obnoxious sound, etc.), I do like LadyWoman does and take some time to really think about why this thing is bugging the crap out of me. If I can’t come up with anything other than it bugs me because it’s not *my* way or the *right* way or I’m on edge for some other reason, I really try to hold onto that realization. And repeat it to myself whenever the annoyance arises.

        As long as the bell peppers get chopped and everyone keeps all their fingers, it doesn’t really matter how he went about it.

        • Ashlah

          Ha, my husband doesn’t like the way I cut bell peppers (I think his way is silly, but I don’t actually care how it gets done), so our solution is that he cuts the peppers.

        • LadyWoman

          Oh god, fork biting KILLS me. :)

          • BSM


          • LadyWoman

            Because my brain hears/sees it, imagines what it feels like to have my teeth clamp down on metal, and then my whole skeleton cries out in protest :)

        • Michela

          Such good advice. Thank you!!

        • SarahRose472

          This made me laugh, I totally relate about the bell peppers. I never knew how absurdly picky/obnoxious my family of origin is about everything in the kitchen until my husband told me how much it stressed him out to cook with us. We’re just completely used to trying to chop something while ignoring two or three people telling us it’s the wrong size, or it can be done more efficiently if you just do this, etc.

          Now we have a rule in our own household that if you want help cooking, you are NOT allowed to micromanage.

        • TheOtherLiz

          I’ll second this. The “right” way of doing things was a big handicap for me when we were newly married and living together. I would linger in the kitchen to make sure he was doing things right, fix his errors, correct his form. And often, he’d hear my advice and beat himself up for not knowing what he’s doing in the kitchen. Thing is, while I do things more “Correctly” in my mind, his food is ALWAYS delicious. So I remind myself of that, try to be not obvious about checking on things like whether he’s turned off the burners, and sit down, trusting that a delicious meal will soon be in front of me, whether it was prepared the “right” way or not.

          My only other piece of advice: if your partner has done something wrong and you NEED to fix it, or there’s a task you asked them to do that they still haven’t done, and you just want to get it DONE, do it when they’re not looking! I realized that just fixing it and not nitpicking wasn’t helpful if he saw me fixing it – then it looked passive aggressive, or it would remind him of this little “failure.” Now if I can’t help myself, I fix things while he’s in another room, and say nothing of it. And I remind myself of how annoying certain former roommates were about little things, too. That helps.

      • LadyWoman

        Also, some things ARE just obviously hurtful and don’t need to be mulled over for ages. But some stuff hurts/annoys and I don’t know why or why my reaction was so big, etc. and that’s when I take the time to review before speaking up.

      • Poppy

        I get a lot of mileage out of reminding myself “we’re on the same team” and making sure that I give him the benefit of the doubt. Our relationship is not and never has been a power struggle, so whatever he’s doing that’s causing me irritation is being done unintentionally. We are both committed to each others happiness and wellbeing as well as our own. If some small habit is making my life difficult, it’s not because he wanted to make me sad.

        Then if I do decide to bring it up to him, I try to keep in mind how I’d feel if our roles were reversed and he were confronting me about something I did making his life difficult. I wouldn’t want to feel attacked or criticized, and I wouldn’t want my minor bad habit to be used against me to make me feel bad. I wouldn’t want to be confronted about it when I’m already stressed out or busy or extra sensitive. That’s usually enough to lay the groundwork for a productive conversation.

      • tr

        The thing that works best for me is to gently remind myself that I am also really annoying, and that I almost certainly do a thousand things that bug him, as well!
        Like, it’s easy to get in this trap of “I do so much to keep the house clean, and I do so much to keep us on budget, and I do so many other things to help make our lives run smoothly every single day, so the least he can do is open the lid to the stupid laundry hamper”, but the reality is, he could say the same thing about me. When I step back and remember that he quietly puts up with plenty of frustrating quirks on my end, it becomes waaaay easier to forgive his frustrating quirks!

  • Bsquillo

    I think a big responsibility that’s important to us is both of us striving for a equitable partnership. This applies to managing a household, emotional labor, (eventual) child-raising, and supporting each other. Does this mean we split every responsibility 50/50? Of course not (for instance, I do most of the cooking, while he does way more laundry and other household maintenance)…but at the end of the day, we’re doing our best to bring equal contributions to the table and make the other person’s work feel valued. Honestly, keeping this balance is probably more work some days than falling into traditional gender roles, but I wouldn’t have married someone who wasn’t committed to working on this.

    • “Honestly, keeping this balance is probably more work some days than falling into traditional gender roles…”
      Yes. This. It definitely is. Just teaching someone when they’re dropping the ball on the emotional labor portion alone is a ton of extra work that shouldn’t be necessary. But. There it is, always.

  • Eenie

    It’s important to me to have a supportive spouse, but equally important that he supports and encourages quitting when it’s in the interest of my health or our life. I’m stubborn. It’s nice to have someone by my side who reminds me it’s ok to throw the towel in every once in a while. Cue him telling me to quit my job for a month straight before I listened and did it (I already admitted I was stubborn!).

  • toomanybooks

    The first responsibility I could think of is talking my fiancée down from those little fits of hypochondria. I like to follow it up with “I’m here so you can have a second opinion to tell you when you’re just being paranoid, and you’re just being paranoid, it’s fine.”

    On the flip side, she’ll be the second opinion that tells me when I should probably go to the doctor etc.

    • TheOtherLiz

      That’s great. I rely on my husband when I’m spiraling, obsessing over something, and in that state decide something crazy – like recently, I came home convinced that I had this weird condition and needed to totally change my diet. He calmly listened and said, okay, let me make sure I understand the full scope and how you got from conclusion A to conclusion B. And, could you meet with your doctor first before trying this radical new diet? I know that if ultimately I decide to make this radical change, he’ll be on board with helping me. But that little voice of “hey, calm down for a sec and look at the big picture and go in a logical order” was so helpful. And there are only a handful of people I would have taken that advice from – and only with him am I guaranteed not to get defensive.

      Good, grounding partners are a blessing. :)

  • SuperDaintyKate

    Our big one is picking up the slack at home for one another and keeping one another’s life running when we can’t do ti for ourselves. We are both nutso busy professionals, so it’s important that we can swap roles and both keep the home fires burning when we need to. One of our marriage vows– my favourite one– is the promise to do more than our fair share at home when the other is doing more than their fair share at work. As an example of us living those vows: I am in an insane busy few months of work right now. Husband is in charge of making sure I have three healthy meals a day, clean clothes to wear and a generally tidy home to sleep in. He’s off on a business trip next week, and has been cooking freezer meals for me so I can survive while he is gone. And when we eventually switch roles, I will do the same for him, as I have in the past. Fair is fair.

    • Michela

      Same!! This one is so huge. My husband picked up a lot of the same slack you mentioned when I was deep in the throes of my last semester of graduate school. I often worried he’d feel resentful of our imbalance, but he gently reminded me that some day I’ll have to pick up the slack for him and everything will even out. And here we are several months later, deep in the throes of his busy summer season with work and I’m doing the majority of housework and cooking and laundry and errand running. It helps to know we’ll each support the other when necessary, and that a current, micro imbalance does not foreshadow a long-term, macro imbalance.

    • LadyWoman

      Saying thank you is big. I’ve seen a weirdly large number of people who reject the idea that you should thank something for doing something “they should already be doing”, like helping with chores. That’s total bull! You don’t have to say thank you for every single action 100% of the time, but frequent thank yous remind people that you APPRECIATE them being a good partner. It’s not about special rewards, it’s about reminding that they’re noticed and not taken for granted. Hell, my boss says, “thanks for your good work,” just about every day when we leave and it feels great! The pay is expected, the thank you is appreciated.

      • Lawyerette510

        Largely when I’ve seen the say thank you to your partner or don’t discussion take place it’s around the inequality of it. For example, in hetero relationships women may feel the need to say thank you to men who are doing their fair share of household tasks like cooking, emptying the dishwasher, laundry, but those same men don’t thank the women for doing the same, or same kinds, of tasks. Essentially, the issue is not in the thanking but in the thanking only moving in one direction (from the woman to the man, for the man doing things historically associated with femininity/ woman’s work). In my own experience, I realized that my husband and I somewhat had this dynamic– I would thank him for doing regular household chores, and sometimes my intention was to encourage/ reinforce him doing them, but he didn’t thank me for doing them. So, we talked about it and in our case it was the result of just different communication styles, and we’ve kind of met in the middle of trying to in general express more gratitude for each other and our contributions, but also my being mindful of when I was sincerely expressing gratitude and when I just wanted to reinforce that he needed to step up or be more consistent in pulling his weight.

        • LadyWoman

          I’ve heard that as well and that’s definitely legit. I actually started thanking for normal things out of a bad place of trying to prove I was likable. Luckily Ive been able to start disconnecting the “I hope this makes me acceptable” bit and use it as a genuine “I appreciate you” affirmation. But I have indeed heard a weird number just say no and stop at that, so even if their background reasoning is lack of equity, not indicating that and just throwing out the whole practice doesn’t seem helpful, at least long term.

      • Kaitlyn

        Oh god, I read that advice once, not to thank your partner for things “they should already be doing” and it backfired IMMENSELY. We say thank you for EVERYTHING, even like “Thanks for hanging out with me all weekend”, but then I read this stupid advice and tried it out. He did some sort of chore and was like “Oh I cleaned the bathroom” and I forgot the following conversation (maybe like “aren’t you going to say thanks?”) and the response I gave was, “Why thank you for something you should already be doing?”. The minute it came out of my mouth, I felt like such an asshole. He just gave me a “huh” sort of look and I’ve never done it again. Gratitude is so important, especially when it comes to that mundane crap around the house that no one wants to be doing.

  • LP

    A responsibility for each of us is to acknowledge when our families of origin are not being fair. This was a difficult transition for me. I’m very close to my family of origin, and my immediate reaction is to defend them… But they are not always right! In fact, they’re frequently wrong! Its been an adjustment, but we both need to remember that we get to pull all of the good things from each of our families and create a good, new strong family.

    • Jessica

      This is a big one for us. It has to be done tactfully, but is super important. My family has shitty communication. We all tend to be passive aggressive and my mom often guilts me in to stuff. I didn’t realize this until my husband gently pointed this out after many wedding planning convos with my mother ended with me feeling like crap. The realization has really helped me be less of a doormat, and that my new family (my husband and me) is just as important to maintain as my family of origin.

  • Moose

    One responsibility my partner and I had a bit of a fight about is whether or not our job was to push each other to be better/different people.

    He was upset that I wasn’t bugging him to “improve himself” – be more aggressive about applying for jobs (he has one, but he hates it), signing up for an intramural sports league, going back to school, etc.

    I told him that I thought he was amazing already and that I didn’t see it as my responsibility or job to try and change him. That sounds exhausting.

    I told him that if he made a decision to look for a new job, play an intramural sport, or go back to school, I would be right there behind him, doing everything I could to support him. But it was up to him to take that first step, and if he wanted someone to bug him to change something, he had chosen the wrong girl.

    So our job is to support each other and accept the other’s flaws. I’m never going to be a graceful neat-freak and he’s never going to be particularly detail-oriented, but that’s okay. So he handles a lot of cleaning and points out when I’ve left a mess even after trying to have cleaned and it’s my job to take his goals (like “get a suit tailored) and figure out where to go and when.

    • Amy March

      Yes, this. I’m not willing to be your cheerleader/coach/motivator-in-chief. It’s not something I want someone to do for me, and it’s not a job I have any interest in taking on for someone else.

    • toomanybooks

      Recently an guy acquaintance from high school posted that quote “women aren’t machines where if you put in enough ‘nice’ tokens, sex falls out” (paraphrase) except didn’t seem to get the point because he had added his own comment – “I don’t just want a girl to sleep with me because I’m nice. I want someone who will help me grow as a person too.” Meaning – he expected even more from a woman he was interested in that just sex (which I assume he still thinks is a given in exchange for being what he assumes is a nice guy??).

      And then I also saw a comment by a friend of his that feminism had gone too far, that if a woman was doing well on her own he wasn’t interested in her because he wanted someone flawed so they could both work on their flaws.

      What I’m saying is I feel like some men are hoping the women they are with will solve their problems as if women are all that purely-romantic-interest female character that changes a man’s life for the better in a movie.

      Which isn’t to say I think your husband is doing this! And I feel like there really is a narrative expected that the person you marry “makes me my best self, makes me better than I ever thought I could be,” etc. But personally, am I spending my time dreaming up new things to push my fiancée towards greatness? Not so much! Will I help her prepare for interviews, etc in any way that I can? Yup!

      • Jess

        I read your comment with very wide eyes.

        Who are these women out there making men better? Did I miss Wave the Magic Wand day at Lady-School?

        Also, since when is Feminism about having no flaws? I mean, I know this translates to he wants to feel needed and the best way to feel needed is to find a broken human being and keep them broken, but ick.

        (edit, obviously, I’m just amazed that these men exist in the wild)

      • Ashlah

        I wish I could upvote this again. Expecting your partner to support you – great. Expecting your partner to provide the motivation and drive towards self-improvement that you lack yourself? Big, resounding nope.

        • Amanda L

          Oh my gosh… YES. My H has really struggled lately and is slowly becoming a different person than the one I married. Through injuries, some job frustrations, and being a born-and-bred pessimist, his ambition and drive seem to have gone out the window. I have struggled with how much to ‘push’ him, since I firmly believe the motivation has to come from him… I’ll provide all the support he can handle once that happens!

          • Noelle

            I feel like I could have written this. My husband is going through a weight loss journey, and he’s made AMAZING progress already, but a little bit of backsliding has taken a toll on his confidence. I’ve had many conversations with my therapist about how I feel like I’m not doing enough for him, but she reminds me over and over that my job is to support him, but it’s not my responsibility to force him to do anything.

      • Moose

        ” And I feel like there really is a narrative expected that the person you marry “makes me my best self, makes me better than I ever thought I could be,” etc. ”

        Absolutely. I don’t like that narrative and I am not interested in pushing someone else towards greatness. It’s all I can manage to push myself towards it. :)

      • Michela

        A huge yes to this! We only hold each other accountable to goals we’ve made of our own volition. It would be exhausting to push someone to be a better/different person if s/he didn’t want to be better/different. Besides, who gives anyone else a right to decide what I should be striving for?? Yikes.

      • TheOtherLiz

        This really depends on the person! I have ADD and so I need help managing it, and it’s hard to coach my partner in how to coach me. Or know what’s the right role for him as I manage it. But if my husband NEVER pushed me to be my better self, that would suck for me, personally. And sometimes he does it without meaning to – he’ll start cleaning and that gets me off my butt to do some cleaning too, for instance. Sometimes, though, he helps me to think about situations better and arrive at a better decision. And sometimes it’s comical how much I expect him to read my mind and know exactly how to push me. But if I said “I need your help in this way” and he said “sorry, you married the wrong guy” I would be hurt.

    • emilyg25

      Yeah, I think this depends on your personality. My husband is not a very motivated or ambitious guy. The stuff he does, he does well. And he does a lot of stuff! He’s just probably not going to do more. It was miserable for me when I tried to push him to keep advancing his career. I needed to back off and respect that he’s in a good place and has other priorities.

  • JenC

    Reading over that list, apart from sex the responsibilities are the same for my BFFs so I don’t know if you can avoid these responsibilities with your bestie. Or should I say if you do avoid them you probably aren’t much of a BFF. These are also responsibilities I can see with my family members. I have pushed my friends to go get checked out for something dodgy and they have pushed me to look for a new job, both sides not taking the others shit when excuses are offered. I think the difference with your BFF/family responsibilities and your partner’s responsibilities is the everyday-ness of your partner. Your bestie/family champions the big things, the book deal, the new job, your mental and physical wellbeing for the big things. Your partner champions those too (often in excess, although we don’t always listen to them) but for me your partner champions the little things just as much the big, the things that aren’t championed by any other loved one. “Have you taken your allergy medicine?” “Why don’t you speak to your manager about a pay rise at your next appraisal, you’ve been working so hard? Let’s write a list of what you’ve done.” “I know you’ve had a hard week at work but can you help me with the washing up then we can both relax?” So for example, both my mother and best friends have told me to quit messing about and find a new job as I’m not happy, my husband is the one saying everyday “how was work today, any better? Have you seen anything else to apply to? There’ll be something along soon, in the meantime tomorrow why don’t you go in and look for three positives, I will ask what they are tomorrow”. They do these things multiple times throughout the day for everything going on in your life.

    I know this is based on Meg’s list and others have added responsibilities that lie out of the realm of best friend territory but I do seem similarities in the list she originally offered and my relationship with my friends (possibly because Meg’s husband was her best friend before marriage). However, perhaps this is why I won’t call my husband my best friend because whilst he knows everything and does everything a best friend does, he actually goes beyond that and to call him a best friend doesn’t seem to fully capture all my feelings.

    I possibly wouldn’t have labelled the everyday-ness as a responsibility previously but I would be sad if these weren’t part of our relationship. So does that mean they should be classed as a responsibility? Something we should be required to do to ensure our relationship can progress and be sustained. To class it as a responsibility feels like part of a job description, I feel like these things we do voluntarily because we love each other but at the same time how you can work on fixing/maintaining them if they’re not something you acknowledge are required? I know I’m splitting hairs and tying myself up in knots now but I suppose I never thought of what we did (for any of our loved ones) in these terms before.

    • Amy March

      “Or should I say if you do avoid them you probably aren’t much of a BFF. ” That’s a bold statement! I love my relationship with my BFF but we don’t take on these responsibilities to each other at all. Zero part of our relationship involves nudging each other to go to the doctor- we are adult, competent, capable women. We handle or don’t handle our health and it is entirely on us. We also don’t take on responsibility for pushing each other, and that’s not something I’m looking for in a romantic partnership either. Personally I loathe people pushing me. If I want to do it, I will get it done. If the task requires insistent nudging, it’s a sign I don’t care about it and that’s fine.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Yeah, I actively avoid these things in my adult friendships! Like, my job with my BFF is just to accept her as she is. We push each other when the other asks for it (aka tell me I need to do this, please!) But, like, we don’t have a shared future with each other the way I do with my husband, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to have lower stakes with my BFF. In fact, I’ve watched as some friends made decisions I thought were awful, and if it were my partner, it would have been something we made together. But my BFF? Yeah, I don’t get to be part of that convo unless she asks me.

        • anon

          file this under: lesson I’m learning slowly (and not so gracefully)

        • S

          This is interesting to me, because even though I agree with you and Amy on the overriding point, I definitely disagree with your point that you don’t have a shared future with your closest friends. I think lots of people, JenC maybe included, see an ideal friendship as being one where that person is in your life when you’re both eighty. And that’s something that, if you want it, you have to take seriously and actively nurture. I think this often comes down to individual familial relationships as well, and communities. If you’re super close with your family you’ve maybe never had to think about wanting friends to fill that role, and lots of queer communities reconfigure friendships as families. Sitcoms are often the idealised version of this setup. In How I Met Your Mother, when Robin needed a razor on a date, or when Ted needed Robin to come pick him up from the middle of nowhere, the friend being asked just Got It Done, even though they really didn’t want to and that’s not exactly what they wanted to do with their night. That show’s actually a good example, because through Lily’s “porch fantasies” where a litmus test for any of Ted’s new relationships were whether she’d be comfortable and happy if that person was still with them when they were old and grey, we saw how Lily conceptualised friends as family, and that while that expectation was sometimes unreasonable to the others, it was no less valid. For most people, sitcom friendships are not how real life works. But for some people friendships actually are like that and those people shouldn’t be discounted. I am a Sitcom Friendship person. I want my friendships (not all of them, but the big ones) to be Ride or Die. Lots of people don’t, and that’s fine. It comes with responsibility (whatever those responsibilities are is up to those within the friendship), and it’s a challenge finding others who are also inclined that way. But it’s not wrong (or in my opinion, that weird) to be this way.

          • tr

            I don’t know…I definitely feel like I have a shared future with my friends, but not in the SAME WAY that I do with my husband. Like, if my friend is literally making the kind of mistake that could kill her or something, yeah, I’m going to speak up, because if she dies, we can’t hang out when we’re 80. We can, however, hang out when we’re 80 even if she gets fired from a job or two along the way and spends too much money on manicures. Those things won’t really have any direct bearing on my life. On the other hand, if my husband gets fired from his job or spends too much money at Five Guys, it will very much impact me!
            I guess with my friends it’s easier to step back and ask “Will this matter 10 years from now? Twenty years from now?”–and if not, I’ll probably keep my mouth shut. With my husband, I don’t have that luxury, because even if all his bad choice does is wreck his week, I’ll be the one stuck dealing with him all week!

        • TheOtherLiz

          This is interesting! I would definitely say that my besties and I push each other. But at a different frequency and level than I want my partner to. My relationship with each BFF is slightly different based on our histories and their lived experiences/expertise. So, for instance, a friend who has also battled with a chronic health issue is the friend who pushes me to manage mine well, and does so persistently. I rely on her for that. And I persistently push her to take better care of herself now than she has in the past, because I walked with her for some particularly shitty, deep stuff in the past. I’m not her wife, and she doesn’t occupy the same space in my life that my spouse does, but nevertheless, the way Amy used going to the doctor as a specific example – well, sometimes my friends and I hold each other accountable for stuff like that. But it’s not the same as with a partner. It wouldn’t be Something To TALK About, which I think is a well-said distinction on Maddie’s part.

  • BSM

    I like the idea of this thread, but I hate the my spouse is/is not my best friend argument, including the finality with which it’s stated above. I’m going to assume Meg meant what she said as something particular to how she defines her expectations for her marriage and for her BFFs, not as a universal truth, since someone has already pointed out that Meg’s marriage list = their BFF list.

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