Why Is It So Hard To Remember Marriage Is A Partnership?

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
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Thursday mornings are the worst time for my marriage. If we ever get a divorce, when they ask us what went wrong, instead of something like irreconcilable differences, we’d probably just say “Thursday mornings.”

I’d like to blame the garbage for all of my marital discord, but I believe it might mostly be our bad attitudes. My husband likes to wake up slow and calm and quiet, and this just doesn’t happen on Thursday mornings. This is the morning when I wake up like a drill sergeant. It’s that day when, for some reason, absolutely every annoying thing in our life seems to coalesce in a 30-minute time period of pure hell.

I wake up on Thursdays okay, but then I remember about the kids’ music instruments, that they always hate school lunch on Thursday, that I need notes for bus drivers, and it’s garbage day, which involves getting the gross food out of the fridge and rounding up our 10 million garbage cans. It’s also the day when shit goes wrong; entire Cheerios boxes somehow expel their contents into the pantry, dishes break, compost bags leak their disgusting juice all over the kitchen, and the kids decide that it is time to annoy the shit out of each other. Before I even get out of bed, I already know that I’m going to feel like I’m doing it all by myself.

This isn’t necessarily true though. My husband is an active, helpful, supportive parent and spouse, but I convince myself that it is. And yes, I know we could plan better, and we try different things to help us stay organized, but we just don’t have it together. We are a hot mess.

On these days, my husband and I forget that we are in this whole parenting and marriage thing together. We talk more about all of the things that each of us is doing wrong, and less about all of the things that we might be doing right. We go into self-preservation mode, and it’s every person for themselves until we get out the door.

We complain to each other about each other, and we all know how great that goes.

“I need your help today,” I say, one hand filled with the recycling bag while desperately trying to infuse caffeine into my body with the other.

“We waste too much food,” he says, throwing Tupperware containers into the sink with more force than necessary.

“Yelling at me about wasting food isn’t helping.”

“You’re always crabby on Thursdays.”

“It’s because I hate you on Thursdays.” I don’t actually say this last one, but we’ve been married long enough that he knows that I’m thinking it.

On Thursday mornings, we forget that, when we got married, we decided to be in a partnership together. We forget that we are on the same team. We forget that the last thing in the world we want is someone telling us what to do, so why are we doing that to each other? We forget that, if we’re not in this together, what’s the point, really?

I’ve seen too many couples who keep a constant list tallied up in their minds. They compare and contrast time and effort and jobs done. It’s almost like being together becomes this huge contest to see who is getting the better deal out of life. Keeping tabs on nights with friends to cash in for a day to do whatever they want. Remembering who got to sleep in late last weekend and getting mad if you don’t get your turn. Mental lists of chores done, slights made, effort expended.

With this mentality, eventually people become exhausted and angry all the time, feeling like they are just keeping score and somehow always losing — kind of like us on weekday mornings.

And because we are determined not to do these things to each other, we have made a pact that we will remember even on those bleak mornings when everything is going wrong. Surrounded by spilled cereal and leaking garbage and not-quite-awake children, we try to pause, or slap each other on the butt, and even sometimes laugh about the absurdity and chaos of it all.

Recently, I needed to go out of town quickly to help my mom who was in the hospital. My husband didn’t blink an eye. He simply said, “Go, I’ve got everything covered.” And then he quickly learned how to fix our daughter’s hair the way she wanted it, and she’s very particular, for school picture day which was the following day.

Because that’s what being married is all about: stepping up when your partner really needs you; being the one who your person can count on; offering support, reassurance, and validation when times get tough. It’s a partnership, not a contest.

It’s also about taking care of stinky garbage together while packing lunches and corralling sleepy kids, without murdering each other, but we’re still working on that part. We’ve all got our struggles.

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