I am tired of being the designated spouse to take care of our social life. Remembering his brother’s birthday, planning trips, responding to invitations — it always falls to me. It is a strain because I have to keep track of everything. He says I am “better” at these things and that they mean more to me, so I should be the one to deal with them. If I didn’t, we would never see anyone and be alienated from friends and family. —Frustrated, D.C.
Yes, the problem with the “Just stop doing it” policy is that — much like with dirty dishes — often one spouse simply has a higher tolerance for messes, faux pas or hermitlike behavior than the other one does. Your husband may never fully appreciate your efforts because he can easily imagine just not bothering with these social demands.
So come up with a list of priorities as a couple. Categorize the Must-Dos, Should-Dos, Try-to-Dos and Can-Do-Withouts for keeping up your social life. Your lists will vary and so it will take negotiation — sending a birthday card to his brother stays, for instance, but your 200-person-holiday card list gets hacked in half.
Then, with things that you decide you both value, divvy up the duties and see if he’ll agree to small lists of delegated tasks. Maybe you always do the planning but he packs; maybe you set the itinerary but he compiles the documents; maybe you price-check hotels but he brainstorms restaurants. Be specific, realistic and clear — and continue to communicate and tweak as you put the new parameters into action.
Her face messes with her head
A friend of mine borders on what I think is a serious mental illness with how she thinks about her face and how she looks. She is obsessed and has gone to about a dozen dermatologists for various procedures and is talking about getting plastic surgery on her chin and cheeks. —How Can I Help?
It’s difficult to watch anyone go through this pattern — whether it’s truly body dysmorphic disorder or something more subtle, clearly it must not feel good to dislike your appearance enough to compile a Rolodex of every cosmetic doc in town. So, focus on that emotional reality, rather than her behavior or how she looks (even if you think you’re being positive). “I sometimes worry you don’t seem to feel so good about yourself” or “You seem so focused on this that I wonder if it’s keeping you from being happy with other parts of your life” can open up the conversation better than accusations of specific excesses or assurances that she looks fine.
Most of all, show her you value her for who she is, not how she looks — and see if she perhaps could use some professional help in doing that herself.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at email@example.com.
Read more Baggage Check: