Why Do I Need to Arrange Everything?

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Some of us are natural-born planners. Some of us are natural-born worriers. I am both. Perhaps you, too, are the sort of person who makes lists of criteria and starts calling housekeeping services weeks in advance of when you’ll need them. Or the sort who vets enough babysitters to know whom you will call if your favorite is not available on your birthday. Or the sort who gets an idea to travel and starts comparing airfares, hotel prices, beach access, and average temperature in a spreadsheet even before committing to which state or country you’ll go to.
If you are, let give offer you a tip for staying in your happy place: there is a good chance your spouse doesn’t care. When you get tired of doing all this all the time, expecting your spouse to take over for you will almost certainly lead to self-inflicted resentment.
And your spouse won’t feel one bit ashamed, because he or she will not have a clue why you are not satisfied with the approach to these tasks that other people take.
No babysitter available when I call the morning of our dinner out? No problem! I’ll ask a friend or relative or reschedule dinner. All fixed. We need a cleaning service? What’s wrong with calling the one who advertises on the place mat where I’m eating lunch to see when they can come do it? As long as the place is relatively clean when they finish, what’s the problem? And if I woke up picturing us on the beach in Aruba, why don’t we book a flight and then see what hotel is available?
I’ll be there to empathize with you when the only place available in Aruba looks like it won’t survive a hurricane and wants to rent you a couple of bicycles to ride the mile to the nearest beach. I’ll offer you a hug when your birthday dinner gets delayed or when you stress over your obligation to your last-minute babysitter. And I’ll give you a Care emoji on Facebook when you report the ketchup left on your cabinet door by the cleaning service. (I’ll watch your kid, but I’m really not a fan of housework, even to help a friend.)
But if you want to moan about how you get stuck with all of this work of making arrangements, I will point you to the research reported in Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. He discovered those Satisficers are, on the whole, happier and wealthier than us Maximizers. It’s hard to believe, because we feel so good about a choice that turns out well or a backup plan that saves the day. But you know that getting there took work, and you often wonder (unhappily) why you always get stuck with this work.
Feel free to do the work for those moments of blissful success. I do. But please do not imagine for one moment that your spouse not doing it is a sign that he or she is lazy or taking advantage of you or not really in love with you. Instead, try being grateful he or she tolerates your hobby, which looks a lot like skillful foot-shooting to a Satificer. And let go of your unhelpful expectation of help doing it.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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