Partners. It’s time we had a little talk. Did you pick up the dry cleaning this week? This is not a rhetorical question.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me tell you a story.
I used to have a secretary who was friendly and totally unreliable. I’d give her a basic task – “Hey, we’re almost out of hormone testing kits, can you call the lab and have them send us 10 more?” “Sure thing,” she’d say. A week later I’d open the cabinet during an appointment and find an empty shelf. “Ummm, I thought I asked you to call the lab?” I’d ask. “Oh, uh, yeah, I’m so sorry, I totally forgot. I’ll do it this week, I promise.” This kind of thing happened all the time.
It got to the point where I’d assign a task to her but never really trust that it would get completed. So in a day or two, I’d check back in to see if she was on it. This meant that after delegating a task I couldn’t actually take it off of my to-do list. It would continue to occupy space in my brain and stress me out, entirely defeating the purpose of, say, hiring a secretary.
Eager to knock tasks off of the to-do list, I’d find myself muttering, “Screw it, I’ll just do it myself,” and then essentially do my secretary’s job for her while still paying her salary. After a couple weeks of this, however, it dawned on me: I needed a new secretary!
…So back to the dry cleaning. Do you get why I’m asking about it?
Did you pick it up? Did you say you would? When you say you’re going to pick up the dry cleaning and then days go by and you haven’t, the issue has little to do with the actual dry cleaning. Your partner has other blouses and doesn’t really need the one at the dry cleaner’s. (Yes, women are complicated. But they’re not that complicated. Stay with me.)
It’s not about the dry cleaning; it’s about your integrity. The deeper issue is that you said you would do something and you didn’t do it. You didn’t follow through. You gave her your word – sure, it wasn’t a vow, but it was at the very least a commitment – and you dropped the ball. You’ve shown her that she can’t trust you.
Even if you make lots of money, even if you hold her secrets in confidence, even if you are trustworthy when it “really matters,” the mama in your life needs to know that she can lean on you not only during the hard times, but also day-to-day.
She needs to know that if she delegates a task to you, that you’ve got it and that she can let it go. She needs to know that once she hands it over to you that she can take the task off of her plate, that she can free up that psychic energy and apply it to other tasks like, say, folding your laundry. Or taking your kids to the dentist. Or having sex with you.
If she’s nagging, it’s because she delegated a task and then couldn’t actually take it off of her conscience. She can’t trust your integrity, and so she has to continue to hold the weight of the task she doesn’t trust you to complete.
I found a new secretary, but the mama in your life can’t so easily replace you. She needs you. She needs you to pick up the dry cleaning. She needs to know that she can rely on you and that you’re on it.
Couples don’t often get down to the dry-cleaning level stuff until couples therapy. All of these seemingly inconsequential moments where she experienced a lack of support can collect over time and chip away at her precious reserves. And a lack of honor in a partner can create a chasm in the best of relationships over time. Many partners don’t initially see how their dry cleaning relates to honor and trust, but they do know that these things are necessary for a healthy relationship.
So share this article with your partner. Help them connect the dots, and remind them how sexy honor is. They truly want to help you and give you their best, so show them how. Ask them what system they will use to remember the dry cleaning so that you can fully release the tasks you delegate.
Share this post to help another mama out.
Author: Dr. Erica Zelfand