This is the Dumbest Question You Can Ask Your Stressed Out Partner

Dear fellow laid-back idiot,

Halloween 2018. The author is the fire truck, in case you were wondering.

Check out your wife right now. She sure seems stressed and overwhelmed, doesn’t she? Good heavens, you’re incredibly lucky to be so laid back. Every night, you fall asleep when your head hits the pillow and enjoy 7 hours of dreamless sleep. Not a care in the world. It’s good to be you.

On top of being laid back, you’re also caring and observant. You love your partner, it’s obvious she needs some help, and you want to give that to her.

You’re such a good person. It’s stunning. How do you do it?

You’re walking up to her now. You place your hand on her lower back. She turns and sees your loving, familiar gaze.

And you ask,

“Babe. How can I help?”

Congratulations. You are the dumbest.


To this day, I ask my wife that question on a nearly daily basis. It’s because, like you, I’m the laid-back idiot in the relationship. Is it always a man who falls into this role? No. But the chances are REAL strong.

Probably a year ago, one of my wife’s Cool and Woke City Friends (CWCF) shared an article with her. My wife read it and shared it with me, and now I’m encouraging you to read it as well. It’s excellent.

The comic attached a phrase to my wife’s decade-long burden: mental load. She had to organize everything. Plan everything. Remember everything. Because her husband (hi there) was and still is a moron, albeit a funny and charming and incredibly humble one.

There’s a simple reason “How can I help?” is a dumb question to ask: The question instantly requires your partner to assign a task to you. They’re already overwhelmed, and your question adds more to their to-do list, not less. That sucks, and despite our good intentions, we suck too.

I can’t fathom the endless stream of items that course through my wife’s brain as she fights to keep our household humming. But what I can do is be a better partner.


How To Actually Help Your Stressed Out Partner

  1. Look around. What do you see? Hmmm. Looks like some laundry needs to be done. The couch hasn’t been vacuumed in a while. And what on earth is that smell? Is that you? Wait, no. It’s the garbage.
  2. Do the laundry. Vacuum the couch. Take out the garbage. Don’t ask how you can help. Just start working. You’re a big human with a mortgage and lower back pain and everything. You can do it.
  3. Boss your partner around (Option A). Light a few candles, grab the book she’s currently reading, pour a glass of wine, and prep a bubble bath. Walk up to her. Tell her, “Bath is ready. Go. I got this.”
  4. Boss your partner around (Option B). Tell your partner, “I texted your CWCFs. They’re meeting you for dinner. Go. I got this.”
  5. Boss your partner around (Option C). Give your partner alone time with their most fulfilling hobby. Knitting? Netflix? Exercise? Gaming? Screaming into a pillow? “Go. I got this.”
  6. Prove that you actually do got this. Keep the kids and/or pets happy. Tidy up. Make dinner. In general, try to do it all. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s exhausting. Welcome to your stressed out partner’s world. The only difference is, they’ll be overcome with gratitude at everything you’re doing.
  7. Note to self: Try to be overwhelmed with gratitude more often. Notice all the work your partner is doing. Say thanks. Be appreciative. Make it clear how much you value it.

Recap!

You don’t have a supervisor. You have a partner. Start getting stuff done without being asked. Use those broad shoulders and help carry the mental load.