I Would but I Can't
I would pick up those things from the pharmacy, but I can't, because I get home after the pharmacy closes.
That was my version of the truth in the last two months of my first marriage. We needed them, at least once a week. I believed my long commute and frequent late hours meant my husband should pick them up. He didn't. I felt put-upon when I did without and had to up early and waited in the long lines on Saturday mornings. Resentment grew. Our relationship withered.
After he died and I became a single mom, I discovered other ways to solve the problem. Move the prescriptions to a pharmacy near where I ate lunch or to one that delivers. Leave early when necessary and let go of my devoted worker image. Dump the commute by promising to change employers if we did not move our field office closer to my (and my employees') homes.
What I thought was a fact turned out to be a choice. My annoyance at my husband was of my own making. I never even checked in with him to find out what he believed he was capable of. I just expected he would do it because I believed I could not.
I would clean up the dog's vomit, but I can't do it without adding more of my own.
It's one thing if your spouse volunteers to take on a task for you and feels loving and appreciated while doing it. It's quite another if your spouse feels stuck with it just because you cannot come up with a way to mask the smell or get it off the sofa without feeling the slime or looking at the bits and pieces.
Expectations, other than the one you were promised--that you will be loved, are premeditated resentments.
I would go with you to your sister's wedding (or your Aunt Jo's Fourth of July barbecue), but I can't because I am expected to work in my family's business that day.
It's awful when we fall for our own stories, because if we cannot see the choices we make, we cannot feel the pain our spouses feel when we don't choose them or what matters to them.
We expect them to understand. And they usually do, when we really have no choice. But one of the blessings of marriage is having a partner who sees right through our self-defeating beliefs. So we hurt them when we lie to ourselves.
I will fix the leaky toilet, but I can't do it this weekend.
Sometimes will is worse than would. You put your name on a chore and then postpone it week after week. You choose the appreciation you get for assuming the chore, and you dissuade your spouse from doing anything to prevent his or her resentment when it's still leaky a month later.
Resentment is a marriage killer, and it grows from unmet expectations.