Wives, Thank You Notes Aren’t Your Responsibility

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Before I got married, I watched newlyweds struggle to send out thank you notes for every pillow and pot and pan set they received. The bridal shower occurs smack dab during wedding planning, so those notes get shoved back. Then the wedding occurs, then the honeymoon, then moving, starting that new job, processing marriage, and hunting down your car paperwork (since of course your car fell apart somewhere amid all of that). You find the paperwork in a stack of junk mail and lists of people you need to thank. All fifty to three hundred of them.

Next weekend, you say. And then the next. And some of them happen, some of them don’t, until you’re so flustered and your hand is so cramped and you start questioning the whole stupid concept of etiquette and forget about thank you notes until your second anniversary.

Before I had a baby, I watched the same thing happen — the distraction, the frustration, the exhaustion, the defeat. And by that point, the baby is born and nothing gets done until you retire.

There’s one common thread to these sad tales — wives get stuck doing all the thank you notes.

It might be because wives generally get stuck with social obligations. It might be because women get thrown the bridal showers and baby showers while the husband- and dad-to-be stays home. Those are all things I think we should challenge (desperately), but in the meantime, here’s a quick and dirty tip to get all the thank you notes done without burn out:

Wives, don’t write all the thank you notes.

Erich and I split up wedding thank yous — he responded to his family and friends, and I responded to mine. That proved especially helpful because I had no idea who Aunt and Uncle Unpronounceable Polish Name were, and they had no idea who I was — and there were lots of aunts and uncles with unpronounceable Polish names on his side of the family. There were also people who neither of us knew.

I’m not sure how that happened.

Even more importantly than splitting up thank you note writing, we split up the mental load of thank you note writing. That is, I made it clear that this was not my task that I was delegating to him. This was his task that he was solely responsible for thinking about and completing. I would not remind him, nag him, or deal with the fallout if relatives started asking where their thank you notes were — just as he was not responsible for reminding me to complete my thank you notes, even if it took me months (or a year…) to complete them.

I cannot tell you how much of a relief that was — to not feel obligated to nag. Because that’s where nagging comes from, right? The feeling that it’s ultimately your responsibility and your reputation that takes a hit, so you must badger your husband to do it your way, in your time, instead of letting go of everything — the method, the time frame, the responsibility, the consequences.

Whenever anyone asked how thank you notes were coming, it felt amazing to simply say, “Oh, Erich’s in charge of the rest of them — ask him” — instead of throwing him under the bus to deflect from my embarrassment.

This makes for a much happier marriage.

Now that baby gifts and Christmas gifts are rolling in, I’m planning on revisiting this simple tip — he writes the notes for his family and friends, I write the notes for my family and friends. Of course, his family is now my family and vice versa, and I have more time on my hands than he does since I work part-time, so that changes things more than when we both worked full-time and hardly knew each other’s families.

But if the thank you notes get overwhelming, I’m not going to hesitate to pull in my husband. After all, expressing gratitude for gifts given to both of you is not a wife’s sole responsibility.

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9 thoughts on “Wives, Thank You Notes Aren’t Your Responsibility

  1. Fran Johns

    As someone from a distant galaxy past, I so applaud this sensible reasoning. I wrote every thank you note for weddings, babies, you name it ever written because it was the wife/mother’s unquestioned responsibility — and because I was ALWAYS genuinely grateful. Now the grandmother of grown millennials (most of whom wrote thank-you notes as children with their mothers standing over them) I almost never get a thank-you beyond an email or text acknowledgment. I choose not to harbor grudges, as my grandchildren are utterly flawless, but the civility of the thank-you note is something to be cherished. Cheers to you and Erich both.

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  2. calijones

    I did the same – wrote the notes to my family, delegated him to write the notes to his, and his never got done. But we are no longer together so I don’t have to be embarrassed when I see his family, or deal with his lack of responsibility altogether! :D

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  3. milkandpickles

    Unfortunately, this tip only works when it’s your husband who has all the family members with the weird Polish (or German in my case) names. I think only about ten people from his side gave gifts, compared to (what felt like) millions on my side!

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  4. Hope

    Hi Bailey! I am currently working on a project for my Women in Ministry course and needed to evaluate two blogs- one complementarian and one egalitarian. Upon stumbling across your blog, I read through a few of your posts and thought this would be a perfect match for my egalitarian summary! In regard to your husband accompanying you in writing these endless Thank You letters, what have been some reactions on the receiving end? Did you find that traditional, conservative friends/family were impressed with his engagement in such a task? Did you find that they applauded his writing while it may have been a necessary expectation on your end? Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Of the posts read, your words were encouraging, captivating, and thought-provoking.

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  5. Laura Jinkins

    What a clever solution! It wasn’t a problem for us, because I enjoy writing notes and letters, and even now scour eBay and Etsy for vintage stationery (since it’s IMPOSSIBLE to find letter writing paper in stores these days…) I have always enjoyed writing thank you notes, bread and butter letters (the thank you’s one sends after an overnight stay with friends), or regular letters. I think part of the reason I love them so is they are a point of contact with a person I care about. When I receive a letter, I like to think about the fact that the other person held that paper in hand before sending it my way. You don’t get that from an email. :/

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