Was I wrong to volunteer my husband ?
February 8, 2013 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Was I wrong to volunteer my husband to drive a close, elderly relative once a week for cardiac therapy? This is a morning appointment out of town and involves two trips each way.

One trip to pick him up (10 miles rush hour on Xway) then another one to take him to the facility (5 miles) and then back home. Also, to wait for him when he's in therapy in case he might need us for some reason.
I don't drive but I will be along on the trip to help in every way I can.
At first he agreed but then when he realized what was involved (may go on for many weeks depending on his progress) he became more and more aggrieved about the situation "I got him into."
This relative is a wonderful person (he's my kin, btw) but husband likes him very much, too, but, apparently, not so much that he wants to, with a good heart, take on all that is involved plus having to do so early in the morning as he is a night person.
Was I wrong? I'm feeling guilty yet still feel I was right in that the family involved was in a pinch and had no one else to drive him.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Human Relations (47 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request. -- restless_nomad

It's generally not a great idea to volunteer other people for things without at least checking with them about it first, no.
posted by ook at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2013 [55 favorites]

I think it's generally accepted as polite to ask someone before volunteering them for something, even if you expect them to say yes. I would be annoyed if my wife signed me up for something like this. It has less to do with whether I want to take it on, and more to do with feeling like I didn't even have a say.
posted by primethyme at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do think it's wrong to make a commitment for someone else, yes, even if it's your spouse and your heart is in the right place. In the future it would be better to talk to your husband first and make sure he's okay with it before volunteering him for something.
posted by something something at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2013

Well, ideally you'd have asked your husband first. Volunteering anyone else's time for them is kind of an unpleasant surprise for the voluntee. I bet your husband if asked would have agreed and wouldn't be as aggrieved about it if he felt like he had made the choice.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, I think that you were wrong. I don't know what you can do about it now, but in the future, there is no harm saying "Exactly what would you need from us? Let me know and I'll talk it over with my husband."
posted by payoto at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2013

Oooops, I forgot to mention I did check with him AFTER I volunteered him and he said it was ok but he was "half asleep" at the time and, later, said I should have given him more time to think it over.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 11:23 AM on February 8, 2013

Yeah, it is totally not cool to impose this on a person without checking first, especially if it is going to go on for "many weeks."
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

I did check with him AFTER I volunteered him

BEFORE you volunteer him is when you should do that.
posted by ook at 11:23 AM on February 8, 2013 [24 favorites]

Yeah, you goofed here. You owe your husband an apology and need to figure out another solution.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm feeling guilty yet still feel I was right in that the family involved was in a pinch and had no one else to drive him.

If someone volunteered me to do this once, I would say, "wow. Sounds like everyone was in a jam! Be happy to bail you guys out!" Even if I didn't actually want to do this, I would grit and bear it for the greater good.

But you volunteered him for a long term, ongoing commitment, and you can't expect someone to be up for that when they didn't agree to it.
posted by deanc at 11:27 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you ask someone for permission after volunteering them for something, that's an application of coercive pressure. Of *course* he said "fine."
posted by absalom at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is a pretty standard failure in communication.

Next time do not volunteer your husband for anything before sitting down with him and going over all the steps and effort involved. Do not guilt him into acquiescing, either.

My SO has a wonderful saying, never assume anything. Don't assume your husband will be able or willing to do something without asking him first.
posted by royalsong at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Never ever volunteer anyone for anything you haven't already asked them about. Easy.
posted by mean cheez at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2013

Are you sure that the relative's health plan (Medicare or other) doesn't provide transportation for treatment? Many do, you or he should at least call up and ask.
posted by payoto at 11:31 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Volunteer: A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.

You've removed the "freely" and the "offer" part.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you can't ask someone for permission after already volunteering him; it makes it virtually impossible to decline. I'm with deanc, here, if it was a one-time appointment I'd think it was unfortunate but sometimes you do what you gotta do. But to volunteer him for an ongoing, lengthy commitment? Just no.
posted by Justinian at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2013

still feel I was right in that the family involved was in a pinch and had no one else to drive him.

Not to hammer this in, but this is really poor reasoning, and I'd find it quite exasperating if someone tried it on me.

The "had no one else to drive him" is not factually correct. You are presumably not the only people in the world your relative knows, and your husband is not the only person in the world who owns a car. In the worst case, car services and taxis exist. Other arrangements may be more expensive or less convenient, but not nonexistent. And the "in a pinch" part makes it a reasonable thing to ask for help with, but doesn't make it "right" for you to pass an obligation on to someone else unasked.
posted by ook at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, that wasn't cool, no matter how much your husband likes your relative. Checking with him after the fact doesn't matter since, at that point, he's stuck with the job.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a pretty standard failure in communication.

I wouldn't agree with that. I'd class this as a large failure in communication given what you've described. This was not a single trip. You certainly should have checked with your husband first, even if the expectation is that he would step up to do it in the end because you are talking about family in need.
posted by OmieWise at 11:35 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

yet still feel I was right in that the family involved was in a pinch and had no one else to drive him

This does not excuse it. You still have to ask your husband first. If you absolutely felt the need to say something to your family before you checked with him, something like "let me see if there's something WE [note -- not just your husband, but the two of you] can figure out, and I'll let you know tomorrow." THEN you ask your husband, so he is actually free to say yes or no, or to brainstorm other possible solutions with you (perhaps he'd be willing to do it once a month, and you could do it once a month, and you could go back to your family to see if someone else could do it those other days).

But no, it's not acceptable to make ongoing commitments for other adults without their consent, no matter the pinch the rest of your family's in.
posted by scody at 11:37 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nope, you're absolutely, 100% in the wrong here, unless you have an explicit, pre-existing agreement in your relationship that it's okay with both of you to bind the other to long-term, time-consuming, unpleasant obligations. That is, he would have to have previously said to you, in very close to these exact words, "honey, any time it's important enough to you, you can feel free to sign me up for favors for others that demand my time at inconvenient times indefinitely, without my prior consent." In the absence of that, your behavior is absolutely not okay.

I would be absolutely furious if my partner had done this to me, regardless of the importance of the reason or my fondness for the beneficiary. Like, demand couples counseling, because it's clear to me that my partner doesn't respect my needs and feelings kind of furious.
posted by decathecting at 11:38 AM on February 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

husband likes him very much, too, but, apparently, not so much that he wants to, with a good heart, take on all that is involved

Also, this is an uncharitable read on your husband (and if you've said it to him in so many words, it reads to me as a ploy to displace your own guilt on to him). The fact that your husband doesn't want to take on an onerous errand that you forced on him is not in any way a reflection of the goodness of his heart.
posted by scody at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2013 [29 favorites]

Yes, but with caveats.

Understand, being volunteered by your spouse sometimes feels like you are being taken for granted. It chews into personal time and as a result it can strain the relationship - especially with medical issues. Cognitively he may agree with the task, he may care deeply for the person he is helping, and he may actually want to do it, but by being volunteered it sets him up to be resentful of having to do it. You've eliminated his ability to set limits and to make accommodations for his schedule.

I used to take my elderly landlord to the bank weekly to handle his affairs. There would be days hwere he would have to add on a small trip to the grocery store, that the line would be long, that he would insist on handling things the long or the hard way (but the familiar way), but if I hadn't done it - noone else would have helped him out either. So there was this begrudging time sink, that cognitively was the right thing, but man - it just pissed me off. Its like having a small kid that refuses to put their shoes on before going to the zoo - in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter (kid is going to go), but in the moment, the focus stops being on the fact that they are going to have fun as a family, but instead turns into how this is affecting you...

So, you've done it. We're here now. What can you do to mitigate the situation?
1. Apologize to your husband, let them know you know you made a mistake.
2. Let him know why you thought he would be okay with it, as well as the pressure you felt to help a relative that you couldn't help on your own.
3. Let your husband know how much it means to you that he help you help your relative.
4. Let him know that you'll try to minimize variations to the schedule.
5. Let him know that this won't happen again like this.
6. Do something nice for your husband, either get him something special, or make sure he has time to do a favorite activity.
7. Set clear expectations of the end of this assistance with your relative.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

It sounds like this will take up the entire morning, and go on for unspecified weeks. So that is an enormous thing to volunteer your husband for, and it was wrong to say he'd do it without talking t him first.

You should contact your relative's medicare plan representative. They may be able to help with transport, and if not, you can hire a health aide to pick-up, wait and drop off.
posted by aviatrix at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2013

Most people don't like being volunteered. Is there a reason you can't learn to drive? If you are able to do so, maybe you could make a deal with your husband that you'll take driving lessons if he does this favor? And your husband could do something else while you wait for the relative while in therapy. He can go to a library, bookstore, coffee house, etc..
posted by Ideefixe at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're both right. (Although you should have discussed it first). He should do it because, he should do it even if it is inconvenient and sucks, but as the old saying goes, "If you are going to fuck me, at least kiss me first." Should have asked. But, come on, helping out kin is what kin is for.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I were your husband, I'd probably be very bitter about this. Even if I adored the relative in question, I'd be more and more resentful every time I made the trip. Despite that, I'd still probably not let on how truly pissed I was because I would feel like a jerk for cutting off an elderly person from their cardiac therapy by saying I wasn't doing it anymore.

I think it's on you to help your relative make other arrangements.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you can't back out now, figure out how you can return the favor to your husband with some extra spare time - pick up some of the cooking, cleaning, pharmacy items, or take care of another onorous task on his plate (I.e. cleaning out the garage in the spring, or organizing old photos, etc.)

Is it feasible for you to learn how to drive? Has it just been inertia or is there a medical/psychological reason you can't do it? Because he probably has to do all the driving in your relationship too, adding this extra long trip could be rather exhausting each week.
posted by barnone at 12:08 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Was I wrong?

Yes. Do not volunteer someone else. Even your husband. You should have discussed the situation with your husband and let him volunteer for himself if he felt so inclined. What you have done was passive aggressive and took him for granted, and your comments about your husband's reluctance feel cruel and petty.
posted by aught at 12:08 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think volunteering someone for something that they, given the opportunity, probably would have volunteered themselves for is rude on a couple of levels: 1) Obviously, you do not volunteer people for time-consuming, ongoing commitments without consulting them and 2) In a way, you've taken away his opportunity to feel proud of himself for volunteering to do a good deed. Sure, actually DOING it is part of it, but when you're forced into it, it just doesn't feel the same. Then, 3) The normal resentment he feels stemming from point 1 can lead to feelings of guilt and shame about not being selfless enough to just do the good deed with absolutely no hard feelings.

I really think you owe your husband an apology and a promise not to do this in the future without talking to him first.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:08 PM on February 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Adding to the chorus: Yes, I'd be very angry and resentful. It is a hundred kinds of uncool and disrespectful to volunteer someone, without asking, for an enormous time and effort commitment. Add on to the guilt factor (poor Relative! he has no-one else!) and I think your husband would be justified in feeling as if he was railroaded and emotionally manipulated.

Really do your level best to find some other way for Relative to get to his cardiac appointments. Even if it means paying for transportation, please try to take as much of the load off your husband as you can.

I know you mentioned that you do not drive - so your husband has to do all the driving for the two of you as a couple. I know there may be a solid medical reason why you can't, and I also assume that he married you knowing that you do not drive. Still, you really do not want to make him feel like the family chauffeur. And while he's willing to drive you places, that doesn't mean he wants to be the wheels for any member of the family who can't drive, as well.

Find some other transportation for Relative, then apologize to your husband and assure him that you will never volunteer his time without asking him again.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:17 PM on February 8, 2013

In my marriage, we handle this sort of thing on a case-by-case basis, and as we've only been married a few months, we're still working it out. The consensus at this point seems to be that while we do have some authority to commit each other to stuff. That seems to us to be part of what it means to be married, i.e., you surrender some of your individual autonomy, and there are plenty of times when a decision needs to be made right now. But the bigger the commitment, the more important it is to discuss with the other before committing. It's a judgment call every single time.

In practice, I'd have been instinctively annoyed if my wife did this without consulting me, particularly if it conflicted with existing commitments. But I'd swallow that annoyance as a cost of doing business as a married man. If there were no conflicts, I'd have done what she asked. If it did conflict, I'd have to see what it conflicted with and whether it was even feasible for me to move things around. It might not be, in which case it would be on her to explain that I can't make it. Regardless: no hard feelings, and we'd chalk it up to experience.

On the same subject: just as you impliedly consent to a certain amount of being volunteered for stuff when you get married, you also consent to a restraint on your own ability to volunteer for stuff on your own behalf. A while back, I volunteered for something without really consulting my wife first. Totally forgot about it. Now it's coming up next month, I'm committed, and I really wish we'd talked about it first. Again, chalking it up to experience, but that sort of thing also goes into the mix in a committed relationship.
posted by valkyryn at 12:18 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

How would you feel if your husband told you that every Thursday at 2am, you were going to make a homemade soup for his great-aunt so that he could deliver it to her by morning? I mean, he's participating and all. You're not doing this thing for his relative alone. He just chooses the time. And the activity. And the reason. And he told her it would be fresh soup, so you can't leave it in the fridge.

Okay, this is a ridiculous analogy, but perhaps you can see the point. You get to promise your own time and effort, not anyone else's.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:18 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but I have to agree with everyone that you were wrong to do this, and the fact that your husband likes your relative probably makes it even worse for him. Backing out now would hurt the fellow's feelings, which would add guilt to your husband's resentment.

Plus, by making this promise without talking to your husband first, you deprived him of the chance to be generous and feel good about it.
posted by rpfields at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2013

Yeah, it was wrong. In your husband's position I would be absolutely ripshit.

Here is what to do: Work out with him what to do next, but before you do that, say that you're sorry you volunteered him without asking him about it first, ask what you can do to make it up to him, give him time to think about that if he needs to, and then do whatever he suggests.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2013

Oooops, I forgot to mention I did check with him AFTER I volunteered him and he said it was ok but he was "half asleep" at the time and, later, said I should have given him more time to think it over.

You were still taking your husband for granted. It's never a good idea to volunteer someone else for a job, unless it's literally your job to do and their job to do what you tell them.

You should find a way to make amends and refrain from doing this again.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on February 8, 2013

A need for a ride was mentioned to me.

I told my husband what was needed and asked if he could do it and he said yes.

Then when he thought about it more he regretted agreeing to it in the first place.

I didn't do anything without getting his "ok" first.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 12:44 PM on February 8, 2013

You're changing the story. As originally asked, yes, you were in the wrong to volunteer your husband. As now stated, your husband volunteered and now is trying to back out? I'm not totally sure.
posted by JenMarie at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

That is the complete opposite of what your wrote in the question and in a previous comment.

Can you clarify whether you volunteered your husband or not?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2013

So... maybe this is an easy fix, then.

You call up your relative and you say, "I'm sorry, I wasn't clear with [Husband] about the timeframe when we spoke about having him drive you to your appointments. He thought we were talking about this week and next week, which he is available for, but he didn't realize we were talking about the long term, which he can't do. So. We'll have him drive you this week and next week, and that'll buy us some time to come up with a long-term plan. Do you want help looking into senior/disabled transportation services and other organizations that might be good options for you?"

And then you tell your husband, "I appreciate that you were willing to help my relative, and I understand that you can't make a permanent commitment to be his taxi driver. I'm sorry that I pressured you to make that commitment. We'll stick to what you thought you were signing up for, and make other arrangements for the long term."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Earlier you said you volunteered your husband, and then you asked him for his permission. That's not consistent with what you just said.

What did you mean when you said you volunteered him? Did you say that your husband might be able to do it, and that you'd check with him?
posted by dd42 at 12:50 PM on February 8, 2013

Hold on now. You're changing your story to make you seem like the good guy here and that's not cool. Go back and read your previous posts. You didn't get his complete permission. You asked him when he was half asleep. He realized when fully awake that had he really thought about it, this was not something he would have agreed to had you asked him when fully awake.

Ultimately this is really trivial and you lying about it now is kind of suggesting to me that you don't know how to admit when you're wrong. You still owe your husband and your relative an apology. Stop trying to save face.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:53 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is your communication with your husband is as lacking in consistent, specific information and passive aggressive as it is here?

1. I hate AskMe's that basically ask, "Is my partner wrong? Am I right? PLEASE, TELL ME I'M RIGHT!" What a bunch of internet strangers doesn't really matter. We are not a governing body. If he's upset, you guys need to talk about it like adults. You can't tell him, "Metafilter thinks I'm right, so now you have to drive!" And we - there seems to be a consensus here - don't think you're right, so there's that.

The threadsitting and coming back also point to you being sort of upset that the internet is not validating you. You asked a question. We are answering. Sorry if you don't like the answer.

2. Your information has been really inconsistent.

3. It would be really nice to help out this relative. You are right about that. But you also need to be nice to your husband. It is, in fact, more important to be nice to your husband. His needs trump the needs of your elderly relative in the context of your marriage.

4. If he's not communicating with you in a straightforward way and being passive aggressive - "I'm fine. No really, it's FINE!" - you're not going to gain anything by digging your heels in. It sucks. I know.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:55 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

what's up with changing your story? not cool. you need to be honest and take responsibility for your mistakes.
posted by wildflower at 12:56 PM on February 8, 2013

I didn't do anything without getting his "ok" first.

But that contradicts what you imply in your original question ("Was I wrong to volunteer my husband") and what you say directly in your follow-up ("I forgot to mention I did check with him AFTER I volunteered him").

In other words, what seems to have happened, based on what you've said, is that you offered your husband's driving services to meet the needs of your relative first, and then you asked him if this would be OK. Is this not really what you meant?

I know this pile-on must be hard to hear. But I think it's important to recognize that if it's really is factually what happened, you need to make things better with your husband, not try to save face here. If you indeed messed up, you have to own it and try to make it right. I know that can be hard, but it's what adults in healthy relationships do.

If something very different actually transpired, can you clarify?
posted by scody at 12:59 PM on February 8, 2013

I didn't do anything without getting his "ok" first.

But a moment ago you said:

I did check with him AFTER I volunteered him

So, before or after? If after, then this isn't true:

I didn't do anything without getting his "ok" first.

If you asked him before, and now he's expressing doubts, then you didn't volunteer him for anything. You asked if he was willing to do it, he said yes, you relayed his volunteering to the interested parties, and there is no question here. If he's unhappy with this, he needs to figure out how to back out and make other arrangements.

If you asked him after, then you did "volunteer him for something", and that was unquestionably wrong.

Look, my wife volunteers me for stuff all the time. I'm familiar with this dynamic. In our case, however, she knows that I'm happy to do whatever is needed at events we are both involved in. She's a member of a local choir, and that choir needs volunteers at concerts to take tickets and sell raffle tickets and whatnot. She regularly signs me up for stuff and tells me later and I'm fine with it. I'm going to be there anyway, and I'd rather help than stand around. Same deal with my son's Show Choir events and such. I'm going to be there, I'd rather do things.

HOWEVER, if she volunteered me to go pick up some choir member [let's assume it's Susan, who I really like] and drive her to weekly practice, then wait and drive her home afterward, I'd really be unhappy about that. I don't go to weekly practices. Now I'm forced to. My Wednesday nights are shot now. I may have to adjust work schedules and so forth. That has nothing to do with how much I like Susan. In that case, I'd want to be told that Susan needs a ride every week and asked if can i take that on.
posted by chazlarson at 12:59 PM on February 8, 2013

A coworker of mine (not my partner so not quite the same) has tried repeatedly to volunteer my time and effort to his non-work causes by presenting my skills to the other party first and then pulling me in on meetings after the fact. I have declined every time even though i have been put on the spot, and worse, I no longer trust him not to try to manipulate me into things at every opportunity. When I hear his hopeful ideas I immediately get my "no" face on.

If you heard there was a need, called your spouse and asked, then returned and said spouse would be happy to do it, then yeah, that's not so bad, but maybe present him with the full implications of a request when he's alert and has a chance to consider it. If you said "hubby will do it!" And then called to tell him you'd volunteered him and hoped that was cool after the fact, that was not cool.

It isn't the biggest sin in the world, obviously, but you should probably apologize and not do it again, and offer to either make it up to him somehow or arrange alternate transportation for your relative for part or all of these trips. You don't want your husband to start resenting/mistrusting you because at the end of the day it's your jobs to have each others' best interests at heart first, and you need to be able to advocate for each other in all kinds of situations.
posted by OompaLoompa at 1:03 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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