Are You a Doer or a Waiter?

When your car needs serviced, do you take initiative to get it serviced, or do you wait, hoping your spouse will do it? Or, when there are dirty dishes in the sink, do you take initiative to put them in the dishwasher, or do you wait to see if your spouse will do it? If you and your spouse haven’t had sex in a while, do you take the initiative to make something happen, or do you wait for your spouse to initiate?


There are typically two types of people in marriage: doers and waiters.


Doers take initiative to get things moving and to make things better. Sometimes their intentions are good. They want to be helpful, they want to serve their spouse, or they simply want to make things better.

But sometimes a doer’s intentions are not good. They want to control the situation or make sure things are the way they want them, or they just don’t trust the other person to take care of something.


Waiters do exactly that…they wait for things to move and become better. Sometimes their intentions are good. They don’t want to overstep their bounds, they don’t want to leave someone out of a decision, or they don’t want to come across as controlling.

But sometimes a waiter’s intentions are not good. They wait because they are afraid of making a mistake, or they’re avoiding taking responsibility, or they don’t want to humble themselves to be the first one to move.


Every marriage has some combination of doers and waiters:

Combination #1 – Both are waiters.

There are some situations when it’s good for both spouses to be waiters. For example…

  • When money is tight, it’s good for both of you to be waiters when it comes to expensive purchases.
  • When you both have reservations about a major decision, it can be good for both of you to be waiters.
  • When life is trying to teach one of your kids a major lesson, it can be good for the two of you to be waiters and not rush in to bail them out.

But usually, having two waiters in a marriage can be a problem, because nothing gets done and each spouse blames the other for not acting.

Combination #2 – There’s one doer and one waiter.

This is the typical situation. And it’s not all bad.

Doing can be good when the doer has strengths in an area the other doesn’t. Or when the doer steps in to give the other a break. And waiting can be good when the waiter holds back out of honor and respect for the other. Or when the waiter pulls back so as to not enable the other’s lethargy.

The problem comes when one spouse does most of the doing and the other does most of the waiting. When this happens, the doer can either become controlling, or they can become resentful that they have to always take the initiative. And the waiter can become resentful because they feel controlled, or they learn not to take initiative and responsibility.

Combination #3 – Both are doers.

This final combination can be great if both spouses are looking out for the needs and the interests of the other. This can provide for a caring, well-kept relationship.

But when both spouses are doers because they like things their way, or they don’t trust the other, then the marriage turns into a competition and a battle for control.


No matter whether you’re a doer or a waiter, learn to stretch yourself and grow in your marriage.

If you’re predominantly a doer, then teach yourself to wait more, allowing your spouse more involvement and collaboration. You’ll probably need to wait longer than feels comfortable, and you’ll need to invite your spouse into the process. But don’t fall for the old “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” routine. Not everything hinges on you.

And if you’re predominantly a waiter, force yourself to take more initiative. Don’t take a lot of time to think about it. Move more quickly than you usually do. Your spouse may not be used to you taking the initiative. It may even feel like an imposition to them at times. But they will get used to sharing the initiative.

A good marriage requires spouses to smoothly shift back and forth from doing and waiting. But, whether you’re a doer or a waiter, both of you should strive to be a doer for the other. Marriage is at its best when both spouses are trying to out serve the other.

So, doers and waiters…unite!