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Rewriting the Script: What if You Dropped Your Usual Roles?

life newI often feel like my husband always gets to be the good guy and I have to keep the balance by being the bad guy. I have to be the one to naysay. Ask him to dinner, but he’ll check with me before answering.

“My wife says we’re doing something that night.”

That’s me — Mrs. Joykill.

I set the boundaries. I have to be the slightly unfriendly neighbor, you know, because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Nothing like pretending we’re not home when you knock on our door at 10 p.m. because you’re having a BBQ and you’re tipsy. “Don’t turn on the light in the hallway, they’ll see it.”

I plan the trips (from now on). Otherwise we’ll be fishtailing through the Rockies in the middle of a February snowstorm.

I’m the one who says “Careful!” and reminds you of sharp objects you’re about to impale yourself on. My husband says, “Full speed ahead!” If I’m a passenger in your car, you’ll never miss your turn.

I have to be present for big things, like viewing a new apartment. Which is a totally sensible thing, but with the tables turned I’m certain I would pick out an apartment that my husband would love without him being there to see it.

My husband is exceedingly friendly. Even if you’re annoying him, the face he’s showing you is sugary sweet. I admire the way he can receive downright rude input from someone and display nothing but grace and charm back to them. Even if I manage to avoid using four-letter words, my face is still going to read disdain, disgust or dismissal.

He’s also easy to satisfy because, unlike me, my husband doesn’t have an internal checklist of pros and cons. He doesn’t spend his life checking things off. He’s just — living.

When there’s a divide in roles, I feel like I always end up on the high-strung end:

  • Good guy / Bad guy
  • Organized / Spontaneous
  • Natural / Formal
  • Pragmatic / Carefree
  • Positive / Negative

I’ve often wondered why I feel the need to keep the balance. What if no one played the bad guy? What if no one was organized or pragmatic?

What if we threw out our scripts? Would your job suddenly be on the line? Would your husband ever figure out how to use the washing machine? Would your daughter realize that there’s no magical fairy that picks up all her toys when she goes to bed at night? Would your long-divorced parents finally call each other to coordinate visiting their grandson?

First we have to pinpoint where the issue is — is it internal or external?

If the problem is external, it’s time to talk it out. Often, instead of voicing how tired we are about filling our usual role, we just do it. We play the bad guy, take on all the extra work, do the job of four people and never dissent. If we don’t talk about it, how are we ever going to delegate tasks or learn to trust other people?

Rewriting the script means opening your mouth:

  • I’m tired of ________.
  • I feel like I’m always responsible for ________.
  • I need your help with _________.

If the issue is general discontent with ourselves, we have to learn to shake off that ironclad sense of responsibility that makes us feel like it’s all on us. You don’t have to be King or Queen Responsibility. I know — easier said than done — but I like to consider this when I feel like Mrs. Joykill:

  • Everyone has a right to fun.
  • We all need to try on new ways of dealing with the world.
  • Every adult has the right to recapture carefree youth. If you want to talk responsibility, we all have a responsibility to ourselves to treat our inner child with compassion.
  • You have to think of yourself first. When we’re unhappy and dissatisfied we’re not of use to anyone around us.

Throwing out the script won’t make the world implode. You might even learn something.

Rewriting the Script: What if You Dropped Your Usual Roles?

Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review.

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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). Rewriting the Script: What if You Dropped Your Usual Roles?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.