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tinyfaery's avatar

How can I solve this relationship issue?

Asked by tinyfaery (42866points) January 2nd, 2009

My wife and I have an excellent relationship. We are good at solving problems and negotiating when we have differences of opinion/goals/desires/etc. But, after almost 8 years together, I have never been able to get across to her how much I need her to follow through on the things she says she is going to do.

Example 1: She has been saying she is going to stop smoking for over a year. I stopped, when we said we were both going to, but she never did. As much as I abhor it, its her choice. I just wish she’d stop saying she is going to do it if she’s not.

Example 2: I asked that she get a few things accomplished while she is on winter break. She’s been off 2 weeks and has yet to finish even 1 task, but she keeps saying she’ll do it.

Example 3: She says she’‘ll give the cat her pills or clean the litter boxes, but I ask her later or the next day if she did and she says no. If she’d just tell me she doesn’t have time, I’d do it, with absolutely no animosity, but when she says she’ll do it and doesn’t, then it doesn’t get done.

This happens consistently, and it seems no matter what I try, after 8 or so years, it’s still happening.

Any insight? Have you dealt with this? Any suggestions on how to handle this?

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25 Answers

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tinyfaery's avatar

Helpful. Thanks.~

oasis's avatar

You’re welcome.

bythebay's avatar

If you choose not take the stellar advice offered up by oasis, consider this. Maybe she’s the person whose motivated by the proverbial carrot; she needs a reward. Or maybe she needs to make a list, for some people having their tasks/goals in writing is paramount. It certainly sounds as though you two are very considerate of each other, does she even know that you are disappointed in her lack of follow through? Everyone is motivated by something, perhaps something as simple as humor could alleviate your stress and her lack of motivation.

emilyrose's avatar

I get the sense that you may be more of the pants wearer in this relationship. She may be rebelling against you being on her case, or always asking her to do things. Have you tried having a conversation with her? Try the ” I feel______ when you______” technique. Ask her how she feels and what it is that is keeping her from doing that?

Also, there are just some chores that one person will prefer over another. Can you take on the cat chores in exchange for her taking on something you normally do?

As for the smoking, sounds like she needs to make a plan. You can’t just have a random goal, you need a timeline. Maybe its “only a pack a week next week, then down to 10 cigarettes a week, then 5, then none” or something like that, or totally quit by february 1st or something…. how did YOU quit? Do you have a method that might help her? You also need to express how much you love her and that you dont want her to suffer the health implications that smokers experience.

But, I just have this gut feeling overall that she may feel a little like you are trying to control her or like you are the boss. Ask her if she feels that way. That may open up the root of these problems.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m not overbearing. I ask her to do the things that are things I can’t do, or things I’m not around at the proper time to do—like the cat meds. She does tasks like putting together stuff, fixing stuff, garden work because that is the work she likes and part of the partnership we have negotiated.

My biggest problem is that she says she’ll do it and doesn’t. She has no problem telling me no, or asking me to do things when she can’t, and I do them. I am just asking for her to give me the same consideration.

And in actuality, we both “wear the pants”, even when I am wearing a skirt.

laureth's avatar

Some people have problems with pattern recognition. (I’m one of them.) Perhaps she sees this not as a pattern like beads on a string, but more like an unrelated collection of incidents, each of which has its own set of excuses. One thing that helps me in situations like this is seeing them listed all in a row. “You didn’t do X, Y, and Z” is more effective than “You never follow through on your word,” which will only result in a backlash defense. It may also be best to list only those things where the promised time has elapsed, so she can’t say, “But I was going to do that tomorrow! You just didn’t give me enough time!”

Some people only start getting better when they hit bottom. Have there been any procrastinations that affect the quality of life? “When you don’t clean the cat box, the cats crap on the floor,” is a cause-and-effect that is hard to deny. Or something like, “When you don’t pay the mortgage on time, we have to pay late fees costing $__.” I’m not denying that “bugging your mate” has a negative impact on life, but seeing other, verifiable effects can help put it in concrete terms rather than emotional ones.

The last thing to remember is to allow a way to save face and dignity for her. When people are cornered (physically or metaphorically), that’s when they fight back the hardest. Showing a clear way to get back in favor gives a plan of action and a way to feel hopeful at the end of this conversation. This is where EmilyRose’s cigarette reduction plan or Bythebay’s carrot come in. One can only do better when one sees how the change is necessary, and that there’s an effective way to implement it.

Mizuki's avatar

Is it possible that you enable her behavior?

emilyrose's avatar

@tiny—I don’t mean to imply that you are overbearing, but it’s possible that’s how your wife sees you sometimes. Perhaps this is a blind spot in your relationship. At the very least you could ask her how she feels when you ask her about these things…...she will either confirm what you were thinking or surprise you…..

tinyfaery's avatar

@emily Point taken.

basp's avatar

I’m not sure of the totality of your relationship, but I can tell you that as a wife whose husband also reminds her of tasks he’d like her to accomplish that it drives me nutty when he feels he has to plan my time for me and organize my tasks. Sure, I know the yard needs work as he mentioned to me for the week end, but I had planned on mopping and waxing floors this week end. And , if he noticed the yard needs work, why isn’t he planning that into his own schedule!
Sorry for the rant, didn’t mean to come off that way. Just thought the other point of view might be helpful.

oasis's avatar

It’s in the breeding dude,some people just never have the power of their own convictions.
She is who she is.It’s no big deal.She wants to do those things but her make up wont let her.

She will always press the self-destruct button, as well.

augustlan's avatar

Tiny, are you married to me??? I am just like your wife! Happily, my husband has learned to accept that it’s a (bad, bad) quirk of my personality. If it’s something really important to him, he just does it. If it’s something that only I can do, he stresses to me how important that particular thing is. If it’s not that important that it get done in a certain time frame, he just accepts that it’ll get done…eventually. That’s not to say it never causes us problems…he does tease me about it, but gently.

kevbo's avatar

I’m like your wife, sadly. I would say that getting yelled at works for me sometimes, because it gets me to pay attention to my pattern of not doing what I say I’m going to do (and because I have a low pain threshold when it comes to yelling). Even if my girlfriend is mad or frustrated at me, I know she’s right and that I created the problem.

That’s a short term fix, though, for a long term problem. Maybe your wife needs a change in perspective and a view of the bigger picture. That kind of takes some time and her own motivation, but I guess my point is that it’s not about the task or the thing, it’s about how she feels about herself and how she handles her time.

Perhaps if you make these more deliberate exercises in keeping commitments, at least she will move toward doing what she agrees to do. So, make it kind of a formal thing for a little while and before you end the conversation look each other in the eye and get from her a commitment to do x, y or z and take things back if she can’t commit to doing them. Also, it might be helpful to give tasks to her in written form instead of verbal. (I respond much better to a written list.)

You might also include time estimates for things, because maybe her awareness of how much time things take to do is off. Sort of like something takes five minutes to do if you just do it, but can get blown up into a huge task if you start imagining it to be that way.

tinyfaery's avatar

@augustlan When I have to take on more than she does I get resentful, and I don’t want to feel that way. When she is busy I understand, but right now she is on vacation. Sometimes I feel that if she cared a bit more about my sanity she’d do a bit more accomplish what she says she is going to do.

Jack79's avatar

She seems a bit like my gf. And even though I hear your pov here, something tells me she’d complain about you nagging her all the time. It’s not that you’re wrong, but right/wrong are irrelevant here. In the first 2 examples it’s about her life, and it is apparent that she needs her time, and pushing her only makes it worse. You have a good point in the 3rd example, but there you should just get the job done without even asking if she did. You can see if she has done it or not, and then do it. If you love this person, then you should love her with her faults. For whatever reason she seems not to be able to do these things. Either out of laziness, or some phase she’s going through, or maybe it’s a character trait. You know better. And you know you can’t force her to change.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@tinyfaery, like augustlan, I have to ask if you’re married to me… your wife is probably has undiagnosed ADD. It sounds like she’s distractable and cannot manage multiple tasks simultaneously through completion. I eventually get everything done, but repetitive tasks are difficult without conscious effort. Try leaving her a written note.

As for the not smoking, she must not want to quit badly enough to figure out what she needs to do to make it happen.

windex's avatar

Wow wow, hold on there tinyfaery.

Are you trying to CHANGE another human being?

augustlan's avatar

Tiny, I truly understand where you’re coming from. In fact, this very thing was a factor in my first marriage ending in divorce. When we were in marriage counseling, our therapist advised my husband to accept me as I was, and went so far as to suggest hiring outside help (ie: cleaning service, a nanny, whatever was needed) to resolve the issue. However, he was already too resentful by that time, and the idea of spending money on something I could have ‘easily’ done, and would do ‘if I cared enough’ (his words) only further incensed him. I am remarried now, to a completely different kind of man. We went into it with our eyes wide open – knowing full well what our respective faults are – and accepting them as part of the deal. If you really love her, and want to be with her forever, you need to ask yourself if this is really that important to you. I strongly advise you to seek counseling now, before it goes so far that you make each other miserable. Perhaps if we had done that my ex and I would never have reached the end stage.

Edited to add: Note that I am not saying you are in the wrong here…just, would you rather be ‘right’ or ‘together’?

tinyfaery's avatar


1. I feel attacked by some of you. My relationship is in no way troubled, we are nowhere near divorce, and just because you had SOs who wanted to change you, does not mean that I want to change my wife.

2. Suggestions of counseling is sound advice; counseling is good for everyone. Maybe some short term, issue oriented therapy could be a good way for us to work through specific issues, like this one.

3. I talked with my wife this morning and I asked her if she felt I pressured her to do things she didn’t want to do. I asked if her lack of follow through is due to her resisting my urgency. Without getting into the personal details, we discovered that we have different ideas about what constitutes a priority. We decided that we would better communicate the importance of certain tasks, and negotiate who will do what and within what time frame. That way she won’t have to say she’ll do something that is not her priority at the time, and I won’t feel let-down and resentful that she doesn’t do what she says she’ll do.

So, both thank you, and fuck you. Some of the things you said opened my mind. Other things that were said made me realize how truly great my relationship is, and how I’d never let the little things get in the way of the fact that she is the love of my life. People change all the time, and we change to attain the the things that are truly important to us. Don’t project!

windex's avatar

wow buddy…:) we are on your side.

Hope you can make ur relationship even stronger.
I don’t see anyone saying: get a divorce or something, but if anyone has… (assuming it was the 1st comment that got removed) then I’m sure it was someone trying to be funny.

btw there should be a “Sarcasm/ need lurve for attempt at humor” Tag next to all my comments.

Hope your not angry or anything.

but seriously, I believe it is Extremely Hard to change people.

The older someone gets, the harder it is for him/her to adapt/change.
but that’s just what I’ve seen.

(not trying to lecture you since I’ve never been married) but I would say if you were not like this when you guys met and got married, and all of a sudden you have all these demands, it’s kind of unfair. Again, please don’t take this as an “attack” or anything, just trying to help or give my humble opinion. it IS the interweb after all

I think the easiest way would be to just “remind” her, hey baby it’s 4:00 O’clock, you think you could finish those “enter task here” by 5:00 so we can go to “insert romantic spot here”...?

that’s it, if you do this a couple of times, I’m sure she’ll do the next one on her own.

*with love (my comment that is) :P

augustlan's avatar

Tiny, I hope I didn’t come across as attacking you. If I did, I am truly sorry. I really, really just meant that this kind of thing, if left unattended to over years and years can have a very detrimental effect on a relationship. The counseling I was suggesting was for both of you, though I can see reading my response now that it may have appeared to be directed at changing you. I wish you both all the best.

emilyrose's avatar

I’m with the others who said we were not trying to attack or offend. Things are very hard to read in this forum and it is very easy for things to be taken out of context or the sentiment or feeling lost via this email-esque format. I think everyone on here answered with the very best of intentions for you and your wife, and in some cases we reflected on our own past experiences in the hopes that you may gain from things we have learned. Best of luck to both of you, and thanks for the update about your conversations with her.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ok. Maybe I overreacted. I have always had a sore spot when it comes to people telling me to get over it, or that I am wrong for wanting others to give me the same consideration I give.

Anyhow, I feel that my wife and I got a lot out in the open, without arguing, so hopefully this issue will not cause as much conflict in the future.

I take back my fuck you. And I apologize.

augustlan's avatar

We still lurve you tiny. I hope the feeling is mutual :)

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