April 19, 2012 4:47 PM Subscribe
What are your strategies for maintaining sanity in relationships where one person is much more organized/a planner than the other -- from the perspective of the more disorganized partner?
99 % of the time my boyfriend and I get along amazingly well -- he's kind, thoughtful, very intelligent, we agree on life goals and values and we've been talking about marriage. We rarely argue and when we do the conflicts are usually resolved quickly.
The one area where we do have small conflicts from time to time is when it comes to organization and planning. My boyfriend is one of those, if it needs to be done, let's do it now kind of people. This is actually great, as he influences me to get more things done as well, which has been good for my productivity. He also plans things well in advance -- for example, he remembers to buy cards and presents not just for my birthday but for a large number of relatives and friends. If I could think of one word to describe him it would be -- conscientious. I am not precisely the opposite, but definitely a lot less so. My messiness never reaches apocalyptic proportions these days -- but I'll have a lot of clothes hanging on a chair, or stacks of books everywhere. He often picks up the slack for me in small ways: in the mornings when I'm rushing around trying to find all the things I need to take to work and do my makeup, he will pack my laptop and lunch and wash the breakfast dishes. I love to cook, so I usually cook 90 % of meals and he does 90 % of the dishes in general. He'll also do laundry, hang up clothes, take out the trash etc. He says that he doesn't mind doing these things at all and is always very careful to thank me when I do chores for him. I'll note that we currently don't live together, but will be moving in together in August, so all these issues will matter even more.
Our conflicts are small but I think indicative of some real problem areas in our relationship. Examples:
1) He cleaned up and organized my room for me -- down to hanging up all my jewelry and devising different drawers for different categories of stuff. This held for some time but it soon got fairly messy again. One evening I noticed that he seemed rather upset about something and when I asked him what was up he said that he was frustrated that my room was messy again after he'd spent so much time cleaning it for me. We talked it over and ultimately we came to the conclusion that I needed to be better about picking up mess as it happened, but that he also needed to realize that I just didn't "see mess" as quickly as he did and to *gently* prod me when things were starting to get bad again. I think we've both improved in this area.
2) I don't tend to plan as much as he does so sometimes I rebel against a lack of spontaneity. For example, on Friday he tends to ask me what I'd like to do on the weekend -- we'll discuss any work obligations we have, any dinners planned, movies or shows we want to see etc. Most of the time I'm glad about this, as we do more on the weekends than just veg around, but sometimes I want to veg around, or just randomly decide to go somewhere without having had a whole planning conversation about it beforehand. He is less open than me about trying new experiences, so I sometimes have to coax him into doing something new.
3) In the mornings I tend to start up much slower than he does. Today was an especially egregious case of that. Last night we watched a movie until a bit past midnight. We had been planning to have sex but I was feeling too sleepy and suggested that we have morning sex instead. In my grogginess I forgot to set the alarm on my phone, which I usually do and we woke up half an hour later than planned. In any case, he was feeling sick and like he was coming down with something so we didn't end up having sex after all. Anyway so he immediately jumps out of bed, puts the kettle on to boil for tea and starts dressing. I was still in bed and started reading the NYTimes on my laptop. He came to haul me out of bed saying come on, come on, it's time to get up. I was grumpy, and said give me five minutes. Anyway I eventually got up at which point he pulled me close in a big hug and said sweetheart, are you never going to be able to do things immediately? This upset me and we both ended up in tears -- I overreacted I think because I'd been feeling particularly stressed about work and him being critical on top of that was too much. I started to worry about us ever being able to make this work and what would happen when we had kids and challenging jobs (we're both in the same excellent grad school). He kept kissing my tears away and saying he loved me and that we could make it work.
But honestly, I think he's getting frustrated at having to constantly tell me things and from his POV I can see why. At the same time, this is part of me -- I'm a little harum-scarum, absent-minded and 21 years of living with my super-organized mother hasn't drilled it out of me.
TL;DR: What are some strategies my super-organized boyfriend and I can use to ensure we don't get frustrated with each other over different standards of messiness, organization and productivity. Oh and I'm a woman, FYI.