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How can I fix this? Help me save my relationship.
September 10, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

How do I make this better? Eroded partner’s trust to a dismal point. I’m headed out on a business trip and yes, he’ll be there when I get back, but unless I come up with something spectacular, his continued presence in our relationship will have to do more with our commingled financial interests than any desire to keep things together romantically. What do I do to make this up? the screwup: once again, misleading my love about our plans + schedule + business, with the brunt end falling all on his lap.

Backstory: For years, I’ve really deteriorated our relationship by not paying bills, not planning or even communicating business trips I need to take for work, bailing out on planning house moves, not dealing with scheduling critical travel, vet, doctor’s appointments, grocery trips, you name it. I’ve never cheated/abused or done any of the major relationship non-starters but years of spectacularly bad planning and really weak communication has just really gutted a lot of his trust in me. Basically, plan is a four-letter word to me. I’m a really hard worker and will do whatever is required of me but I utterly fail at planning ahead and communicating work schedules that impact us both, day after day, year after year. Now, during a critical time in our relationship and our business, I have to take off on a out-of-state trip for my day job that will last a few days. Knew about it for a couple months ahead of time but only told him two weeks ahead of time. (We’re starting to run a boarding business—so me being physically present is crucial) Perhaps if I had communicated earlier, things could have worked out and schedules coordinated and outside help/friends brought in. But I didn’t. Again. For what we’ll call charitably, the 227th time.

While I’m away and he’s pissed that I once again have the freedom to travel while he’s stuck grinding out our business, staying up late and picking up my slack---what can I do to make it up to him? To make him feel better. To make him feel that I’ve grasped that this is the end of the line and I want to make this better and not ever screw anything up again. To make him feel I will make a sacrifice on my part that for once puts him first. I love him dearly. But I’m bad at romance and bad at planning. What can I do?
posted by caveatz to Human Relations (61 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Show him you mean it. Words will be meaningless at this point.
posted by irishcoffee at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


Get some therapy and show him you are working on fixing this problem. Seriously. He is not only your relationship partner, but your business partner too, and this is how you treat him? You've been very disrespectful of him and you need to understand why and how to change it with some outside help.

If you are lucky, he will remain patient while you do this (so long as you make demonstrable improvements). But that is only if you are lucky.

If you are unlucky, you still need to get this sorted out to find out why you would continually do this to someone whom you supposedly love.
posted by Halo in reverse at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [33 favorites]


Seems like you guys shouldn't be in business together. Might be better to minimize the opportunities for your lack of forethought to hurt him.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


To make him feel I will make a sacrifice on my part that for once puts him first.

In a situation like this, "I will" is meaningless. The only way you convince him that you have changed is by actually changing. It's very unlikely that he will trust that change is forthcoming, and there's probably not much you can do to sway him on that. Just accept that you have to rebuild his trust with actions, not words.
posted by KathrynT at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


But I’m bad at romance and bad at planning.

I don't have any life-changing ideas, but I want to head you off at the pass here: a big rom-com display of affection WILL NOT HELP. It will make things worse. I promise.

In terms of concrete steps, you're better off making a google calendar, sharing it with him, and actually using the damn thing (adding events as soon as you know about them and asking him to do the same). This might help. Therapy (how can you be so insanely disrespectful to someone you "love dearly"?) would be better, but it sounds like it's too late and you need to do something solid, too.
posted by AmandaA at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


I'm sure your excuses about being "bad" at planning and romance are annoying, so you could start by stopping with the excuses. Take charge! Is it really too late to hire some business help for the time you'll be gone? Or some home help- ordering meals, bringing in a cleaning person, etc, that can keep your partner clean & well-fed while he works on the business? Going forward, it sounds like you two desperately need a shared calendar that you will both use, so researching that could be another way to show him you're serious.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, this doesn't sound like a foible or quirk of your personality- this isn't a normal level of goofy absent-mindedness. You need some form of professional help. Maybe therapy, maybe some sort of life planning service, I don't know. Make the appointment. Then tell him. And tell him "I know this is a problem, a serious problem, that I haven't been taking seriously." Because you haven't.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


caveatz: But I’m bad at romance and bad at planning. What can I do?

Be better at planning. If you can't or won't, I think you should end both the romantic and financial relationship.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


One way you could show him right away that things will be different is by cancelling this upcoming trip — and making him and his feelings a priority for once.
posted by amoeba at 9:08 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


Maybe its just the way you've worded it but it sounds like your focus is on getting his forgiveness rather than actually changing or addressing the problem. The whole business trip isn't a bad planning thing - the trip was planned months in advance, you just didn't tell him about it, I've got to ask "why the hell not?" - "I'm bad at planning" is not an answer, its a cop out. Maybe you should stop thinking of this as you being "bad at planning" and reframe it as what it really is - you're (for some reason) incredibly inconsiderate. There was no reason to not tell him about the trip as soon as you found out. Maybe this is a symptom of a larger pattern of self destructive behaviour and something you should analyse (either by yourself or with the help of a professional)

In the short term, if he has the desire to travel but can't because of your joint business then by way of apology you should make that happen for him. Give him a week off to do whatever he wants and you take care of the business by yourself. Prove to him that you do care about his feelings and you can be trusted to take care of the business.
posted by missmagenta at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2013 [79 favorites]


I agree with the others that say you should get outside help for this, whether through therapy or some other (probably professional) means.

This isn't new. This is a constant pattern of showing your partner that your time and your needs and your spontaneity is more important than him, his time, or his feelings. For years. This is so unfair to him.

I know this sounds harsh, but that is fucked up. If your partner were the one writing this AskMe, I would expect just about every answer here to be some version of "break up with your partner, who obviously doesn't care about you, which they have demonstrated clearly over and over again."

If you don't make some serious, ACTIVE changes, now, then I don't predict anything good for your relationship (or your business).
posted by phunniemee at 9:11 AM on September 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


Use google calendar for everything, and let him share your calendar.
posted by ead at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm also not getting why you felt the need to hide this business trip from him unless there's more going on here than you're telling us. Knowing about something for months and not telling your partner isn't "bad planning", it's "deceit". Do you have trouble saying no in general? Are you afraid of his reaction? Would you rather go on the trip than be at home? What's behind this? I'm a terrible planner. This is not that.
posted by windykites at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


"I’m a really hard worker and will do whatever is required of me..."

Sounds like what's required of you is getting your butt in the chair and writing crap down on a calendar.
Think of it as a job or task that must be done. Every Saturday morning from 9am-9:30, the whole purpose of your existence is to write down everything that you can think of about your plans for the upcoming month, and the upcoming week. That includes business trips, the friend you're meeting for coffee on Thursday, and the fact that you'd like to cook that broccoli in the fridge before it goes bad, like maybe for dinner tonight. Write it down on the calendar if appropriate, and/or tell your partner verbally. Now, from 9:30-10:00, your job is to do all the repetetive tasks that your partner's been handling because you've been too irresponsible. Sort the mail. Pay some bills. Make some phone calls and add those appointments to the calendar.

If you're only willing to do "what's required of you", you'd better start thinking of some of these things as "required" and not "special favors".
posted by aimedwander at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with everyone else. You need to stop acting this way. And if, as you're framing this, it is a problem that feels out of your control, you need therapy. Is ADD a possibility? I cannot think of any other reasonable excuse for this behavior. Call someone today.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:17 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


1. Don't do some big gesture or promise. You need to do something active. Don't even promise you are about to do X, just tell partner when you've done X.
2. Get therapy. Bring in your partner too, possibly.
3. Share every single plan you have with him, the second you make it. If the vet appointment needs to be made, don't promise to do it, just do it, then inform him of how it has been done.
4. You're not willing to do whatever is required of you, because it's not like you didn't know that you were required to share business trips when you found out about them, you just didn't want to do it.

I'd say you should tell him he can go away too, since that seems to bother him, but I'm not entirely sure the business would survive without him.
posted by jeather at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I don't see this as being bad at romance and planning, you're just taking him for granted and basically kind of a flake. How much of the business is yours if "planning" is such a bad word for you, are you just flitting in from time to time throwing ideas into the pot and letting him deal with the details? An "idea person?" How is it that after "years," you aren't telling him about your day job such that out-of-state trips would never come up? I don't get the impression that you're consciously hiding things like this, but why wouldn't it even come up?

I guess part of my advice is therapy and the other part is that it doesn't really sound like you like him, or at least need help being in a basic, adult relationship. The upside is that you're obviously able to hold down a day job.
posted by rhizome at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


ead's suggestion is what I was thinking, or something close to it. Implement a system that ensures that your partner is kept appraised of your schedule, and especially your trips. Flag your trips with a different color or something so that your partner knows as soon as you do what you're up to.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2013


The fact that you are thinking of a romantic gesture to make up for something so serious like rebuilding trust tells me that while you see the problems, there is still a disconnect in taking responsibility of yourself and your relationship. Definitely get into therapy to address the root cause of the fear around planning and responsibility.
posted by PeaPod at 9:22 AM on September 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm bad at planning ahead- really bad- but I always make sure that nothing falls apart in my absence, with small not-that-big-of-a-deal exceptions. I just left my guy alone for three weeks with only a couple of weeks notice, and his biggest problem is going to be the pile of vegetables I couldn't manage to finish or prepare all of them for the freezer.

So compromise a little. Try harder to let him know things. Build your life in such a way as to minimize, as someone else suggested, the opportunity you have to mess up. As suggested, don't work with him. If or when you have children, this is going to be a much bigger issue obviously, but unlike the others, I think that you can try to change but also find a way for your issue to be a bit accomodated.

I honestly don't give a second thought to whether my guy can manage, and he's not even in his home country. I dragged him to my city several months ago, so have left him in a place he's not even terribly familiar with. I made sure he had someone he could call in case he had a problem he couldn't manage. Both of us are totally fine with this spontaneous trip, because he knows this is how I live, and it hasn't compromised our lives in any way except that we really miss each other.

And I've had jobs where I don't get more than a day's notice that I have to leave the country for a week!

Anyway take my words with the large avalanche of salt that everyone else has thrown at you, and I think you'll come to a reasonable conclusion about what to do. I do agree that actually helping him deal with your upcoming absence in MEANINGFUL practical ways is key. Good luck! Report back!
posted by cacao at 9:28 AM on September 10, 2013


I assume you and your SO live together. Here's a question: what did you do about bills, vet, grocery, doctor's appointments, work obligations when you were living by yourself?

Assuming you were a functional adult before you got together, you must have been *capable* of paying bills, feeding yourself, keeping your pets alive, holding down a job. That's a big assumption, but I think buried in your question is the implication that you are able to be responsible, say, in the context of your role in your day job, but you're in a place where you completely drop the ball all the time in your domestic (and now business) life. So I would say, the solution to this problem is to dig down and figure out why you could do those things before, and can do those things in your traditional work life, but can't at home.

It's curious to me that your SO would be willing to get into a business with you if you've been so irresponsible and flaky in your domestic dealings w.r.t. bill paying, groceries, vet visits, etc. How did this business idea come up? Who's driving it? Why did you consent to move forward, for that matter, regardless of who initiated it, if you knew that you had trouble keeping organized and accountable?

I think that there's some stuff buried under this question that will help you solve it in the long run. Do you think you need a knight in shining armor and need never be held accountable? Or is your SO controlling and you're passively-aggressively "forgetting" as a way to get revenge? Lots of possible dynamics, but it's worth drilling down to figure them out.
posted by Sublimity at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


on second read, you've brought up a lot of things I didn't address. Like not paying bills on time. Can he take care of the bills, with access to your money? Are you comfortable with that? I take care of all bills for the two of us, as well as scheduling of doctors appointments, etc. Sometimes there is simply a more practical division of labor given each other's strengths. As another example, I can cook nutritious cheap meals every day, but ask me to wash the dishes and they won't get done for a week. I've tried several times and I won't go to therapy for it, I'll just cook instead and let him deal with the dishes since he doesn't mind.

If I left bills and appointments to him, forget about it.
posted by cacao at 9:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Possible first step: you create a plan for how you will get better at planning. Include some of the ideas above, like counseling or other outside help. Add deadlines -- within two weeks you and your partner will have created a list of shared goals, within a month you will have secured a counselor, on the first of every month you will check in about important events happening that month and the following month, etc. Include basic things like paying bills and other regular stuff, and make sure you write down who is responsible for each item. Put the calendar online, or write it down and post it on the wall, or whatever will work -- redundancy is not good here; you need to pick one system and stick to it for a while. Then follow your plan, check things off as they happen, and add things that need adding.

The only way you make this right with your partner is to get better at planning. The only way you get better at planning is to practice it and find ways that work for you.

Also - getting better at planning will make you a better person for yourself, and a better partner for him. You need to want this, and let him know that you appreciate his support as you grow if he is willing to give it.
posted by cubby at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Knew about it for a couple months ahead of time but only told him two weeks ahead of time.

I'm guessing you thought about telling him a few times during those months and then didn't. What was the road block? Were you afraid of his reaction, as windykites said upthread? If he resents your freedom to travel, that wouldn't be surprising, though it's your brain and I can't see inside it.

Anyway, generally when people procrastinate like this there's a reason, and it's often anxiety about something - success, failure, damaging a relationship, losing your independence, etc. Therapy is good for helping you pick through those reasons so you can actually make effective changes (like practicing delivering uncomfortable news right when you get it, instead of holding on to it and making the problem worse with the accumulation of time).
posted by en forme de poire at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


To make him feel I will make a sacrifice on my part that for once puts him first.

The way to make him feel that is to do that.

Stop defining yourself as "bad at planning" and get better at planning.
posted by ook at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


What can I do?

Actually do something for once.

That's it. No promises, just deliverables delivered. Calendar on the fridge (or shared electronically, whatever), schedule put on it. Information given. Grocery list obtained. Bills paid. Therapy session attended. Medication taken.

plan is a four-letter word to me

Grow up. Get yourself some help.

The most charitable interpretation of the behavior you describe is that you are severely depressed to the point of non-functional. You are not functioning if you can't pay bills or buy groceries or tell someone you're going out of town. You may want to consider medication straight away - like, go to urgent care today - while you go through what can be a little bit of a slog to find a therapist you like who has room and takes your insurance etc.

With all sympathy, if this isn't the bottom it's really close. That you're looking for the grand gesture, the fake fix, means you're pretty deeply stuck in magical thinking.

If you want to make him feel better, admit to him that you have a problem and tell him about the help you've already obtained.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


Structure! Can you schedule a weekly meeting with him? Really put in on the work calendar and don't let it deteriorate into a "nah, nothing new this week" over dinner? List the things you need to talk about in the meeting - your upcoming travel, deadlines, bills. Work through them all. Put them on the calendar in the meeting. You're talking about business stuff - treat it like business stuff. Tell him that if he'll keep you accountable by attending these meetings with you, you will work to keep yourself accountable by discussing matters completely and doing calendaring at the time of the meeting.

The trouble with living with someone is that discussions that need to be structured and would be structured in any other situation become very ad hoc and fluid.
posted by Frowner at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chances are there's nothing you can do while you're away to fix this, unless there is something you can do long-distance to help pick up the slack. Maybe there are calls that need to be made, emails that need to be sent, a logo that needs to be designed? Maybe ask him if there's anything you can do while away to ease his load. Only if you truly will have time to do it, and will commit to doing it.

Otherwise, when you get back, you need to show up and do the work, day in and day out, of being trustworthy and picking up your own slack. Maybe this is something you can do while you're away; start thinking about how you're going to get better at this. Are you going to post your travel to a shared calendar? Set up automatic reminders to pay bills and actually follow through? Come up with a proposal to take on some of the things your partner does that you actually can get your brain to cooperate with, to make it a fairer trade that your partner tends to do XYZ for you that your brain can't quite wrap itself around? Set aside some cash for a life organizer of some sort to help you set up systems?

I am somewhat in your partner's shoes, although there are some intervening mental illness issues that don't seem to apply to you. But I can tell you that after years of this, there is no words my partner can say and no gesture he can make that mean nearly so much to me as him just getting it together and taking care of business. Figure out how to do that, with professional help if needed, communicate to him your plan for fixing this, and then do your best to stick with it.
posted by Stacey at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is it that keeps you from doing the simple, every-day tasks the we all must do to function in the world? What is the payoff for not doing these things? Once you figure that out, you can alter your behaviors and get that payoff from something positive.

You must know that you come off sounding a bit entitled, "I'm so flakey and so special that the world will catch me as I fall, la-de-da! I don't like to plan, it's an EVIL word! *giggle* So I just go around doing what I do and fuck anyone who gets hurt by it, or has to pick up my slack."

If your SO weren't in the picture what would your life be like? Would you be sitting in the dark because you didn't pay the power bill? Would your dog be dead because you didn't take him to the vet? Would you be unemployed because you failed to communicate and plan at your day job? Oh wait...you don't have this problem at your day job, do you?

It's only with the person you claim to love that you mess up, that you make him responsible for all the stuff you're too-special, creative, lovely, to do.

I'm not trying to slam you, I'm trying to get you to see how maddening this must be for him. I'm sure he's special, creative and lovely too, but you're the one that gets to float through life, and he's the one that has to do all the work so you can do it.

When I put it that way, it doesn't sound fair.

You may need a time management App, or course or book. You may need reminders. Whatever it is you need, to get you to do your share, get it.

Actions speak louder than words. So stop making excuses and start being a person who does PLAN.

It's not a four letter word, it's the difference between peace and chaos. So why exactly is it that you choose chaos?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [28 favorites]


This

I’m a really hard worker and will do whatever is required of me

contradicts this:

Now, during a critical time in our relationship and our business, I have to take off on a out-of-state trip for my day job that will last a few days. Knew about it for a couple months ahead of time but only told him two weeks ahead of time. (We’re starting to run a boarding business—so me being physically present is crucial)

Normally, I would suggest that you cancel your out-of-state trip - except for the risk that your day job will find out that you cancelled a trip in order to work on your own business, and that could very well get you fired.

That would make things much worse because it would leave the two of you with one less stream of income and would leave your partner dependent on you to find a new job or - worst case - build up the shared business to profitability, and in his place, I would consider you the last person I could rely on to do either.

His only real option, then, is to stay home doing all the shitwork while you go off somewhere else and uphold only the usual responsibilities of your day job. He's not an idiot, he probably expects that this is how it's always going to be, with him doing the work and you off somewhere else evading responsibility.

I think it was a bad decision on his part to go into business with you in the first place - it's bad to mix personal and professional relationships, but also, you're demonstrably unreliable. My suggestion would be that you offer to do whatever it takes, short of jeopardizing your day job which is a reliable stream of income, to help him get the business up and running and that as soon as it's convenient he can replace you with a new business partner. If this means buying you out, don't gouge him on the prices, k?

While you're supporting the new business, start communicating plans and doing what is necessary to stay on the ball. I doubt you'll be very good at this since you've been evading it all your life, so be careful, because if you start to do this and then fuck it up you'll only make him madder. One small step per day, that you keep to and don't fuck up is far better than any form of grand gesture that you mess up because you forgot some crucial detail.

For example, yeah, Google Calendar. Be extra careful setting it up so that you can be sure that everything you put in it is viewable by both of you, reliably. And then put stuff in it. And maintain it. A half-assed Google Calendar is just a way to make things more difficult for your partner.

Likewise, if you get a food service to deliver food to him while he's working, take care of details like making sure it's prepaid or making sure they don't send him Thai peanut curry when you know he has a peanut allergy.

Therapy and stuff is a nice idea, but it's not going to help your partner to learn that you are doing something that may lead to a small amount of progress eight years from now. I might also speculate about ADD, but from the way you tell it, you are quite selective about the manner in which you flake and this is not something that has caused you problems in your day job.
posted by tel3path at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to point out that you should stop thinking like this:

I’m headed out on a business trip and yes, he’ll be there when I get back

It sounds like you take your partner for granted. Someday, the bolded won't be true. There won't be any fixing for that. Don't approach this as a band-aid. Your relationship needs serious triage.
posted by sm1tten at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


As someone in a similar situation (but perhaps ahead of you on fixing it...perhaps not) I would point out two things. First, what you are describing is neglect. You have neglected your SO. And....neglect is a form of abuse. So you may not have slapped him or cursed him out, but the damage might very well be the same.

Second, as a start (I wish I could figure out the perfect solution!) is to get some therapy to explore the roots of your neglectful behavior and to remind him EVERY DAY that you are working to fix things. EVERY DAY.
posted by BearClaw6 at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The most charitable interpretation of the behavior you describe is that you are severely depressed to the point of non-functional. You are not functioning if you can't pay bills or buy groceries or tell someone you're going out of town. You may want to consider medication straight away - like, go to urgent care today - while you go through what can be a little bit of a slog to find a therapist you like who has room and takes your insurance etc.

Being bad at planning, paying bills, organization, controlling impulses, etc. is also associated with ADHD. But even if there is a psychiatrist among us, s/he's not going to diagnose you with depression, anxiety, or ADHD over the internet. The first step is seeing a professional in person.

However, it is definitely worth keeping in mind that in addition to therapy, medication may be helpful for you, depending on what your professional recommends.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think the biggest thing I'd figuring out how to be the partner he needs. so he needs someone who can communicate and plan. it is hard to get out of bad habits. one option that I offer is to set aside specific time every week to look and pay for bills. maybe set aside time everyday to communicate with your partner.

just talk about things, anything really. maybe it will be at dinner time if you eat together and then if you were told you need to go on a trip that day then bring it up in conversation. our use email, and when you learn something, then immediately email your partner. be open with them and tell them everything so they won't be caught off guard.

as for romance, what does he want in romance? does he like big gestures? then do what he likes but be careful because if you have a hard time paying bills, then he may not want you spending 50 bucks on flowers or a video game if they want you first to have your finances under control.

it sounds like what he wants is you to be present and help him with tasks. if that is the case then, listen to what he says he needs and do that to fix the relationship.

it can be hard, but good luck at getting everything together and under control.
posted by Jaelma24 at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2013


I was recently diagnosed with inattentive ADHD and have been doing an awful lot of reading on the subject. IANYD, so forgive my Internet diagnosis, but from what you describe--just being generally disorganized, not being able to plan ANYTHING or make simple decisions or follow through on important things or remember to communicate your travel plans in a timely manner--and indicating that you have always been this way--really, REALLY sounds an awful lot like ADHD. (Were you like this as a child? That would also be a huge red flag.)

There are lots of good books for adult sufferers. A good place to start would be Driven to Distraction and You mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy? ADHD does a huge number on marriages and relationships, especially when neither spouse knows or understands what's going on. Do some research, maybe talk to your doctor about testing, therapy, and medication. But even if you don't or can't do this right away, the advice in most books about ADHD is good and the strategies for dealing with a brain that can't or won't cooperate despite all your best intentions are useful. I believe there are also some good resources for dealing with ADHD in relationships.

One caveat: if it turns out that you do indeed have ADHD, do not use it as a crutch or excuse for neglecting important tasks. The point is to figure out how to manage it effectively so you can improve your life and your relationship with your partner. My husband is very supportive and a lot more patient with me than he might have been otherwise, but I don't ever take that patience for granted.
posted by tully_monster at 9:47 AM on September 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yup, exactly, the point of getting a diagnosis (any diagnosis, really) is not to use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card, but to better understand what's going on and how to fix it.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:56 AM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


-what can I do to make it up to him? To make him feel better. To make him feel that I’ve grasped that this is the end of the line and I want to make this better and not ever screw anything up again. To make him feel I will make a sacrifice on my part that for once puts him first.

He's been telling you want he wants and you *know* what he wants. He wants you to keep your promises. He wants consistency. He wants you to be present in both mind and body. He wants the safety net of knowing if he doesn't do something, you will take care of it, that the entire burden of all the scutwork that is part and parcel of daily living doesn't fall solely upon his shoulders. He wants to be an adult in an equal partnership working together as a team, not someone in a relationship with a child in an adult's body.

I've been in this relationship you have, on the other side, and I'll tell you that it's just soul destroying. Fix it or have the good grace to go away.
posted by jamaro at 10:03 AM on September 10, 2013 [33 favorites]


I haven't had time to read everything but my thought is, some people are bad at some things and hopefully good at others. You're bad at planning, just as I'm bad at vacuuming - I'll do it if I must but I hate it, it's noisy and I'd rather clean the toilet.

Humility is always the best remedy, I find. So, accept that planning is one of your shortcomings and ask your fiance for help, outsource what you can't do and take on something else. Say outright 'I am terrible at planning, I really need help'. Be humble about it. Offer to do something else that's a pain in the neck for him, in return for him doing your planning, for example.
posted by Dragonness at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't actually sound like you're a hard worker, it sounds like you spend three hours of freaked-out running to do something that could have been calmly and competently taken care of in 30 minutes, two weeks before. I've known people like this. They are tiring to be around.

I agree with the comments upthread that the biggest gesture you could perform would be to take some real concrete steps towards improving your life with your partner so they can see how hard you're working. This is not about not being romantic. It's about being practical.

One hour tonight: planning session with your partner about the next two weeks.

Start short term. What would your partner find most helpful this weekend? ASK THEM, NOT US. Some possibilities could include: hiring a temp for a week or two assist your partner with small tasks, hire caterers to take care of breakfasts this weekend, phone calls or emails that could be taken care of long-distance from your hotel, your taking a day off from work the day before travel to do as much prep work as possible. Do any doable thing they say. Is it hard? You're a hard worker, right? The short notice may be expensive. It's probably cheaper and more effective than filling your bedroom with roses.

One hour on the day you get back: planning session with your partner about the next two months.

Again, start small, not grand, as you're proposing. What does your partner consider to be the two most important things for you to do in the next two months? Again, ask them. It might be things that they hate doing, or things that only you can do, like communicating about work projects. Take 15 minutes every day to look at the list and do the things on them. Look at your calendar for the next month, look at the bill pile, clean the cat box, hire a housekeeper. Whatever it is. 15 minutes every day. Set an alarm so you don't forget. Work hard during that time. If something falls through the cracks, fix it immediately, but without this whole "I'm working so hard" display thing. Telling them three times about something is better than not saying it at all.

You're starting a business? Schedule a business meeting for one hour, once or twice a week. Review the goals above. Review any other things you both were supposed to take care of. Be prepared--demonstrate through your actions that you respect their time.

You don't have any control over whether your partner stays or leaves, but practicing this will help you long term either way.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I’m a really hard worker and will do whatever is required of me..."

No you're not. What's required of you is to plan. And the longer you insist on telling yourself the lie that you're willing to do whatever is required of you, the longer it's going to take for you to fix this problem. The first step is admitting that you haven't been willing to plan, and that it is required. Until you can do that, you're not going to change. You have a picture of yourself as a hard worker that's going to do what's required, but it's a false picture. Get with the right picture and you can start to change.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:23 AM on September 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yep, this sounds like therapy territory. It could be ADHD. Or it could be avoidant/destructive behavior fueled by depression or crippling self esteem. Or it could be that deep down you don't want to grow up. You know the problematic behavior. But it seems like you have no idea what the root cause is. Go find someone who will help you find and fix that.

None of these are things that will be fixed by a grand gesture. It will be fixed brick by brick.
posted by politikitty at 10:26 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been in this relationship you have, on the other side, and I'll tell you that it's just soul destroying. Fix it or have the good grace to go away.

I've written and erased an answer several times because I thought what I was going to say was too harsh. Jamaro has said it more nicely than I was going to. I was in a relationship with someone like you, for several years, and it did my damn head in. My ex did not understand how what he was doing was killing our relationship until it was over. I let it go on for far too long, which was my own fault, and I ended up being the one who had to put an end to it. Really at that point it felt like breaking up with him was yet another thing I had to take care of and take responsibility for.

When I read your answer, you are several years beyond where I was with my ex (and where we were was bad enough). You are haemorrhaging from all orifices and need to go to the emergency room, but you're asking us what kind of bandaid you need. That is why my advice is going to be this:

If you really want to do the kindest thing for your partner at this point, find someone to take over the responsibilities you won't be able to do because you're on this business trip. Pay your replacement well. After that, do not make one more single promise to your partner, because currently you do not keep your promises. Then break up with your partner and get some help. Let him go and give him the space to work on his own issues--namely, why he has not only put up with your unreliable behaviour but actually chosen to go into business with you after ample evidence that you're unreliable (!!!). He has a problem too. I know, because I also had that problem.

What you are describing in your own behaviour is not some low-level flakiness--this is a deep rooted problem that you haven't done anything to fix. It could have roots in ADHD, it could be something from your childhood, I don't know and it doesn't really matter. If you love your partner, get out of his way until you are able to be a good partner to him. Don't make promises--do it.

Yes, it will suck for your partner to have you break up with him. But right now you are both stuck in a horrible loop. Why hasn't he broken up with you yet? Because he's stuck in it too and doesn't know how to get out. You can do him a favour and get things moving in the right direction. Take care of your immediate obligations and responsibilities to him and the business, and then GET OUT. I'm not saying there is no hope for you to ever be together in the future, but you can't try to work on this really very crippling problem you have for the sake of your relationship. You have to do it for you.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


But I’m bad at romance and bad at planning.

I think your partner would think it was really romantic if you acted like a grown-up and actually owned up to your responsibilities.

Look, this is not a cute personality quirk. Something is very wrong here, and for your own good, you need to put in some serious work to figure out what the heck is going on in your head.
posted by crankylex at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, askmefites. This has been seriously helpful. Jamaro, Ruthless Bunny especially. Again, I can't say it enough. I know most of you aren't counselors but you have provided some useful analyses with actual, actionable steps to take. Thank you.
posted by caveatz at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2013


To me, it sounds like some of the stuff about not paying bills on time and not telling him about this trip is avoidance, not absentmindedness. The idea that until you tell him about the trip, or until you have paid the bill, you haven't really accrued the negative consequence.

For me, one step in dealing with this was telling people as soon as I knew something they might be upset by and paying bills as soon as possible.
posted by mercredi at 10:45 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't understand why you don't just put your schedule stuff on a shared calendar when you (or whoever) schedules it. You can do this from a computer or smartphone from literally wherever you are. It takes no more than a minute.

I get that the issue runs deeper than that, but the work travel thing is so absurdly simple to fix.

As for the other stuff, how about dedicating 30 minutes three times per week strictly to planning. You pay bills, schedule doctor or vet appointments, meal plan, make reservations, etc.

This time is scheduled and dedicated strictly for planning. It's the same time(s) every week. If you're not willing to spend 90 minutes per week plus a minute or two here or there planning, then maybe there's a deeper problem with the way this relationship works for you.

Last thing, and this is for your partner. He or she needs to stop picking up your slack. When you fail and they do it for you, they're reinforcing your bad behavior.
posted by cnc at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2013


I'm going to buck the trend here, but hopefully it at least provides a bit of counterpoint.

First, get checked for ADHD. People are giving you a hard time as though this were somehow your fault or your lack of caring. It doesn't sound like that at all. It sounds like you have severe, unmedicated, ADHD. You say you're a hard worker and willing to do what it takes? This sounds more like ADHD - the ability to do work in huge bursts of spontaneity but not to plan for ultimately less work all around.

Secondly, this isn't some relationship trap. Your partner knew what you were like when he got together with you, blended his finances with you, and decided to open a business with you. A really illuminating thing for you to ponder here is why did you open the business together in the first place? Whose idea was it? Was it his idea, with him expecting you would be an equal partner in the day to day but not breaking down or explaining it? Or was it your idea, with you thinking you'd do the fun stuff and leave him with the scut work?

You shouldn't be in business together and in a relationship. He needs to go home at night and bitch about his flaky co-worker. But he can't, because you are his flaky co-worker. It doesn't mean he's a bad person, but it does mean that he's probably keeping a lot bottled up.

The scheduling thing is pretty difficult - people are advising shared calendars, but if you don't do your own calendar and keep everything in your head, shared calendars aren't going to work.
posted by corb at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


If you have vacation time, take it and stay home and make your relationship the priority. I too would cancel the business trip if possible -- and unless you are transporting an organ for a waiting donor, there's not much that can't be juggled in the business world when you say you have a sudden family crisis that requires your attention. That's a pretty big show of commitment.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you sure you don't have ADHD, severe anxiety or depression? These things are incredibly common results of those treatable problems. Have you ever been screened by a psychiatrist?

My guess is you didn't want to tell him about the trip because you knew it conflicted with business needs, and he'd be angry. So you avoided it instead. Avoidance isn't just a moral failing, it's also a characteristic of ADHD, anxiety and/or depression. It's also treatable. But you need to make some drastic changes, which include making and keeping appointments with your doctor.
posted by barnone at 11:38 AM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a recently diagnosed ADD person, this all sounds very familiar. At least go to a pro and see if it might be the case. For me, medicine hasn't done much, but just being conscious of it, and knowing there might be a reason other than I'm a crappy person, has made me a bit more reasonable to be around. Just don't expect miracles, it's work to try and fix it.
posted by maxwelton at 11:40 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Going into business together might have had more benign thoughts behind it too - things like "maybe this will help my SO keep more grounded/appreciate me more" or "maybe this will bring us closer together as a team."

But I totally agree with corb on this: "You shouldn't be in business together and in a relationship. He needs to go home at night and bitch about his flaky co-worker. But he can't, because you are his flaky co-worker. It doesn't mean he's a bad person, but it does mean that he's probably keeping a lot bottled up." Intermingling your personal and professional lives to this degree is a challenge even for people who totally have their shit together - when you add mental health problems on top of it, it can be intensely claustrophobic and scary.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know how quickly you'll be able to get valid diagnosis and treatment for ADHD (and no, internet diagnoses don't count). Probably not fast enough to fix this particular problem.

I will ask you this question, which will apply whether or not you have ADHD: why do you believe yourself to be a good worker? Apparently you don't have these problems at work, so what is happening at work to enable you to meet expectations while at home, your partner is so severely disappointed in you so much of the time?

Do you perhaps have a secretary at work who plans everything, up to and including handing you a suit immediately before a big meeting and putting your presentation in your hand so you don't have to think about what to say? I used to read in ADHD advice books that the thing that would really solve all my problems is if I could get myself a good secretary to handle all those details, so I could focus on using my talents to the full. This was not very helpful to me since, at the time, I *was* a secretary, but apparently people who are able to rise up through the ranks despite having ADHD often do so because they have the right support, which often comes in secretarial form.

I must admit I have a hard time imagining this because it seems to me you would often be upsetting people at work as well if your problem manifests there too, as it surely would if it were a condition such as ADHD? Or maybe it only upsets people who don't matter?

Or does it just not happen at work, but only happens at home? Because not every flaky person actually does have ADHD. Sometimes people just choose selective inattention because it works for them. (I've been a secretary for a fair few of those people.) You need to get some clarity about which it is, because one of these things is not like the other.
posted by tel3path at 12:35 PM on September 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


There is some part of this cycle that works for you on your terms. You're going to have to give up those terms if you want to save this relationship or any other relationship in the future.

Planning and taking responsibility and doing the work that needs to be done are not...FUN. They aren't conducive to whirly-gig spontaneity. But they will help you achieve your goals. And spontaneity can still happen. AFTER you've finished all the required stuff. A lot of your question reads like the thought process of someone trying to sleep in to avoid the work of the day. And like that, sleeping in doesn't really change anything--it just puts more pressure on the time leftover. You will never be able to escape your responsibilities, no matter how much you don't acknowledge them or plan for them. You might know this, but do you in-your-bones know this?

Also, n'thing Jamaro. It is really, really exhausting to be the partner who picks up the pieces all the time.

Good job on taking the first step. There are more steps ahead.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:49 PM on September 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's been suggested:
In the short term, if he has the desire to travel but can't because of your joint business then by way of apology you should make that happen for him. Give him a week off to do whatever he wants and you take care of the business by yourself. Prove to him that you do care about his feelings and you can be trusted to take care of the business.

I'm betting you can't do this, not only because of job constraints, but because you've flaked so badly that you haven't a clue on what to do or how things are run.

Your partner does need a break, but you're going to have to figure out how to give it to him while learning to take care of yourself, take care of your business and your life together--in other words, act grown up.

I'm a bit skeptical of where you're coming from. First you say how badly you've screwed up, then you keep saying you want to make him feel this, and you want to make him feel that, and how can AskMe help you do that. No where do you come out and say I want to change, and I want to start carrying my share of the load. You just want to change how he feels about your behavior.

Get some therapy. Do some couples counseling. You can't change how he feels, you can only change your behavior and hopefully he'll think it's worthwhile to stay with you.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:14 PM on September 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Question: do you have these same problems at work? That is, are you unable to meet deadlines, turn in paperwork on time, and keep your coworkers apprised of things they need to know? Because I think that the answers to your questions about how to work on your relationship are very different if this is a problem that pervades every area of your life than they are if you're holding it together at work, but failing your partner.
posted by decathecting at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something is going seriously wrong. What you describe is not in the normal spectrum of "bad at planning." So there're either emotional/unconscious reasons, a biological reason, or both. So, if I were you, this would be my plan:

First, I would immediately make an appointment with a doctor and an appointment with a therapist, to get stuff checked out. I would keep seeing them until the problem had been fixed for at least six months or more. Seriously, schedule this before you go on your trip.

Second, I would do what is suggested above and hire someone to take my place at the boarding business while I was on my work trip. Pay for it out of your own personal money.

Third, also before your trip, pick some of the low-hanging fruit: schedule those 30 minute once a week business meetings with your partner for the next couple months, and create shared Google calendars.

Fourth, ask your partner if he'd be willing to go to couple's therapy with you. If so, schedule that now too.

What you describe is deal-breaker behavior for a lot of people, and if you care about your partner (and yourself) it is time to start putting in the work to change. Good luck with it.
posted by feets at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Question: do you have these same problems at work? That is, are you unable to meet deadlines, turn in paperwork on time, and keep your coworkers apprised of things they need to know? Because I think that the answers to your questions about how to work on your relationship are very different if this is a problem that pervades every area of your life than they are if you're holding it together at work, but failing your partner.

My sister is a terrible planner when it comes to family matters. I can pretty much 100% rely on her not to keep her promise of coming to visit, for example. But she would never fail a client in her business. It takes her huge effort to be reliable professionally, but she makes that effort because she can't afford not to. With her family she feels the cost of being unreliable is negligible so she doesn't really try.
posted by Dragonness at 6:14 AM on September 11, 2013


While this is not to diagnose you with ADHD, I will say that it is pretty common that you can skate by at work and find your symptoms most affect your home life.

Work is highly structured and regimented, with someone who is paid to be managing your daily output. At home, your partner does not want to remind you to do the dishes or reminding you to pay your bills. Also depending on your workload, you might actually benefit from hyperfocus. Which is your brain forgetting to tell you about the small tasks that need to get done in favor of putting all your energy in the job in front of you. At home, it's all small tasks. It's not just "doing the dishes". It's "doing the dishes every single day forever" rather than waiting until you're out of silverware and go on a binge dish washing spree.

You should not feel guilt about the fact that you have these issues. We are all born with our issues and life is spent learning how to navigate those issues. But you are the only person who can take responsibility and deal with those issues. The consequences of failing to deal with these issues are pretty dire.

I'm making this distinction because I find that guilt tends to overwhelm us with feelings of inadequacy and makes it harder to actually take action. Responsibility gives us ownership and agency to become better.
posted by politikitty at 11:06 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


To me, your second paragraph reads like a big sign flashing ADHD ADHD ADHD. Have you ever at least read about it, just to see? You could probably pick any of these books and read the inevitable part where they have someone describe their life "before" and see if it clicks with you.

It is ridiculous how quickly my life has improved since starting medication. If it's what you need, it is magic.
posted by a birds at 3:26 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not a psychiatrist! I am not diagnosing you! But add me to the chorus of people here saying "I have ADHD and wow it sounds like you may have ADHD too." Because it totally does. In fact you sound like people I've run across with ADHD + problems with executive function. Though did I mention I am not a psychiatrist? Which is why you definitely need to meet with a mental health professional as soon as possible and work out together counseling + drug plans to help you. Seriously, the way you are coping with your life doesn't sound enjoyable or healthy, and neither your partner nor you should have to struggle like this on your own.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:30 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


With her family she feels the cost of being unreliable is negligible so she doesn't really try.

Yeah, this is exactly what I was getting at. I'm trying to figure out whether the OP is suffering from a universal dysfunction, or whether it can be controlled when it's worth putting in the effort. Because that tells us whether the problem is a mental health/medical issue, or whether it's about convincing himself that his personal life and family business actually requires putting in that effort.
posted by decathecting at 10:12 PM on September 12, 2013


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