How can you NOT plan ahead?
March 13, 2013 5:27 PM   Subscribe

My husband is driving me up the wall. He has always shown a reluctance to make a plan for anything, but I love planning stuff (trips, etc) so it's never come to be a huge issue. Except for now.

We purchased a home. It has needed cleaning and work. He has much more available time than I do, and is more able to work at the house. I'm 12 weeks pregnant and have not been able to do much in the lines of painting and cleaning. The issue now is that he will NOT stop and think before doing anything.

As a result? Our daughter's bedroom is a bizarre blue, because he grabbed the swatches and ran to the paint store (after weeks of discussion about the color scheme) and put the wrong colors on the wrong walls. No biggie, she's okay with it for now.

Yesterday he tells me that his dad is coming down with a truck to help move things. We have lots of boxes moved but are still living in our rental. Yay! I ask him what they're going to move. The beds. Okay. I ask him (since I will be at work) to clean the bathroom up and make sure that we will be able to sleep there tonight, since he's moving the beds. Also the plan was to move the kitchen furniture and hook up the w/d and move out the old fridge. No biggie. I work all day, and get to the new house to find ... the beds have been moved, but nothing else. NOTHING. Nothing else is done. They spent the day ... I don't know what. So now I am sitting at our rental while daughter takes a bath and our sheets (which mysteriously got mud all over them) finish drying. He says he "will try" to clean the bathroom so that I don't have to come back here in the morning and shower.

I know that I'm venting. But every day there has been something happening where he simply did not think about the logical chain of events. I feel like he just doesn't understand. Could this be ADHD? Several years ago, long before we met, he had an accident where a heavy beam fell on his head and I'm starting to think that he's got some kind of brain injury. Which seems like a horrible thing to say. Can someone explain this behavior?
posted by checkitnice to Human Relations (47 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
He could just be lazy.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:31 PM on March 13, 2013

Response by poster: Not to sit. BUT. It's not laziness. Often, I will come home to a ton of stuff being done, but NONE of it useful to us actually getting into the house. Like, moving every box we own into the new house's living room but not finishing painting the spare bedroom (where we NEED to store things) while it's full of painting supplies.

I go now.
posted by checkitnice at 5:34 PM on March 13, 2013

This reeks of passive aggression/avoidance behavior (which he appears to have learned/inherited from his dad perhaps?). This might be one of those things that you have a "I love you. Get your shit together NOW because I'm done with this pattern of behavior." conversation over.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:36 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lots of things are possible, but the first thing should be to tell us what his response to these instances are. Does he say "shit, I forgot, I'm sorry"? Does he say "look, it doesn't matter, quit bossing me around"?

That makes a difference. If he is being defensive, that's the first problem to tackle. Defensive means he's not completely on board with the plan, or he doesn't like being "checked up on".

If he's just forgetting and this makes him feel bad, then make him written checklists. Problem solved.

But the primary thing is to make sure plans are actually mutually agreed to, and he's not just agreeing to avoid arguing about the plan.

If it's passive aggressive, then an ultimatum won't work.
posted by gjc at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried writing out lists for him as opposed to verbally telling?
posted by vegartanipla at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

Perhaps it would be helpful to him if you made a prioritized list? One of my children needed this kind of task help, and I learned that it can be helpful to most people, especially when there are certain things you are seeing and accepting as obvious, but are not obvious to him. Make it obvious with a list that says; Do these things first, then do these next ....

Yes, it means more time and effort on your part, but the end result may be less frustrating in the long run. Make sure he understands how important it is to follow the priority of the list.
posted by batikrose at 5:40 PM on March 13, 2013

Response by poster: His reactions vary. The paint issue, he said "I'm not repainting it" and insisted that was what I had directed him to do. The moving issue today, we didn't get to discuss yet because his dad was there, my dad was there, and then some friends stopped over.

Often he just stares at me like I'm overreacting. Or he ignores me. Lately he ignores me. I used to write him lists but he left the last one at home even though he asked me to write it and I left it under his keys. He won't check his phone often enough for it to be useful - I can't get a hold of him to remind him of anything.
posted by checkitnice at 5:43 PM on March 13, 2013

My wife and I have a similar relationship. I often avoid tasks like this because I will be 'corrected' no matter what I do. We have worked it out because we have been together forever and I just won't even agree to do things where I know I can't satisfy and she recognizes that it isn't possible.

When you are damned if do and damned if you don't then don't becomes the logical choice. So you may want to be sure you are not creating this kind of situation.
posted by srboisvert at 5:43 PM on March 13, 2013 [19 favorites]

Seconding a list. Mr. BlahLaLa is like this and a big part of it is that he just gets focused on ONE THING and everything else is not done or is half-done because he just sort of goes with what he's remembering or thinking of in the moment. Making a list helps him, and helps me not murder him. :)
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:43 PM on March 13, 2013

Mod note: OP I know you're upset but this is a borderline question in the first place and you absolutely can't threadsit here
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:44 PM on March 13, 2013

I don't think it's a completely insane thing to think brain damage might be involved; this behavior strongly reminds me of someone I know who does have neurological and hearing problems. If you've talked to him and nothing seems to help and you've ruled out simpler explanations, then maybe you guys should make a doctor's appointment to evaluate the possibility that this behavior might have a medical cause; if it does, it might be treatable.
posted by phoenixy at 5:48 PM on March 13, 2013

This type of thing actually sounds a lot like my dad, who's a classic undiagnosed (albeit almost 70) ADD-sufferer. The general pattern with my dad is that he can rarely follow a multi-part task through to its completion, from hobbies to chores to professional pursuits. No one in my family has figured out a way to manage it, to be honest.
posted by mchorn at 5:53 PM on March 13, 2013

You sound stressed. One possibility is that he doesn't complete tasks in the way you perceive to be obvious/logical/correct because the outcome doesn't bother him. Another possibility is that he feels he is being treated like an employee and resents it. We kind of work around this in our house in my doling out the tasks but continually asking if the tasks are ok and he feels ok about doing them. If there's something he says in advance he can't/won't do we revisit it. This makes me feel reassured that what has been agreed will actually get done and him feel less like he's the slave of an over-controlling tyrant.
posted by bimbam at 5:54 PM on March 13, 2013

Does it not occur to him that if he doesn't do all the supporting tasks so that the house is livable, that means he has to be inconvenienced along with everyone else?

The painting thing I can see as not really caring about dotting the i's and crossing the t's ("Who cares what color Daughter's room is? She's fine with it! It looks fine! Whatever!"), but it seems odd to me that he couldn't think through "If the beds go to the new house, we have to sleep there starting tonight."

Rather than making a list, which can be forgotten, or seem naggy/like you're mothering him, why not just say, "But remember, if we move the beds, that means we have to..."

If it's not about doing all the tasks in a workflow so that some concrete thing can happen (like "have a comfortable place to sleep"), then it sounds like you guys are just squabbling over the best way to do a task. For things that are lower priority like getting rid of an old fridge, I would probably consider if it's a hill you want to die on. Why be the person who has to bicker about whether it's better to move a fridge today or next week?
posted by Sara C. at 5:57 PM on March 13, 2013

Oh, this is classic ADD/ADHD, man. It's hard to recognize on the outside, but absofuckinglutely. "You said move the beds so we can sleep there! Whee, I did it! Now on to the next task."

He probably forgot/spaced the bathroom, and doesn't mentally see it as as big a deal as you do. Or he expects you to be living a little rougher while fixing this up.
posted by corb at 6:03 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I come from a long line of military families and on some level you just have to accept that moving suuuuucks. Standard Operating Procedure in the Please family home indicated an allowance of at least three verbal divorce threats per move before one should start taking one's spouse seriously. Plus you are pregnant and have a daughter. It's hard.

If you can get through the move and then see how you feel, reevaluating under more normal circumstances might help.
posted by juliplease at 6:03 PM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

I used to write him lists but he left the last one at home even though he asked me to write it and I left it under his keys.

This is some kind of executive function thing. Does he drink a lot of caffeine, or some other stimulants? Being constantly on the run like that makes people forgetful.
posted by gjc at 6:03 PM on March 13, 2013

Have you ever managed people in a professional context? Because this is the way completely normal, run of the mill people are. Every so often, you'll work with a remarkable person who both fully understands your desires and the manner in which you want things done and understands how to carry off the logistics of doing those things to completion. But really, most people will deliver something perhaps not in keeping with what you were looking for when given general direction.

It's actually pretty easy to parse out why someone is failing to do what they're asked to do. You give them extremely detailed instructions - steps, diagrams, examples, nothing to chance - and suggest a reasonable timeframe in which they'll perform those instructions. They should then repeat those instructions and agree that the timeframe is reasonable (or set a new timeframe that they can agree with). You should them emphasize the need that things truly be done by the end of that timeframe.

If they get the job done fine with these parameters, the issue is that they don't have an understanding of your needs, and you will need to work on finding ways of communicating those needs that they can understand quickly and easily, or train them on the things you find important. If they delay or find excuses when none are appropriate, it's passive-aggressive nonsense, and you'll need to find the core of resentment or enmity that is fueling that passive-aggressiveness. If it ends half-assed in some sort of good-faith no-really-I-tried way, it usually means that they mean well but can't technically execute on this sort of project, and the solution is generally education, practice, or if those don't work out, finding someone else to do it.

But ultimately, many perfectly normal people are planners, and many perfectly normal people need planners. If the latter is your husband, you'll need to work on ways - with lists, schedules and details that you know he understands - that you can make sure he does both of you right.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 6:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [21 favorites]

Best answer: It kind of sounds to me like he has to be treated like a child when you give him tasks (tell him the order to do things in, and give him small, definable chunks to perform in order), and the more he screws them up the less tasks he gets. For example, next time I wouldn't give want to him such a big job as "Move the beds and then do all the little things to make the house livable" again. My response would be "No way are we ready to do the beds; go work on the bathroom, etc.; we will get a truck when we're ready; tell Dad I said thanks."

He needs to understand and accept that this is the way it must be now. If he demonstrates more responsibility he can get more responsibility. And for your part, you need to not ask of him that which he is incapable of; and take responsibility for the project management/leadership aspect of this project or any other big projects you tackle in the future (especially anything baby-related).

I read somewhere that this is a common problem with men in particular because often mothers will give their sons concrete tasks like "fold the laundry" or "empty the dishwasher" but will not want or expect them to do any whole tasks start to finish. So they miss out on learning how to think planning a task at a high level. Whereas girls are often expected to take responsibility for entire projects, like gathering up all the laundry, washing it, folding it, and putting it away. So, this might just be something he never learned how to do.
posted by bleep at 6:07 PM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

You two have different approaches to life. Neither is wrong, but you both have to sit down and talk about your processes and find a compromise to life in general and for specific tasks, like you outlined above. Sometimes that means you'll need to deal with his process, sometimes it means he'll have to satisfy yours, and sometimes you'll need to meet in the middle.

So pick you battles and only really push your point when it truly matters, but explain this to him, otherwise you frankly become that wife who is always flying off the handle and yelling at him for things he sees as mundane (read: crazy). If you sit down and talk it through ("I understand we have different viewpoints, so I will try to work with you but you have to also try to work with me to make this marriage work" - do not talk down to him) I'm sure you two can walk away both knowing you're doing just fine.

However, if you try to push your point on every occasion, he WILL push back and point out you don't try to see his side during any issue, and then you'll be in counselling, or worse. Pick your battles.

good luck.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:08 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know it inconveniences you but have you tried letting him feel the consequences for his actions. If you cover for him all the time by say washing the sheets etc and sorting things out, why would he bother to do more than he has to as it sounds like he's a bit on the lazy crossed with absent minded side.

Honestly I'd just have left it and not said a word and turned up at bedtime and gone, well now what? It's a pain for you for a few times while he realises you're not picking up the pieces of his half finished jobs or yelling at him or carrying on but treating him like an adult that needs to get these things done and assuming he's going to do it.

I get my absent minded professor to write his own lists. I say this is what I think needs doing, what do you think. We adjust the ideas accordingly and I hand him a piece of paper. It doesn't always work but it improves my chances. I work on the theory if he gets 7 or 8 out of 10 things done that are on his list we are doing well.
posted by wwax at 6:11 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I should mention that I'm a planner, and most of my friends are not. I don't get upset with them often because I understand they don't have my personality, and I just roll with the punches, unless a certain time-frame is extra super important, in which case I bring that time-frame up. Then if that time-frame is blown away I have a reason to be angry.

So like I EAT TAPAS said: lay your cards on the table and ask if they agree or would like to propose something else. If they agree and they fail then you can be mad. If they propose something else and you two find a middle ground then you should both be happy.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:14 PM on March 13, 2013

It kind of sounds to me like he has to be treated like a child when you give him tasks (tell him the order to do things in, and give him small, definable chunks to perform in order), and the more he screws them up the less tasks he gets.

Oh, man, when I was a kid, acting this way was a one-way ticket to getting out of chores! Pretend you're too stupid/immature to do the task properly and you simply won't be asked to do it anymore.

Could this be an angle on what's going on with him? I mean, it doesn't seem logical to me, but the whole "wife is a mean nag who makes you Honey-Do Lists" stereotype doesn't seem logical to me yet people live their whole lives that way.
posted by Sara C. at 6:18 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Definitely stop operating under the assumption that he isn't doing what you want because he has brain damage. Likewise, that he has a learning disability or that he needs to be treated as a child. How is that working for you so far?

Your way may be totally right, but it doesn't appear he feels the same way. It sounds like you make a lot of plans about the "obvious" course of actions, without making sure he's actually on board. Perhaps he doesn't disagree with things he doesn't like because he's learned that it's an automatic fight?
posted by spaltavian at 6:19 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is just a canard of some kind but I seem to recall that building a house or doing major renovations is a major cause of divorce. Looking at your previous questions, this is not a simple move you are doing, and you are pregnant with a preschool child. I think you should get this done however you reasonably can and stop drawing major conclusions about your husband.

I ask him (since I will be at work) to clean the bathroom up and make sure that we will be able to sleep there tonight, since he's moving the beds. Also the plan was to move the kitchen furniture and hook up the w/d and move out the old fridge. No biggie.

No biggie, really? That sounds like a hell of a lot of work, to me.
posted by BibiRose at 6:20 PM on March 13, 2013 [10 favorites]

Bleep, as someone who has kind of been this guy and had serious discussions with my partner about it... I think the main issue here may be that she doesn't want to be both taskmaster and worker.

A relationship is supposed to be a partership, not something in which one person "manages the other person effectively" to get them to do any work. Both people are supposed to be equal on a team, working on a project together.

I don't really think any of the "treat him like a child" explanations here are reasonable because of that. That's taking on more than a fair amount of workload just to manage the other person. Yes, life is unfair, bla bla bla, but that really isn't something you should be putting up with or have to deal with at all in a relationship. It's work, the kind of work you'd usually get paid for. I know "relationships are work" is a popular nugget, but this is like retail management BS.

It's definitely not unreasonable to be upset by this, nor is it reasonable to expect to treat your adult husband like a child and feed them tasks in little tiny chunks just to get them to do anything correctly.

What does he do for work? Does he do ok there? Jeeze.
posted by emptythought at 6:24 PM on March 13, 2013 [10 favorites]

Agreeing with corb that this sounds like it could be ADHD, predominantly inattentive type. Please read descriptions of that and see if it fits your husband. Here's one. Some of what you describe sounds like Mr. gudrun, who has this. This link talks about it related to children, but also gives some helpful coping tactics that you can try and adapt to an adult level.

And yeah, the whole list thing is way familiar. He asks me to make a list, I put it someplace like on his wallet or under his keys and he either still forgets it, or brings it with him, but forgets to get one of the things on the list, or does not remember to consult the list .... We check off and double check any shopping list we make when we shop together for this reason.
posted by gudrun at 6:25 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

This sounds pretty familiar to me. What I've found that helps is to have my own master list prioritized and then dole out about half of what I'd be able to get done, and leave a ton of space for improv. So my version of the tasks you asked to be done would be: clean the bathroom, move the beds, and I'd really appreciate whatever you get to in the kitchen if you have time! Thanks!
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:31 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A relationship is supposed to be a partership, not something in which one person "manages the other person effectively" to get them to do any work. Both people are supposed to be equal on a team, working on a project together.

Really need to agree with this. I hate being the "taskmaster"; I hate feeling like a nag (whether justified or not), I hate the double workload in working and managing, and I hate always being "on" while the other person just kind of tags along and does as told/passive-aggressively avoids what needs to be done.

I agree this needs to be a come-to-Jesus type thing. If he just stares at you or ignores you like you're overreacting, that is TERRIBLE communication. Even if he thinks you're overplanning or micromanaging, the way he responds to that seems awful. I would be willing to die on this hill, tbh. (I realize you have children so maybe not actually threaten to leave or anything but just make it clear that this is very very important to you feeling involved and respected and cared for in this relationship, and refuse to engage with disrespectful behavior.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:37 PM on March 13, 2013 [18 favorites]

If he is staring at you or ignoring you because you are yelling or being very emotional (because you are naturally exasperated by his incompetence), that is something you can work on to better get your message across. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:15 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

*"refuse to engage" was weird language, but I mean stand your ground, stand by what you feel is rational, &c. If you say "Why did you do this? Now we have nowhere to sleep tonight" or something and he gives you a dirty/bewildered/blank look, I would be firm about what you think went wrong. If you say, "This is not the paint we chose," don't let him lie to you about what happened like he can just gaslight you into accepting his unilateral decision. Stay sane.

He may be doing it because what you think is right is not necessarily what he thinks is important; but if I had a pregnant wife, I would be pretty damn sure to make sure she had a place to sleep, a place to keep food, clean sheets, and a place to shower. So there really needs to be some kind of breakthrough here; he's not working with you, and he's not thinking about you as a priority, not even while you're pregnant.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can't get a hold of him to remind him of anything.

I am a planner and I have a delightful boyfriend who isn't and sounds a little like your husband. We do not live together and may never live together. However, I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing and we've found ways to work it out. Specifically (tossing this all out there, you can see what sticks)

- stressful times make me hyperfocused and drill-sargeant-y, they make his brain fall apart. This is bad for Team Us so we try to be extra careful around times that we know are hard for us
- he sees a therapist who he talks to about the AAAAAAA stuff that his brain spins on sometimes and he takes Wellbutrin to help with his ADD-ish issues. It's helpful but not a game changer
- we have a routine for making plans that is like I EAT TAPAS describes. Outline the plan, discuss the plan, check in about the plan. I choose this, I am aware it's not what everyone would enjoy.

The big thing though, and what I outlined above, is that we are both on Team Us and we agree on goals and general ideas. I am allowed to say "I need you to do this thing in a very specific way" when it's important (rarely, knowing when it's important and when I am just fussy is necesasry) and he's allowed to say "I'm not going to be able to do this the way you want" and that is okay too (again rarely, knowing when he's just feeling lazy and when he's really got too much on his plate).

We are also always in touch because he can be spacey and get off track (in many wonderful ways as long as we don't have to catch a plane or something) and we touch base a lot to help me feel less fidgety and to keep him on track. I'd worry about a partner I couldn't get ahold of and if it were me, I'd start there. "How do we stay in better touch?" and you can explain not just what you feel you need but also what the normative standards are, you think. Of course all couples do this differently but if you want to hear from him when he's at the paint store. Tell him, make sure he knows your expectation and then have a post-trip discussion if that didn't work. Adjust. Work on it.

And make sure that you're working with both of you compromising on whatever, not just you telling him what to do. I used to be sort of crabby when my SO would want me to compromise by letting more things go, not minding about whether we were five minutes late to dinner, whatever. At the time I thought it was CRAZYTALK but after a while, I adjusted learned to prioritize better in a way where our time together worked well for both of us (which meant letting some things go in the name of Team Us) and it's been good, better even. I wish you luck, this is a tough time.
posted by jessamyn at 7:31 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

My husband is like this. It's not ADHD (that's me, actually!). He's just kind of a doufus about stuff that I think is so painfully obvious. I get worked up about it sometimes, but then I remind myself that we are a team, and since he puts up with my terrible impatience and other faults, I can cut him some slack for his clueless behavior in certain departments. The house is definitely a prime area for these kind of fights (ME: why didn't you get xyz thing we need for the new bathroom? HIM: oh I thought we didn't need that yet. ME: OF COURSE WE NEED THAT IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A FUNCTIONING BATHROOM).

After one particularly big blow out, he admitted he hated doing home improvement stuff because he didn't know what the hell he was doing and I was ordering him around like paid help. Fair enough. So I took over for that project, and he picked up the slack in another area (laundry-sweet!)

I guess what I'm saying is, that while he may pull this annoying stuff, consider your behavior too. You aren't his boss. I know you're pregnant so maybe doesn't apply right now- but if you want it done a certain way, do it yourself. If you really need your partner's help (and who doesn't), loosen your standards, or ask him to direct his efforts to areas where he's more comfortable.
posted by murfed13 at 7:53 PM on March 13, 2013

My boyfriend has ADD and, thankfully, has less of these issues, but these are definitely ADD things, and you will probably find a lot of help in books on ADD and relationships and in forums about ADD.

One thing that works for us is just to be... nice about it. Don't treat him like an imbecile or a child, but treat him like an acquaintance or a coworker. Be factual, explain where issues are, but don't blow up at him, yell at him, bring a lot of emotional noise into the discussion, etc.

So, the presentation was screwed up and you'll have to miss some billables for the client. So, you were delayed in traffic and got lost and missed the meeting and lost out on the bid. So, the bathroom wasn't cleaned and you have to re-wash the sheets. Etc.

No yelling or nagging needed, just an explanation of what went wrong and a discussion of how to fix it going forward.
posted by 3491again at 8:05 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

My husband and I are very much like this. I am a planner. He is a dreamer. When it works, it's great, but when it doesn't, we can make one another crazy. I've learned that what I consider "reasonable" is an awful lot of work - when checking in with other people, I've found that I tend to be really task-oriented and used to less downtime than "normal" people, so I try to remember that when I think, "Damn, I could have cleaned the kitchen and done six loads of laundry and brushed the cats and vacuumed all the floors in the time you had available today. Why did you only clean the kitchen?" that yes, that's true, but most people I know would have only gotten the kitchen clean in that time. That's not his issue, it's mine.

Usually if there's something important to me - like having the beds ready - I explain why. It may seem obviously, but it might not be to him. "I'm going to be exhausted when I get home from work tonight. I'm really looking forward to sleeping in clean beds in the new house." usually goes a long way in getting what I want. Sometimes I feel like it's kinda dumb - I mean, we've been together almost 20 years, you'd think by now some of this stuff would be obvious - but I've talked with him and he says that he appreciates it when I spell things out like this - "I want this, here's why it will make me happy" - because then he doesn't have to guess. He hates playing mindreader so it really makes both of us happier in the long run. I think it also helps that I don't use it as a way to talk down to him - it's more pre-emptively showing appreciation for the thing I am asking for, and with the intent that I know he wants to make me happy, so here is a way to do that.

Your method may need to vary, but when we were having these breakdowns in expectations it really helped us to stop and figure out WHY these things were happening (my overestimation in what could be done in a certain timeframe, his misunderstanding of why I wanted things done or what would make me happy), instead of just getting into arguments about it.
posted by RogueTech at 8:15 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A heavy beam fell on his head, and he has trouble following child-level directions with no measurable improvement. And, yet you are trying to get him to do more tasks, and get frustrated when he continues to fail.

Stop the cycle of madness, and get your husband an appointment with a neurologist. This is dangerously past due.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:37 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband was raised as such that everything was done for him pretty much until I came along. Twelve year olds were more capable than he was, simply because he never had to be. He was also under the (extremely) mistaken impression that I would continue the tradition of allowing him to do nothing. Not so. He basically had to learn to be a self sufficient adult. He started by trying the trick mentioned up thread of just doing everything so poorly in an attempt to get me to just give up and do it for him. All I did was tell him he obviously needed more practise washing dishes, making beds, whatever to learn how to it properly.

I wasn't a micromanager, so that wasn't an issue. I also refused to let him put me in the position of being a nag or his mother - that's relationship poison. Basically, I just sat back every now and then and let him suffer the consequences of his actions. If we were moving interstate, I'd packed the majority of things, he had to do a room or two and left it until the evening before the removalists arrived? Well, there he was at 3 in the morning, still packing. Couldn't be bothered to pay your phone bill after 3 warnings, well your phone gets disconnected. That's what happens.

In your situation, I wouldn't view it as giving him a list and making him execute it - that makes him your employee. He's not, he's your partner. Involve him in the decision making. Does he think you should spend tonight in the new place, like you do. Yes? Great, will he have time to shift the beds over and make them? Fantastic. What else does he think he can realistically get done in one day? Make a list together, prioritising it what you both think is important and achievable so if the bottom of the list doesn't get completed it's not the end of the world. More importantly, he takes ownership and agrees with it too, and has a checklist to work off.

If he can't be bothered moving the beds or connecting the hot water - cold shower and no bed to sleep in for him! But I think you'll find once he agrees on what he can physically do and you stop acting like his boss and giving him autonomy, things will start to get done. Also, gratitude and praise! Moving is a nightmare, and remember, he's the one doing it while you're at work. Appreciation and the odd thank you goes a long way. Oh, and I should add my husband is now completely transformed. He has more than stepped up to the plate and does his fair share. So it can happen!
posted by Jubey at 9:47 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

It does sound a bit like ADHD. I would have a serious talk with him and ask him if he knows why he has so much trouble staying on task. Try to get him to understand how difficult this makes life for you by giving him some "what if" examples of you doing the same thing. "What if I did...., how would you feel?" Maybe he'll be able to see his behavior better if the shoe is on the other foot. Whether he can actually change is another question. I feel your frustration. When I ask my wife to do something, half the time she either totally forgets or she does it wrong in some way. In her case it seems to be that she is preoccupied and also doesn't really care much about the matter. I can't tell you how many times I have shaken my head in disbelief when I learned she didn't do something she was going to do.
posted by Dansaman at 10:03 PM on March 13, 2013

Something seems off-kilter in your relationship: you do the majority of the outside-the-house work at the same time you're carrying a child. You're understandably stressed because of your workload, your move, and the fact that you're probably physically exhausted by your pregnancy. During a time like this your husband should be actively seeking to lighten your load but he's behaving like a sullen teenager.

There are some things that you could roll with: daugher's room painted the wrong color but she likes it? That's a liveable goof. The things you can look back on in a few years and laugh about, those are good things to let roll off your back now.

The red flags, though, are the fact that your husband does far less work (of any sort) than you do, his passive-aggression when things come to a head, and the fact that his dad is actively involved in his doing-nothing at a critical time. That sounds like a man who is dug into his way of life and won't change willingly. Speculation about ADHD or head injury are moot: regardless of whether they are reasons, and they certainly aren't excuses.

The only thing you can do in this situation is to build your own support network: friends and family who will help you look out for yourself and your kids. Your husband isn't pulling his weight and his allies aren't on your side, so you need to cultivate mutually supportive relationships with more adult people.
posted by SakuraK at 10:24 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yay! I ask him what they're going to move. The beds. Okay. I ask him (since I will be at work) to clean the bathroom up and make sure that we will be able to sleep there tonight, since he's moving the beds. Also the plan was to move the kitchen furniture and hook up the w/d and move out the old fridge. No biggie.

That's actually a lot of stuff.

They spent the day ... I don't know what.

Did you ask them?
posted by Lucinda at 5:33 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seems like it could be a combo of some ADD type tendencies (you mention "a ton of stuff being done" but not the stuff that needs to be done), plus some possible negative patterns developing with you being in the director role and him resenting that (the ignoring seems to be a flag for that).

Have you tried coming up with a plan together for the day or a specific goal? Like your goal is to sleep at the house, get him to help identify what the core requirements for doing that are. They might not be exactly the same as what you require but then it might be an opportunity to negotiate a compromise list. From your description it sounds like you are able to be pretty flexible with the 'things not going as planned', maybe using that flexibility up front in the planning so he feels a bit more empowered could help.

It might also be possible to use the pregnancy fatigue as a way to reframe the work he's doing as taking care of you (and the new baby) rather than as just doing what you tell him to do. I.e. "The p. fatigue is just kicking my ass, I'm just not able to plan/organize/work as I usually can. I'm so glad you're able to help out/pick up the slack so much with x/y/z." Copious praise (when it's honest), positive reinforcement of his taking such good care of you and the family, etc. etc.

I think, unless he's already open to the idea, investigating the ADD possibility might go better if ya'll are on more of a "team" footing than a director/worker footing. But then it could be good to investigate, though I'd not approach it from a 'brain damage' focus, I'd think that could trigger some fear/defensiveness.
posted by pennypiper at 11:11 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend was in a motorcycle accident 2 years ago and received a brain injury. Brain injuries are weird. In most respects, he's just fine, but he's left with these few specific deficits, and one of them is exactly what you describe: making and carrying out a casual project plan of the "if I want to accomplish x, I should do A, B and C in that order."

The way he describes it is that as soon as he tries to hold 2 or 3 thoughts in his head at the same time, it's at though his mental basket fails and they all fall out. And that sort of quick mental planning exactly requires holding a couple of thoughts in your head - tasks - to order and prioritize them.

Thing is, my boyfriend used to be able to do this just fine, and remembers figuring out what to do next as a really easy thing he used to do effortlessly. So when he gets stuck, he feels like he's a failure, and then starts to get very defensive when called on it. Plus, he hasn't had a lifetime of living with this mental quirk to build up coping skills.

And then there's the shame that for a while made it really difficult to talk about this with him. Look at the language you use in your post "I'm starting to think that he's got some kind of brain injury. Which seems like a horrible thing to say..." If someone blows out their knee playing tennis, we tell them to take up golf. If someone injures their brain, we treat them as permanently...less. I wouldn't be surprised if he knows at some level that he hasn't been the same since the accident, but really, really doesn't want to talk about this with anyone.

I don't know if a brain injury is really your husband's issue. Maybe others are right and he's just never learned to plan and needs to be taught. The advice to see a neurologist is good, but look for someone who specializes in treating traumatic brain injury, as there have been tons of advances in this field in the past several years, and many doctors aren't up on the latest diagnostic methods and treatments. My boyfriend's treatment has involved stimulants (which help but carry their own disadvantages), cognitive exercises, coping skills (like getting in the habit of writing everything down), and therapy to talk through all of these issues. All of this has helped a lot, and continues to help, but it took him a lot of struggle and turmoil to admit he needed help.

But if it is a brain injury, the biggest gifts you can give your husband are kindness and acceptance. I know that seems like so much now, when you need him to support you, but letting him know you love and admire him no matter his mental quirks will help break down one huge barrier to his getting diagnosed and getting help.

Memail me if you want to know more.
posted by psycheslamp at 12:45 PM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

We can all sit and diagnose your husband with our anecdotal knowledge and google university degrees, but sometimes if you want something done just so you have to do it yourself. If that isn't an option then you either have to hire someone you trust will do it just so or compromise and accept however it's done by the person helping you out of goodwill.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2013

Often he just stares at me like I'm overreacting. Or he ignores me. Lately he ignores me. I used to write him lists but he left the last one at home even though he asked me to write it and I left it under his keys. He won't check his phone often enough for it to be useful - I can't get a hold of him to remind him of anything.

I feel so bad for you. You're totally alone in all of this, and brain injury or not, he's being awful to you.

You aren't his mother. You should be able to rely on his to participate, but clearly he's not going to. This stress he's inflicting on you, not to mention the ignoring and glaring at you---it's hurtful and wrong.

I think you'll just have to take care of yourself and your daughter like you're a single parent. Your husband isn't communicating with you and you can't rely on him to participate without resenting you.

Do what you can on your own. Stop relying on him for any real help at this point, and cut yourself slack when it comes to the house. It's not easy dealing with men who are passive aggressive and have decided through their actions that they don't care about participating in the relationship.

I mean, brain injury or not, you're getting unfairly burdened and no one is taking care of you or helping you. It's not fair and you shouldn't be treated badly, glared at or ignored.
posted by discopolo at 7:32 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just reread and realized you're 12 weeks pregnant, and he's treating you like this?! (I misread and thought you had a 12 month old.)

I feel worse for you. There is no excuse for treating you like this. Glaring, stonewalling, ignoring you when you're trying to reach him? It's abusive.

I think this is about so much more than him not helping out as I wrote above. I think, as sad as it is, you need to tell him plainly that either you guys go to counseling to discuss your current dynamic and sort out communication issues and lay it out that he's being hostile and disrespectful at a time when your stress should be minimal, or it's very likely things are going to get worse and eventually end.

You don't deserve to be treated poorly. Maybe the only way to get him to stop this is to separate for awhile.

I'm just so completely appalled at how disrespectful and mean he is being to you when all you're rightfully asking for is his help and mutual interest. It sounds lonely and awful and humiliating to be married to a guy like that. Of course your last hope is that it's all because he has a brain injury.

No matter what, you need support. Do you have any close girlfriends you can confide in and lean on to make this a less stressful time? I'm certain they would be able to help you at least feel better and maybe model for your husband human adult behavior. At least having people who aren't his family around would show him other people have your back and would maybe help him realize that treating you disrespectfully is NOT okay.
posted by discopolo at 9:57 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

When my mom was in a car accident and had a brain injury, the MDs prescribed an algebra course. She was a little offended, since she was great at math, but when she got to the class it turned out she wasn't great at math. She really did have to retrain that section of her brain. Brains are weird.

I memailed you, by the way.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2013

was he like this before marriage?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:47 PM on March 15, 2013

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