Relying on an unreliable man

I have a purseful of notes like this. I wonder what my husband has. (Photo source:; some rights reserved.
I have a purseful of notes like this. I wonder what my husband has. (Photo source:; some rights reserved.)

Procrastination is disrespect — both for yourself and for whoever depends on you. (I’m both an offender and a victim, but I’m talking as the victim today.)

One of the recurring issues I’ve had with my husband is asking him to do something, hearing him agree to do it (usually within a specified time), and then watching him not do the task … or not do it until he gets irritated at my inquiries and does it in a blast of pique.

It’s annoying that he doesn’t have the strength of character and self-confidence and clarity to say, “I don’t have time, so you will need to take care of that, or you’ll need to wait until I can do it at XYZ time. Let’s talk about what will work.” He just agrees, then fails to follow through.

He forgets. He gets busy. He has new superceding priorities but doesn’t keep me up to date. You get the picture.

I’ve been so ashamed of myself for relying on him when these are things I can do myself. After some deep thinking, I believe I have continued to rely on an unreliable man out of my own need to be taken care of, in ways I didn’t get taken care of as a kid. I hope that insight will help me take a deep breath and buckle down myself, maintaining lower expectations of him.

Realization is easier than change, but I have begun catching myself.

Reminder to self: Live my own life. Climb out of his head. Let him write his own to-do lists. Make my own, and check things off.

My therapist has asked me a few piercing questions about this issue, and he has gently made it clear to me that he believes this is a control tactic of my husband’s. It may be, either consciously or (more likely) unconsciously. I think my husband holds onto projects and tasks as his way of being an equal partner and not someone who’s delegated to. And I understand that it’s very hard for him to negotiate. But it’s hard for me not to “delegate” when he *offers* to do something or if he agrees to do it when asked.

So. Hard. To. Resist.

I’ll give a few examples. Here’s a small one: When he gets up from the sofa, he’ll ask,  “Do you need some more ice in your glass?” And when I smile and say thanks, he often has “joked” and said, “Then you’d better get up and get it, ha-ha-ha.” That kind of “gotcha” humor wears away on the nerves after a while. It’s so hard to resist letting him do tiny things for me, but I’m working on this so he doesn’t get the gotcha opportunities.

Here’s a medium example I’ve posted about previously: He does most of the family’s laundry. But for some reason he will NOT wash panties for me until I literally have none to wear. I probably have more than 30 pair, because in a fit of panty-less irritation one day I marched my commando ass to WalMart and threw about three dozen cotton panties in the cart as my solution. But even with a month’s worth of drawers, if I don’t wash them myself, I don’t have them. There is no way it’s accidental that he will pull panties out of the laundry that I’ve sorted and wash everything else. (Sometimes I call him the Panty Police and ask him to parole a pair. Sometimes I just give him the pursed lips of a disappointed wife. But I am through being direct when direct doesn’t work, and I’m through being passive-aggressive with him because it gives me heartburn to be That Wife. )

My therapist has been trying to drill through my skull that it is foolish to expect or hope that an unreliable person will do tasks, even the ones he has agreed to do. Solution: Get off my ass and do my clothes myself. I’m so mad at myself for having to learn this lesson over, and over, and over again.

I understand that I rely on him from a position of neediness, not laziness. I am a hard worker and will get my hands dirty to take care of tasks. But there’s some emotional need being met re this issue, or else I wouldn’t keep doing it, right? Am I reliving childhood disappointments and trying to resolve them with him, trying to get comforted by someone actually taking care of me? UGH, EFFIE.

And then there’s the pool

His procrastination has also appeared in some very major ways, like our recent clash with city code enforcement at our old home.

My husband and I lost our home to bankruptcy. After two years, we are still waiting for the mortgage company to accept a quit-claim deed or just foreclose on the damned thing so we can completely walk away. Since then, the property has been in limbo, deteriorating, and we moved to a rental home long ago because we assumed they would act promptly. In the interim, we’ve had an intrusive neighboring couple who recently climbed our backyard fence (really) and chopped down bushes they dislike seeing over the fence, and they have called code enforcement when my husband lets the grass in our fenced-in back yard get too high or if the covering tarp slips on our old home’s pool. The pool is a problem not just because it’s unsightly, but because it’s a mosquito hazard.

It’s annoying, but honestly I can’t say I blame the neighbors for calling code enforcement. (The bush chopping is outrageous, though.) The back yard really IS our responsibility.

I’m just not physically able to do the mowing myself, and my husband spends 3-4 weeks of procrastinating, building up the momentum to go do it, then finding problems with the mower, running out of gas for the mower, experimenting with finding the right new sparkplug for the mower, deciding the yard is too wet from rains, etc. before he finally buckles down and mows the goddamned grass. I’ve begged him to get the guy who mows our front yard to just do the back too, but he’s stubborn that we can save money and he can do it himself. (“Can,” but “won’t,” I think irritably.) Then he makes a big production out of HOW HARD it was to mow the knee-high (or higher) grass and weeds.

I’m thinking of just contacting our front-yard guy myself and telling him we want him to keep the back mowed too. Why haven’t I thought of that before?! (Because my husband manages our money? That’s a task I’ve dreaded taking back myself. But I need to do that too.)

This time, the neighbors — who can only see our backyard from one second-story window — called code enforcement again, and my husband took care of the grass within the two weeks that code enforcement gave, but just barely. He’s been slower on the pool cover. And the code enforcement guy gave us a firm deadline of this Friday to fix it or else he would have to escalate it to city court.

If I left it to my husband, we’d have an upcoming court appearance in our immediate future. So I took charge myself finally and made sure we bought new water bags to hold the pool tarp in place, made sure my husband replaced the old sump pump to drain rainwater off the tarp, and participated in tightening the tarp as the pump began removing the water. I’ll also make sure we return daily to tighten the tarp and reposition the sump pump until it’s back up to code, and I’m sending pictures every 2-3 days to the code guy with some progress notes so he will see we are making the effort.

I’m learning. I’m through with being the woman who asks, waits, and then stresses out. I’m now a doer who gets things done.

So what do I do now for the needy girl inside me who wants someone to rely on? Find a different way to meet that need? Find a way not to have that need? Just have that need, unmet, and sit with the disappointment and hurt?

I’m still looking for that answer.

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