"Weíll be hosting a lot of guests this year for the holidays, and I keep telling my husband that we need certain repairs done to the house. He seems to deliberately avoid the problems, hoping that I'll forget about them. He also tries to manipulate me into agreeing not to fix the in-house problems. My friend told me to hire someone and leave the bill on the table. What can I do to end this dispute?"
Life is certainly a lot easier when both people in the relationship have the same modus operandi. But when they differ in their styles as far as punctuality or how they pay bills or when they get things done, it can certainly be the cause for a lot of irritation between them. Clearly, the situation you describe must be very frustrating to you.
In your query you state he is deliberately avoiding the problem and hoping you will forget about them. As I read your question, I can only assume that his behavior is such that he hasnít gotten to the repairs. But I generally donít assume the reasoning behind the behavior.
Here are some possible explanations to why he might not be attending to the request you have made:
1. Is he, in fact, capable of doing the repairs or might he feel inadequate?
2. Is your nagging leading him to resist?
3. Does he believe the repairs will require laying out money you donít have?
4. Is he under a great deal of pressure elsewhere and doesnít feel he has the time to complete the job you want done?
5. Is he under a lot of stress and isnít inclined to exert more energy?
I feel very strongly that a healthy relationship requires good communication. Therefore, I think what would be most helpful in this situation is for you to ask your spouse why he seems hesitant to take this project on. Itís really important that when you speak with him, you approach him in a non-judgmental way. By maintaining a non-attacking attitude, it will be much more likely that he will be willing to share with you what his concerns are.
To be concrete, state that you have noticed that he hasnít gotten to the house repairs and youíre wondering if thereís a reason why. Be willing to talk through the issues he raises and possibly make compromises (e.g. if itís a matter of money, what things can be left for a later time).
Depending on the way the conversation goes and what concerns are raised, you can offer to bring in some outside help. Personally, I do not like your friendís suggestion as it feels manipulative in this scenario. In other households, outside repair people do the needed work and the bills are merely paid. However, in your case, itís more of a slap in the face, so to speak.
Though the immediate need is to have the house fixed up, this situation also offers you a great opportunity to do a bit of relationship repair. Couples often fight but donít resolve it because they donít get to what the real underlying cause isóthey donít spend the time trying to understand what their partner is feeling in the situation. By taking the time to talk with your husband, you may really have given your partnership a great holiday gift!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.