4

Me and my wife are married for almost 10 years. One thing that bothers me is that my wife makes a lot of plans but never finishes them, and this puts a lot of financial and mental burden on us. Some examples:

  • We bought an old house that requires renovation. I suggested to do a small-scale renovation, but she had plans for a much larger scale renovation. She said that she will plan everything using Autocad and we will have a wonderful house. I did my best to encourage her and help her e.g. to learn Autocad. But for three years since then, every week, she had a different reason for not progressing with this plan. Some weeks it was a real reason, such as her parents being ill. Some other weeks it was just her playing candy-crush. In the mean time, we did no renovation at all, and had to cope with a lot of recurring breaks and fixes.
  • She does not work but said she wanted to start a sewing business. So we bought machines and materials and dedicated a part of our bedroom to this stuff. I supported her and encouraged her to proceed with this plan. But again, for three years she postponed this from week to week, each time with a different reason.

My main difficulty here is that I have to work on two plans in parallel: one is the "imaginary plan", e.g. the large-scale renovation, which I try to support with enthusiasm in order to encourage her; but I also have to make a "real plan", to prepare for the more realistic scenario in which she will not proceed with the imaginary plan. The real plan I have to do on my own - I cannot share it with her since it will break her dreams.

Another difficulty is that, whenever she tells me "I will do X", I find it hard to share her enthusiasm, because I am almost certain - from past experience - that she will not do it. But if I tell this to her, it makes her sad and she says I am unsupportive. What can I do?

5
  • 1
    Is she herself aware of this behavior? If so, why isn't it an option to talk with her about those real plans(maybe not calling them exactly that)? If not, would it be acceptable as a first step to actually make her being aware of her own characteristics? – dhein Feb 17 '20 at 6:34
  • Either way, adding those clarifications to your OP, might be helpfull. – dhein Feb 17 '20 at 6:34
  • 1
    @dhein Whenever I talk to her about this behavior, she says "yes, I did not do this because I had good reasons, but next week I will surely do it". – David Feb 17 '20 at 8:40
  • 2
    Hey David, welcome to IPS! I'm sorry, but we can't really tell you what to communicate to your wife. Only how you can do it in a nice way. So, could you edit to clarify what exactly you want to communicate to her? – Ael Feb 17 '20 at 10:03
  • @David: I have to agree with what Ælis said here. Despite your question as such is a good one, it is lacking a goal. If you would add what exactly you want to achieve in this situation, I am sure this could get reopened again. If you, as the title states, want to cope with her plans, that is actually an intrapersonal problem, and can't get solved here. But if you want to communicate something to your wife, finding a solution working out for both of you, please add to your question what exactly it is you want to achieve. – dhein Feb 19 '20 at 7:32
2

What you describe as your wife behavior look a lot like a trait I personally have, that is perfectionnism. As a side note she could be suffering from it and could use therapy. But in my experience pressing people to therapy is rarely successful, so I will focus instead in damage control strategies.

As you understand it, this is a cyclical behavior, with phases, roughly speaking: first, enthusiasm in establish an unrealistic project. Then, anxiety kicks in, the procrastination phase. Then, giving up, self esteem being damaged, the sadness. Finally, a new project, and the cycle goes on.

Acting on project making

This is perhaps the most important thing. You don't help your wife by being supportive of things that she can't realistically achieve. You are mostly setting her up for failure. Even if she asks for support and that may be very hard to break enthusiasm, consider a different approach.

What really prevents me from doing grandiose projects is when I'm asked for short term results, and when I'm grounded with present constraints. So if you remind her she won't have much time because of her ill parents, for instance; that you have financial difficulties; and that you do not believe in a new project until it's complete, it will calm down her enthusiasm. Calming her enthusiasm is essential, because the higher she climbs, the harder the fall.

I've made progress once I realized no goal is worth something unless it's a S.M.A.R.T goal. If you feel like it's possible to have this discussion with her, then it could help her improve the situation in the long run, but this might not be easy. In the meantime, just calm her enthusiasm.

Support her differently

I also received support from therapist. The most valuable thing they gave me was getting rid of my fear for failures. We discussed failures, and we de-dramatized it. Procrastination is essentially fear for failure. If you are not afraid, you go. So the less she will fear that happens, the more likely she will put effort toward progress.

I wouldn't know what to advise here as being her husband. It might be a bit vague but as a general rule don't be harsh on her not managing something. In the opposite, try to be supportive of all the things she already does well but might not be aware of, to help her feel already good about herself without any need for a big achievement.

I no longer procrastinate using these strategies. I make fewer, smaller projects, but complete them.

1
  • Now I recall, my wife said several times that she is a perfectionist, so your answer makes perfect sense. Thanks! – David Feb 17 '20 at 14:56
1

Hmmm... You almost described my father. His typical answer to a problem used to be "I will make a project and ..." and that was the end of it.

We learned, in our family to apply one of two ways:

  1. just forget about him doing anything, do it ourselves.
  2. keep reminding him that the thing needed to be done, until he did it.

In your particular case, I would do the following:

  • you start doing the "big work": plumbing, flooring, heating...;
  • you get her to choose colors, materials...

This is what I did with my apartment (although I am not married): I did the main work, I can live in it if I need, the itsy-bitsy-colory stuff will be done eventually by a wife.


When she has plans which imply a financial burden, just remind her that her previous plans had no tangible result. Ask her to properly recover (whatever is possible to be recovered) from the financial loss of the previous endeavor, before she will move on to something new.

Also, before she starts doing something at home, she should attend some class somewhere. That way, she will understand if she will care do actually do it at home.

1

This sounds like my husband. He has always great plans how to improve his health, to start a cool new hobby, to buy new furniture... and in the end, nothing happens and he ends up watching TV, as always.

I think this has something to do with perfectionism. If he starts something, it has to be really great. It is not enough to go for a walk to get some exercise, he needs a fitness plan. If we need a new sofa, he has great plans for a whole new living room. If he dreams of a new hobby, he first wants to buy all expensive equipment you can think of. And then he realizes that this is too much, too time-consuming, too expensive, and he does not know where to start. In the end, nothing changes.

I try to encourage him that he does not have to be perfect, and tell him that it is ok to start with small steps. I encourage him to pursue his plans, but I do not help him any more (e.g. by buying things he wants to have), because it is just too frustrating. If he really wants something, he has to do it himself.

In the meantime, I buy the new sofa and make sure that we go out for a walk from time to time.

1
  • My wife also mentioned she is a perfectionist, so this answer makes a lot of sense. Thanks – David Feb 17 '20 at 15:00

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.