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We've been living together for about a year. Things don't always go as well as they should due to my partner postponing chores A LOT. I on the other hand like to be organised as doing things on time leaves us with more time to do other things and the chance to go to bed earlier.

My partner often takes a nap, has a bath, watches TV or whatever and this way postpones doing chores, which sometimes results in the excuse "It's too late to do chores now, I will do them tomorrow." This is seriously getting on my nerves and we sometimes get in a fight.

How can I make my partner realise it's better to do things on time?

I understand that procrastinating is hard to give up. I understand that I may be overreacting or a little pushy. But it is very important to me to have free time and be relaxed rather than be anxious about chores that have to be done, but haven't yet. Sometimes I have no proper clothes to wear because they haven't been ironed when they should have been. We also don't have time to do things together on the weekdays because of this behaviour.

Notes:

  • Stop living together with my partner is not an option (at least for now)
  • Chores are equally divided. We work the same hours and arrive at home at the same time
  • My partner is also studying for their master degree. But sometimes studying is also postponed with various excuses
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    What happened when you talked to your partner voicing your concerns? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jan 30 '18 at 14:21
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    @clueless You can try to speak to him... Maybe tomorrow... – frarugi87 Jan 30 '18 at 15:18
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    @clueless Is this person your romantic partner or your roommate? The tags don't seem to match the question. – thelem Jan 30 '18 at 17:34
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    @clueless One thing to consider is the frequency of chores. Maybe your partner fundamentally disagrees with the assertion that the chore must be done at that time? You should work out a deadline schedule that you both agree to, which will provide clear expectations as to when the chores should be done. If your partner breaks those expectations (that they have explicitly agreed to), then you could move on to more involved solutions. – Clay07g Jan 30 '18 at 20:45
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    "Sometimes I have no proper clothes to wear because they haven't been ironed when they should have been." How and when have those times been scheduled? If your partner assumed he had nothing to do and you simply washed and announced that there is know stuff to be done by the end of the day, this behavior wouldn't surprise me. I for sure like to know beforehand whats going on in the next few days. If I have planned to watch TV all day and my partner decided washing day is today and not on the agreed upon day, I couldn't be less motivated to help... – Polygnome Jan 31 '18 at 0:25

12 Answers 12

8

First, do the things for yourself, not for your partner. For example:

(I) you iron your clothes only;

(II) you send your clothes only for laundry;

(III) you order just your delivery food;

(IV) you buy only your stuff in the supermarket.

This way, your partner will need to do most of the same work, not necessarily at the same pace. Your partner is going to be punished by their own procrastination.

But this still comes with a problem: if you share a bed, you can't make only half-bed; you can't take only your trash outside, as the smell would still be a problem; the sink will still be full of dirty plates if you wash only yours; you can't pay half of the bill if your partner won't pay the other half... and so on.

There are activities that need to be done completely. So, you divide these specific tasks - the urgent ones are assigned to your partner, the less urgent are yours. Some examples:

(a) One is responsible for buyings things; the other for arranging them in the house. As buying things are more urgent, this should be a task assigned to your partner. You say: "The toilet paper needs to be bought NOW".

(b) The last to get out of bed is the one who will make the bed. If your partner gets up before you, than ok, you just make the bed. If it is the other way around, your partner makes the bed. If not, how could you sit on the bed to study? You need to make the bed NOW.

(c) If you are blocked by one of your partner tasks, this task is urgent. The sink is full of dirty dishes and you want to cook - they need to be washed NOW, so you can get enough room. This can't wait, or dinner is going to be cancelled and your partner would pay for the food delivery.

You can get creative here - the most efficient thing for procrastinators are dealing with urgent things. When something is urgent, they need to do it NOW. Less urgent things are the problem, and you should take these tasks for yourself if you want to avoid conflicts.

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    (I) seemed a good idea to us too. We are trying it this week :) – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:18
  • "The toilet paper needs to be bought NOW". -- the hard part of buying things is knowing what to buy. Doing the hard part won't solve the problem of the other party not carrying weight. – Yakk Jan 31 '18 at 16:43
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    Way too adversarial advice. This is not a recipe for a long-lived happy couple. Pull these off on your flatmates at the college, maybe. – Jeffrey supports Monica Jan 31 '18 at 16:52
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    I'd also recommend both of you playing through The Evolution of Trust. It's only about 30 minutes, and its a wonderful exercise on its own. In the context of this answer, it is even more essential. This answer shows how to break cooperative tasks into isolated tasks. The Evolution of Trust does a good job of showing what it will look like to bring those cooperative tasks back together, and what sorts of complications can and will arise. It may be the piece that needs to be added to counter the "this will cause breakups" response that people are saying in comments. – Cort Ammon Jan 31 '18 at 20:12
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    @Marzipanherz There are some references about the subject. You should look at Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle, it's a priorization matrix that procrastinators tend to have a hard time with. Procrastinators focus their time on non-important and non-urgent things (like watching TV), but as soon as they have a urgent thing with close deadline, they are obliged to do it - this is why procrastinators get their college/master degrees and usually sleep late at night. – Chaotic Jan 31 '18 at 20:35
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Chronic procrastinators are recognised in psychology. You may not believe this, but procrastinators are often also 'perfectionists'. One of the reasons they put off a task is because they want to do it so completely that they imagine it will take a lot longer to do than anyone else.

Either way, both procrastination and perfectionism ultimately lead to misery. No perfectionist can be as great as they aspire to be, and the mounting chores which you think they don't care about really WILL be nagging at them. Their behaviour of napping and bathing may indicate that they are suffering from some negative emotions.

Some kind of rota (schedule/roster) might help. If they are a perfectionist this will also appeal to that side of their nature. Draw up a written rota that involves cleaning perhaps one room per day and emphasise that this will enable you to clean the whole house every week but only take a few minutes each day. Set a time for doing this such as when you both arrive home or immediately after your evening meal, but before you both relax for the evening. Insist that you do it together and that this will be even quicker.

The more structured organisation there is, the better. Have a system in place for everything, washing baskets for dirty laundry etc. Being organised will enable you both to 'tidy as you go' which is the same as doing some chores incrementally. Of course not every chore can be done this way. As they put off chores by doing leisure activities, suggest they do tasks like ironing whilst watching a movie at the same time, or whatever.

Hopefully, once they get into a rhythm with chores their outlook will improve. They may realise that certain tasks aren't going to take as long as they imagine, and aren't as bad as they imagine.

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    Although I can't contribute objectively to this answer, I will just say that as a perfectionist procrastinator, little drives me more crazy than a rota. There's enough of that at work, and as soon as home life is also driven by a schedule, it's just too stressful for me. But, hey, maybe that's why I live alone ;) – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 31 '18 at 0:15
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    A rota is "A list showing when each of a number of people has to do a particular job.", for anyone else that didn't know. – TankorSmash Jan 31 '18 at 0:33
  • Maybe I will try a rota but in my experience it won't have much effect. If they are bored to do something they procrastinate anyway... – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:30
  • As there was some confusion about my use of the word 'rota' I have edited to include the alternative 'roster' by way of explanation. My apologies, I thought the word was widely used. – Astralbee Jan 31 '18 at 9:51
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I've written this answer backwards, with emergency techniques at the beginning, and then more general long term solutions at the end. The first three tips should quickly resolve immediate issues allowing you both time and space to work out the longer term problems, but shouldn't be used lightly.

Urgent resolution

  1. Let go of the things you can. While you may have agreed that they are to do certain work, and it's irritating that they don't, if you can let that work remain unfinished until they choose to do it (or you both determine it doesn't actually need to be done) then you can at least relax about it and avoid the anger/unhappiness/anxiety/feelings of unfairness regarding that work. Is it as important as your relationship? If not, then let it alone and work on other more important things.

  2. Express how undone work actually affects you. If you don't have clean clothes when you need to be ready, help them understand how this affects you emotionally, physically, and in your career. Ask them if there's a way you can help them - perhaps they expect you to put dirty clothing away in a different manner, or maybe they're out of detergent - there could be some small thing that's blocking them that might not block you, but if you can ease their work it might resolve the situation.

  3. Take control of those things that are causing you anger and unhappiness. This is somewhat of a last resort, but I determined that I'd rather do more work and experience less anger. The problem this solves isn't their procrastination or failure, it solves my emotional distress - I should be able to keep my anger in check, and I should be able to discuss this matter with them rationally, but early on in my relationship I found I didn't have mastery over this emotion, and I displayed a great deal of anger over small issues. This is emotionally destructive, and while it would have been better to resolve things rationally, I had to overcome the problem first to assuage my anger, and then over time I could revisit the issue that was triggering it. In some cases we've come to a better sharing of a particular chore or task, and in others I'm still doing that work (20 years later) because I know that it would still anger me. If I fail to do it, I can only be mad at myself, not my partner.

Procrastination

You can't "fix" procrastination by pushing. It helps me to think of it like a rope - you can't push a rope, only pull. You have to get ahead of them, and work with them. Constant reminders (ie, nagging) are only going to make things more difficult for both of you. If you feel you must remind them of a task, then only provide one reminder a day - period - and then provide a lot of positive feedback for all the things they are doing. A barrage of reminders isn't useful. Keep the reminder constructive - don't remind them of something for the sake of reminding them, instead provide context and understanding. "Have you done the laundry yet?" is much less productive than, "I have an important meeting tomorrow, and I don't have a clean shirt - is there anything I can do to help you get the laundry done tonight?"

Work together

I've discovered over the years my partner prefers working with others. So when something is falling behind it's better for me to say, "I have 5 minutes now, do you want to work together on [task x]?" Sometimes they'll still put it off, sometimes they'll ask me to get started (and of course I'll finish before they start), but over time I've learned a lot about what they like and don't like about various tasks and it's given me a lot of information that's useful when discussing it with them later. It's quite likely that they've accepted tasks they aren't comfortable with, and perhaps they don't want to ask for help. Working together will familiarize them with some tasks they may feel unfamiliar with - for instance some people are very particular about laundering their underwear, some needs to be air dried, etc, or perhaps they've had a partner in the past yell at them for doing something "incorrectly" and so there's a small emotional barrier that they might not even recognize. Working together on the tasks that seem to be the most difficult to get them to do will resolve a lot of these types of issues.

Respect each other's standards and processes

It's very important to keep in mind that everyone has a different standard or goal when you discuss tasks and chores. It may be that you have a much higher standard, while they look at the work and don't feel it needs further effort. They may be saying, "I'll do it later" when they really mean, "There's no problem, I'm not procrastinating, you're just asking for too high of a standard." Alternately, you might feel something is undone because it wasn't done a certain way (ie, shirts folded poorly --> work not done). You may need to modify your standards to match theirs if they are not interested in modifying their standards to match yours, or you need to do the chores where your standards are different, you cannot stand anything less, and they are unwilling to work to your standards. I don't tell my partner how to put away my clothes - I accept their process, and am grateful for the work they've done.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Honest, open communication and respect is key. You not only need to help them understand how these things affect you and how much it bothers you, you need to understand the same for them. Doubtless they have the same issues with you and your work, but because of your different perspectives and experiences the things you trivialize and don't bother you may matter a great deal to them and affect them significantly. It's worth, during this early time, sitting down once a week, or even nightly, and going over the list of chores, discovering what was done and what wasn't, and finding out if something needs to change, or if a chore needs to be reassigned and everything rebalanced. Perhaps when they accepted trash they didn't realize how much trash you two produce, or how far away the dumpster was. Openly talking about effort and time will allow you both to make sure the workload is fair.

Set agreed-upon objective goals or standards

Lastly, setting objective goals may be useful. This one is tricky because it can actually lead to more contention depending on your respective traits, but if there's a concrete reason for a chore to be done by a specific time, or to a specific standard (dishwasher started at night so food doesn't harden on dishes, clothing put away by morning so one can get ready without having to get up early, turn on additional lights to dig through a hamper, etc) then set those objectives. If an objective isn't met, discuss why, resolve blocking issues, reassign chores, etc.

  • Thank you for taking into account how I feel too. Yes, I have been trying not to bother sometimes and I'm constantly trying not to get angry for as many such occurances as I can. The part about standards is very insightful too, I've been trying to not expect chores to be done the way I want and I ll try harder in the future. Goals are the aapect that needs more work. They are set only to be forgotten or to be postponed until it s too late... – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:41
  • "Constant reminders (ie, nagging) are only going to make things more difficult for both of you." -thanks – Mafii Jan 31 '18 at 13:55
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I'm a procrastinator, myself. So I have to chuckle heartily at

How can I make my partner realise it's better to do things on time?

Have you considered the possibility that it isn't better? If you haven't considered the possibility that procrastinating is better, how can you reasonably expect your partner to consider the possibility that doing things on time is better?

Sounds almost backwards, right? It actually turns out that there's a lot of situations where procrastination is indeed better. For example, some things turn out not to need to get done. Other things reveal an easier way of doing them, given enough time. Other times the procrastinator is looking at the big picture, rather than the artificial walls we erect to make sense of life. There's actually a lot of good rational arguments for procrastination.

There's also lots of pretty poor arguments for procrastination. I know. I've made them myself. Lazyness feels good!

As other posters have mentioned, you cant fix procrastination by pushing. It takes some pulling. My recommendation is to start a dialog with your partner to try to learn why they procrastinate. I just listed three good reasons to procrastinate. Perhaps he has a good reason? I didn't list any bad reasons to procrastinate. That's pure self-preservation. If my wife reads this, she must not know all of my bad reasons =)

When having this dialogue, not only should you be ready for your partner to question why you want to get things done "on time," you should encourage it. There are good reasons to get everything done "on time." There's also some pretty poor ones also. If you're making your partner explore their motivation, you should be ready to explore your own motivation as well.

I expect your partner has some good reasons for procrastination, but if they're like me, they also have a lot of bad reasons. This is where you can strike. Make it easier to make it easier to stop procrastinating. You don't have to stop them from procrastinating. You have to get them on the path such that they act to stop procrastinating on their own accord.

It's not an easy path. Neither is living together. It's also not a short path, so you will have to find solutions in the interm. For example:

But it is very important to me to have free time and be relaxed rather than be anxious about chores that have to be done, but haven't yet. Sometimes I have no proper clothes to wear because they haven't been ironed when they should have been.

The first sentence is a personal thing. It's your style. It's not right; it's not wrong. Its you. How does your partner feel about that? Do they empathize with the stress this is causing you? Do they even know you're stressing out?

The second sentence is concrete. This is actionable. This is a point where that procrastination has generated consequences which you cannot simply work around (presuming having proper clothes to wear really is a necessity). Do they understand how much frustration this caused? Do they have a plan for how to make sure it doesn't happen in the future? Do you have a plan for if they fail?

Depending on how deep the procrastination goes, you may have to take on the essential tasks which have deadlines that cannot be missed. You might have to make sure at least X outfits are ready-to-go at any time, even if you have to iron them yourself. Is that right? Is that fair? No idea. We all get to write the book on our own relationship. In every relationship we have to figure these things out for ourselves. For example:

Chores are equally divided. We work the same hours and arrive at home at the same time

Is "equally divided" actually the best division? Your mind seems to be better geared towards tasks that are organized as "chores." Equally divided chores might actually be thought of as more work for him! Of course, unequal division opens the door for all sorts of laziness, so we have to be careful.

Consider using the concept of Pareto Optimality. A system is Pareto Optimal if there's no reallocation of resources (or tasks) which could make one person better off without making anyone else worse off. The classic example is the school lunch trading game. If I have an apple and want a cookie, and you have a cookie and want an apple, we can trade and make the situation more optimal. However, if you have an apple and want a cookie, and I have 100 cookies and no interest in apples, there is no Pareto optimal trade to be made. Anything which gives you a cookie makes me worse off.

Right now your chores are equally divided. Chores are easy to divide equally. But widen it to the larger scope of the relationship. What trades could be made that benefit both of you?

Since I don't know you or your partner as people, I'll have to make up a contrived example. Maybe you like to really kick butt during the day, but doing that leaves you vulnerable and open to people taking cheap shots at you that makes you feel crummy. Maybe he might want to comfort you, but his mind is busy trying to procrastinate on all those chores. There may be a trade where you take on some of his chores, and he understands that part of that agreement is that he better be there for you when you need someone after a bad day -- it's part of the trade.

The Pareto Optimality can change over time. It will change over time. You're constantly finding the best balance for your relationship.

My wife and I are still striking that balance. She's a go-getter, like you describe yourself, who always wants everything done. I'm a procrastinator who works longer hours than she does, coming home mentally numbed from work. Right now she takes on the vast majority of the chores. But if she's had a tough day (or a tough week), it's expected that I'll pitch in on the chores, even the chores that "aren't mine," even if I had a hard day myself. That balance is working well for us now. We're constantly adjusting it (mostly finding ways to convince my procrastinator side to take on more chores). Ask the same question in a month, and you will get a different answer. That's life!

  • Thank you for your answer. I know the opinion of the other side and sometimes I have agreed and found postponing was more practical in some occasions. But there are things that shouldn't be postponed (and they agree too and and even apologise if it was too inconvinient or upset me). Chores are equally divided and this was agreed upon before we started living together. The planning can be flexible yes, but not the division. I also don't agree that chores can be 'traded' with affection (if that's what you mean), because affection should be altruistic imo. – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:51
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    @clueless So as for the idea of the "division cannot be flexible," there's a tough pragmatic reality: everything is flexible unless you're ready to leave them over it. (my experience: wait until you have kids and you find out just how flexible you have to be!) As for trading chores and affection, I take a different stance philosophically, but regardless, that was only an explicitly contrived example. The point was to find something you might not have thought to trade, which was tradable. Maybe affection is not something you will trade at this point. Look at the rest of your life. – Cort Ammon Jan 31 '18 at 15:28
  • Are there aspects of the relationship that you would do extra chores to acquire? (If not, that's a really interesting situation to be in, where chores are so valuable that you wouldn't trade them for anything) – Cort Ammon Jan 31 '18 at 15:29
  • I'm trying really hard but I don't think there is anything. I am generally independent and like to care for myself, so everything that is my job I will do it and not ask/want others to - and I want my partner to care for themselves too. If someone does anything for me I will compensate at once :p I think that's why I can't find anything to trade. – clueless Feb 1 '18 at 7:37
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A tricky one indeed! There's no easy short-cut, but there are 2 things that can help over time: Boundaries and Positive Reinforcement.

MansNotHot has already brilliantly covered boundaries. Funnily enough I use the exact same system! Scheduling it too so there's enough time (I.e. People have a whole week to complete a task in their time)

As for positive reinforcement: When your partner completes their chores, graciously thank them for it. Give them recognition with no degree of "it's about time". Make sure you do this every time. Over time it makes it less burdensome when the partner is offering positive reinforcement (the carrot) instead of having to nag (the stick).

I saw this with my brother, curiously. He seldom helped with the washing, and the few times he did my parents went all "ZOMG HE'S WASHING!" - his response was to quietly say to me "see? This is why I don't bother." - So be encouraging :)

  • Thank you for your answer. I know what you mean about positive reinforcement. I will try to make rewarding more obvious next time. – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:53
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I am not sure if you can stop someone from procrastinating, because as you said it IS very difficult and you cannot change another person. The only thing you can do is to have an honest talk with them and talk about how that makes you feel. If they are able to control themselves it's nice, but if not there is not much you can do except for adapting your cleaning plan so it might fit better with procrastinators.

E.G.: I live in a shared flat for about half a year now. And i believe we are able to manage it pretty good. As we have different hours of being at home, due to work, study or hobbies we almost never do chores at the same time because its simply not possible.

So we came up with a simple idea. We have a chart for about 30 weeks (how long fits on the paper) and our flat is split into 4 parts as we are also 4 people. For example we have kitchen, toilet, bathroom and corridor. And each person has to do one of these four parts PER WEEK. This means that every person can use their free time as they wish as long as its done within this week. And then it rotates for the next week.

This was the most stress-free and working variant we could come up with and it works pretty well.

  • That talk has already taken place multiple times. And there have been some changes for the better (I have changed too), so yes, eliminating procrastination is partly possible. The plan about cleaning has been made (they have contributed too), but it needs some adjustments. – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:35
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I had the problem with my companion too, and was able to solve it over time (a LONG time), so here are my two cents, I hope it can help. Of course, I did the "good honest talk" with him exposing the problems and stress that came with him postponing his chores, almost always. Each time, he did see my point, agree, and actually made a lot of effort... for about a week before falling back into his previous behavior. So I had to go more practical. Two approaches proved to be successful

First step: adapt the distribution of chores to this problem

Example: we went from a "I cook, you do the dishes" system, where I would end up with an absolutely hideous kitchen and him asking me: "Which items do you need me to clean to cook tonight?" to a "I do everything for the meal including cleaning afterwards, and when the kitchen is clean, it's your turn". It was both positive reinforcement (clean everything one good time after eating -> you get to do nothing for the next (few) meal(s)) and negative reinforcement (postpone cleaning -> you get to cook again AND still clean for both meals) Plus, if one doesn't do his part one time, it's not getting in the way of the other.

Second step: support each other

The problem with the first part was that it's quite strict ruling. We did it in order to get us a bit straightened, but once he was more used to actually doing chores regularly we ditched it (part of the initial problem was that he had almost never had to help at home, so it didn't register to him that there are chores to do EVERY DAY, and not just when you feel like it). Instead I began simply asking him to help with something while I doing something else. Example:

Would you mind folding the dry clothes while I hang the wet ones?

or

Could you please help me and empty the dishwasher while I clean the floor?

Key-point: It's simply motivating not to be the only one doing chores, and you both get a nicer feeling when everything is neat and you did it together (and it's difficult to turn down something like that without sounding quite rude). This also got him to get out of the "I have to do this because we ruled it like that" mindset, to get into the "There are things which need to be done there, and I can do it as well, even if it's not explicitly on my list". When he began doing chores by himself, I would then always do something as well, and now he does that for me too, most of the time.

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    +1 I think this is definitely the best answer because it seems to fit best for the dynamic in a couple (OP's situation). Several other answers suggest things that would be more appropriate for getting roommates or children to do chores (rules, schedules, charts) but would be out of place in a partnership between equals who respect each other. This hits the nail on the head: '...get out of the "I have to do this because we ruled it like that" mindset, to get into the "There are things which need to be done there, and I can do it as well, even if it's not explicitly on my list"' – Rose Hartman Jan 30 '18 at 18:34
  • The part about the kitchen is a very good idea indeed. I'm trying this week! We already do moat of the chores together and at the same time except from cooking and ironing, so this is even more helpful. – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:56
  • We eventually settled on your kitchen resolution with great success also. At first, one person cooks the other cleans sounds fair until the real world appears. My wife can make a disaster of the kitchen just boiling water. I learned to cook and clean as I go, so she always had relatively little to clean. I had no desire to change "my way" of cooking because it is very efficient. I couldn't convince her to change, so this was the solution we came up with. Although, she frequently finds a way to pawn the cleaning on me anyways;( – Dunk Jan 31 '18 at 19:36
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In our household we have a rule: if it bugs you, you do it. Works great. If it bothers me I simply do it myself. Else I leave it until he gets it. No fights, no arguments. Learn to let it go!

  • Yes, I should consider that too, maybe I follow the 'rules' too strictly. Thank you for your answer. – clueless Feb 1 '18 at 6:43
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(Quick note: I'll be using your "them/they" style despite it feeling unnatural for me :) )

Step 1: Talk with them about the procrastination. Make sure they understand that it is a problem and ask them if they want to work on it with your support.

If they don't want to do anything about it you should bring up that this will become a problem for your relationship in the long run. Having someone with strict planning and a procrastinator together can work as long as you're both willing to compromise.

Step 2: Assuming they do want to find a compromise you can start working on a planning. Like MansNotHot suggests in his answer this most likely will not be a strict plan of "do this task today before free time". It's fine as long as you got a reasonable deadline. For example: This week is your laundry week, and I need my clean clothes by Thursday. You can choose when to do it as long as it's done by Thursday.

Make sure you both agree on how strict the deadlines should be.

Step 3: Talk about how they want you to remind them of the deadlines if needed. A good way I found out for myself (being a procrastinator myself) is to ask for a specific time when they plan to do something. It does not have to be right now, it can just as well be just in time to make that deadline. But make sure they tell you when they intend to do it.

Because they told you when, you can "force" them to do it when that time arrives. Do not give them a choice to back up at that time anymore (unless you notice it's been a really busy week then you can both agree to postpone some chores to the weekend or something, you probably experienced this yourself as well). If they really still procrastinate you'll have to go back to step 2 but force a stricter planning.


Overall remember that rewarding good behaviour works far better than punishing bad behaviour. From time to time explicitly show that you appreciate them finishing the chores in time. Even more so when they did some earlier than the deadline. If you ever get the chance you can also use the moments they finished early by saying things like: "Hey, now that we're both done with our chores, let's go do [thing you both like]".

If they didn't make a deadline you can try to word it like so: "It looks like you still didn't do the dishes yesterday. This makes me a bit sad since I was planning to spend some time together this evening. Would you mind quickly doing it when you get home / right now, so that there's still some time to [snuggle/play some game together/whatever you want to do together]". This way you make it clear that you're not really punishing him, but he's hurting you when he doesn't do what's expected of him.

When played right, you can become a real motivator for them to do their tasks and if he too puts in the effort it becomes a great way to improve your relationship together.


Worst case: Nothing works and they still always postpone chores. When talking doesn't solve anything anymore and you tried to work it out for several more months. Then truly consider for yourself to end your relationship. It won't work if the other side doesn't want to solve major problems with you.

But that's really only the last option. Since they already agreed with you on the fair split of chores it looks like they do want to make it work. Always try to stay positive and talk with them in a possitive way.

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    Thank you for your answer. We've had many conversations about procrastination and there have been considerable changes for the better since we started living together, but there is much more work to do. Most of the time they agree that postponing affects our routine negatively but stil behave that way. Rewarding also haven't really worked until now. Maybe I'll try to reward more upfront next time. – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 8:28
  • Rewarding upfront is tricky, rather reward for every right step. Make a brainstorming how rewards can be enjoyable for the both of you, so you don't turn into a martyr. Training him should have some reinforcers for you , too. That way you stay at it. – Haunt_House Jan 31 '18 at 9:27
  • As Haunt_House says. Be careful with rewarding up front. Not saying you shouldn't do it, since we don't know your partner as well as you do. It may be a good idea to first talk this over as well, especially since you're already having conversations about the topic already. – Imus Jan 31 '18 at 9:37
  • People ignore wise advice all the time when they are dating so I'm sure clueless will remain clueless in spite of this sage-like advice I was told and blissfully ignored. If something about the person bothers you while dating then be aware that within a few years after being married that same behavior is going to bother you at least 10 times more strongly. If you are having such strong angst over this behavior now, consider that advice because it's going to feel a lot worse should you marry this person. Accept the behavior and stop fretting about it, otherwise you aren't a match. Move on. – Dunk Jan 31 '18 at 19:50
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    I asked for advice as to how could I make this work better and got some very helpful answers. I wouldn't make major decisions about my life - such as stop living with another person - based on some opinions of strangers anyway. I don't think this site is about that either. Considering the above, I find your comments strongly opinionated and not at all helpful. – clueless Feb 7 '18 at 7:33
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In a way, it can be very simple. You can influence anybody. You just need to know or find out how. And you need to be willing to influence.

One of the key ideas is: Behavior that gets reinforced will be repeated. It can be praise, it can be other rewards (be creative and find all the levers). The target brain makes the rules. Men are not hairy women and vice versa.

Right now, the decision to postpone gets reinforced for some reason worthy of discovery. Changing it is unattractive for some reason. And you can think of that as unfair and he/she doesn't do their part and you can take it personally or you can actively be smart and cunning. People can be trained just like dogs. I don't mean that in a condescending way. The brains are pretty similar. And just like dogs, the wrong training gets negative results.

That's what nagging is for. Until doing what you want is a: the path of least resistance and b: a negative experience. Nagging is autopiloting towards the brick wall. It's the school and parents approach of utter incompetence. Throwing the piano out of the window screaming may get the point across in rare cases, nagging usually doesn't.

Because nagging doesn't condition the brain to perceive the procrastination as bad, it conditions the brain to say: that wo/man is no fun. Be smarter.

Same goes for the male approach of controlling everything. No fun. Be smarter.

Another goal is to make them own their decision. It's OKish to get them to do what you want, it's much better when they themselves decide that it's the right thing to do. So, what, at the core, is it that makes postponing rewarding and attractive? And what could make it rewarding to do stuff ahead of time? Some people love riddles, some people love challenges, some people can learn to love either, some people just don't like to do boring stuff, so it's time to make it interesting. Every person has long levers and it's good to find them and to strategically use them for mutual benefit.

So, get creative and find out how your helpless victim reacts to certain things you do, say, wear, change. How can chores lose the boring character if that's a factor (for me it would be that, everything but dull). What would be reinforcers on their terms, not yours?

If you make it appealing on their terms, they will like to do it more. Or as Stephen said it: seek first to understand, then to be understood. It's not about turning the other into another you, it's about aligning their needs with your needs.

Also, take 5 minutes a day and practice in your mind the behavior you want to show when they test you. Do not react. Act. See them do it in your mind and see and feel yourself reacting smart and strategically and proactively and feel proud about it because you were a leader, not a bully or a victim.. Train to not file their behavior under 'personal attack'. Because when you feel it attacks you or your values, you become reactive and then the autopilot looms. And then instead of reinforcing the wanted behavior you retreat to what school and parents taught us.

Partners shape each other all day long. It's just usually clumsy and unconsciously and often negatively longterm. So if you influence anyway, you can just as well train to do it consciously and strategically and intelligently. And neatly avoid the brickwall in the process.

  • Yes, I have been dealt with the situation wrong, because I lose my patience with the repetitive quote "I ll do it in 5 minutes" :p The rewarding will be more obvious next time. The part about practicing in my mind is a very good idea. I'll try it and I hope I won't be too tired to act accordingly when it happens in reality... – clueless Jan 31 '18 at 9:01
  • The good thing about "I'll do it in 5 minutes" is how utterly predictable it is. So you can spend whatever time you want on your reaction while s/he? doesn't see it coming. Being prepared is fun. You can turn it into a game you both enjoy. Tired of the reaction or tired because it was a long day? Start on weekends. And remember: training is for eventual results, not a gold medal after the first try. If you are elegant and more persistent and you learn from the reaction, you will win. – Haunt_House Jan 31 '18 at 9:22
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I am not a behavioral expert but my 2 cents here.

First I would discuss and I am sure your partner would find excuses. The next thing I suggest you both should get together and write down what your both chores are and divide among yourself. For example you cook and the other could clean the dishes or you do clothes the other cooks.

Making a note of who completed which task and if not completed write down the reason and stick it on the refrigerator. This would make it easier for both of you to know who did what.

I would not suggest anyone arguing or shouting at the other for not doing their task and understand why they were unable to complete and if it is justifying then it is okay. But you cannot give the same reason everyday.

I hope you maintain a good healthy relationship and workout things between you.

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I'll be blunt: They sound like me, and you sound like somebody I would not want to live together with. Your respective approaches and attitudes to daily life are fundamentally incompatible, and life hacks, discussions and organization can only mitigate that fact so much.

The funny thing is that you can still love each other and maintain a loving relationship, just not in the same apartment. (Boy, that can be hard even for very compatible people!) My suggestion is that as a common project you try to find another (or two smaller) places which are close (close enough to walk home at night). With that setup I would give your relationship a much better prognosis.

Frame it not as a first step in a break-up but as a common project. You do that because you want to find a way to be with him.

Edit: When I told my life partner about my post she agreed. Her comment was "that way you do just the fun things together".

  • Bingo! We have a winner. The purpose of dating is not only to find someone you can fall in love with but also someone that you are compatible with. Finding one of the two is easy, the difficulty is finding that person where both are there. Even if the OP's partner changes "enough" to sort of make the OP satisfied, the odds that the change will stick is probably pretty low. People are on their best behavior while dating. It is hard to always be on your best behavior, so don't expect more than what you see while dating. It's probably the best it will ever be. Accept it or move on. – Dunk Jan 31 '18 at 20:03
  • I understand your point but I don't think that difficulties such as this should mean that 2 people can't live together. We have both changed and learned from each other through the course of our relationship and we can still change even more. People are extremely different so even if you would never live with someone like me, my partner actually does :p – clueless Feb 1 '18 at 6:38

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