Dating a procrastinator can be kind of adorable. He’s so chill, you told yourself. Now that you’re married, though, deadlines matter. Ask anyone who’s had to file taxes, baby-proof a house or get to the airport on time—with toddlers. That’s what marriage does: It takes your spouse’s fault lines, ties them to adulting, then magnifies them until you’re sweatily cursing him in front of an unamused TSA agent. Here are tips to help you pivot around—and thus live in harmony with—your leave-it-to-the-last-possible-minute love.
3 Ways to Deal If You’re Married to a Procrastinator
Don’t Blame And Shame
His behavior can be infuriating. “Forgetting” to cash a check, promising to pay a bill, then letting it slide or taking the trash out as the truck passes your house puts all of you in an unstable—and stinky—situation. But as one psychologist explains, “Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up." Children with authoritarian fathers are particularly vulnerable to developing this personality trait, partly because it’s a safe-seeming mode of rebellion. (Sound like your father-in-law much?) The more sympathy you can muster, the more you may be able to help your spouse turn anxiety into action.
Write Down His To-do List
Within one therapist’s very helpful analysis of how procrastinating eats away at intimacy is this golden advice nugget: “List, rather than speak, the tasks to be done.” Why? “It defuses the tendency to resist control.” See, many procrastinators will do anything to avoid feeling bossed around. The more they are pushed, the more inactive they become. A neutral, matter-of-fact list of tasks (“Con Ed bill due Tuesday”) doesn’t “nag” (eye roll), resent or hold him to an impossibly high standard. It doesn’t use “that tone.” It doesn’t complain about him—in front of him—to your friends. And above all, it doesn’t judge.
Cheer His Successes
Procrastinators often harbor a deep fear of failure. “Avoiders are very concerned with what others think of them,” psychologist Joseph Ferrari tells Psychology Today. “They would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.” Hey, if he never makes a decision (Should he take up running or rowing? Should he pursue an MBA or a promotion?), well, then it’s not his fault things didn’t pan out. The more you celebrate his wins (He taught the kid to ride a bike! He nailed that artichoke recipe!), the more inclined he may be to build on them.