After 15 years, Amy and Craig both want a better marriage, but Amy was feeling hurt and angry by her husband’s procrastination and unkept promises. PAIRS Talking Tips App helped them get past the issue on their way to more closeness, understanding, cooperation and the better marriage they both want.
by TODD MCFLIKER
Amy knows she is blessed. The 37-year-old enjoys her career, a beautiful home, and sharing life with Craig, 41, her husband of 15 years, and their two teenagers. Fulfilled at home and work, Mom and Dad have much they’re looking forward to together, and the kids have bright futures. Yet, life at Amy and Craig’s house is not perfect. It seems that Dad is the King of Procrastination and that can get in the way of the couple having a better marriage. In fact, it had been over a month since Amy reminded Craig to fix-up the garage. At first, she was nice about her request. After a week or so, friendly requests turned into nagging. The couple grew annoyed with each other and found themselves on a downward spiral. Before either said anything they would later regret, Mom and Dad sat down with PAIRS Foundation’s interactive Talking Tips App to get to a better place.
Before beginning, Amy and Craig both made sure they were using good talking and good listening skills. Knowing how much they wanted things to improve, they also made sure they were ready to level with each other instead of placating, blaming, computing or distracting — all of which had caused trouble for the couple in the past.
Looking in each other’s eyes, holding hands, and freeing themselves from distractions, Amy began by confiding a specific action that was upsetting her. Craig listened without reacting or responding, waiting for a chance to let Amy know he’d heard her accurately. Amy and Craig both wanted to make sure they left no room for misunderstandings or assumptions, and also that the exercise didn’t become attacking, blaming or judging.
“Craig, I notice that you tend to procrastinate on household ‘honey-dos.’ Specifically, you seem to be waiting until the latest possible moment to fix-up the garage. You promised me last year that it would be done by Halloween. Now Halloween is days away and you haven’t even started,” she said.
“I assume this means that you don’t really want to do it,” Amy continued.
“I think that we both have many different responsibilities that we don’t always want to tackle.”
“I am frustrated by me and the kids tripping or skipping over puddles of water in the garage because you haven’t fixed the water heater or broken refrigerator yet.”
After each sentence, Craig carefully and thoughtfully repeated back Amy’s words — not like a robot or tape-recorder, but as the man that cares deeply how his wife feels and wants to make sure she knows he gets it, regardless of whether or not he agrees. Craig knows that when it comes to having a better marriage, listening and letting Amy know she’s understood and respected is more than half the battle. He also knows he can decide later if he agrees with what Amy said. For now, his job is to make sure she knows he’s listening and respects her perspective and feelings.
Amy paused to appreciate Craig for his good listening, gave him a hug, and continued.
“I am hurt that I have to go to work every day and still don’t get to slack on my other responsibilities while you do. That feels unfair,” she said.
“I worry about things getting left to the last minute and that I’ll end up having to do what you don’t,” she added.
“I want you to do the things you promise to do in a timely manner, so I know I can count on your word and we can both be happier. Specifically, I’d like you to get the garage fixed up by tomorrow night. If you can’t do something you promised, I want you to take responsibility for talking with me about it and not just ignore things.”
“I appreciate you for working so hard to make our lives better. I appreciate your sense of humor and that you almost always make me laugh. I appreciate how much time you’ve spent with the kids helping them adjust to their new school. I appreciated the fun time we had together Friday night. And I also appreciate that you don’t have bad intentions when you get preoccupied, distracted, and put off chores you don’t want to do. I know you mean well.”
“I realize that when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work — and you know how much I support what you do — taking care of things around the house becomes very low on your priority list.”
“I hope that you will stop procrastinating with the requests you don’t feel like doing and that I’ll be able to count on you to do what you say you’ll do in a timely manner. That will help me stop bugging you and we can leave this in the past.”
It felt fabulous for Amy to get everything off of her chest and know that she was fully heard and understood by Craig. That showed her how much he cared. The exercise also helped her realize that her feelings were about more than just things in the garage not getting straightened out on time.
While he could have taken time to think about Amy’s concern and request, Craig didn’t need it. Continuing to hold his wife’s hands and looking her in the eyes, he said, “I’m guilty. I admit it. I do procrastinate.”
“I generally have a good reason, and everything gets done eventually,” Craig explained. ” I just like to wait until the last possible minute, which I’ll stop doing knowing how much that upsets you. I’ll get the garage finished by lunchtime tomorrow.”
“There is nothing that I want more than for you and me to be happy together and give Mira and Craig Jr. a happy, healthy home and set a good example for them,” Craig shared with his wife.
Talking about the experience afterwards, Craig said, “I know that being a decent father starts with being a caring husband. I appreciate how hard Amy works to make all of our lives better. I can be a little narrow minded when it comes to what I want. I realize I need to be less selfish.”
True to his word, Craig woke up early the next morning to make sure he got the garage fixed up before noon. The couple have put the issue behind them.
But they also both know this won’t be the last disagreement in their busy lives. They’ve worked this one out in a way that brought them closer. With goodwill and a commitment to each other’s happiness and the success of their marriage, they’re ready to continue celebrating both the joys and challenges of love and intimacy.
Todd McFliker, a special contributor to Fatherhood Channel, is the author of “All You Need Is Love to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: How the Beatles and U2 Changed the World,” available on Amazon.