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Dealing with a "critical" spouse

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  • Dealing with a "critical" spouse

    Has anyone out there had difficulty with a spouse not buying in to the program? I've been in the early implementation stages for about a month, and my wife is constantly giving me a hard time (playful teasing, really) about how I can check something off my list now, or how I need to move it to a different folder, etc.

    Recently when I asked her to help out with a few of the projects around the house while I was at work (she is a SAHM and actually DOES have a decent amount of free time during the day -- she'd be the first to admit it), she said we could do that stuff together over the weekend. It was simple "Next Action" stuff like taking pictures of things for Craigslist, going through the junk mail, etc... something that would allow me to focus on some of the other larger projects I had that she COULDN'T help with (home remodeling, yardwork, etc).

    I've thought about creating specific task lists for her, but didn't think that would go over well at all. Does anyone out there have a suggestion on how to get a spouse to get on board and be able to contribute to "get things done"? I'm guessing the key is to have the same priorities on our tasks and projects... Any thoughts, encouragement or suggestions would be appreciated!

  • #2
    Unfortunately GTD is not about relationships between spouses.

    Unfortunately GTD is not about relationships between spouses.

    In my opinion your wife wants to do projects with you not delegated by you.


    • #3
      My concern is that not only at work, but _at home_, a place that is her workplace, you would be setting the projects, the priorities, and the actions. You would, in a way, be acting as her employer. This is not good.

      I realize that this may not be at all what you have in mind. You may envision the two of you working on GTD together, with her assigning tasks to you just as often as you assign tasks to her. But that vision will only work if and when she's sold on GTD. If that doesn't happen, then you're running the GTD system, and if the GTD system gives her orders, _you_ give her orders.

      I think that however much you would like GTD to manage all of the projects in both of your lives, you can't make that happen unless and until she's sold on the system. I would recommend that instead of you handing out next actions, she should be in charge of entire areas, and organize that work herself. So if she's (for example) in charge of the mail, she's _in charge_ of the mail, and she will use whatever system she wants to use to manage that mail, and that will probably not involve GTD.

      This raises another question: When you talk about her going through the junk mail, would she indeed be in charge of the mail? Would she throw out or file whatever and however she, in her discretion, decides is best? Or would she sort things out so that you can make the final decision? The second would imply that her time is a low-value resource, and that it's worth expending lots of it to save some of your time, a higher-value resource. This is, again, an idea that just won't do.

      I don't know if you have that idea, but there's a vibe in "simple... stuff... that would allow me to focus on some of the other larger projects..." that worries me. It suggests that your time is more valuable than hers. Yes, again, you may not mean that at all, but one of the issues here is what your wife might hear you saying.

      I'm curious as to how many children are at home, and for how many hours, and how old they are? A SAH parent of one or more small children is often working sixteen hours a day and on call for twenty-four. A SAH parent of older children has fewer active work hours, but he or she is still often on call through the evening, weekends, vacations, and so on. Even if your wife's weekday daytime hours are not as densely filled with work as your weekday daytime hours, she may be "on duty" for a lot more hours, and therefore may not be all that eager to make those daytime hours denser.

      (And, no, I'm not a mother. The tremendously hard work involved in being a mother is one of the reasons.)

      The "on call" thing may not be true in your marriage - perhaps the instant you get home, you're doing as much childcare, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and so on as she is. Perhaps you're just as likely to get up in the middle of the night to deal with a sick child and clean up the resulting bodily fluids. But is it possible that she thinks that you're getting more off-duty time, and that's part of why she's not all that eager to do extra daytime tasks that you define?



      • #4
        Critical or "Critical"

        You are in the early stages of implementing GTD. How much voice did you give your wife in adopting this system? Did you discuss your thinking or did you just present her with this whole new system that you expected her to follow? How much nuts-and-bolts info have you given her to absorb or are your instructions to her the only GTD "training" you're giving her?

        Are you using GTD at work? Have you tried to get others to adopt it as you are doing at home? How much push back are you getting at work? Or is GTD well established at work and you are the newbie?

        My suggestion to you is to concentrate on becoming more facile and experienced in using GTD. Keep your suggestions to your wife concerning GTD to a bare minimum. Let your own sense of ease and accomplishment be a model she can sense without your pointing it out to her. She is not "critical" to your using GTD. Her criticisms imply skepticism. Deal with her skepticism as you would for anyone else's.


        • #5
          I'm the gtd/list-making half of the couple here. DH is very anti-list of any kind unless it's entirely his idea. He's got ADD.

          The things that I want him to do or that I want to talk to him about or ask him about are things in MY system with him as a context. We're two teachers at home for the last few weeks of the summer trying to tackle home and garage organization and decluttering following a garage sale to kick things off. As we were planning the garage sale, things like List sale on Craigslist were on my list with him as the context, as were things like Move X, Figure out place for Y. When he or we did them, they got checked off my list. If a deadline hit and he didn't do what I thought, I'd jump in and do it (and vice-versa).

          The process for mail and receipts are two ongoing sources of irritation for me. Earlier in the summer there were NAs to ask him about each of these. When I did talk to him about them (as I have many times over the past 15 years) when I wanted to discuss and agree upon a specific procedure (some place to put them, what will happen with them, when, how often etc.) I was met with 'just keep asking me for them' or 'if I don't put them where you want, just remind me'. This drives me crazy. I hate that it makes me feel like the bad guy. I feel like a nag. I tell him I feel like a nag. But it's what works for HIM. I deal with it. We're very different people and I remind myself that I'd be even crazier if he was just like me.

          A lot of rambling to say ask your wife what works for her. Ask her how she's feeling about what you've asked her to do, how, etc. Ask about the issues of being a SAHM/workload/time-issues etc. that came up earlier in the thread. Our relationship is at it's worst when I view it solely from my own perspective. I'm sure we're not alone in that.
          Last edited by malisa; 07-23-2011, 02:57 PM. Reason: kept getting that 'we think it looks like links' message


          • #6
            My sympathies are with you! My husband is at home full time due to a workplace injury, he is in pain all the time so I let him off the hook a lot. But even when I do identify things he could do, he doesn't want to do them by himself, he'd rather wait till the weekend and do it together. I think it's also a bit because he is an extravert, and they will always want to do things with others if they possibly can.
            Maybe you need the carrot and stick approach. Suggest to your partner if they can do x, y and z during the week, this will make more free time on the weekend for something much more fun. Of course you need to have something more fun planned for this to work, and it needs to appeal to them and be motivating.


            • #7
              Gtd + nvc

              I understand that it can be difficult to try to implement GTD when others on your "team" do not sympathize with the system or with your using it. This can be especially difficult in the early stages of GTD, when we are bubbling over with excitement at the possibilities.

              For a person working with a spouse, I would suggest considering the following ideas:

              * if a spouse tends to roll their eyes at the mention of GTD, I would try to mention it by name only when needed. People can feel threatened by their ignorance about
              something and become defensive.

              * in a similar vein, I would recommend using universal terminology instead of GTD-specific terminology. Most people do not know what a Next Action is or what an @Home list is, but a "to do list for around the house" is self-explanatory.

              * I rarely find that referring to GTD is actually necessary. It is simple to ask "so, do you want to take care of that bill, or would you rather that I do it?" or "where do you want me to leave these papers for you?" On the other hand, trying to explain why someone needs an Inbox when they do not feel that need is risky.

              Now, as to bigger issues regarding the communication between spouses, I believe this extends beyond the scope of GTD. I am familiar with another author whose writings have changed the quality of my relationships for the better--whether those relationships are with friends, spouse, family, enemies, colleagues, or the public. The author is Marshall Rosenberg and his book Nonviolent Communication is on par with GTD when it comes the amount of gold there is to be mined. The difference is that the former is directed specifically at communicating in a way that everyone's needs are most likely to be met.

              As applied to the spouse who wanted to just work on those tasks that did not require her husband's (OP) involvement, a conversation a la NVC would involve a few steps that OP implied did not occur. For example, pointing out that the husband was hoping to have those to-do's out of the way before the weekend so that he would have enough time to tackle some of the other projects on his plate. Also, finding out if there is any reason why she wouldn't like to do those to-do's on her own. Is she simply not very excited about doing them, or is she trying to meet a need to spend more time with him? If she is trying to spend more time with him, the agreement they can make that will meet both of their needs will be very different than if she is reluctant to do the to-do's at all. If W doesn't know that H would rather they be done sooner than the weekend, and H doesn't know why W would rather wait until the weekend, the chances of both people's wants being satisfied are shot in the dark. This paragraph's discussion is a layman's application of NVC principles to a situation that appears to be about GTD, when it is likely more about communication.



              • #8
                If somebody does not want to do something for you he will use GTD to say "NO!"

                Many GTDers try to solve the wrong problem.

                Instead of solving a problem:

                --- "how to motivate people to do something"

                they try to solve a problem:

                --- "how to force people to use GTD".

                If somebody does not want to do something for you he will use GTD to say "NO!" So be carefull


                • #9

                  Nice thread and thanks for asking the question and for the great responses.

                  I had/have this problem as well and the "spouse" task list really doesn't work. She has actually said that she never wants to plan with me again. (she later took that back but still...) So far, the best think I have found is a mixture. Basically, I figure out what the next action is and then I put "TTwife about X" on my "spouse" agenda list. Then when the mood seems right (or when the pressure is too great to avoid it any longer) we talk about it.

                  The idea is to talk to her so she can understand the whole situation. Most people (especially spouses) are more than willing to help one another if they understand that their help really is needed and appreciated. The benefit of already having a pre-defined NA for her is that once the "vision" (and purpose and principles) is shared, the NAs make sense and are motivating. They don't look like just a random task.

                  I do this with myself. If there's ever something that needs to be done but I don't want to do it, I role through the "natural planning method" and viola! When I talk to my wife about it, I take her through the same steps so we can share the vision.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bradenchase View Post
                    The idea is to talk to her so she can understand the whole situation.
                    This is such an excellent point. And a great topic. Leaving NA's like a "to do" list for our non-GTD spouses can definitely come off the wrong way if they don't come with an explanation.

                    Even if it would be redundant for you, what about building the list together, and together looking at what things can be handled by each of you separately and will be handled together. I know when my hubby and I sit down and do this, it helps me realize what I can do to not only help him, but help us both get the little things out of the way so when we do have time together, we're doing what we really want or need to do together.

                    Originally posted by bradenchase View Post
                    In my opinion your wife wants to do projects with you not delegated by you.
                    This is another point that should not be overlooked. As a wife... I know my hubby doesn't always get that this is often the case. But again, when I realize that there are things I can get out of the way, I do end up enjoying the projects we do together so much more. Discussion, compromise and clarity of the big picture. Hope that helps!