I don’t actually think it’s a memory issue, but I can’t prove it isn’t, and I don’t want to have to start writing up my requests officially and having him “sign” them, just to prove he agreed to something. I’m feeling like I’m not in a partnership with him, but I have no defense against his “not remembering” all the time. It’s not a big issue when we’re talking about things like carrying bags of soil, but it’s a HUGE issue when it starts getting in the way of requests like, “Can you make dinner tonight because the kids have been driving me nuts and I need some time to myself.” He’s allowed to say “not tonight,” but it sucks when he agrees and then doesn’t follow through. I get my hopes up and then am let down. Any suggestions? — Married to Mr. Forgetful
You begin your letter saying you and your husband have a problem with communication, and that is exactly what it boils down to. I know you think you have little to no responsibility in this issue — that it is “specifically” about your husband forgetting things that you told him — but that’s not how I see it on the outside. What I see is a woman who doesn’t feel that she’s in a partnership with her husband and, instead of communicating THAT to her husband and all the reasons why she feels that way, she has set out to somehow “prove” that she and her husband are on opposing sides (twice in your letter you use the word “prove”: once in relation to proving that you are right and another time in relation to proving that your husband is lying). It seems maybe YOU have forgotten something: that you and your husband are on the same side… or at least should be.
In a partnership, both parties are working toward the same goal. Maybe the paths you take and the strategies you implement to reach the goal are different, but the goal should be the same. In your partnership with your husband, what is your goal? To feel close? To continue strengthening your bond? To equally share the burden of running a household and raising children? I think you need to sit down with your husband and start a State of the Union conversation, defining — or re-defining or reminding each other of — your shared goal/s. And then discuss what you each need from the other to support those shared goals. I suspect that, for you, you need your husband to be more present and more active in planning (like why are you solely responsible for planning a “family day,” and why do you need to ask him to be present for it as a “favor” and then worry that he’s going to forget?!) and maybe more active in some of the household labor. You need to listen carefully to what he needs from you, too.
Another part of supporting each other in reaching your shared goals is being proactive in helping your partner deal with challenges you know him to have. So, you know he has a problem remembering things (or, at least, that is the excuse he uses when he doesn’t commit to an activity he said he’d be present for). This is pretty easy to fix. Get a wall calendar, hand him a pen, and watch him write down “family day, all day” on the date you’ve both decided will be designated for all of you to do something fun together. Then, spend a few minutes over family dinner or when all of you are together talking about what you’ll do on Family Day. This will help firm the plans in you husband’s mind, keeping the event in the forefront, as well as build excitement for everyone. A few days before the day remind your husband. And keep reminding him each day so he can’t use the excuse of forgetting. If you’ve already told him in your State of the Union discussion I want you to have with him that you need him to be more present in your family life, this should be a top priority for him.
If, after lots of planning and reminding, he blows it off, you have bigger problems than his memory. And if you resist handing him a pen and asking him to write the date down in the calendar because you think you shouldn’t have to or it doesn’t feel right somehow, you are more committed to being on opposing sides than supporting your husband’s role on your side, and that’s certainly a bigger problem than his memory, too.
I suspect, without more details or knowing the two of you at all, that you two have gotten a bit lost in the demands and responsibilities of working and raising kids and have maybe forgotten to prioritize your relationship. If this is true, put that on the calendar, too. Get a babysitter and schedule some regular date nights. Practice gratitude for each other and what you each contribute to your lives together. Get in the habit of saying “thank you” — “Thank you for cooking dinner tonight so I could rest,” “Thank you for working hard and financially contributing to our household,” “Thank you for clearing your schedule so we could spend the day together. I had a lot of fun and hope you did, too.” Showing appreciation, explicitly expressing your needs, and striving to meet your partner’s needs are key to supporting and reaching your shared goals. Setting up your partner for failure or basically waiting for him to make a mistake, when it would take only a little effort to help him avoid said mistake, just so you can prove how uncommitted he he is to your shared goals, does not. Good luck!
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.