Dealing with an irresponsible spouse | Focus on the Family Australia
Dealing with an irresponsible spouse
By Focus On The Family
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Question:
What can I do about my spouse's disorganised and scatter-brained behaviour? He's extremely irresponsible, and it's making my life impossible. Not only does he misplace things around the house (bills, important personal documents, etc.), but he travels regularly as part of his job, and we're constantly having to replace expensive electronic devices – mobile phones, laptops – that he loses on the road. It's costing us a small fortune and driving me crazy! When I try to discuss the problem with him, he gets defensive and says, "You lose lots of things too!" Any suggestions?

Answer:
First, you can step back and take a good, long look at your situation. Try to gain a sense of the bigger picture. Habitual loss of bills, papers, and costly technological gadgets is problematic. We can easily understand why you’re frustrated. But there’s a more pressing issue at stake here – your marriage.

Reading between the lines, we think we can discern several layers of potential marital conflict in this scenario. At the bottom of everything else is an apparent lack of communication. Stated simply, the two of you need to sit down and do some serious talking.

You’ll be able to do this more effectively if you spend some time trying to understand one another. There may be a number of reasons for the friction you’re experiencing with your husband. On one level, it could be a simple case of clashing personalities. Maybe you’re a “cleanie” and he’s a “messy.” Maybe you’re hyper-organised and he’s “laid back.” Maybe you’re a perfectionist while he has a laid back attitude toward life. If this is the case, then it stands to reason that you’re going to butt heads once in a while.

In a marriage like this, the more methodically minded spouse has to remember that “irresponsibility” and “disorganisation” are not necessarily the same thing. “Irresponsibility” is an integrity issue. “Disorganisation” may be nothing more than an expression of style or temperament. Coming to grips with these differences can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. A personality profile test, administered with the assistance and advice of a professional marriage counsellor, can be extremely helpful in this regard.

If you think your husband’s behaviour is too extreme to be attributed to a more “relaxed” personal style, there is a slight chance that he may be struggling with a type of adult ADHD. Some of your comments lead us to suspect that this may be so. In that case, he should have himself checked out by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. But you’ll want to be as gentle and sensitive as possible in suggesting this to him. Don’t throw it up to him in the form of a judgment or an insult. Don’t say, “You’ve got problems! Go and get some help!”

This leads to one last thought. Could this kind of insensitivity and judgementalism actually be central to the problem? Is it possible that your marital difficulties can be traced to a lack of mutual love and respect? It would be worth giving the question some thought. There’s evidence here of simmering resentment on both sides of the relationship. For example, his attitude is plainly defensive. And your assertion that he’s “irresponsible” is decidedly accusatory in tone. Remember, disrespect feeds on itself and becomes self-perpetuating. If he feels that you’re “nagging” him or “putting him down,” he may react (subconsciously) by becoming even more negligent and scatter-brained. In that case, your attempts to “fix” the problem will only prove counterproductive.

That brings us back to our original point. We think you’d benefit from some careful training in the area of marital communication. We recommend that you get together and seek out the services of a qualified Christian marriage counsellor. Someone who is professionally equipped can help you work through your differences. Other approaches to getting “unstuck” can include attending a well-recommended weekend Christian marriage retreat, participating in a couple’s support group through your church, or enlisting the help of a pastor.

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