Once again, my husband and I are at odds over phones. But how we’ve resolved it this time is illustrative of one good way to get past having legitimately conflicting objectives. The phone issue remains outstanding (for now) but I’m actually happy. Years ago, in our “old relationship”, this situation would have caused a huge amount of conflict and pain. Here’s how we now avoid that…
A tiny bit of background first: I want to change my cell phone back from a smart phone to a “dumb” phone because my current phone is almost useless to me for a variety of quirky reason. As an IT guy, my husband thinks this is ridiculous – another example of my dislike of technology. However, he agreed to make the call to get it set up as he is the one responsible for IT in our household. That was a month ago.
After two weeks I asked if he would mind if I made the call. He said he wanted to make the call himself, which I respected. A week later I asked for clarification – why did he wish to make the call? The answer was because he wants to see if he can get my unlimited data plan switched to his phone and save himself some money. (This is complicated - they don’t offer the unlimited plan anymore, so he will need special treatment to get this.)
So that’s the background. I am eager to change my phone over because the current phone is almost useless to me – for practical purposes it’s almost like not having a cell phone (my fault, but there it is.) He wants to request a specific change that will save him money at the time of the switch over, but is very busy because he has a new job, so hasn’t gotten to it. Both are legitimate requests, but my desire to have the change made now (“sooner”) is in direct conflict with his busy schedule and the fact that this is a low priority for him relative to what else he is doing (i.e. “later”).
A week ago I told him that I understood his desire to try to change over the data plan, and that I knew he was busy (in fact going out of town for a week) but that if he hadn’t decided the phone/data plan change wasn’t important enough to do by two weeks after his return, then I was going to take over the project and make the call myself. I would try to get the data plan change if I could.
His response? “Okay. I hear what you are saying. That’s fair.”
Why This Works
- The whole conversation has been respectful. I have not crossed over his boundaries by just making the call or by taking on a technology task when that’s his area. I asked for clarification/understanding as things dragged on and respected his answer. He respects my original request, even though the idea of switching back to a dumb phone is completely foreign (dare I say “stupid”?) to him.
- I politely let him know that my patience was running out…but also without taking the project away from him. He has two weeks to make his data plan a priority or turn the project over.
- Our approach has clear delineation of responsibility. He’s fully responsible now. In two weeks, if the project is not done, I am fully responsible. This is different from my nagging him to get it done, which would make him the “doer” and me the “overseer” – neither with “full” responsibility
- We’ve worked this type of solution out in the past. This is not the first time we’ve had directly conflicting objectives. We’ve worked this particular step-by-step process out over time and agree it works. So he can respond with “I hear you” (as in “I understand and respect your growing frustration with how this is dragging on”) and “that’s fair” (“I agree to your terms – they are reasonable. If I can’t get it done in two weeks I shouldn’t stand in your way.”)
So, to recap. If you find you have a legitimate disagreement that has to do with how long something is dragging out as well as the goal of a project, consider these steps:
- Clear delineation of responsibilities – don’t nag, just coordinate
- Ask questions / understand your partner’s point of view and reasoning. This will improve your patience
- Respect both your partner’s objective and perspective (even if you disagree with it or think it’s silly – it’s still their right to hold it)
- Interact respectfully
- Provide warning of frustration levels that are rising, set up a reasonable timeframe for a “hand-off”
Some may say "then things will always get handed off to me!" If that's the case in your household, then you have a larger issue, which is a too-lopsided distribution of chores. To address that, go start with the Chore Score Worksheet in my book to start discussing a better overall distribution.