Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spousal Excuses

My husband, Jagdish, and I have been retired (or at least working together) in our condo in Connecticut for a year now. We’re in close proximity much of the time, which is a big change from our life in Providence. This new arrangement has led me to raise my expectations of what he can and should be helping with around the house. Silly me. One thing I’ve noticed is that Jagdish has a fairly standard list of excuses for why things haven’t been done. 

His absolute favorite is: “I forgot.” He doesn’t present this reason as an apology; he uses “I’m sorry” all the time for that. “I forgot” is a simple statement of fact to him. It needs no further explanation, no embellishment. Apparently he feels this absolves him of any responsibility to perform the task now that he’s been reminded of it. He also sees no reason to work on his ability to remember. The next time he tells me he forgot the same item, he says it with an equal lack of regret or expectation of change in his future performance.

Another excuse he favors is: “I didn’t see it.” He uses this one when I’m particularly peeved that his chore has been ignored or that trash has been left wherever it landed. The reason? He usually follows with a joke about his nose having blocked his view. (He has a large proboscis, a family trait, and one of which he’s quite proud.) He knows that his nose (a charming homophone) will soften my pique and lead to an affectionate hug. And yet again, he leaves me to pick up the scraps or to do whatever he was supposed to do.

Every now and then, to break up the monotony, he’ll say: “I thought I already did it” or “I thought I took care of it.” We both know he’s not laboring under that misapprehension at all. We also both know he has no intention of taking care of it, even now that he’s been reminded that it’s still awaiting his attention. So I heave a sigh and move on.

One variation in his repertoire is what I call his “delaying tactics.” “I had something in my hands; I’ll do it in a minute.” Who knows if he really had something in his hands. But what I do know for certain is that “in a minute” means some indeterminately later time. And “later” means “never.”

His rarest retort is: “Was that my job?” or “I thought you took care of that.” When I hear this one, he’s in a bad mood, or he’s tired, or he’s finally decided that I’ve asked him to do the same thing one time too many. If I’m feeling cranky and snarky, I might reply: “And the reason you think that is… ?” This doesn’t bring any resolution to the impasse. Likewise, it doesn’t get the chore at hand completed by him. It might even lead to his go-to lecture of choice about why harping on negatives can never bring positive results.

Sadly, it seems that nothing I do or say brings favorable outcomes. I admit it. I’m an enabler. I never learn. I just keep on picking up the slack (and the rubbish) and wondering why I have this low level of annoyance simmering below the surface much of the time. My niece, Pam, a practicing psychotherapist, will likely read this and be tempted to email me articles on behavior modification. Since she knows Jagdish, she’ll probably reconsider and send me chocolate instead.

Let’s face it. My husband has me well trained. If only I could train him equally well. I could ask Pam for a refresher lesson on Pavlov and his dogs. Knowing Jagdish, I’d just wind up with a pooch to clean up after, too. Still, a girl can dream, can’t she? But first she has to take care of all her husband’s household chores.

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