Dear Dr. Archer,
My husband and I have been together for over 30 years. We're both disabled, and everything was going normally until my husband had two heart attacks, one when he was 52 and the other when he was 58.
The problem is that he will not let me or anyone else do anything that involves the upkeep of the house. I can do the normal everyday chores like washing dishes, laundry and such, but anything having to do with the upkeep isn't going to happen. If he would do the upkeep that would be great, but he doesn't. He will start a job but then never finish it.
I have paint cans and accessories in the living room that have been there for over two years, with the walls not even half way painted. I have a covered screen porch that still doesn't have the screen door and one screen missing.
I can't put the screen in, and if I mention any of these things that have to be done I am afraid he's going to have another heart attack, he gets so upset.
I even offer for him to give me guidance so I'll do it his way so he won't bitch and so I can get some things done, but he refuses. Needless to say, I never invite anyone to the house.
He has a four car garage; it's not like he doesn't have anywhere to store items he hauls into the house to get these repairs done. He wants to keep them handy and have them ready to go when the urge hits him.
Our house is in need of plenty of work. Every day I am here, all day, and look at the things that need to be done and can't do them. I love my husband. Do you have any suggestions for me?
Your husband, after two heart attacks, doesn't have the energy to do the things he used to do. Being the man of the house, he feels inferior and even helpless having to watch someone else take over the chores that he used to do.
It's bruising his ego to the point that he'd rather have things not done than to suffer watching someone else do it.
Your attitude and how you treat him can go a long, long way, Ashley. Feeling respected and needed is a big issue for any man, but especially one who has had physical setbacks.
There are some things you can do to get him to be more receptive, not only for home maintenance, but in many other areas.
He probably feels less than the man he used to be. Talk to him the way you've always talked to him, and make sure he knows you still love and respect him.
Treat him as your husband, not as someone who has had two heart attacks; he doesn't want your pity. That will only intensify his frustration. When he talks, be sure to let him finish before replying.
You love him, you need him and you want him to be around a long time, right? Be sure he knows that because he's not a mind reader. Knowing you're valued is a good, secure feeling.
We all like praise and affirmation, and your husband is no exception. When the mood hits him to do something, compliment his work. Fix him his favorite meal or do something special as a reward.
Seeing you happy and appreciative will go a long way. Helping him with a project is preferable, unless he absolutely wants to do it on his own. Communicate with him in a loving, respectful manner.
If something requires exertion or there is something he should not do, suggest hiring someone and stress he can oversee the work to make sure it's done correctly.
This can be a very, very touchy situation, as you can attest. Compromise is very important here, as well as mutual respect. Read Can Love Really Conquer All? to get my stance on compromise. It might take plenty of effort, but I believe he will come around.
If you have children, he might be open to a day where you cook up a meal and invite the kids over for a chore day. They can help out while dad tells everyone how to do their chore.
Many things could be accomplished in one day, the family gets together to connect, you get your house repaired and you all enjoy a meal and camaraderie, and a day to be remembered.
Make your home open, trusting and FUN while encouraging him to either do a chore or supervise to make sure it's done to his specifications. Join in, when possible, and make the job interesting.
Once he gets going, if a break is needed, specify a break time -- 10 minutes, 30 minutes or tomorrow, same time, same place, then continue.
Motivating your husband may prove to be a challenge, but don't give up. Once you hit on what value strikes a chord, you'll be ahead of the game. When you find out what works, he should start to motivate himself.
Think of this as a game you are playing and see what you can do to get him going. I know you can do it. Good luck.