Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Trying to live with a partner who overthinks everything
Q: My husband insists that meticulous plans are necessary before embarking on anything — but he hates to plan himself. Here's how it plays out:
Me: How about we go to Annapolis this weekend? I'll find a B&B, ask some friends for restaurant recommendations and get a dog-sitter.
Husband: What else will we do there? What are the hours of the museums? The admission costs? Is the dog-sitter insured? Are you sure we should drive our car? How would the cost of public transportation compare? Have you read all of the TripAdvisor reviews for this B&B? What if it rains?
Husband feels I should be willing to do the extra research to make him comfortable enough to participate. I believe that if he needs more, he should put on his big boy underwear and do it himself. I feel like I'm married to someone who has never boiled water, but who criticizes the chef if the souffle is slightly flat. He thinks I'm flighty, and I think he's critical and neurotic. Advice?
The Best-Laid Plans
Carolyn: The only fair response to his grilling is: "I've planned it to my satisfaction. If you want more assurances, then you're welcome to do the research." Unfortunately, it sounds as if you've tried this, so your option list is short and unpleasant: Fight to stay reasonable under constant pressure; take this to couples counseling — and also to the office of a mental health professional who is qualified to screen him for OCD, anxiety, ADHD and the other usual suspects that produce such an unquiet mind; or talk to an attorney.
In other words: His position is completely untenable, and easily turned around to, "Unless he's physically or mentally incapable, he has no right to make such demands." People have no right to ask their partners to do what they're unwilling to do for themselves.
Anonymous: It sounds like the problem here is that it cannot be planned to his liking because he doesn't want to go. It also sounds like a very one-way relationship. She is to please him, and he will decide whether he is pleased. The therapy, if they go, should be to ask: What is his role in and commitment to this relationship?
Carolyn: "He will decide whether he is pleased." Well said, thanks. This is, however, beyond the typical I-don't-wanna behavior. The dog-sitter has to be insured?
Best-Laid Plans, again: If this were just a matter of vacation-planning, then I'd say, "Here's the deal, come or don't." But it happens with everything: Last night we got in a ridiculously long argument because I suggested having the neighbors over for a cookout, and he freaked out about not having planned for contingencies A to Z, each contingency being more ridiculous. I do think he might have some sort of anxiety disorder, but he refuses to see a therapist. Knowing I can't make him, I'm trying to figure out how to live my life without getting sucked into his panics.
Carolyn: Oh my. If you scrapped the cookout, then you're good and sucked in. Talk to a therapist without him, learn some coping strategies. And stop engaging in these arguments: You can't reason with someone too ill or stubborn to budge.