Welcome to Survey Says, FiveThirtyEight’s advice column. In each installment, our two advice-givers will take a reader question, debate what he or she should do and then survey a panel of people about what the best course of action is. Need our advice? Send us your quandary!
My husband and I love to travel, and we’re generally good travel partners. However, there’s one argument that we have over and over. Each night, we discuss our plans for the next day and agree on a time to be ready. When this is a hard time (i.e., we have a flight to catch), there are usually no problems. But when it’s a softer goal — say, we have a lot of things we want to do and agree that we should head out for breakfast by 9 a.m. — we have problems. Since it takes me a lot longer to get ready, I usually get up an hour and half before the time we agreed upon. This gives me enough time to get ready and get out of the bathroom so he has plenty of time to get ready. At this point, he’s usually still sleeping, or he’s in bed looking at his phone. As the agreed-upon time approaches and then passes, I get more and more irritated. The more I remind him, the slower he goes. In the end, we’re lucky if we leave the hotel an hour after the agreed-upon time.
Even if he’s awake and perfectly capable of being ready, he’ll sit on his phone until he knows he has sabotaged our agreement. By the time we leave, we are both angry and starting the day off on a bad note. I’ve told him how I feel about this many times over, and he insists that I’m the problem, and that I should stop having such rigid expectations. I’m not sure whether he’s being inconsiderate or I’m being unreasonable. — Alarmed
Walt: Everything in this seemed like a normal “people sleep slightly different” couple disagreement until we got to this: “the more I push/remind him, the slower he goes” and “he’ll sit on his phone until he knows he has sabotaged our agreement.”
Morgan: It does. And how does she know that he’s trying to sabotage their agreement?
Walt: I’m seeing like three or four red flags here. The easy fix is: “You are a couple who should do breakfast separately on trips — go get a cup of coffee while he gets that extra hour.” But this feels like a deeper problem. The easy fix might just fix a symptom of that?
Morgan: So … I don’t understand what the issue is here if they don’t have to be anywhere specifically. Go get breakfast without him.
Walt: Practically, there does not appear to be a problem here. It’s one of those arguments on principle that are impossible to solve. These two people don’t need to walk out of the room together — two people can start their day in different ways, and that on its own is not a recipe for everyone walking out of the room angry. But Alarmed is perceiving animosity the moment she wakes up, and her husband is being described in a way that if accurate makes him an ass and if a little magnified shows a lack of goodwill. The practical fix is for her husband to set his alarm accordingly, but if he’s firing back with “no matter what time we set, I will be ready 30 to 60 minutes later,” there’s a deeper problem here.
Morgan: What could that be? He gets himself together when they actually have some place to go, so it’s not like he slacks all the time.
Walt: He seems like a jag? Nobody should start off every day on a trip angry. That he insists that she is the problem is a sign that they need to bring in a third party.
Morgan: Maybe this is the time to go to a therapist.
Walt: Yeah, this is a small thing that appears to be snowballing.
Morgan: I’m very curious as to what the underlying issue may be.
Walt: I think she should bring up that she’s hurt by it in evenings, at, say, dinner. The worst time to argue about it is when it is happening.
Walt: That or use it as a negotiating chip and say, “I’ll stop caring about the morning catastrophe if you [thing that she really wants].” She doesn’t have to like their morning routine on trips and never will, but she may as well get something out of it so that she feels like the time spent engaged in it is worth it.
FiveThirtyEight commissioned a SurveyMonkey Audience poll that ran Aug. 9-12 and received 1,009 responses. We presented respondents with Alarmed’s question and asked them what the best advice is, given the situation. They were allowed to choose only one option.
Get a relationship therapist.
Bring up your problem in the morning as it is happening.
Bring up your issue, but do it in the evening.
Use it as a negotiating chip. Stop caring about the morning routine in exchange for something you want from him.
None of the above is good advice.
Walt: Aw, man, I was really happy with my let-it-go-in-exchange-for-stuff strategy.
Morgan: Hmmm … This is interesting.
Walt: Just under half of people say to discuss it in the evening. What are you seeing? I hope you’re ready for some mixed messages!
Morgan: I’m perplexed by the 20 percent who say that none of this is good advice. Then what in the world do you do then?
|SHARE OF RESPONSES BY AGE GROUP|
|Get a relationship therapist||16||11||9||13|
|Bring up your problem as it is happening||9||13||7||8|
|Bring up your issue in the evening||50||48||50||48|
|Use it as a negotiating chip||11||12||7||10|
|None of the above is good advice||14||17||28||20|
Walt: A number that rises with age! Maybe they’re thinking, “Divorce him — it’s not worth it anymore.” Haha.
Morgan: I suppose as you get older, you get more complacent. I wonder if some think this is a non-issue.
Walt: Like at a certain point, it’s either going to kill you or you’re going to get over it. The contrarian 20 percent!
Morgan: I think so too. Is it really THAT bad?
Walt: Not high enough to totally reject our idea, but just high enough to make me question what we’re missing here.
Walt: Well, I know for a fact we’re gonna hear about it in the comments, so look there for further guidance, Alarmed.
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