Perspective | Carolyn Hax: Husband Can’t Make Decisions Without Changing His Mind

Hi Carolyn! My husband can’t make a decision without changing it, often several times, after (in my mind) the decision has been made and it’s time to move on. The stress of changing things back and forth is worse to me than making a less-than-optimal decision. I really want to move on. Whereas for him this is almost a reflex that is part of his decision-making process.

It’s making me angry all the time. Any ideas to help me reframe this so I can avoid losing my mind? His annoying habits have definitely grated on me more since too much pandemic togetherness. How much I should try to change vs. try to deal?

— Angry

Angry: So. Much. Togetherness.

You don’t say how big these decisions are, but, here’s a try: Can you build into your expectations a period of mind-changing after every decision he makes? So, he says X, and instead of going off to the X races, you start the clock on the flip-flopping period. Base your expectations on what your history with him has told you is his typical waffle duration. Then, at the end of that, start taking his decision as final.

This would work best if you could bring him in on it: say, you both agree he gets a grace period of [mutually bearable unit of time]. The conversation will be easier to start if you’ve already talked about this temperament mismatch; if you haven’t, then you’re overdue. Just save it for when your anger is at a low ebb and frame it as reconciling differences in style.

As for excessive togetherness, maybe adopt some solitary, “interior” habits or hobbies, like audiobooks with headphones. Or, painting, crafts, tinkering. Agree mutually to this limited but inviolable alone time, a little bubble of self where you relax and regroup.

Re: Waffling: What industry is your husband in? I work in an intense job in health care administration where we have decisions that affect an awful lot of people on our hands every day, all day. I can’t get to 110 percent certainty on pizza vs. Burger King because I am exhausted by deciding things all day long, and honestly wish I got recommendations that I could follow and only adjust if really needed, instead of being pressed to drain more of the few effs I have left. Recommending your best outcome vs. asking completely open-ended questions could help.

— Exhausted

Exhausted: Decision fatigue is a real thing — yes. And thank you for the work you do, making tough calls for others.

More readers’ thoughts:

· My husband does this. I’ve learned to ask, “Are you at 99 percent or only at 60 percent for this decision?” He’ll usually answer me pretty accurately as to whether he’s still thinking out loud or has really made the decision. I don’t, personally, move on or rely on any decision until he’s said he’s at 99 percent.

· My husband’s “waffle time” expires only when the final decision must be made. It’s taken me over 15 years to realize this, and I still get flustered by it. My only suggestion is to adjust your expectations and find a way to roll with it.

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