How to Deal If You or Your Partner Is a Procrastinator

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Procrastination can affect every area of your life. If you’re someone who tends to put things off—or you’re married to someone who does—it can easily create friction in your relationship. But understanding where the other person is coming from can help you work through it.

My partner and I are both procrastinators but about different things. I’ll wait until the very last second to get ready to leave the house or to start something for an impending deadline, but I always manage to be on time. My partner is a diligent worker who prepares her research in advance but is chronically late when it comes to running errands and sending emails. So, between the two of us, we have to strike a balance. We both get the urge to gently nudge each other if we think the other one is putting something off, but ultimately that will just make the tardy one dig their heels in.

It’s even more frustrating if only one person in the relationship procrastinates. If you have a dyed-in-the-wool type-A personality mixed with a laid-back procrastinator, there’s bound to be tension. But, if you can both accept the situation and work within it, things can run a lot more smoothly. Here’s what you need to keep in mind if you or your partner is a procrastinator.

What to Do If Your Partner Is a Procrastinator

If your partner is a procrastinator and you’re not, first take a deep breath because you can’t change them. While it may feel like it should be doable to get your partner to do that early morning workout class with you if you could only show them the light, it’s not. It's important to accept them for who they are. Accept their limitations, and know how to work with them.

Secondly, if you can’t control your urge to give them a gentle push in a more productive direction, it's best to learn how to do it constructively. If you are constantly reminding and needling them about what they need to do, that will just annoy them and make your partner feel pushed around. Trust me; they’ll just procrastinate more. When I think my partner will be late, I ask her what time it is so she’ll get a subtle reminder—she sees right through it. And she should. I’m being condescending and controlling. And when she asks me if I’ve started that project I was talking about, it doesn’t make me any more likely to do it.

Instead, focus on objective truths. Rather than constantly reminding your partner about what they haven’t done yet, make a list of things that have to be done and the deadline, if there is one. That way, if items are in a list you both have access to, you’re not nagging them; you’re stating a fact. If they don’t complete what they were supposed to do in time, then you can bring it up. But don’t put yourself in the role of the reminder.

Use an app like Remember the Milk to work off a shared to-do list. It will leave the responsibility of a reminder up to the app rather than you.

When tasks are completed, make it clear that you're appreciative. Say, “I know you didn’t want to do that. Thank you so much for helping me out. I really appreciate it.” Positive reinforcement is so much more motivating than criticism, and it will serve you well in a happy marriage.

What to Do If You’re a Procrastinator

Now, what if you're the one procrastinating? Maybe you even know it drives your partner up the wall. What can you do? Because, realistically, you’re still going to be a procrastinator, so you need to work with that.

If you can tell that you’re stressing out your partner by putting something off, then address that directly as you would any other problem. Say, “Look, I know that you want me to get this done, I know when it has to be done by, and I promise it’ll happen.” Then, just make sure you deliver.

If there's a particular task that's really stressing your partner out, try to do it just a little sooner, if at all possible. Recognizing your tendency to procrastinate can go a long way and make things between you and your partner smoother.

If procrastination is really having a big impact on your life, you might want to look at the underlying issue. Maybe it’s something that doesn't just affect your relationship—maybe it affects your job or your friendships and is really holding you back. If that’s the case, seeking help or doing some soul-searching can make a difference. Sometimes it’s a fear of failure, sometimes it’s a mental health issue, sometimes it’s done out of resentment. But there’s generally a reason one might put things off, so try to get to the bottom of it.

Procrastination can really take its toll on a relationship or marriage, so it's important to find a way to work within it. If one or both of you are a procrastinator, it's helpful to first accept it. Someone isn’t going to magically change overnight, no matter how much you want them to. But if you can communicate without criticizing and find a way to take each other’s considerations into account, you’ll be able to find a way to move forward. You can work through procrastination, but you need to be a little patient with each other.

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