How can I get him to……?

Classic Carolyn, on stepping back, detaching, and worrying about your own reactions, rather than other people’s actions.

OK, OK, we all know I’m terrible at doing this myself.  But that’s why these reminders (sanity-checks?) seem so important to me.

Dear Carolyn:

My husband has hobbies he never follows through on but talks about as if he does, and the supplies clutter the house. I support him but am starting to resent that he has nothing to show for his time. I mean, 20 minutes a week does not a woodworker make, but the rest of the week is spent looking for tools, projects, etc. After five years he still has not completed one project. It’s like he’s addicted to wanting a hobby and shopping for it, but not really doing it. What can I say to my sweet husband?


You can set, for yourself, expectations you can live with. Do you want a curio shelf or a happy spouse? Because the most loving gift might be to support his hobby of pretending he has a hobby (and screening to rule out ADD, if this behavior extends beyond hobbies).

Then you can ask him for some mutually agreed-upon limits on his hobby budget and space. That’s only fair.

How do we get to the point where the lack of a completed footstool or birdhouse causes so much resentment?  Hmm, well, I can think of lots of ways.  I’m probably a lot like this woman, valuing commitment and completion over happy afternoons and pastimes.

We’re trained in this early: when we’re kids, we’re taught that committing to our extracurriculars–hobbies, activities, etc.–is an important lesson in being responsible, dutiful citizens.  This is supposed to train us to have the stamina and the conscience to commit to our families, our communities, our jobs down the line.  But once we’ve grown up and are doing all of those things, what, really, do we owe to woodworking?  Or gardening?  Or embroidery?  These are things we do to make ourselves happy, to enrich our spare time.  And if picking out tools makes us happier than actually whittling, well, so be it–if budget and space are respected, as Carolyn points out.

Although I can’t help but admit that, like this woman, I’d probably be annoyed if hub talked to others about the hobby as though he were an expert….


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