Hi, Carolyn: My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for almost eight months, and we still each live separately and have our own houses. We have two different opinions on various household and yard tasks that take more than a couple of hours. She is a do-it-yourselfer. She is very handy and prefers to accomplish many tasks on her own without paying for outside professional help. I, on the other hand, would much rather pay someone to do something that would otherwise take me a whole day or more to accomplish so that I can enjoy my time off from work.
My belief is that neither one of us is right or wrong in these instances.
However, recently she is asking for my assistance for tree removal, which I have no interest in doing and would have paid someone to do if it were my property. If I don’t want to do this at my own house, then why would I want to do this at hers?
How should I approach this particular situation, and others like it that would no doubt come up in the future?
Yard Work Not for Me
Yard Work Not for Me: Couples don’t have to agree on everything, they just need to agree on the way they handle disagreements.
So, if your girlfriend is puttering around in her yard as a form of recreation, then there’s no harm in your opting out on the grounds that it’s no fun for you.
If she’s laboring vs. hiring it out because she can’t afford to do otherwise, then it gets more complicated. Liking her would presumably be enough to motivate an able-bodied companion to help her out on the infrequent occasions when the work is too big for one person. Complaining that it ruins your Saturday to help her, in those cases, would send a message about you that I doubt you want to send.
Meanwhile, anything beyond a rare need for help would put her in an unflattering light. When people get in over their heads on a house — i.e., more jobs than they can do themselves or afford to hire out — it’s not right for that to become the problem of everyone they know within favor-asking distance.
The linchpin, as always, is transparency. You need to be honest about your distaste for yardwork, lest you grow resentful of her SOS calls and of the time she spends mulching that you could be spending together. She needs to be honest about why she takes on these projects, lest she grow resentful that you play touch football and get your nails buffed while she hauls bags of mulch.
Any peaceful resolution will emerge from these details, so start the conversation: “I don’t mind pitching in on rare occasions for people I care about [right?], but not for fun. Plus, it feels odd to do for your house what I won’t even do for my own.” If she doesn’t know your policy of hiring to preserve your leisure, now’s the time to explain.
Ask whether she feels the same way — and if not, why not. She brought you into this, so you have standing to ask. It’s hard to think of a topic more germane to a couple’s compatibility than how you spend your money vs. how you spend your time.