Today, I’m going to be talking about something that I think a lot of us women struggle with, me included. I feel like a little bit of a hypocrite making this blog for you, but I am learning alongside you and these are the steps that I am trying to put into practice when it comes to asking my husband to do things in the right way.
By the right way, I just mean that I’ll actually get the best result. That he’ll actually do the things I’m asking him to do. But that, it also maintains our connection, which as you probably agree, is really, really important. I have six steps for you but don’t let that overwhelm you. They all blend into one. And as I said, I am learning this stuff as well.
Why do you have to ask?
You also might be wondering, I can almost hear you, “But Janna, why do I even need to ask him to do things? Why can’t he just know what to do so that I don’t have to ask him, and so that I’ll just feel loved, and it’ll be wonderful, and like the romantic comedies I watch?” Thank you very much, unrealistic expectations from the media. I’m going to explain it all.
Know what you want
The first step is knowing what you want. What is your need? Often, we’ll go into conversations with our husbands because we like to connect through talk. Now, all gender generalizations are gender generalization, so when I talk about the female and male of brain, please just use your own judgment if it works for you or it doesn’t work for you. For the most part, women like to connect through talking. Sometimes, we will really trigger our partners when we go into a quasi-request, very critical kind of conversation with them. We’re not going to get the outcome we’re looking for. So, know what you want.
This is really hard for us to determine what we need and want. I think it is because perhaps we’ve been told for centuries that we should just be quiet, and be obedient to our husbands, and not have any needs. Just smile and be pleasant. I don’t know. Maybe that might have just something to do with it.
We’ve been told to not be “needy”
We have pretty severe cultural conditioning to not have needs. To have needs is needy, to have needs is kind of weak, and all of that is really messy when it comes to making requests. It’s okay to have needs, it’s human to have needs, and you’ll be so much better off going into this conversation knowing exactly what you want.
Do actions really speak louder than words?
Step two is to let go of love tests. By love tests, I mean associating the action that we’re asking for to love. We have been taught that actions speak louder than words. This is really unhelpful when it comes to making requests. You are very different than your partner. You have different priorities in life, and I have never seen that actually actions speak louder than words when it comes to feeling important, or a priority, or cared for, and loved.
You might be familiar with the love languages. It’s an interesting concept, the idea that we give and receive love differently, but I see it fall apart when people say to me, “Well, Janna, my husband knows that acts of service is my love language, and so he should be providing that for me.” It just doesn’t work that way, so you’ve got to let go of love tests.
If my husband carries through with this request in a timely manner, he loves me. If my husband takes out the garbage on Thursday, he loves me. If my husband doesn’t forget to pick up the kids at ballet, he loves me. We could go on and on. You’ve got to let go of those things.
Make the ask without the extra
All right, now we’re ready for step three, which is to actually make the request. This is what women usually do. “My darling husband.” Maybe they don’t actually say my darling husband. Let me pull up and start over again. “Hey, John, can you please make sure that the garage is clean come spring time? Every time I get into my car, I’m bumping into stuff. There’s grease piles everywhere. It makes me feel gross, because, you know, I have a long day and all I want to do is drive into the garage, and climb up the steps, and feel peaceful, because you know that I do so much around the house.” Literally, I could go on and on, because it just comes so naturally to me.
Men want to win
Men are usually prone to feeling not good enough, that they’re failing. They’ll never make you happy. They’ll never live up to your standards. They feel criticized, and this is very painful for them because they want to win. And, win, I’m not saying like a competition, they just want to be good at it. That’s why sports is so strong with men because they just like that idea of just being excellent at something and winning at it. They want to win your marriage. They want to win at making you happy. But we have this beautiful thing called seeing areas of improvement everywhere, and so we have to moderate it. That’s a great skill in your team of a marriage, but you have to moderate it. This is how you do it.
How to moderate the ask
You go in, you be direct, and you’d get out. “Hey John, can you make sure the garage is cleaned by spring?” “Yep, no problem.” Swallow the rest. You know you’re doing it when you literally are hesitating. Like, you want to go into it more and then you pull back. When he says, “Yep, no problem,” believe him. Step back. Take a deep breath. Now, in order to move on to step four, which is letting go of control, you may want to add in a little timeline in there. You see I did that. “Hey John, can you clean the garage before spring?”
Now, I might have in my mind an idea of when spring is, so then when spring is coming, I can just say, “Hey, when are you planning on cleaning out that garage?” Or you might want to shorten it. “Hey, if you don’t get it done in five days, can I check in with you?” “Yeah, sure. That’ll be helpful.” Again, you’re a team. You’re working together. You’re using your strengths as seeing the areas improvement and being a spark of change in many areas of your life. That probably includes budgeting, and the eating, and parenting, and household stuff. You’re good at it. Then you can use his get it done kind of attitude to get things done. Again, these are generalizations, so if they don’t work for you, modify them.
The hardest part..letting go of control
Now, we’ve got to move into step four, which is let go of control. This is the part that I struggle with the most. I am awful at micromanaging. I am trying, I am striving to let go of this aspect. For example, my husband, for the most part, does the dishes at night when I cook, and I’m kind of on a roll of cooking, and so he’s on a roll of doing the dishes at night. But sometimes his timeline’s a little different. So I’ll cook dinner, we’ll eat dinner, I’ll go to the gym, I’ll come home. It’s like 8:30, 9:00 and he’s still on the couch watching a show, and the leftovers are still out, the kitchen is a mess, there’s food on the floor that maybe fell off the cutting board. I’m usually prone to say, “Hey, are you going to get to those dishes? Remember to put the leftovers away.” Sometimes I’ll even dip into, “You know when you don’t put the leftovers away, it makes me feel like I don’t want to cook, and …” You know what I’m talking about.
What am I making this mean about me?
In order to let go of control, there’s one really great technique that I actually use a lot, and so we’re moving into step five, which is check your interpretations. This is very similar to love tests. What is my interpretation? What am I making it mean about me? Why is it bothering me so much that my husband is still laying on the couch at nine o’clock at night when I think he probably should have done the dishes and put away the leftovers right after dinner. Why is it bothering me so much? Well, it’s bothering me so much because I’m making it mean something. I’m making a story up.
Anytime anything bothers you, anytime you have a negative emotion, you know 100% of the case that you have had an interpretation. Looking at this, my interpretation is that my husband doesn’t value my contributions. Him not putting away the leftovers in a timely manner is kind of saying like, “Eh, it’s fine that you cook, but not such a big deal, and I’m not going to really respect that.”
I’ve got to check my interpretations. I made that story up in my mind. You got to figure out what they are. Again, if you’ve had a negative emotion, you 100% had an interpretation. Then the next step is beautiful and it will help you let go of that control, is to ask for reassurance. I get it. Vulnerability is hard, but this is what intimacy is about. Women are always telling me, “I want connection in my marriage.” I’m like, “I’ll give you the key for connection. The key for connection is vulnerability. That’s where we’re headed.”
Ask for reassurance
I’ll walk in after the gym, I’ll see him laying on the couch. I’ll see the leftovers still out on the counter, perhaps getting spoiled, and the dishes piled up, and I’m a little bit panicking about having to cook tomorrow, and I’m having stories in my head. He doesn’t value me, he doesn’t respect me. He doesn’t think my contributions are important. I remember that and I ask him for reassurance.
“Hey John, my mind’s just made up a crazy story and I know this is not what you’re intending, but I really need to check with you about this. Is my contribution of cooking valuable for you and is it valuable for our family?” He’ll look at me. We’ve done this so many times. When you practice it, it’s fine. You know, you’re like, “Oh, they’re just doing the interpretations-reassurance thing.” He’ll look at me and say, “Yeah, I value your cooking. Tonight’s dinner was delicious.”
So, I can’t slip back into control. I can’t slip back into love tests. “Well, if that was the case then you would be up there and …” Right? Different people, different priorities. That’s what a diverse team is, diverse. You need each other.
My husband has other talents, other great things. Timeliness is not one of them. Just not one of them. But he brings fun, adventure, and joy to our lives. When I’m dead at night, when I want to go out and work out or I just want to pass out in bed, he’s got it. He’s got the girls, which is why doing the dishes at 10 o’clock at night is not a big deal for him. He’ll get it done. And if he doesn’t, we move onto step six, which is to make the request again.
Make the request again
Sometimes, you’ll have to request a lot, and if you can stay out of love tests, stay out of interpretations, that doesn’t mean anything about how he feels about you, it’s really easy. It feels clean. You have compassion that maybe he just forgot. He’s a different person with different priorities. I really, really encourage you to walk these steps. As you can see, they really fluidly move into one another. You can’t get it wrong if you just implement one of the suggestions I gave to you today.
Know what you want. It’s okay to have needs. Let go of those love tests. Man, if you can implement this in your marriage, you will be light years ahead of the majority of the population. Be direct when you’re making that request. Stop yourself when you want to explain, or you want to go into the back story, or all the emotions. Just stop and wait for a response. Let go of control, whether that’s timeline, unless you’ve made a request, and then you can just ask again.
My husband cleans the kitchen differently than I clean it. He’ll often leave things on the counter, a can opener, or recycling that he rinsed out and didn’t quite make it to the recycling bin. Maybe a stray onion that wasn’t put in the fridge or maybe the washcloth is still sitting in the sink and it’s full of food, and wet, and nasty. It’s because my husband is a get her done kind of person. He is like a sledgehammer. Which is really good. It’s really good when I’m all up in my details, and overthinking, and analyzing, and I’m stuck, and I can’t get anything done.
I’ll often call my husband, the sledgehammer, to get it done. It’s a really good quality. So, when I look at the kitchen, I think, “My husband got it done. He got it done.” And I can ask for reassurance if I need it. “I notice the can opener is still on the counter and I made up some funky stories about that because the can opener’s out there, you don’t care about me. You don’t care about my need to have a clean kitchen. Do you care about me?”
And of course, he’ll go, “Yes, my love. I care about you. I care about you.” Then if I stay out of love tests, then I remember that I can have that connection and intimacy that I’m actually craving. That’s a huge part of making a request.
I encourage you to go and try these steps to making requests with your husband and let me know how it goes. If you can master this, (not saying I have), but if you can kind of move closer into implementing these steps, so many disagreements can be avoided. So many misunderstandings, and disconnection, and lack of intimacy can be just completely sidestepped. I encourage you to go and put these into practice, just a little bit of them, and let me know how it goes.
I’ll talk to you soon,