To my friend Susan, the dirty coffee mug symbolized everything that was wrong with her marriage.
"He'll just leave it on the counter, ABOVE the dishwasher."
Every morning she'd see that coffee mug. And every morning the resentment would grow.
Five years into their marriage, Susan blew up. "I am not your maid! Why can't you just put your coffee mug in the dishwasher like everyone else does?"
Her husband looked flabbergasted. "I'm just never sure if the dishwasher is clean or dirty, and I didn't want to wreck the clean dishes. So I moved it as close as I could to try to help."
Susan realized that it wasn't that her husband thought she was his maid. He was actually trying to make things easier for her! So she bought one of those little magnetic signs that said "Clean" on one side and "Dirty" on the other, and now he knows the state of the dishwasher. Most of the time, that coffee mug makes it to the dishwasher now. Sometimes he even empties the dishwasher, too!
Have you ever gotten upset because your husband seems to take it for granted that you will pick behind him--you'll look after the kids, do all the housework, clean all his clothes--and he never helps?
That's really common, so when I was writing my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, one of the thoughts that I want women to grab is this: My husband can't make me mad. Seriously. If you're getting ticked off at something he's doing (or not doing), maybe there's something you can be doing to stop the cycle--something as simple as learning to ask for help.
Recently I asked some of my readers to share stories on my Facebook page about asking husbands to step up. Lynn said,
Early in our marriage, I hinted several times that it would be nice if the clean dishes got put away. Finally I got mad at my husband and we argued about it. He told me, “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I thought it was too rude to order him around, but that’s the way he wanted. Then we were visiting his mom, and she was hinting at something he should do. When she left the room, I told him, “Your mom wants you to do this.” He balked and said, “No way. I lived with my mom much longer than you, and I’d know.” When she came back, he asked her straight out and she said, “Yes, of course. What took you so long?”
I thought it was too rude to order him around. We often don’t ask because we fear it’s demeaning, and yet most men would far rather be asked than hinted at.
That idea of having to ask, though, grated on my reader Lindsey. “I shouldn’t have to ask!” she told herself. “He can see the mess!” Then one day during an argument, her husband grew quiet and said, “Baby, I just don’t see the mess the way you do. I’m just not as good as you are at juggling the house, chores, and bills. I don’t multitask like you do. I’m sorry.” Ever since then, Lindsey has learned to ask—and not to ask for a thousand things at once either!
Both Lynn and Lindsey wasted so much emotional energy seething because their husbands weren’t taking care of what they considered basic responsibilities. Yet when asked for help, their husbands were actually more than willing to comply.
Make Asking for Help Easier:
- Ask for something specific. Don't say, "can you help with dinner?" Say, "In five minutes, can you set the table?"
- "Own" specific tasks. If you feel overburdened, talk about what big task your husband could take on--entirely. Maybe he could always be the one to give the kids their bath, or always be the one to clean up after dinner.
- Say thank you. Praise him for what he does--even if it's something that you've been doing before. Everyone likes to hear "thank you". So say it, and build some goodwill in your marriage!
Asked for help--and things still aren't changing? In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, Sheila Wray Gregoire also talks about how to resolve real issues in our marriage, once and for all. Be a peacemaker, not just a peacekeeper!
Everyday Sheila speaks on bringing Jesus into the daily messes of our marriage and mommyhood at her blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum. Download her FREE ebook 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage.