It’s happened to any woman who is married. You ask your
husband to do something — for example, take care of a leaky faucet — and he
says he will. You wait for it to happen. And wait. And…
That dripping faucet is still driving you crazy. And now your husband is too.
You could handle the problem yourself. However, that adds one more thing to your already-long task list, and you know you’ll feel resentful. Or, you could remind him and maybe get accused of nagging.
Neither option feels like a good one.
OK, let’s set one thing straight. If the two of you had a discussion
and came to an agreement that he would do something, it’s not nagging to check in if it didn’t get done. It’s simply
“following up.” You follow up effectively with people at work all the
time. And it’s possible to do the same with your husband. Here’s how.
Decide Whether to
First, decide whether this is a conversation you really want
to have. There’s no right or wrong decision here. Think about how important the
request is in the big picture. Is following up on it the way you want to spend
your energy right now? If it is, that’s fine. You can use the rest of the
strategies in this article. But if it’s not, are you OK just letting this one
go? I mean truly letting it go without being mad.
Give Him the Benefit
of the Doubt
If you do decide to follow up with your husband, here’s how
NOT to lead off:
You said you would fix the faucet, but you still haven’t! Why can’t you just get things done without my having to ask you AGAIN AND AGAIN to take care of them?!!!
No doubt, he’ll probably get defensive if you come at him that way.
Instead, you want to take an approach more like this:
Honey, I know you’ve
been busy, so it may have slipped you mind, but the faucet is still dripping. I
know you told me you were intending to take care of it by last Friday.
Use a neutral tone of voice, not a blaming one and just state
the facts. Remember, you’re just checking in, like you would with someone at
Listen to his response and then make another specific request, making sure you highlight the importance to you:
It’s really important to me. Would you please take care of it today?
Now please know that this is not some magic formula that will keep your husband from getting
irritable or defensive. Some guys will still be reactive no matter how you
follow up with them. But others will mirror your respect and courtesy.
Increasing the Odds of being Heard
There are a few ways to increase the odds that your requests will not be overlooked:
1. Connect the Request to Your Needs
One thing that can keep your request on his radar is to clearly connect it to a need you have. Sometimes husbands don’t follow through on requests because they don’t see why they’re important. Maybe he’s not as concerned about the water bill or conservation as you are, so that faucet isn’t bothering him. But it would bother him if he understood how much it was stressing you out. So try saying something like this:
I’m kind of at the end of my rope right now with Mom being sick and work being crazy. So that leaky faucet is just adding to my stress.
2. Treat Him Like an Adult
You don’t belittle or disrespect your colleagues and friends.
(At least I hope you don’t!) So don’t treat your husband this way. Give him the
respect you would any other adult.
But while you’re both entitled to respect in the relationship, you’re also both entitled to some degree of accountability too. That’s part of being an adult, too. Adults do the things they say they will do.
If the request you made was important to you, stand your ground. Just always do so respectfully and kindly.
3. Show Appreciation
If your husband regularly ignores your requests, make sure you’re not committing this common mistake. One of the reasons men say they stop stepping up in their marriage is because they truly believe no matter what they do, their wife will never be happy. So they just stop trying.
If that’s the case in your relationship, the easy fix is to consistently thank your spouse just like you would a friend or coworker if they did the same task.
Start changing the atmosphere in your relationship by looking for opportunities to show more respect and appreciation. More often than not, your spouse will do the same.
Over the past year, I’ve covered a lot of advice
about keeping your marriage strong even when life is busy and stressful. Some
of my marriage advice has delved into tough topics. In other articles, I’ve
aimed more to provide inspiration for improving your relationship.
If you’ve missed any of my marriage articles from
2019, you can catch up by reading this roundup of the year’s most popular
Both of these articles were about the most serious juncture you can experience in a marriage: whether to continue it. In the first article, I looked at whether you should leave a partner who cheated. Of course, there’s no single right answer about whether you should stay with or leave a cheating spouse. But in this article, you’ll find a list of questions that can help you make the right decision for you if you’re ever in this painful situation.
The second article can help you figure out whether
your marriage is irretrievably broken or whether it can be saved. Again,
everyone’s situation is different. But whatever your decision is, this article
can help you be at peace with it.
It isn’t just women who are seeking some distance in
relationships. That’s demonstrated by another one of my most popular marriage
articles from last year. “I need some space” can be an alarming thing
to hear from your husband. And you might spend a lot of time wondering what he
really means by that statement. But, as I explain in the article, there can be
any number of reasons behind your husband’s need for space, and it’s usually not a red flag in your
If anything, political divisions in our country have
only gotten deeper since the first article was published. So I have the feeling
it will remain relevant for a long time to come! If you haven’t read the
article yet, I offer some tips to keep your marriage from feeling like one of
those cable news shows where ideological rivals just keep shouting over each
And if your husband seemingly loves to pick fights
about politics or other subjects, you’ll want to check out the second article
as well. In it, you’ll find some tips to help you decode what his argumentative
behavior is really about.
But you weren’t just thinking about disagreements in
your marriage in 2019. You were also looking for ways to make the most of your
time together. To that end, I went below the surface of a familiar piece of
marriage advice: Have regular date nights. Unfortunately, that advice can do
more harm than good if it becomes just another area where you are putting pressure
on yourself to do things perfectly. As I wrote in the original article:
“The point of having a date night isn’t to do something you can brag about
on Instagram. It’s to connect with each other.”
Speaking of pressure, these next two articles speak
to some feelings and issues that emerge because of all the responsibilities and
expectations on us as women.
If your husband has said you are controlling, or if this is something you’ve noticed about yourself, I’m willing to bet it’s because you have so much on your plate, and sometimes it feels like your husband is slowing down your efforts to get all those things done. The best way forward is to have an open and honest discussion about household responsibilities — chores, childcare, emotional labor — and how the two of you can divide things more equitably.
Meanwhile, anger is an emotion we are often
uncomfortable with as women. We may worry that anger makes us a bad person or
believe that we shouldn’t get angry at all. When you can’t process anger in a
healthy way, that can lead to destructive behaviors in your marriage, like
complaining or withdrawing. But when you listen to your anger, it can guide you
toward positive change in your marriage.
If you’re looking for ways to make your marriage better, there’s a strategy you may have never considered. It’s surprisingly simple, and it addresses a common point of tension. Yet very few women use it.
Ready? Here it is: Give partial credit.
What do I mean by partial credit? Let me explain by giving you an example I hear about all the time. A wife asks her husband to take care of some things around the house while she is out. He accomplishes almost everything she wanted him to do. But maybe he doesn’t do the job exactly as she would have.
What do you think she focuses on? That’s right: the fact that the task is not finished in the way she defines it. She’s only giving credit if everything is done and done right according to her standards— which doesn’t help anyone. The husband loses his motivation to do more around the house, and the wife loses out on the work he could be doing.
Giving partial credit works out a whole
lot better for everyone. Let’s look at why that is.
Why We ‘Grade’ So Harshly
I don’t think women intentionally avoid
giving partial credit. It’s just a function of how we are used to doing things
and the stress we are under.
Women are taught to look for ways to be
helpful without being asked and to go the extra mile. If one woman is doing a
task, another will typically jump in and try to help if she can. Men, on the
other hand, won’t usually insert themselves into a task another man is doing unless
he is asked to do so. Men consider that being respectful.
In general, men also approach delegated tasks a little differently. They will usually strive to do exactly what is asked, and only that. So, if you’re mad at him for not doing more, he’s not really going to understand that. For example, if you asked him to run the dishwasher and he did that, he might be frustrated when you’re upset he didn’t also clean the kitchen counters because it was so “obvious” they were dirty.
Women are often multitasking and juggling more than men, thereby carrying a larger mental load. We want tasks to be completely done, with nothing left to address or worry about, so they can be totally off of our minds. There’s a psychological phenomenon at play here: the Zeigarnik Effect. Our brains remember incomplete tasks more readily than those that have been completed. Having too many loose ends can literally create mental stress by nagging at us.
What’s the Real Issue?
Shouldn’t he just know that the rest of the
kitchen needed cleaning? Well, yes, but is that what you specifically asked him
to do? If the only thing you did in response to the work he completed is to
complain about what he didn’t do, he’s going to feel discouraged and micromanaged. He’s
also going to eventually feel like nothing makes you happy.
Instead, try giving partial credit. Just
say, “Thanks so much for loading the dishwasher.” This doesn’t mean you are giving up on his
helping to clean the rest of the kitchen. But instead of implying he “failed”
at the task you asked him to complete, make a more specific request next time:
“Would you mind loading the dishwasher, cleaning the countertops and emptying
the dishrack please?” Trust me, he’s not going to be offended by this
level of detail.
The other important thing you can do
moving forward is having a farther-reaching discussion about how the mental
load of the household is distributed. This is especially important if you’re the
one with a to-do list a mile long. At the end of the day, the problem isn’t
really that he didn’t clean the rest of the kitchen, it’s that you are managing
far too many details in your household, and that’s exhausting. Open his eyes to
this so that the two of you can work out a better division of both physical and
Extend More Credit
Especially this time of year, partial
credit is a useful concept to remember in your other relationships too. The
holiday season brings a lot of expectations — and hurt feelings when those
expectations don’t get met. How would it feel to give partial credit to your
sister for at least waiting until after dessert to start complaining about her
ex? Or to your in-laws for not overspending as wildly as they used to on the
kids’ gifts even though they didn’t follow your wishes exactly?
I’m wishing you lots of peace and joy in
all your relationships this holiday season. For more advice on better
communication in marriage, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving, you are
probably starting to kick your holiday preparations into high gear.
But amid your shopping, decorating and
travel planning, I want you to steal a few moments for one simple activity that
will set the stage for a more meaningful season.
Now is a great time to watch or rewatch Brene Brown’s seminal TEDX talk “The Power of Vulnerability.” It will take you only about 20 minutes.
The holidays can stir up all sorts of
feelings and expectations that make you feel more vulnerable this time of year.
You may already be feeling some anxiety and stress in anticipation of all that needs
to be done before year’s end. Of course, looking cheerful while trying to tame
your perfectionism over every detail makes this a much harder task!
Some of you are anticipating sadness and
heartbreak about loved ones who will not be with you this holiday. All these emotions
can be so powerful that it can be tempting to hide from them through
overeating, overdrinking or overspending.
The gift we all really want is to be able to share our vulnerable feelings with others and still feel safe and loved. Unfortunately, many of us — even kids — have had experiences that make us feel unsafe being vulnerable.
Making Space for Vulnerability
You can’t make people be vulnerable with
you. But you can create an atmosphere of love and security that encourages
vulnerability. What might that look like during the holiday season?
Deciding to skip a party you had planned to attend because your husband is at the end of his rope with end-of-year work stress.
Not telling your shy kid they “shouldn’t feel that way” if they voice nervousness about seeing their raucous cousins.
Taking a timeout from holiday activities to be with a friend who’s grieving or going through a crisis like divorce or a family illness.
Giving your aging parents some one-on-one time to just talk to you instead of getting lost in the busyness of the season.
When you show up for others in ways like these, you build trust and intimacy in your relationships which is necessary for anyone to be vulnerable.
Of course, you also need relationships where you can be vulnerable yourself. Before things get too stressful, think about who gives you a sense of safety and acceptance. Who can handle it when you’re not feeling merry and bright? Who would take it in stride if you need to express sadness that your budget is smaller this year or that your parents are having some health troubles?
If you feel that you and your husband are not open and vulnerable enough with each other, think about some small steps that might help bring you closer. You can’t just go from closed off to totally vulnerable overnight — and neither can he. Instead, think about a low-risk way you can test the waters. Maybe that’s something as simple as asking for his help wrapping gifts when you would usually handle the job yourself. You could use that opportunity to connect and find out how he’s really doing. Slowing down your flurry of activity and engaging creates opportunities to share any vulnerability either of you are experiencing.
I hope that this holiday season brings you closer to everyone you care about, especially your husband. To keep strengthening your relationship together, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
You love your husband. But, if you’re being real, you have to admit he drives you crazy sometimes. He has all these annoying quirks and bad habits. The longer you’re with him, the more irritating he is to be around.
Nothing like you, right?
You’re so much easier to be around. Or are you?
Seriously, stop for just a second ask yourself what you’re like to live with. Is it possible you might be hard to live with, too?
The truth is that it can genuinely be hard to recognize ways you might be driving your partner crazy. After all, how often do any of us step back and analyze what we’re doing?
How you behave as a wife and as a parent has probably been heavily shaped by what you observed in your own family. That’s what you consider to be “normal.” But your husband came into your marriage with a different idea of what normal looks like.
For example, maybe it was routine in your family to always be running a few minutes behind. But in your husband’s family, “on time” meant “get there early.”
Differences in promptness are not as big a deal as having different ideas about handling conflict or loyalty in the marriage. But how your husband interprets your actions is always important. In this case, your habitual tardiness is a big deal if he views it as disrespect.
It’s good to take a step back and reflect on your own behavior in your marriage sometimes. Now, admittedly, this is a little harder than just focusing on all the stuff he does! But it’s really good for your marriage to look in the mirror occasionally.
Neither of you is ever going to be perfect. But both of you should be aware of how you affect each other. You may be surprised by how much the things you do bother him. For example, maybe you’re already aware that your perfectionism doesn’t serve you well, but you didn’t know that it’s also really stressing him out.
When there are obvious differences, it’s helpful to explain where you’re coming from: “I’m not late because I don’t care about you. I just never developed the habit of being on time. It’s something I’m working on now, though.”
That last part is the key. Maturity
means being aware of what you bring to your marriage, taking ownership of it
and making an effort to change anything that’s detrimental to your