Imagine you just got home from a rough day at work.
Your feet are swollen. Your back aches. And you are exhausted because you, once again, had to pick up the slack from your co-workers not doing their jobs.
Nevertheless, you decide to cook dinner for you and your partner. Once the table is set and you’ve both finished every last bite, your S.O. heaves a sigh, throws down his napkin, thanks you for the dinner, and heads into the living room to watch T.V.—leaving you all alone with a bunch of dirty dishes.
As you begin to collect the silverware, you’re fuming. How could he just sit around and not offer to help? He knows I had a horrible day at work! I mean, isn’t it common courtesy for the other person to do the dishes when you spent all this time cooking for them?
You say nothing, and instead, you refuse to speak to him for the rest of the night.
In a perfect world, everyone would know exactly what their significant other needs at any given moment. But we don’t live in a perfect world—and it’s very likely your partner can’t read your mind. So, we have to deal.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Now, imagine another scenario. This time, you’re a little girl shopping for school supplies with your mom.
“I want that one!” you yell out, pointing at a shiny pink notebook.
“Pink it is!” your mother responds.
“And a pink pencil, too!”
“You’ve got it!”
See how easy it was to ask for what you wanted? Whether it was the bedtime story you wanted to read, the pajamas you wanted to wear, or that toy you spotted at the store, you had no hesitation to shout it out.
Unfortunately, once you reached a certain age, you realized that the answer to your needs didn’t always end with a “yes.” As a matter of fact, you started to hear the word “no” a little more (like when you wanted to go to McDonald’s for dinner every night.)
Over time, you might’ve even been told that constantly asking for what you wanted was selfish. Or, perhaps, you heard that you should start considering other people’s needs and not just your own.
My guess is somewhere along the way, you learned to silence yourself and keep your needs and wants to yourself.
Rejection hurts. It really sucks not getting what you want, especially if it’s important to you. You feel vulnerable vocalizing your needs, and that’s super scary!
So, you keep quiet. Not only that, but this fear has followed you into adulthood—and now, your relationships are suffering because of it. If your spouse can’t figure out what you want on his own, you’ll just secretly get angry at him while he wonders what he did wrong. Hey, it beats having to admit you wanted it in the first place, right?
True, by not speaking up, you won’t have to deal with the rejection. But you also won’t get what you want…ever.
You Need to Start Asking for What You Want
The next time you’re feeling resentful towards your partner for not doing something you wanted them to do, you need to ask yourself this question:
“Did I ask them to do this?”
If the answer is no, then you have no right to complain. You never asked for it, therefore, you never received it. End of story.
Now, let’s take a look at the different ways you might ask your spouse a favor:
1. Always & Never
“I always do the cooking and the dishes. You never help me. Why don’t you stop watching TV and do something for once?”
Ouch. Always and never statements never work. Instead, your partner is likely to get defensive—fast. For one, you’re not really asking, you’re just criticizing. You probably won’t get your way. And if you do, you probably won’t feel good about it. By using always and never statements, you’re avoiding being vulnerable and asking for what you want.
2. Maybe, If You Want
“Wanna help me with the dishes? Only if you have time.”
This is a very polite way of not actually asking for what you want. Instead, you’re giving your partner an opportunity to own this request as if it was his idea in the first place. And if he doesn’t follow through? He’s the one to blame for not fulfilling a promise he never made.
3. Can You, Please?
“Can you please help me with the dishes?”
Hey, we’re getting there! But we’re not quite there yet. Please is polite and respectful, but the question is very passive. Unfortunately, you’re not getting to the heart of how much it would mean to you if they fulfilled your request. There’s a lot of room for failure—like your spouse taking his time to get to it (or saying no) just as carefree as you asked.
4. Say It Like You Mean It
“I’d love some help with the dishes. I had a horrible day at work, and it would be great to get this done quickly so I can relax. Can you help me take care of the dishes tonight? It would mean the world to me.”
This is the perfect way to ask for what you want. Notice how you didn’t start with a question. Instead, you made your wishes known upfront. Not to mention, you let him know the urgency of the task—you want it done quickly so you can relax. Then, you asked politely.
In the last scenario, you’re setting your partner up for success. He knows exactly what you need, and he doesn’t even have to read your mind. Score!
Yes, it’ll take some time getting used to asking for what you want, but I promise it’s worth the effort. Don’t give up. Keep trying! The sooner you learn how to do it, the sooner your needs will (hopefully) be met (and without any arguments!).
Wanna know a secret? The key to your best relationship yet starts with YOU. That means you have the power to have more meaningful, energizing, and fulfilling relationships—and you get to do it right now, without anyone else’s permission but your own.
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