Originally posted on March 17, 2017 on The Texas Conflict Coach
“Will you please empty the dishwasher?” I asked my husband, Bernard one evening while I was preparing dinner.
“Sure!” He said jumping to his feet.
The way I worded the question was something new I was trying for several weeks now. I am a self-admitted nag and due to Bernard and I’s vastly different ways of managing tasks I found I was nagging him more which was causing conflicts.
Before getting married, I purchased a book written by Ruth E. Hazelwood titled, “The Challenge of being a Wife.” I bought on a day when I was having anxiety about failing in my role as a wife; however, by the time I received the book, my concerns must have dissipated because I never opened it before our nuptials. Flash forward to a month ago when I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the sound of my own voice nagging my husband that I stumbled upon the book and decided to read it. It was eye-opening.
A passage that stood out to me that Hazelwood wrote is:
A wife who thinks her husband can’t do anything without her direction may soon find that he won’t do anything; he is just glad to have you take it all on, and you are left wondering what went wrong.
I recognized immediately after reading this passage that I constantly was giving my husband direction in the form of rhetorical questions without allowing him the opportunity to do things when he felt motivated. I’d say, ” You know the dishwasher needs to be unloaded?” or “The sink needs to be emptied.” I wasn’t confident that he would raise to the challenge without my direction – which his track record implied that he wouldn’t. When he wouldn’t do these tasks in the past I would get angry and do the tasks myself and I felt more resentful because of it.
I read that passage and felt enlightened. The chapter where that passage resides ends with a list of steps to assist in changing your behavior so your husband feels more motivated to complete tasks on his own. One step that Hazelwood suggests is, “Be efficient in your own areas. If you need his help, don’t demand; just ask, “Will you please…?” in a kind way.” I found I would demand or state what I needed and Bernard would either tune me out or ignore. Hazelwood stresses that husbands will ignore or tune you out because they want to demonstrate they are capable of managing their responsibilities without you. So I began to change how I worded what I asked of him and delegated when I felt overwhelmed by things that needed to be done around the house. Changing from, “Why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” to “Will you please empty the dishwasher?” has made a world of difference in my household.
The last suggestion in Hazelwood’s list is, “Show appreciation.” Hazelwood explains, ” You must make him feel worthwhile and loved in order to motivate and bring out the best in him.” I recognize that just the slight change in how I word or phrase what I am saying to Bernard and then express appreciation when he completes the task has changed how quickly he responds to assisting me. He is more willing and motivated to do so and our exchanges around completing household tasks have become much more pleasant and much less frustrating.
Husbands and Wives, I challenge you to take a look at how you are speaking to your spouse especially if you notice tension and conflict arises around these exchanges. Perhaps, making a slight change in how you word a question or statement can help improve your relationship.