“My husband doesn’t help,” is a complaint I have heard often. Dear Wives, Have you Asked? The question isn’t just about if you have asked but also a focus on how you have asked for help. Let me set the scene so you can get a better idea of what I am talking about. Before you read further, it might be helpful for you to have some foundation with this one tip that will transform your marriage.
You are trying to get the family out of the house to be at a party on time. Before you leave, the gift needs to be wrapped, the kids need to be fed, hair needs to be done, and you need to put on your make-up. Those are the things that need to happen.
However, you also have in the back of your mind the dishes that are piling up in the sink, the cluttered house and the laundry that has been staring at your for two days.
You are busy making the lunches while also doing some of the dishes. Kids are supposed to be getting dressed for the party, and the capable ones are supposed to be doing their own hair. The kids keep coming up to you:
“Mom, Jason hit me with the hairbrush.”
“Mom, I can’t tie my shoes.”
“Mom, I wanted the orange cup, not the yellow one.”
“Mom, you put jelly on my sandwich. I don’t like jelly.”
The baby just knocked over the bowl of Cheerios, and now there is now a mess to clean-up. The clock is ticking away, and you are certain you will be late to the party.
You look over at your husband, staring at his computer or phone, and you are angry. Very angry…and frustrated…and annoyed. How can he possibly just sit there? Why isn’t he helping? Doesn’t he see what needs to get done? Although you might not verbalize it out loud or even formulate the thought in your brain, you feel very unloved right now.
If and when you do decide to ask for help, your annoyance has bubbled up so much that it comes out as a seething attack on your husband. The request is often made with disrespect and anger because you’ve reached that point. He should have noticed and been working alongside you the entire time.
Being involved in a marriage ministry at my church, I have walked alongside enough marriages by now to know this is a common scene. I want to talk to the wives about this.
Of course the men have things they need to work on in this scenario. They should absolutely work on noticing and volunteering to help. I’m not letting them off the hook by addressing the women today. Men, if you are reading this, it will feel very loving to your women to really focus on trying to notice what she is doing and come alongside her in working toward a common goal. Men, if you know that things are in crunch time for hosting people, trying to get out the door or working to get dinner on the table, a very loving phrases is, “What can I do to help?”
All that said, I am mostly talking to the women today, so I want you to hear me out on this situation. You might look at the scene and get mad at the husband. Let me tell you, it won’t work. Getting mad at them or nagging them incessantly will not make the marriage better. Guys just don’t respond well if you blow up at them after you’ve reached the tipping point. Let me help you find another alternative.
The problem is, we wives don’t want to ask for help. I see it over and over. We want the guys to notice. We don’t want to feel like we are always needing to ask. We want our guys to intuitively know how to love us well, and for them to just stand up during these times and take action would feel loving.
Therefore, rather than ask, we get annoyed. Like I said, I’ve seen this scene repeated by women and men, and I’ve listened to both perspectives. What I have come to realize is that men often just don’t see it. I know that we, as women, can’t even comprehend this. It’s so obvious to us what needs to be done and how much we are doing. Men’s brains are simply wired differently. Have you heard the analogy of women’s brains being like spaghetti, all intertwined, while men have brains more like a waffle, which is compartmentalized? I believe guys get into one compartment of their brain (and they do have a “nothing” box) and that is where they reside. We, as women, see all of the things that need to happen, intertwined, and we see how we need to get to there. We assume they think the same way. They don’t.
Dear Wives, Have You Asked?
So the question remains, “Dear Wives, Have you asked?” Communication tends to be a struggle in many marriages. Learning to communicate before you get annoyed and stuck is key to helping situations like this play out well.
Before you are 30 minutes into the situation and already annoyed, communicate. Say something like, “Honey, we have to be out of the house in an hour. Would you mind making the lunches while I wrap the gift for the party and get myself ready to go?” You could also add, “It would feel really great if you asked the kids to clear their plates when they are done too.” Whoa – It can be as simple as that. It’s important to watch your approach, attitude and tone of voice as you make requests. What I often find is that when we respectfully approach our husband and just ask for help, we get a very responsive husband.
Another pitfall that we can fall into that makes our husbands not want to help is if we micro-manage them or take over. Let them do the job you ask them to do, even if they don’t do it the way you would do it. They are capable, but if you make them feel less than that they will not want to help in the future. In the above scenario, let him figure out lunch unless he asks. You don’t need to correct him throughout the feeding time and make sure that meal is perfectly balanced with all the colors of the rainbow. He doesn’t need to cut the sandwiches just so. If he isn’t doing it exactly the way we would do it, who cares? Let it go. Empower him to want to help in the future by letting go of the reigns a bit. Before you let the reigns go, you could also just ask again. “Oh, could you make sure they get some fruit in their bellies too?”
My Husband Doesn’t Respond Well When I Ask
Some of you may be thinking, “My husband doesn’t respond well when I ask. Now what?”
- Reflect – Have I been a micro-manager in the past and that is preventing him from wanting to ask? How is my tone of voice when I ask for help? Am I asking too much? Am I just as supportive to him when he has things he wants to get done?
- Ask – When you are not in the moment, ask. “It seems like when I ask you for help, you don’t want to help. Is there something I’m doing or a way that I’m asking that is preventing you from wanting to help during those times? What can I change to make it easier for you?”
- Be Approachable – We need to be a safe place to land. You have just asked some questions, and you may not want to hear the answers. It’s easy to become quickly defensive and angry. Try and listen. Take some time to reflect. Calmly lead into more discussion on the topic if needed. Listen to what he communicates to you. He is not your enemy, but he might see things in you that you could change to help improve your marriage.
- Change – The only thing you can do is change yourself? You can nag him all you want, but it’s just going to be wedge between you. If you really focus on fixing your contribution, doing a complete reflection on your own attitude and communication, and change how you interact with your husband, I do believe our well-intended men will be more willing to help when asked.
You might now be asking, “If I change me, will my spouse really change?” Find out the answer to that question here.
My husband and I have been married 10 years and are just now getting into a better rhythm navigating this because of the tips I’m giving out today. We also both realize marriage is work and recognize that we are innately selfish. We are striving to fight against that tendency, but it’s a lot of work. It didn’t come natural for either of us. It’s amazing how the tip, “Just ask and ask in a loving way,” can transform times of frustration into times of really feeling like a team. Recognize that marriage is a work in process, and be willing to offer grace along the journey.