“Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful.” Ric Ocasek
When our lives become stressful, do you think we should communicate more or less inside our marriage?
We know the answer intellectually, but what do we usually do?
We typically communicate less during stressful times…
- We shut down to our partners (because we don’t want to cause an argument)
- We think our partners should know what we need (because they can see we’re stressed)
- We assume that what they’re focused on aligns with what we’re focused on (because it should be obvious)
Here’s an example from a client recently:
She was planning a big family dinner. She created the menu and shopping list, went grocery shopping, put everything away, only to then drag it all back out the next day and spend most of the day cooking her heart out for her family.
Her husband was “putzing” in the garage for a while, and then later in the afternoon, she found him dozing off in front of the TV.
She was feeling stressed because she very much wanted the family dinner to be special, and she was running herself ragged in order to make it happen.
He was feeling relaxed because he was looking forward to visiting with family late into the evening, and was resting so he could do that.
Now anyone can look at that situation and think, “She’s doing all the work.”
And she is.
But here’s what’s important:
When they planned this event, they never sat down and engaged in proper communication about who would do what in order to create a beautiful evening.
So when the day came, she’s thinking, “There’s a lot to do and surely he will help me.” However, he’s thinking, “I’m going to stay out of her way so I don’t make things even more difficult for her. She usually takes the lead on these things and she’s much better at it than I am.”
Neither of them are wrong.
And their hearts are in the right place.
But because they’re not communicating, she’s getting more resentful by the hour.
Here’s what they could do differently with their communication to ensure a different outcome in the future:
- Have a conversation and sit down in advance to decide who is responsible for each part of the process. A pen and paper would be handy for this so there’s no confusion.
- If you want assistance with something, ask for it. Notice I didn’t say get angry or sarcastic with your spouse so they will feel guilty and help you. Instead, simply ask or invite them to do something specific: “I would love it if you would help me make this salad. You’re so much quicker at cutting vegetables than I am.”
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell your partner that you’re going to take a short break to take a breath. Your overwhelm is your responsibility, and you know when you need to take care of yourself. You just have to give yourself permission to do it.
- If your partner communicates with you that he or she is overwhelmed, ask what you can do to lessen that overwhelm (or at least offer a hug and a word of encouragement.)
- Say thank you. Acknowledge one another’s effort.
Lastly, remember that you’re on the same team.
So many frustrations in marriage arise because we don’t communicate well.
If communication is a downfall inside your marriage and it’s causing some heartache, let’s explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together.