Ask Specifically For Help

Diana almost cried when I asked her. How are you going to spend the holidays?

Sitting together in the hot tub after our respective workouts at the Y, she explained that both her parents were in nursing homes, and that her mother-in-law and her daughter would be visiting.

“I desperately need help. When my husband asked how he could help I told him to clean. Wouldn’t you know it! He cleaned under the sink in the upstairs bathroom.”

I told Diana that he probably did want to help, but that many men think very differently than women. We don’t want to insult each other by giving complete directions. We assume that if you say clean, anyone else would notice what’s dirty and clean it. Obviously your husband is one of the men who do that — for a variety of reasons that frustrate and infuriate women. These men need specific instructions.

I gave her this advice: “Diana, tell your husband exactly what you want him to do, and he’ll probably be happy to help you. Tell him get the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and vacuum the living room. Try giving him detail this way. ‘Please move the small pieces of furniture and put them back where they belong when you are done. Then vacuum all three bedrooms upstairs. When you’re done, please put the vacuum cleaner away.’

If you want him to wipe the counter say. ‘Please wipe the counter with 409.’ Then hand him the bottle and the sponge. If you want him to dust show him which tables and furniture need dusting and which dust cloth to use. If you need him to polish the silver gave him the pieces to be polished or tell them specifically which ones to take out and which kind of silver polishing cloth to use.

Some people might be insulted if you gave then such specific instructions, but men like your husband will be grateful.”

I also suggested that she give her daughter, who offered to help cook, similar specific instructions. “Instead of waiting to see what your daughter will think of doing on her own tell her exactly what you need. Tell her to shop for specific items or to cut the vegetables and leave them in the refrigerator it that is the kind of help you need. If you want her to take charge of preparing specific dishes, tell her exactly what you want and you’ll avoid worry and misunderstanding.”

Relieved, but looking doubtful, Diana said, “I’ll give it a try.”

A week later she told me how her husband had actually done what she asked and was pleased that he had been able to really help her. She marveled that her daughter pitched right in, helped immensely, and that for the first time ever, they didn’t even argue.
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[tags]Self-Improvement. Relationships. CoDependency, Communication[/tags]

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