Ya’ll (I grew up in the south and still find this to be the most efficient way to get people’s attention). Ya’ll….I hate this one. This one is the hardest for me and typically, it is the hardest for the couples who sit in my office. There are many reasons I hate it. First of all, it’s hard. It takes intention and practice. Ugh (insert temper tantrum emoji here). Second, I feel like I should have this mastered as I help couples with this all the time. But I don’t, because back to my first point, it’s hard.
But it very well, may be…The. Most. Important. Skill. In. Your. Marriage. Hopefully that got your attention.
We have to learn how to ask for change, without blame.
Let me illustrate blame…
- “You didn’t do what I asked!
- “You don’t even listen to me!”
- “You aren’t doing what I need.”
- “What are you even doing?? I guess I’ll just do EVERYTHING by myself!”
- “You aren’t there for me when I need you.”
- “You screwed up…again.”
- “How many times do I have to tell you this?”
Usually, your spouse hears one of two things. 1) “Nag, Nag, Nag” or 2) “You are inadequate and you do not make me happy.” Trust me, neither of these messages will motivate your spouse to change. Actually, both will ensure your spouse continues to do the same or a worse version of the same.
Now, let me illustrate asking for change…
- “I’m overwhelmed and need your help.”
- “When I can tell you are listening to me, it makes everything better…Can I have your attention?”
- “It seems like I keep asking for the same things over and over. I start to wonder why you aren’t doing the things I have asked. I start to wonder if you don’t care about me or if I’m not a priority. This hurts me. Can we talk about what gets in the way of doing some of these things?”
- “When I feel like the weight falls on me, I get so angry. And that’s why sometimes I act irritable and frustrated with you. I don’t want to act this way with you. Can I talk about what I need from you that would help me not feel so angry?”
Y’all (I’m having an exceptionally southern day today), when partners make these changes in sessions, the results are game-changing. The receiving partner shifts from defensiveness to openness; from shut-down to giving their full-blown attention; from hopeless to motivation.
Think about it…if a spouse feels like they aren’t what you want, that they don’t make you happy, they start to feel pretty hopeless. In relationships, hopeless people are NOT motivated people. It is hopeless to feel like “I’m not what you want and I don’t know if I can be.”
But, when a spouse feels needed and loved (because they hear “I need these things from you because I love you and it is so important for me to feel like you care about me and love me, too”), their motivation level goes through the roof. Seriously, they eagerly sit on the edge of their seat at full attention waiting to hear the emotional needs of their spouse. In relationships, LOVED people are motivated people.
If you have been following this blog, you know that even though we are marriage counselors, we can communicate in so many crappy ways with our spouses. Which means, when I do all the things I just told you not to do (which happens all the time) and I don’t do any of the things I just told you to do (I’m just being honest), I have to tuck my tail between my legs and cozy up to my spouse at the end of the day to make sure he knows that he is loved. Why? I will say it again, in relationships, loved people are motivated people.
What to do?
Catch yourself today one time when you fuss, complain, or ask your spouse for something. Try it again as a loving request. Note what happens.
- It’s one of the hardest, yet most important relationship skills. What is it? Asking for change without blame.
- When you learn this skill, your spouse leans in to meet your needs, rather than being pushed away.
- In relationships, hopeless people are NOT motivated people.
- In relationships, LOVED people are motivated people.