My wife often asks me to do things around the house that I often would prefer not to do. They’re small things that seem to always come right about the time I decide to sit down and rest for a minute, or that involve me exerting more energy than I feel I want to give. But, because I love my wife and try hard not to fall into the I Don’t Want To Trap, I almost always oblige.
I say “almost always” because there are times when her requests come at a most inconvenient time for me. Maybe I’m minutes away from finishing an important email, or maybe I know that if I do what she’s asking, I won’t have time to finish getting ready before we have to leave. Or maybe it’s something trivial like wanting to finish the last four minutes of a TV show. At these times, I will tell my wife no, and she graciously responds with words of understanding. Why is that?
I have earned the right to say no.
My wife knows that unless I have a good reason not to do what she’s asking, I’ll do it immediately. I have made the immediate fulfillment of her requests the normal in our household. So when I do occasionally respond with, “No, I can’t do that right now,” she knows that I mean it and that I’m not just trying to get out of helping her.
But that’s not the end of it. Just because I’ve earned her trust to say no doesn’t mean I can skip out on doing these things for her when I am able. When she asks, “Would you mind coming in here and doing up some of these dishes?” and I respond with, “I can’t right now, but I’ll be in there just as soon as I make this phone call.” This lets her know the reason why I can’t do something, and tells her that I will help the minute I’m available. Sometimes she gets to the task before I am able to, but she knows that I wasn’t just avoiding it.
And what about wanting to finish the last four minutes of a TV show? Earn her trust. Don’t be sneaky about these things, be honest. If you’re expecting guests over in thirty minutes and she’s just asked you to vacuum the living room, be honest: “This show is over in six minutes. I’ll vacuum just as soon as it ends.” If you’ve made it a habit to help her whenever she asks and have fulfilled your word when you’ve had to put the task off for a little while, she won’t have to wonder if the thing is going to get done on time.
Don’t just say no. Earn the right to say no.