February 18, 2013

Earn The Right To Say No

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.


  1. I really have a problem with this. Imagine a wife thinking in this way - that she has to earn the right to say no. I find the reality is that wives are always asking the husband to do things. The husband rarely asks the wife to do anything. And perhaps the husband is usually being selfish doing his own things while the wife is contributing like a saint. But that's the part that sucks. The couple is operating like the woman is the drill sergeant and leads the whole enterprise while the husband is the somewhat adrift employee, so he has to earn the right to say no. Sure many relationships are like this. But the thing is they could be a partnership of equals in which case there is no need to earn the right to say no. The no is just a part of working together.

    1. I could not agree more with what you said, I have no idea why most of society thinks that the woman have the authority to rule over their husbands,