So if you are married or in a committed relationship, most likely at some point in the relationship your wife or girlfriend has asked you to do something.
"Hey hon, can you do the dishes?"
"Will you put the kids in the bath?"
"Can you take the garbage out?"
"The dog hasn't been fed, can you feed him?'
"Hey, will you put those towels away?"
Innocent Little No's
And at some point in your relationship, you most likely told her "no." You probably didn't just flat out say "nope" and nothing else. (I hope to hell you didn't.) But most likely it sounded like this.
"Ahhh, I'm really busy."
"Sorry, can't, gotta run out to get gas."
"After I finish this show."
"Can't you just do it?"
This seemed really innocent to you. You didn't really want to change the diaper, switch the laundry, put a kid down. You were in the middle of doing something else. You were tired and just wanted to see the end of the show. She ASKED after all. And when you ASK, there are two possible answers: yes and no. If she really wanted you to do it, she would have told you.
Guess what? Those innocent no's are a lot bigger to your wife than they are to you. This is what she heard.
"I see you are struggling to keep up with everything and I am choosing not to help you."
"My stuff is more important than doing stuff for this family."
"I think all of this is your responsibility and not mine."
"I don't care that you are overwhelmed."
"I don't love you that much."
You are probably shocked right now. There's no way she thinks those things! I just said I was too busy, that's all! But to her, you are ignoring her in a time of need. And to women, who are socialized to always be helping others, this is a really. big. deal.
So resentment grows. Each time this happens, these feelings of "he doesn't care, he sees I need him and he's choosing not to, he doesn't respect me, etc." compounds itself over time. Each time it's like adding another block to the tower of evidence that you aren't as invested in this relationship as she is. That you take her for granted.
So the next time your girlfriend or wife asks you do to something, just do it. And make it seem like you are happy to do it. Unless you want her thinking all those other things, which I'm guessing you don't.
Corrin Voeller is a relationship therapist in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She lives with her husband, children, and extremely fat dog.
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