“Mommy, can I go over to my friend’s house?” “No. I need you to help clean the house.”
“Can I go out with my friends on Friday night?” “No. I need you to babysit.”
I didn’t feel like I was asking for a lot, but it seemed like every request was met with “no.” By the time I was 23, supporting myself and living on my own, I began standing up and saying, “I will make my own decisions—even though you object.” It would have been nice to have my desires taken into consideration. It would have been nice to feel like someone was rooting for me. But I never felt like I did.
When a person comes from a home where they felt abused or neglected or unvalued, they may conclude they cannot or should not ask for things. Maybe they’ve given up hope because they’ve learned they are unlikely to get a positive response.
One night, Bob asked me where I wanted to go to dinner. “Panera?” There was a subtle question mark in my tone and Bob heard it. “Is that really where you want to go or are you trying to guess where I want to go?” I gasped. He’d nailed it! That was my mindset. I had long ago given up my desires in favor of guessing what other people wanted in an attempt to maintain peace. If I wasn’t going to get what I wanted, maybe I could have peace.
Have you taken “lessons” away from earlier experiences and brought them into your marriage in ways that are not fair to your spouse? Do you treat your spouse as though he or she is hostile or neglectful when they actually have a good and open heart toward you? If you are unwilling to take a chance and make a request, you are unlikely to have your needs and desires met. Your spouse should not be expected to read your mind. When you don’t ask, the answer is already “no.”
Start by asking God to clarify in your mind the legitimate expectations and desires you would love for your spouse to meet. Make a list. Perhaps you’d like for him to set aside 20 minutes a day to sit and talk with you. Maybe you want to start each day with a few minutes of prayer together. Maybe you want to pick the movie 50 per cent of the time. Be specific.
Then, gather your courage and make a request. (One request. Not all of them.)
“Sweetie, I feel like I don’t get to spend time and share with you the way we used to. It would mean a lot to me if we could have a date at least once a month. Would you help that happen by calendaring one Friday night a month and budgeting money for dinner and a babysitter?”
Are you married to a reluctant spouse? Let them know that you want to make them happy. Help them express their needs by asking, “What would you really like?” “What would delight your heart?” “Is this what’s best for you or what you think I want you to say?” Realize this is hard for them. When they know you are sincere, they will eventually take a chance and make a request.
This morning, Bob and I were driving to the gym. He had the heat cranked up so high I could barely breathe. I rolled the window down a few inches so I could get some air. “You could have asked me to turn the heat down,” he said. “I would have turned it down but you didn’t even ask.” Yeah. . . I didn’t.
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