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The one little change that totally rocked my marriage

My husband is terrible at doing the dishes. It’s a chore he hates and he will go hours in the kitchen, staring at a sink full of dirty ones, adding more to the pile, making breakfast then lunch, before he might — finally — decide to do them. And even then, it’s only when he runs out of clean ones. This used to drive me crazy.

I am not generally an obsessive person, but there are two things I care about in terms of house maintenance — 1. The beds being made. 2. The dishes being done. It’s not that hard, people. But for my husband it was. We’ve been married more than 11 years and he never got it. Until the day I decided to talk to him about it.

“It makes me feel like you don’t love or respect me when you refuse to do the dishes right away,” I explained. To him, it was silly. A little thing I should get over. To me, it was big. And so he started doing them when he saw them. Sometimes he does them even more than I do. This is a good thing. And the funny thing is, after years of the same argument, it was a super-simple fix.

Communication. Look into it.

It’s not rocket science, but for some women, the ability to actually tell their man how they feel is very difficult, indeed. It shouldn’t be.

My mother died when I was 16. It was absolutely horrible in every way, but one of the more painful things is that she died angry. So angry. At my father. Why? Because he traveled. Because he did all kinds of things that made her angry. She kept it all inside, but detailed her anger in journal after journal that we saw after her death. She died angry with him and pushed him away. And for what?

The fact is, we women can’t seethe in silent anger and talk to our friends about our horrible men when we don’t bother to talk to them ourselves.

In my own marriage, the dishes were a small thing. But after the success of that talk, I decided to try again. Generally we are happy, but my husband has always been terrible about saying the words “I love you.” For me, those words really matter. A lot. He says them, but mostly either in response to me — “I love you, too” — or when we are in bed together. Neither of those count. At least not in the way I needed them to.

And so I told him that, too.

He listened. At first, not much changed. There were more hugs, sure. But I didn’t ask for hugs (he gives those anyway). There were even more cuddles in bed. Eventually, it came.

“I love you,” he said as he walked out the door for his business trip. “I love you,” he texted just before I went to bed a few nights later. He was downstairs and I was going to sleep.

It’s not perfect. He still doesn’t say it as much as I’d like him to, but he says it. I know for him, it takes effort. He is physically demonstrative, not verbally so. I need it. And he is trying to change because of that. Sometimes that’s all we need.

This talking thing really works. So when we hear a frustrated man say, “she expects me to read her mind,” maybe that’s exactly what we do. Maybe we shouldn’t expect that from anyone. Maybe it’s time to sit down and tell him what we need.

We ladies are trained not to ask for what we need. We are trained to think it is more romantic if he does it himself. But that’s a cop out. If you tell him you need flowers once in a while, is it really less of a surprise when he does it?

Say it after me, ladies: If you don’t ask for it, you are not allowed to be angry when you don’t get it. Period. End of story.

This is how relationships are made stronger. My dishes are done now and I hear “I love you” first a lot more than I used to. And you know what? It’s no less special than if I’d never had to ask. We are that much better for it.

So go ahead. Ask for what you want. See what you get.

Do you ask your husband for what you need?

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