Getting The Support You Need

 Dear Karen,

 I am very frustrated, and I hope you can help me.  My husband has become a lazy S.O.B., and seems perfectly content to let me work like a dog.  When he gets home from work, he spends all his time playing on his stupid Xbox, when it should be perfectly clear to him that I need help either with the kids, or around the house.  This is NOT the man I married!  That man was my best friend, and someone I felt loved and supported by.  Is he a hopeless case? – Annie, CT

 Dear Annie,

 I’m excited by your question (well, actually, by the possibility of a relatively quick shift for you two!).

 I hear two good places to start from, based on what you shared:

 1)      he has a job

2)      your relationship was really good in the beginning

 which means we’ve got good stuff to work with!


 What do most women do, typically, when we’re stressed?  We talk about it!  Sometimes, even with total strangers (haven’t you ever spilled it with the woman next to you in line somewhere…and then felt immediately better?).

 Men, on the other hand, will typically fix (and/or kill) the thing that’s stressing them out; if they’re not able to do either of those things, they’ll find something to take their mind off the problem. 

 Great coping mechanism, right?

 Not when you’re married to him and his way of taking care of his stress is in direct opposition to what you want/need him to do.


 Imagine you have a tool that you can turn on whenever you need it…a “man-translator”.  What this handy gizmo does is to help you interpret what your man is doing whenever you’re feeling confused (or angry/frustrated, etc.) into something that makes you feel more loving.  The whole purpose of this tool is to help you be with your husband in a way that supports what you (both) want. 

 What your translator could say in the situation you’ve described is something along these lines:

 “If he’s coming home and hitting the Xbox as soon as he walks in the door, he must be feeling more pressure and stress than I even realize.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about me, or want to help – it’s just that he’s looking for fast relief from the feelings he’s having.  And (to add to the whole thing), since I know I’m not really great at expressing my needs, and particularly in a way that he can hear, he isn’t aware of the things I need from him.”

 Now, if you’re reading this and saying something like “I’m not going to just let him get away with being a lazy S.O.B.!”, then you’re missing the point here: if you relate with him in a way that feels good to both of you, then you’re way more likely to have him do what you want/need.  

 Think about it for a minute – which approach would work better with you:

 a)      “Annie, you are so awful at keeping things organized!” or

b)      “Annie, I know you’re juggling so much to try to keep our family organized, which I know is a challenge for you, and I appreciate it more than I can say.”

 My imagination says that if you heard the second message, you’d feel very inspired to be more organized, because you’d be looking for more of that appreciation and acknowledgment.


 Try this experiment for the next 30 days (don’t short-change yourself by only doing this sporadically, or only giving it a week or two):

 1)      start off each day looking at what you appreciate, respect, admire, like, love or otherwise feel good about in your husband (and, if you write it down, you’ll get more “bang for the buck”)

2)      each day, at least once, tell your husband about one of the items on your list

3)      when you find yourself going to the old, habitual negative perception of what he’s doing/not doing, intentionally start up your “man-translator” and re-work what you’ve just told yourself until you feel better about him…(important point here: no matter how much you want to keep feeling mad at him, do this exercise!)

4)      If you’re in the habit of complaining about him, stop.  Instead, share your praise, appreciation, etc., with those people you’ve been sharing the negative stuff with, and don’t let them egg you on to going back to the “old” talk.


 You know, our DNA hasn’t changed in any appreciable way since the days of the caveman.  So, no matter what else is true, your husband is deeply wired to take care of you and your family.  Help him tap into that part of him by seeing it in him, by relating to him from that place, and by acknowledging every single thing he does that’s moving in the direction of making you happy/ier.  He’ll do more of it, I can virtually guarantee that!