Set Him Up To Succeed

Dear Karen,

 It’s that time of year again – my husband will invariably get me something I don’t want for Christmas, and ignore what I’ve told him I do want.  Again.  It wasn’t always like this…for the first few years, he tried to listen and to give me what I wanted.  He sure got a lot closer back then, than he does now.  It’s really frustrating to tell him, and to have him completely ignore me, when it comes to getting me gifts for Christmas.  How can I fix this issue?  Cindy, NH

 Dear Cindy,

 There are a couple of things that jump out at me in your question:

 1)      he used to get closer (still not “on the mark” from the sounds of it, but trying to hit it);

2)      it sounds like you may be requesting what you want in a way that isn’t giving him too much leeway to do it his way.

 I want to remind you (and all the readers) that men are biologically wired to provide and protect.  It’s an instinct in them that the past 30,000 years hasn’t modified one bit.  And, judging by what almost all of the women I’ve coached over the years want in a mate, that seems to be great news; women want to have men provide for them and protect them, no matter how powerful, self-reliant and brilliant they may be!

 So if that is also true about your husband, then something is dulling that instinct in him.  Let’s explore where you may have a part to play in that.


Sadly, many couples have a dynamic that seems to play out over time:

 1)      You get together, and you think he’s (practically) perfect, and you do a great job of letting him know how awesome you feel he is;

2)      He can’t get enough of that “Admiration/Respect” fuel for his tank, and he decides to make you his wife;

3)      It’s all great for a while, but then he does some things that have him fall off the pedestal you put him on, causing you to become a little less admiring of him, and maybe even a little more critical of him;

4)      He stops trying so hard, because he’s not willing to risk failure – and he has no idea what happened, by the way;

5)      You get more insistent, or demanding, or controlling (you know what I mean, right?);

6)      He puts even less effort into trying to please you (after all, it seems to him that he can’t do enough to make you happy, so why try?);

7)       You end up in a sort of “Mexican stand-off”, both in your respective corners, feeling like you don’t know this person you’re married to, because it sure isn’t the (nearly) perfect person you fell in love with!

 By the way, Cindy, if this doesn’t describe your situation, that’s fine.  Just thought I’d throw it out there because it is true for so many couples.

 So what’s the fix? 

 There are some things you can do that I’d bet will turn things around, and maybe even quickly!


You know how many men won’t stop to ask for directions?  They have this deep inner drive to already know. They will, however, use a map.  Have you ever noticed that?

 Women don’t come with maps (or user manuals, or anything…how frustrating for men!).  We have to offer the “map”, and we have to do it in a way that isn’t telling him what to do.  (That messes with their own instinct to provide, and to do so as a man, not a minion.) 

 What that would look like is sharing with him what you’d love, why it would make you happy, and then release it…to have him do it the way he’ll do it, and that includes in his time frame.   

 This takes patience, humor, and, above all, appreciation for him and what he does do. 

 (Which, when you’ve asked for that diamond and emerald necklace that’s on sale this week only from Kay Jewelers for $600, normally $1,000, and what you get is a diamond and sapphire ring – for which he paid top dollar, at some high-end jewelry shop – can be hard to do.  But do it; you’re shooting yourself in the proverbial gift-getting foot if you  mess too much with the way he’s inspired to give to you.)

 By the way, you know you’re really off-track in offering an effective roadmap for your man if, instead of jewelry, you get the fastest food processor in the history of mankind.

 So, to wrap up:

 1)      let him know what you want;

2)      let him know why it would make you happy (great motivation for him);

3)      let go of what/when/how he ends up doing it – even where he goes!;

4)      remember to appreciate everything he does do (even if it’s off the mark), because what gets rewarded gets repeated;

5)      repeat, as needed.

 Good luck this Christmas (and don’t forget – this doesn’t turn around overnight, so watch out for your expectations).