Loving relationships begin to fray and wander toward breaking not because of what we ask each other to do but, often, because of how we ask each other.
If we can learn how to request the trash be taken out or the kitty litter scooped in a way that diffuses tension, our relationships have a much better chance of remaining tightly knit and warm.
Of course the kids need picked up from school, the laundry folded, the dog walked, the television screen dusted—our lives are peppered with small, sometimes irritating responsibilities that we would much rather someone else fulfill. In nearly every relationship, one person is the taskmaster, making sure the grocery list is complete, the vacuum canister is emptied, and the bills paid. The other person often takes on many of the chores—sometimes with a light heart, sometimes begrudgingly.
The mistake we often make, though, when we need or want a task complete is to order the task done. Or we express our resentment about having to ask for the task to be done. A couple tricks (small kindnesses, really) can simultaneously get the microwave cleaned out and the loving feeling returned.
Instead of saying “dust the ceiling fans” and going about your job of making the beds, try saying, “darling, you’re so tall and beautiful, could you please dust the ceiling fans for me?” Flattery will get you everywhere.
Instead of saying “the bathrooms need to be sanitized,” kiss your partner on the cheek and say, “my love, do you think you could find time today to help me get the bathrooms cleaned?” You praise and allow some measure of control and flexibility.
Try not to say, “I do everything around here! You never do anything!” Instead, swallow the resentment and unpleasant words and provide your partner an opportunity to earn the praise. Some interesting studies shows students perform better on tests when praised before the test—even more than if they study longer!
You might try these words as an alternative: “My darling sexy hunk of a partner, you’re really good at cleaning the dog poop off the lawn. My heart would flutter if you could bag and dispose of Growler’s waste.”
A little kindness, positive affirmation, and good cheer go a long way toward easing tensions and helping everyone feel inclined to help out around the house.
The generosity begins with the person who asks. By shaping your request in praise and chocolaty smooth phrases, you’re guaranteed to keep the loving feeling.