SmallStep #11 – Ask for the Things You Need

Greeting card in woman handSmallSteps are simple things you can do to live a calmer, healthier and sexier life.  You don’t have to turn your life upside down in order to make positive changes.  Sometimes very small changes, repeated over time, can make a big difference.  This week, consider adopting the SmallStep of asking for the things you need.

(Check out all of the SmallSteps to a Calmer, Healthier and Sexier life here.)

Very often, busy wives and moms don’t ask for the things they need.  Things like a break from the daily grind, help with the children, a hand with household tasks, time to take care of their health, or changes that would allow them to better enjoy sex and intimacy in their marriages.  Sometimes, they don’t know it’s okay to ask for what they need.  At other times, their lives are so busy they haven’t figured out what they need.  And once in a while they do know what they need, but don’t ask for it because they believe the other person should know without being asked.  Whatever the reason, needing things and not asking for them creates a lot of stress and frustration, and sometimes leads to anger.

If you frequently feel stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed, consider the possibility that you’re not asking for things you need.  If you suspect that’s the case, take steps to understand what kind of help or support you need, then learn to ask for it.

  • Identify the things that stress or frustrate you most.  Is it the chaos and exhaustion of getting young children bathed and put to bed?  Is it the effort involved in coordinating older children’s schedules and transporting them to their activities?  Is it the frustration of dealing with clutter in the house, even though you pick stuff up and put it away all day long?  Is it the fact that you don’t have time to exercise or eat well?  Is it the stress of helping an elderly parent while caring for your own family?  Or maybe it’s an inability to enjoy sex and intimacy, because you never have time to relax and unwind beforehand.  This list of things that can cause stress for a busy woman is almost endless, so take some time and figure out what  things are most stressful and frustrating for you.
  • Figure out what kind of help you need.  Once you know what stresses or frustrates you the most, determine what kind of help you need.  Do you need your husband to help with young children’s baths and bedtime routines?  Do you need older children to take more responsibility for managing their own “stuff?”  Do you need a break during the day or evening so you can fit regular exercise into your schedule?  Do you need for your siblings to step up and provide more assistance to your parents?  Or do you need time at the end of the day to relax and unwind, so you can enjoy sex and intimacy and ease into a restful night’s sleep?  The need for help will be different for every woman, so take the time to understand exactly what you need.
  • Figure out why you’re not asking for help.  For some reason, asking for help is difficult for many women.  Maybe it’s because we expect to be able to “do it all.”  Maybe we think other women are “doing it all,” so what’s wrong with us?  Maybe we feel like we’ve failed if we can’t cook, clean, care for children, work, teach, transport and volunteer, all with perfect ease and without any help.  Maybe it’s because we like the feeling of control that doing it all gives (until it all comes crashing down).  Maybe we think the other person should “just know” what we need.  (Most likely that person is a husband, who is not a mind reader and probably does not know what we need.  That doesn’t mean he’s a bad or thoughtless person; it means he’s human.)  Or maybe we have a bit of a martyr thing going on, because being super-busy and stressed brings us some attention and energy.  Whatever it is, identify it and determine that you’re going to let go of it, overcome it or work around it.
  • Ask for the help you need.  Learn to be specific and direct.  A vague or veiled request generally will not get you what you need.  Instead, state simply and clearly what you need and what you’re asking the other person to do.  “I really need some help with the bedtime routine.  Would you take over giving the kids their baths?”  “I need you to pick up all of your toys and put them away, before you sit down to watch TV.”  “We both need more exercise. Let’s take turns handling the kids’ morning routine so the other person can work out.” “Lately, I’m having to do a lot of errands for Mom.  Could you start taking her to the grocery store on Saturdays?”  “I want us to enjoy a great sex life, but I can’t work like a slave until 10:00, collapse into bed and suddenly “turn on” my sexy side.  It just doesn’t work that way for me.  On the nights when we plan to make love, I need to stop working by 9:00 and have some time to relax and unwind.”  Whatever it is that you need, ask for it – clearly and directly.  That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it, but often you will.  You may need to ask more than once, because old habits and ways of doing things die hard for all of us.

Is it hard for you to ask for the help and support you need?  It is for me.  Over the years I’ve had to learn to ask for a lot of things, including help with housework, breaks from caring for our children when they were young, time to unwind in the evening, and time to pursue an interest or hobby. When I started to work full time outside our home I had to say “I cannot manage the housework. I need a housekeeper once a month.”  That one really stung, because somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that a “good” wife and mother is able to clean her own house, regardless of what else is going on in her life.  Ouch.  And I’ve had to learn (over and over!) that my husband is not a mind reader.  He wants to provide what I need, but often he doesn’t know what that is unless I tell him.

If you’re dealing with a lot of stress and frustration, consider taking the SmallStep of figuring out one or two things you need. Then practice asking for them, appreciating them and enjoying them. Over time, repeating that pattern will reduce the level of stress and frustration in your life.

(Visit the SmallSteps page for 10 more simple ideas for living a calmer, healthier and sexier life.)

Sharing with Messy Marriage, Wonderful Wednesday and Motivation Monday.

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