How many times have you asked your significant other what they want to do for dinner, or what they’d like to do this weekend only to come up with a bunch of stuff they don’t want to do? Who out there has asked the house to be less messy, or the garage to be less stinky, only to be met with something that definitely looks messy and maybe still reeks?

When my husband and I were first dating, we made some communication errors. On particular time that I still remember, I asked him to wear something that looked “less grungy” to dinner. My husband promptly went into the closet (my husband is very prompt when it comes to getting food, nothing will stand between him and a burger!) got changed, and came back out proudly displaying his finest clean mixed martial arts t-shirt with no holes, tears, or rips, and a pair of clean but very wrinkled cargo shorts. You know the kind that have been sitting in the bottom your clean laundry bin for days and so wrinkled it’s obvious they are 3-day wrinkled? He flashes a smile at  at me, does one of his little head nods, and exclaims “let’s go feast!” He’s adorable……but not in proper attire. In fact, I’m not really sure that there was significant improvement over his last t-shirt and the shorts look unkempt.

You know what? My fault. I didn’t tell him what I wanted. I wasn’t specific. I left him on his own in the closet and really- what did I expect? He can’t read my mind and I shouldn’t expect him to. My error was in telling him a very general “don’t do this,” instead of “I’d like to see this.” How was the guy supposed to know better with my vague request?

Here are some examples of a general ‘don’t do this’ versus a specific, ‘do this’ instead:

“Don’t wear that grungy stuff please,” becomes “How about a collared t-shirt and some khaki pants?”

“I don’t want to eat heavy food” becomes “Maybe we can try salads for tonight?”

“I’m tired of seeing the kitchen a mess,” becomes “Please load the dishwasher, clean the counters, and take out the trash.

“I don’t want socks on the floor” becomes “Please put all dirty socks in the hamper.”

“I don’t like it when you work late” becomes “Text me if you are going to be more than an hour late at work.”

“I hate it when you are on your iPad all day,” becomes “I’d like us to spend some distraction-free time together.”

“The garage needs to be cleaned” becomes “Let’s organize all the tools, give the old lawn mower to Goodwill, and take the wet leaves to the bin so they don’t smell up the garage.”

Hope this was helpful,
Micah Brady, LICSW, LCSW-C, CTC, eRYT