Now that you know exactly what you want in your marriage, it's time to share your thoughts with your spouse. Although you might be thinking, "I've told him a million times what I want and need, it won't do me any good," you may have been asking the wrong way. In fact, lots of times your spouse thinks that you are doing nothing more than complaining. Complaints turn people off and build resistance. They don't spark a spirit of cooperation.
There are a few things you should keep in mind though before you approach your partner with requests for change.
For one, timing is very important. Although choosing a good time of day or week won't necessarily guarantee success, choosing a bad time will guarantee failure. For example, if I want to guarantee that my husband Jim will respond negatively to a request, I know exactly when to ask him:
- Just before he leaves for work
- When the kids are around
- When he is preoccupied or doing something
- When he is at work
- When he is very tired and wants to go to sleep
As you read what I've written, you're probably thinking that Jim has a very long list of times that he is unapproachable. I'd have to agree. But there are lots of other times when he is more receptive: on weekends before the kids wake up, over dinner when we go out together and on his car phone when he is returning from work.
If you sit down and really think about it, you know exactly when your spouse is approachable and when he isn't. In fact, that's what I'm going to ask you to do right now. Even if you can't think of times you feel confident that your spouse is going to be responsive, I know you can think of times he won't be.
Pick up your pen again and answer the following questions >>
- When is my spouse least likely to be conciliatory, patient or pay attention to my requests?
- When is my spouse most likely to be conciliatory, patient or pay attention to my requests? (Think back to a time when you got a positive reaction from your partner when you asked for something. Identify what was going on then.)
- Now, write down when in the next few days you will tell your partner what you want to improve about your marriage and commit to that date.
Asking for what you want can make all the difference in the world
You may be pleasantly surprised to find that setting solution-oriented goals and then asking for what you want in a more constructive way (even if that simply means asking at a more appropriate time) are extremely productive activities. But even though you've moved in a positive direction, you are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to keeping your marriage on track. In the meantime, let your spouse know how much you appreciate him
--and keep reading.
When asking doesn't make any difference
Sometimes, no matter how well you make or time a request, your partner may not respond the way you had hoped. There are lots of reasons this might be so. There may be so much tension between you that your partner is not about to do anything you ask. Or, your spouse may be so uncertain about staying married, he may not be receptive to requests for change right now. You may have talked so much about your marriage that everything you say at this point is going in one ear and out the other.
If your marriage is dangling by a thread and your spouse has made it perfectly clear that he is not interested in working on your marriage, don't ask him for anything right now. You have very little bargaining power at the moment. Your first task is to get your spouse to realize what a good thing he would be missing out on if he were to leave your marriage. Chances are, prior to beginning this workshop, you have asked your reluctant spouse for things that pushed him farther away. So don't ask your partner to change a thing right now if your marriage is extremely shaky.
If you are on the brink of divorce, you may be asking yourself why I had you read this step if you weren't going to use it. The answer is simple. What you learn as you go through this workshop is that everything is about timing. Now's not a good time for you to ask for anything. But perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future your spouse will decide to reinvest in your marriage and you will be able to apply all the information you are learning here.
Now that you've set new marriage goals and determined the best time to ask your spouse for what you want in order to reach them, it's time to learn more about long-term strategies for improving your marriage.
On to Step 4: Choose a strategy >>