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If I ask for something from my spouse and she tells me no, or just doesn’t do it, I can become very frustrated and even despairing. I can become furious because I’m not getting my needs met. I can believe my spouse just doesn’t love me enough, or doesn’t care about me enough. I can decide to dish out a little payback, and ignore her, and not do what she wants just to show her how it feels. I can repeat myself endlessly, and nag, and throw myself on the ground and cry. I can even leave in a huff, or have an affair and justify it on the grounds that my spouse is just not there for me. All of these reactions are very unpleasant, and I can easily blame my spouse for all of it.

There is another option. I can ask for something from my spouse and if he tells me no, or just doesn’t do it, I can start out by clarifying my request. He could have been distracted, or he could have forgotten what I want. So, I could approach him and say, “I have something I would like to ask you. Is now a good time?” If it is, I will try to be as clear as I can. For example, I could say, “Would you please be home by 5:00? I would really like that.” I will not cast aspersions on his/her character because they stays at work longer than I want them to and I have to cook, bathe children, etc. I will not tell him/her that if he/she doesn’t do what I want I AM OUT OF HERE! And I will not throw myself down on the ground and sob because I am not getting my way.

And here’s why…
because I understand that I can ask, and he/she can say no. He/she can ask, and I can say no. If someone is not allowed to say no, then his/her yes doesn’t mean very much.

We get to have choice in a relationship. Otherwise it’s just a form of slavery, or oppression. Even though I may get really angry, and have a negative reaction, I will take the high road. Why? Because I don’t want to live my life like a 5 year old and be at someone else’s mercy. I know that I have also made choices. I chose to get married and have children.

At this point I can start figuring out different solutions to the problem. If I am doing too much and not getting enough help, I may decide to drop out of some activities until my life is doable. I may decide to hire help. I may decide to quit my job and learn how to spend less at the grocery store. I may decide that the best approach is to become a minimalist! All the toys except the Legos, Tinkertoys, paper and crayons and one doll are going away. Everybody gets 4 pair of pants and 6 shirts. Period. Just because someone else doesn’t want to clean doesn’t mean I have to spend my life cleaning either. I can also decide to focus on the things my spouse contributes to my life and not dwell on the fact that I am doing 80% of housework and childcare and that it isn’t “fair”. I can do that because I have a choice. I can find a way to make it work for me, because I am a resourceful adult.

I am not “stuck” just because he/she says no. I also don’t have to believe he/she doesn’t love me or doesn’t care. This is just a practical problem that needs to be worked out as effectively as possible.

P.S. In the above example, if you take significant action, the next time you ask for something, he/she may be more inclined to try to accommodate you! This is not manipulation! You are not taking action to force someone to do what you want any more than you are asking for something and thinking the other person has no choice but to do what you ask. You have simply figured out that there is choice in relationships, and that you have a lot more power than you thought you did.