I’m terrible at telling my husband, Chris, what I want. Like, mortifyingly bad. The second I need to ask for something, I transform into a bizarrely meek version of myself.
My requests usually go something like this:
Me: “Hey, babe! If it’s not too much trouble, can you please empty the dishwasher? Whenever you get time is fine. If you can’t, don’t stress it. I’ll take care of it.”
I also suck when it comes time to weigh in on, say, which restaurant to hit up:
Chris: “Where do you want to go out to eat?”
Me: “Wherever you want! You pick!”
WTF is that?
Chris has never given me any indication that he can’t take a direct request; I’m just apparently so worried that I’ll come across as demanding that I turn into a super shy—or mute—version of myself when I need or want something.
That’s pretty normal for women, says Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Atlanta. “It’s often difficult—particularly for women—to ask for what we want in relationships because we are often socialized to put our needs behind the needs of others,” she says, adding that we’re usually worried that straight-up asking for what we want can make us seem bossy or needy.
But she says learning to just ask for what you want can bring you closer to your S.O. Why? You learn that you can trust that your partner will listen to your needs— and actually do something about them.
It would be awesome! I’d get what I want and we’d grow closer! How could this go wrong?
Oh, it did.
I started with small requests, like asking Chris to walk the dog for me. I noticed a little side-eye action when I didn’t phrase it the usual passive way or give a reason why I couldn’t do it myself, but he did it anyway.
RELATED: 5 Signs His Apology Is Bullsh*t
Then, I started to ramp things up. I asked for affection when I needed it and for him to go to the grocery store when I was up against a pressing work deadline. Chris didn’t say a thing—he just did it. I was digging this new system!
I began asking Chris to do pretty much everything for me—take out the garbage, do the laundry, clean the bathrooms. He didn’t protest, so I kept asking.
But it all came to a head one day when we were in the car together and I told him that we were going home before meeting our friends—instead of asking him. “Why are you so demanding lately?” he asked.
I had gone from backing into asking for things to straight-up demanding that they be done. I had become power hungry. I asked for things, and I got them! It was amazing…until it became kind of inconsiderate.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot how to properly (and politely) express my needs—and it pissed Chris off.
That’s where I went wrong, says Bradford. She points out that it’s courtesy 101: You should thank your partner for doing things that you specifically ask for (which also encourages him to keep fulfilling requests).
I didn’t, and Chris was salty as a result.
But the actual fact that I changed the way I approached requests also likely had an impact, says Bradford, since I’ve been asking Chris for things the same (crappy) way for years. As a result, he needed some time to get used to the new, more assertive me.
Since my diva week, I’ve dialed back how I tell Chris what I want. I’m not about to go back to my former meek ways, but my marriage might not survive if I keep up the act.
It was fun while it lasted—and at the end of the day, I still get what I want!
Korin Miller is a writer, SEO nerd, wife, and mom to a little 2-year-old dude named Miles. Korin has worked for The Washington Post, New York Daily News, and Cosmopolitan, where she learned more than anyone ever should about sex. She has an unhealthy addiction to gifs.