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Old 11-03-2014, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you have trouble asking for what you need?

I just mentioned this issue in a thread about surviving with a newborn, but I've had trouble with it in many areas of life. I'm hoping to discuss it with people who can relate and might have some more strategies for me.

PLEASE, no responses like, "You're being stupid, just quit doing it, or seek therapy." I've had some therapy, which helped, but I'm still working on it. Please respond only if you can relate to this problem yourself or if you've found helpful ways to work with someone you love who has this problem.

I feel like I'm supposed to take care of myself. If I need something and it is possible for me to get it myself, I ought to do it, even if I am overwhelmed and it might take me a while to get to it. When I consider speaking up for my needs (or worse yet, my wanting things I don't outright need), especially if there is any possibility that doing something for me might inconvenience anyone, I get this feeling like, "Who do you think you are, some kind of princess?" and I feel guilty and frightened.

I want people to take care of me without my having to ask. I want them to look for what I need and offer to help or just do it. That's what really makes me feel loved. We have a friend staying with us right now, and last night after dinner he just calmly cleared the table and started washing dishes. I almost cried because I was so grateful not to have to make two trips carrying my dishes in one hand and my baby in the other while asking my son to bring his dishes to the kitchen.

Often, I will not ask for help and will push taking care of myself to the bottom of my to-do list for a long time until I suddenly freak out and/or something goes physically wrong with me. Just one example: When my daughter was a newborn, I stepped barefoot on a tiny bit of gravel that had been tracked into the house, and it stuck in the skin of my foot. I kept meaning to get around to picking it out, meanwhile spending many hours holding my baby and rocking from foot to foot, plus carrying her in the sling for longer walks when she was fussy. By the time I sat down with my foot under good light and both hands free, I couldn't get it out with just my fingernails or even with tweezers; I needed to soak the foot to soften the skin. But everyone else was asleep, and if I went upstairs to the bathtub leaving the baby alone, she'd probably wake up. So I didn't do it for about two weeks because I kept "forgetting". When I finally said to my partner, "I need you to hold the baby while I soak my foot and dig this thing out," he did it right away. I had to remove a sort of plug of hardened tissue from my foot. Then the spot filled in with even more hard stuff, and it hurt, but by the time I admitted it needed professional attention, I was back to work, so I just kept walking on it until I felt like I had worked my regular schedule long enough that I could come in late one day. The podiatrist had to dig a hole about 1/4" deep in the sole of my foot. It did heal properly after that, but it was raw and painful for several days, during which I kept walking as much as normal because my partner didn't offer to drive me.

Am I wrong in thinking this isn't just about me? I mean, sometimes, not always, but sometimes when I ask my partner to do something for me, he's all like, "But if I drive you and the baby to childcare, that'll take half an hour of my work day!" and then I feel terrible like I shouldn't have asked. But he's "working freelance from home" which so far has meant he works on various programming projects but never actually finishes anything and gets it into the app store to earn money--and his argument is that he'll never be able to finish anything if he doesn't have plenty of uninterrupted workdays, but it seems to me I deserve some support for my role as the breadwinner and mother of an infant. He is doing more housework now than he had done for years, and that's great! But it's something for him to rub in my face some of the times I ask him to do more, and what I hear is, "How dare you ask for that? You're already getting more than you deserve!" (that is much harsher than he ever actually says it) and it makes it harder for me to ask next time. Even though at other times he does do exactly what I ask, promptly, I'm still always afraid when I ask. We have talked about this, but I feel like we're missing any really effective strategy for breaking the pattern.

So...does anybody know what I mean? What helps you?

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Old 11-03-2014, 11:57 AM
 
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Yes I have issues with asking for what I need as well. But over the years, things have changed and I've moved myself up on the list. I probably would have put the baby down for a couple minutes to deal with the gravel in my foot as soon as it happened- knowing the long term effects out weight the short term ( healthy foot vs unhappy baby).
My kiddo is a bit older than yours but I've trained him to be helpful. THere is no reason a 9 yr old cant clear the dinner table. In my house the expectation is I make dinner, kiddo cleans up. ( he is 14) Maybe in your house the expectation is you make dinner, kiddo and dad clean up?- it may not be to your standards but it will get done.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. The more you ask for help, the more those around you realize what you need and in turn, you end up asking less (make sense?)

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Old 11-03-2014, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The expectation in my house is that each person will bring his/her dishes to the kitchen after eating. We have been trying to teach the kid this since he was about 3, but he persists in "forgetting" 90% of the time unless told to do it. Until about 2 months ago my partner also often delayed taking his dishes to the kitchen. It was really bothering me, and I had said so before without effect, but this time I pointed out that when he had made a new house rule that we can't set down anything on chairs (because he was sick of the kid piling junk on all the chairs and never coming back to it, and felt that my temporarily setting down groceries, etc., was setting a bad example) he got instant near-complete compliance from me; I wanted to make "no dirty dishes on table" a rule and have his compliance. Now he is cleaning up his own dishes always...but I'm still working on the kid, and my partner's apparent inability to notice that the kid has left a messy plate on the table (when I'm not there) is not helping.

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Old 11-04-2014, 03:08 PM
 
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This sounds more like a matter of you doing more than others in the family rather than you getting what you need.

To be honest, and I don't say this often, "that's mothering."

I'm not trying to tell you get over it, seek therapy, etc - just telling you, yeah, it really really sucks, a lot of the time. This is why no one in society wants the job and why child-rearing has always been at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. If we weren't living in patriarchy it would be a little better but probably not much because of the nature of child-rearing and communal living.

I was and sometimes am still overwhelmed with only one child and never wanted more than one for this very reason.

What I had trouble with and still do is keeping up my motivation to keep on keeping on. Now that my child is an adult it's late night phone calls, spur-of-the-moment visits and errands, biting my tongue when "I told you..." is about to pop out.

The daily grind is obviously so much easier on me with an empty nest. I did teach basic housekeeping skills to my family and that helped (my husband needed guidance in this regard also). If I met with too much resistance or avoidance and couldn't work things out I just sucked it up for the good of the family. I don't expect that others will necessarily comply with my guidelines for the household. Most of the time they do, but if they don't, now I just let it go if we can't work it out. I also have no problem asking someone, every single time, in a pleasant respectful way, to do something or follow some routine. But if they don't I just deal with it.

Most of the "help" I've gotten in parenting and household management has come from me: making the housekeeping easier and more effiecient.

If a family member knowingly takes advantage of another - that's on them, I feel. My stance is that I'm in this 100%, no matter what. I don't expect ever to get rewards, help, or acknowledgement for the work I did and do.

It took me awhile to understand and accept this.
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Old 11-05-2014, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I see your point, but no, this is not just about my doing more than others and not just about my being the mother. This has been a problem since I was a child. One thing I finally uncovered in therapy was that because MY mother was afraid of being oppressed as a mother and therefore encouraged my brother and me to do many things for ourselves (she's very conscious of this and speaks of it proudly) I learned that my desire to be dependent and nurtured is a bad thing, oppressive, anti-feminist, deserving of scorn and resentment. The only time after 2 years old that my mom was really nurturing of me was when I was sick--interesting how I had recurrent strep throat as a child and then, after ending that with a tonsillectomy, began having migraines. I also was bullied a lot in school and given the impression, from my parents and teachers, that this was unfortunate but there was really nothing to be done but keep forcing myself to go to school.

This is the part of your post that makes me feel you really don't get it:
Quote:
I also have no problem asking someone, every single time, in a pleasant respectful way, to do something or follow some routine.
I do have a problem with this. It takes me a long time to work up the nerve to ask in the first place. If the person's reaction is at all negative, I feel ashamed that I asked and disgusted with myself. When I have asked, they have agreed, and then they don't do it, I feel betrayed. It is even harder for me to mention it again. This doesn't apply to reminding my CHILD to do routine tasks--except when he's acting really over-the-top clueless and disrespectful--but with adults, it really bothers me. Say you agreed to mop the floor once a month but you haven't done it for six weeks, I expect that the need to mop the floor is on your radar, and I try to think of whether you've been unusually busy or sick or injured and therefore deserve extra slack, but you haven't and the dirty floor is bothering me and I feel you're not doing your part, not taking care of me. I start to think about how I might mention it tactfully. I think about it every time I notice the floor, which is like twice a day, for a week or so, meanwhile working hard at being perfect in every way so that I deserve a clean floor. I finally say, "Hey, this floor is really bad. Would you please mop?" and you say, "Yeah, I'm planning to do it Saturday," and now I know that I can't ask you for anything on Saturday or you won't mop. Saturday, I make sure I picked up all my things off the floor, I take the kids to the library out of your way...and when I get home the floor isn't mopped and you're just hanging around reading. I want to strangle you. But I try to be pleasant and respectful as I say, "I thought you were going to mop today. When are you planning to do that?" and you say, "Oh...yeah...I guess maybe after dinner..." and my heart is pounding and my mind is racing with fears of your yelling at me if I persist but I'm almost tearful with dread at the prospect of trying to cook in our kitchen, so I say, "Speaking of dinner, it's my turn to cook tonight, and I need those dirty pots out of my way. They've been piling up since Tuesday." and maybe that gets the dishes washed, but you and I both know that you're supposed to wash them every other day, so why have I had to ask? Why can't you just take care of me? Why are you punishing me for asking by demanding that I keep the kids out of the kitchen now and not make coffee (even though I need coffee to prevent headache) and oh no, what if an hour from now you tell me you can't mop because you're too tired from washing dishes and you're going to take a nap instead of holding the baby while I cook?

It just spirals out of control. The consequences of asking are unpleasant just often enough that I am very apprehensive about asking, seeing as I have trouble believing that I have any right to ask in the first place. Because I feel that I must be either perfectly caught up on everything I'm supposed to do or undeniably physically incapacitated before I can ask for help, I tend to drive myself too hard until I break down dramatically. My partner says, oh, just ask earlier before you get overwhelmed, but when I ask and it doesn't happen, or I ask and he says he can't do it unless I take on extra work to make it easy for him, or I remind him that he's supposed to be doing it now and he yells at me for "nagging", or he doesn't do it when he said he would and doesn't apologize or even acknowledge that it isn't done, or he's supposed to be doing it now but he calmly tells me he's going to bed early and just walks away leaving me with all my responsibilities plus his undone task...I just feel like he doesn't love me, and I'm angry at him for being a jerk, but I also feel that there must be some reason I deserve to be treated this way.

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Old 11-05-2014, 12:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pumabearclan View Post
I also have no problem asking someone, every single time, in a pleasant respectful way, to do something or follow some routine. But if they don't I just deal with it.
I guess the last part of that phrase makes me think you may not understand what I was saying: That I don't let it bother me. I work around it. I mop the floor myself for awhile until I figure out a solution so that 1) the job gets done and 2) I lower my personal stress level.

The issue of sharing housework is very common but really troublesome for families.

I hope you find some resolution to this soon.

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Old 11-05-2014, 12:55 PM
 
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I can say, unequivocally, YES, I do feel this way! I'm not sure where my own fear of asking for help comes from. My childhood was pretty good, but my teenage and early adulthood was clouded with difficult relationships. My inability to ask for help is probably related to my inability to say no. I'm learning to do both, but I too am discouraged by any negative response to my request.

Just lately I've been ruminating on this, thinking of exactly what I would say if someone were to ask me, "is there anything I can do to help?" Usually I dwell on these thoughts as I'm clearing the dinner table while holding the baby. I think it would be nice if a friend, spouse or sibling would just offer to help out and give me a little break once in a while, but it just doesn't seem the right thing to ask for help. For one thing, they all seem to be at least as busy as me, with whatever they've got going on in their lives. For another thing, I know I'd feel like a whiner the moment I open my mouth.

I think it would be nice if DH would do something small-- just clear that dinner table-- to make my job a little easier. But he would tell me how much harder his work is and that I just shouldn't let myself get overwhelmed, and try to appreciate what I have. I know his work IS more mentally challenging and stressful, and, no, I wouldn't be able to do his job. But somehow, hearing that doesn't make me feel any better, or motivate me to do more. I find myself thinking, other people have time to chill out and do nothing every so often. Why don't I?

Now, DH does do some cooking and housework, and will do the occasional task that I ask him to. He'll hang up the laundry, chop firewood, provide lots of family entertainment, and bring me a glass of water while I'm in bed nursing the baby-- usually without my asking. He tries to be helpful, but doesn't like to be told to do something. So I try to be mindful of the situation, not martyr myself and just hang in there until things get a little easier. I hope I can teach my children to be helpful around the house without it becoming an issue for them. Reading what you wrote about needing to feel nurtured has given me pause for thought... my children need to feel nurtured more than helpful right now while they are so little!
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Old 11-05-2014, 01:17 PM
 
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This discussion also reminds me of the boyfriend I had in college. He would say, "In my family, the rule was that the person who got the lowest grades would do the dishes."

So, I'd say, "Well, I've been getting better grades than you, so why am I doing the dishes?"

"I'm in a more difficult program."

Uh huh.

After convincing him to do the dishes, he'd pile them all up in the sink, fill it with water, then go to lie down with a traumatized expression on his face.

"Why aren't you washing them?"

"They have to soak."

*roll eyes*

Next morning, water is cold and greasy in the sink, dishes still piled up. I go to class, then to work, then come home and wash dishes before making supper.

Glad I didn't marry him.

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Old 11-05-2014, 09:49 PM
 
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I can relate. I have grown a great deal in this area over the years, but I still have a little bit of a tendency toward this type of thing.

For me, it goes back to my childhood. My parents made it really clear that I didn't deserve anything and that asking for ANYTHING made me bad and selfish, and I also grew up with a deep fear of conflict because my parents were verbally and physically abusive when there was conflict.

I used to drive myself until I was ill. The only way I stopped or asked for help was if I was too sick to continue.

My DH isn't a bad guy, but he brought his own bs into our marriage, and it created this dysfunctional dance with my baggage. For us, moving *mostly* past this became possible only after I made peace with conflict. I think that a lot of time in marriages, we are attracted to people who will push our buttons.

A self-help writer I've found very helpful is Louise Hay (and she has videos on You Tube). She helped me learn to pivot my own thinking about myself to truly believing that I deserve to feel loved and supported, to treating myself with love, and to finding some balance in what I expect from myself and others.

I'm pretty much OK stating calmly to my DH what I need, and what I would find helpful in situations. And he has developed the ability to hear it and respond, instead a seeing it as nagging. For us, some couples counseling was very helpful. He didn't mean to be a sh*t, but he didn't realize how what he said effected me. We developed new skills together, and both made changes. For him to change, it did take me getting to the point of "I do not want to live the rest of my life this way."

None the less, I can't honestly say this issue is 100% behind us. There is something right now that I'm having a hard time being up front with him about. His travel schedule is completely off the rails, and I feel very lonely and disconnected. My emotional and sexual needs aren't being met. But I don't want to talk to him about it because I know he is under a lot of pressure at work and I don't want to add to it.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 11-05-2014, 11:14 PM
 
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I just wanted to empathize with you about having a work-at-home, self-employed, programmer husband. Mine is working on a long-term project right now (has been for a couple of years already) and we won't see any money for it until it's finished. It's really hard. He has other projects that are finished that bring in our income, though he still has to work on them sometimes to keep things up to date and in working order. We are skating by on our current income, but we really need to up it to be able to get rid of the debt we have, so the more dh works and the faster the current project gets done the better. With him working at home, sometimes it feels like he's never actually home all the way. He'll come out of his office for dinner and go right back in afterwards, even though it's only 10-15 minutes before I need him to come back out and help with the bedtime routine. It drives me kind of batty sometimes, and sometimes I feel like the kids and I are an inconvenience, but I do want him to finish his project.

Programming can be a pretty attention-heavy activity, and it was helpful for me to read some things about that to really understand how long it can take a programmer to recover focus from even a small interruption or quick question. So we try to make sure he gets some good hours of uninterrupted working time so he can work efficiently. But for me, it's really helpful to know when to expect him to "come home" for the day and be my partner parent. If him needing to work all the time is getting in the way of you getting the help you need, maybe you can talk about setting some clearer expectations about his working hours and his "at home" hours

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Old 11-06-2014, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your input, everybody. I feel less alone.

Pumabearclan wrote:
Quote:
I guess the last part of that phrase makes me think you may not understand what I was saying: That I don't let it bother me. I work around it. I mop the floor myself for awhile until I figure out a solution so that 1) the job gets done and 2) I lower my personal stress level.

The issue of sharing housework is very common but really troublesome for families.
It's most often and most recently about sharing housework (especially if you include errands, hiring contractors, and doing things with kids in "housework") but that is not the only area of life in which I have this problem. One of the reasons migraines were so incapacitating to me for years was that I wouldn't treat them when I first noticed symptoms if there was any way in which my getting what I needed could possibly inconvenience anyone, and also because I was embarrassed about malfunctioning.

It's great that you don't let it bother you. I wish I could stop it from bothering me. Just telling myself, "Don't think that." does not work; I need alternative things to think to take the place of the angry and self-punishing things.

Sometimes I have been successful at lowering my stress level by getting to work getting the job done. Then at least the mess is not bothering me anymore, and at least I've made progress on something, and the physical work may help my mood. But it doesn't solve the underlying problem that I'm not getting the care I need and I feel unable to trust that I will get it in future and I feel guilty for asking. In fact, in the long run, doing a task myself that I had (with difficulty) asked someone to do but he didn't do it, can make things worse if he either doesn't notice that it's been done or he now takes for granted that I will do it from now on so he doesn't have to take me seriously when I ask him.

I have a tendency to just DO WHAT I HAVE TO DO I HAVE TO HAVE TO PEOPLE ARE COUNTING ON ME that, when I'm stressed, is often the only thing that keeps me going getting all my stuff done. Taking on someone else's stuff, as well, can give me a power trip that is actually kind of sick, like it's making me feel superior to the other person by destroying me, almost like anorexia or something. At times when my own responsibilities require more time than I have (if I were to sleep >6 hours per 24), responding to someone else's irresponsibility by just doing the job myself can be a really bad idea.

Head4thehills, everything you wrote resonates with me! My partner is not as bad as that ex of yours, but he can be almost like that at times. This is an interesting point:
Quote:
My inability to ask for help is probably related to my inability to say no.
I do not think of myself as a person who can't say no, yet I often find that I feel obligated to do something because someone has expressed something that sounds like it might be an expectation. I encountered a good example just last night but fought it off successfully: Saturday, my son was cleaning the bathroom mirror and accidentally splashed a drop of water into the light fixture, causing the bulb to explode. My partner cleaned up the glass. (Ooh, let me use this also as an example of how they DO sometimes do housework! ) The kids' bath toys were in a mesh bag hanging below the light fixture, so he carried the bag down to the basement and put it in the side of the laundry sink that doesn't have the washing machine drain hose and told me he'd done this "because they'll have to be rinsed individually to make sure there's no glass on them." I understood that he couldn't do it right then because he was going to run some errands before the stores closed. Well, last night I was doing laundry and noticed an awful smell which I eventually traced to the bath toys, and when I slightly lifted the bag I heard sloshing noises. When I got back upstairs, I asked him, "When you told me that the bath toys need to be rinsed, did you think you were asking me to do it?" He said no, he planned to do it but hadn't gotten to it yet. I told him that the smell needed immediate attention, and he went right away to rinse out the yucky water. (We think that some water got over there from the washing machine drain hose.) I am much happier with this outcome than if I had assumed that being told this task needed to be done meant that I was expected to do it. All I had to do was ask calmly. Of course I wish he'd dealt with the toys days earlier, but the fact that he didn't still doesn't make it my job.

The article Are You an Asker or a Guesser? has been ultra-helpful to me in understanding why I sometimes feel like I'm asking for something when actually I have not directly asked (usually, I've complained, hoping that someone will step in to save me) and why I sometimes feel obligated to do something just because someone has asked. I've been working on how to respond effectively when I feel asked to do something I really don't want to do. Last week, I was going to a dinner meeting for which the hostess made the main dish and arranged for the guests to bring side dishes, and she asked me to bring mashed potatoes. I'm not a big potato eater, and when I do make potatoes I usually bake them; I don't recall ever making mashed potatoes, although I do have some idea how it's done. I wrestled with the idea that "I don't want to make mashed potatoes" was not a good enough excuse, but ultimately I did explain my lack of potato-mashing expertise and suggest bringing bread instead, and that was fine with her--and I planned to make a nice yogurt-dill bread, but it turned out that my baby barely slept for several nights and I didn't have time, so I bought a nice bread from a bakery and stomped down all feelings of guilt!

Linda on the move wrote that after working hard at it
Quote:
I'm pretty much OK stating calmly to my DH what I need, and what I would find helpful in situations. And he has developed the ability to hear it and respond, instead a seeing it as nagging. For us, some couples counseling was very helpful.
We did some couples counseling two years ago, and it was helping for a while, and then we had this awful session where the counselor told me I was being unrealistic expecting a man to do housework and needed to accept that there are gender roles and it's not always fair--without saying anything like that to my partner, like that it's unrealistic to expect a woman to support the family financially while you don't even look for a job--and I tried to talk about how my partner had decided to work freelance without ever consulting me, to which the counselor told me to stop bringing up the past and move forward! It was so bad that we decided we couldn't go back. Instead, we worked through the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix; it was very helpful.

I think it's realistic that a major issue like this that originates in childhood will never be 100% behind you. My goal is just to come up with strategies that let me cope as much of the time as possible. I also think it's important to acknowledge that there are seasons when we don't insist on having every need met because the other person is having a tough time; the problem is if the tough time goes on and on so that you feel it's never your turn. I hope your husband's job stress is resolved soon so that you can ask for AND GET what you need!

Angelorum, thanks for your thoughts about being in love with a programmer. We have finally reached a more consistent understanding of the hours my partner can expect to be working, the hours he can work if we don't need him, and the hours when I really need his presence so I don't feel abandoned--but it took many rounds of my speaking up to get to this. He can be really dense about it.
Quote:
Programming can be a pretty attention-heavy activity, and it was helpful for me to read some things about that to really understand how long it can take a programmer to recover focus from even a small interruption or quick question.
I actually do kind of similar work (managing data from a research study; a lot of my work involves writing code to rearrange information or run statistical tests, but it is simpler code than "real" programming) but I am a far better multi-tasker than my partner is. I get interrupted kind of often at work, so I've learned all kinds of strategies to recover and not lose my place in what I was doing. But yeah, I try to avoid interrupting during those "hours he can expect to be working", for instance by sending email rather than calling if I want to tell him something that's not urgent, and telling doctors, etc., to call me at work instead of home.

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Old 11-06-2014, 02:57 PM
 
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Your post is very thoughtful. It seems as though you have been dealing with this issue in many ways for awhile now.

Something I have never understood is the parenting concept that by having a partner you only have to do 50%. Ideally, to me, each person would spend close to 100% of their time developing the household in various ways, including personal development that enriches relationships and opportunities.

When I stopped nagging and complaining I got more help around the house and it continually improves as the family grows and matures. I also personally have gained self-respect and dignity in that I live in a clean house and do not keep score within my household.

When I said I viewed care-giving as 100% that means that I am prepared to do all the toy-rinsing, floor-mopping, dish-washing, earning, and care for myself and my household. If you assess that your husband has become your dependent and you don't like it, and you don't trust him not to take advantage of you, then you can think about what needs to change while you mop. My sister-in-law affectionately calls her mop the "thera-mop" as she says she gets most of her brass-tacks realizations while using it
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Old 11-06-2014, 08:27 PM
 
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Something I have never understood is the parenting concept that by having a partner you only have to do 50%. Ideally, to me, each person would spend close to 100% of their time developing the household in various ways, including personal development that enriches relationships and opportunities. ...

When I said I viewed care-giving as 100% that means that I am prepared to do all the toy-rinsing, floor-mopping, dish-washing, earning, and care for myself and my household.

I've heard the idea before that each partner gives 100%, and I understand the idea behind it. But the way it played out for me and my DH during the early, dysfunctional part of our relationship is that I gave 100% to the kids and home, and he gave 100% to his career. Neither of us practiced self care, and we didn't tend to our relationship. We scratched that idea when it become apparent that life is more complicated than "giving 100%". We now strive for balance in the various areas of our life, and we keep coming back to the balance concept because it is very difficult.


I also just don't see how, on a practical level, one person can do everything, including earning a living, with no help and no support without driving themselves into the ground. I have, over the years, done the bulk of the childrearing and home running because my DH is often gone. So do lots of military wives. None the less, over the years, these arrangements tend to be very hard on women, manifest in chronic health problems, and frequently destroy the marriage. And that's when there is a solid reason for dad to not be helping more, and there is a base of love and respect in the relationship.

I'm not buying that years of one parent not doing their part while the other parent feels guilty when asking for help is going to end well. To me, the OP's husband isn't doing his share -- he isn't contributing financial and he isn't sharing in the responsibility of the baby. When he does do something around the house, it still is a project for mom (such as the mopping example).

I've never gotten more help around the house. What finally ended the issue for us was me deciding to hire a cleaning service to come in once a week and do the big stuff. Problem solved. But, I did have to state what I wanted, and I had to be willing to have conflict over it.

I guess how I made the progress that I've made on this issue was by realizing that my level of unhappiness with the status quo was bigger than my discomfort on clearly stating my needs and wishes. At some point, the balance tipped. Does that make sense?

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 11-07-2014, 05:32 AM
 
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The OP and her children shouldn't have to live in a messy house amid marital conflict.

One immediate step is to do the cleaning and disengage until something else happens (the OP and her husband cooperate, he just has a change of heart, she decides that she is just going to do more and not get upset about it, or any other solution that she can work out). Since the cleaning isn't getting done and the circumstances (unfair, probably) have made this her problem it will be up to her to solve it any way she can.

What I see in the OP's posts is obviously hurt and frustration (well warranted, it seems) but also the expectation that someone else (the husband) should participate in solving the problem and take care of her unhappiness, when he is clearly not interested much of the time. As adults and mothers I think that we need to be taking care of ourselves and solving problems for ourselves to the best of our ability. If asking the husband isn't working, why keep putting your faith in asking?

If the situation has come to a breaking point, the OP could just hire the cleaning service herself to come once, occasionally, or regularly... telling her husband that this is the solution that works for her since he hasn't been very involved in the housework and it's too much for her. Or she can find ways to lighten her responsibilities so that it isn't too much. For example I do not have any carpets, streamlined food prep, and had an outdoor shower installed among other initiatives so that housekeeping would be minimized to a level I could manage.

We can always change ourselves, not other people. A lot of adults and parents didn't get the parenting they needed. Unfortunately, we have to work around it. My partner, children, friends, etc aren't responsible for taking care of me because my parents didn't. To fill that deficit we have to learn to love ourselves and take care of ourselves no matter what, do things that build esteem (emotional regulation is usually part of that), and assume personal authority. So I'm not entirely understanding, perhaps, this idea of "asking for and getting what you need" from other people. Maybe asking for what you want, but not what you need - what you really need you should be able to provide for yourself through various creative problem-solving.
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Old 11-07-2014, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I can see how I've given the impression that he does almost nothing around the house or with the kids. Let me clarify that he DOES do some things 99% reliably: makes coffee; packs son's lunch; supervises son after school until I get home and makes sure he does his homework, music practice, and daily chore; cooks dinner every weeknight, puts away leftovers, and cleans up after his cooking; does his own laundry and the sheets and towels; takes out the trash. Almost every evening he spends about an hour with the baby while I am eating or doing chores, and if she is fussy while I'm reading our son's bedtime story he cheerfully takes her out in the stroller. Where we have conflict is over the chores he is supposed to be doing more frequently than he does (dishes, cleaning floors, dusting), the amount of time he spends actually doing stuff WITH our son vs. just keeping him in line while doing his own things, the amount of time he gets to relax vs. what I get, and the errands and repairs he says he'll do but often delays. We've done 3 overhauls our who-does-what list since the point when I realized I'd become the sole breadwinner, and the one shortly before the baby was born was by far the most successful. Finally, I actually feel that if he did all his stuff as agreed he'd be pulling his weight! And he really is spending more time with us than he used to, both by being just around when everyone's home (he used to hole up in his home office unless I specifically asked him to come out, and would go back the moment he stopped seeing an obvious need for his presence) and by taking care of the baby so I can have one-on-one time with my son.

It's because the routine is better now that I've become more aware of how difficult it is for me to ask for anything more. Inside my mind, it's like, "Don't complain! You know it could be worse. Appreciate what you're getting and don't push it." There is a certain logic to that. But when I can see how his doing something for me would make my next few hours much less miserable, I'd like to be able to ask him to do it without feeling so frightened. Example: We had just come back from a long walk. I was thirsty from walking and even more so because I was getting over a cold, but baby was very upset and hungry, so I sat down to nurse as soon as I had my coat off. Partner drank a big glass of water, poured himself the last of the coffee, heated it up, and headed for the stairs. I didn't know whether baby would go to sleep and stay asleep after being set down or would require an hour of rocking; what I wanted to do was let her sleep in my lap while I relaxed with a hot peppermint tea; it's hard to make tea while holding a sleeping baby or occupying an awake one. So I said, "Wait! Could you make me some peppermint tea?" He did it and didn't act like it was a problem at all. He even remembered to place a coaster within my reach. But it was really hard for me to make myself ask because I felt so afraid that he would say I didn't deserve it or act resentful about the extra effort.

Linda wrote:
Quote:
I guess how I made the progress that I've made on this issue was by realizing that my level of unhappiness with the status quo was bigger than my discomfort on clearly stating my needs and wishes. At some point, the balance tipped. Does that make sense?
Yes! That's where I hope to get. I think I'm moving in that direction, but anything you can say to coach me along will be much appreciated.

Pumabearclan wrote:
Quote:
What I see in the OP's posts is obviously hurt and frustration (well warranted, it seems) but also the expectation that someone else (the husband) should participate in solving the problem and take care of her unhappiness, when he is clearly not interested much of the time. As adults and mothers I think that we need to be taking care of ourselves and solving problems for ourselves to the best of our ability. If asking the husband isn't working, why keep putting your faith in asking?
Ah. Well, you see, it's because he keeps telling me that I "just" need to ask, that seeing as he's not a mind-reader, I need to tell him specifically what I want him to do. That makes sense, except
  • It's hard for me to ask, especially when I can argue with myself that what I want is indulgent rather than a genuine need and/or that it's too much to ask of him.
  • Any time he responds as if I shouldn't have asked is a big setback for me. Not only do I have to do it myself or do without, but I also feel so guilty for asking that I'm tempted to do something extra to make it up to him.
  • When we have already discussed and agreed that he should be doing a particular thing at a particular time, I feel he should do it without my reminding him.
  • There are times when I am so overwhelmed that I can't process what specific thing I most need and really want to say, "These things are wrong. PLEASE HELP!!!" and have him share the responsibility of deciding what needs to be done first. His expectation that I will analyze and manage the situation all by myself and summon him only for assistance makes me feel like the only adult in our family.
Also, he gets really bent out of shape if he feels I'm being critical or rude in my tone or choice of words. The more stressed he is, the more sensitive he is about this, and just getting up in the morning is an occasion of stress for him, even on days when he gets to sleep as late as he likes. He expects that I will approach him only at a time when he feels calm and receptive, to ask politely that he do a specific thing. Sure, sometimes I can do it that way. But the times when I can't ask because he's in a bad mood or I can't ask because I'm in no condition to plan exactly the right words to say or control my tone of voice, add significantly to my stress, because he's telling me that I can have his help if only I ask, but I can't ask!!


I agree that it seems "he is clearly not interested much of the time" in being a helpful, loving partner to me, yet every time we talk about it, he says, "Just ask. Please just tell me what you want. I can't do it if I don't know." He is right that I too often assume he will not help without even trying to get him involved. He is right that I too often take the approach of explaining what I'm afraid will happen and why, instead of saying what I do need or want. Here's a thing I wrote about it back when we first identified this issue:

http://articles.earthlingshandbook.o...r-what-i-need/


Quote:
So I'm not entirely understanding, perhaps, this idea of "asking for and getting what you need" from other people. Maybe asking for what you want, but not what you need - what you really need you should be able to provide for yourself through various creative problem-solving.
Aargh. I need water because I'm sick and nursing and I've been exercising; I want the water to be in the form of peppermint tea because it will help decongest me and warm me up from the cold weather. So you're saying I can ask for the tea, but I ought to just get the water by balancing the baby on the Boppy and staggering awkwardly into the kitchen? What??


Hair-splitting about whether I really "need" it or I only "want" it is one of the ways I talk myself out of asking. If it isn't absolutely necessary, I'd better just take care of it myself. But if somebody else needs me, it's going to have to wait. Oh well. I don't deserve it anyway.


Yes, I can take care of myself and meet all of my genuine needs. But because I am taking care of other people, I would like to feel comfortable asking other people to take care of me, too. Early in our relationship, years before children, my partner was working on something and casually, politely asked me to bring him a glass of water. I did, but I was angry that he felt it was okay to ask and sad that I didn't feel allowed to do that--not because of anything he had ever done or said but because it just would not occur to me that it might be okay to do that; I would work until I could pause and go get myself a glass of water. I don't do that because I enjoy being independent; I do it because I feel I'm not allowed to ask, and that feeling is painful for me.

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Old 11-07-2014, 11:03 AM
 
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But because I am taking care of other people, I would like to feel comfortable asking other people to take care of me, too.
That makes sense, however it isn't the reality for most adults as these issues arise so very frequently in households, especially over chores.

I do think that if you want tea and you don't get it when you ask that you should get it yourself if it's that important for you. It would be nice if you received what you ask for but it isn't happening. It's not that uncommon, as Linda pointed out many people are basically single parents (or are actually single parents) with no one to hold the child while tea is being prepared. How often this happens in your marriage and how stultified, frustrated, or powerless you feel in the asking and not receiving what you ask for (you even said that you feel shame, that you didn't deserve it) can be improved by helping yourself to get what you want out of life and feel good about it rather than focusing on what your husband or other people are not doing, and of course it starts with looking at how you are not getting what you need/want, as you are doing now.

Is your husband emotionally abusing you by shaming you if you can't "do it all" or ask and remind him of things? Telling you that all you have to do is ask and then putting you down when you do? Telling you you don't deserve what you ask for? If so that is a very different issue than what I've been addressing in my posts.
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Old 11-07-2014, 11:10 AM
 
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(I hope your illness passes quickly, by the way, and that you are soon feeling much better!)
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:19 PM
 
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Looks like this topic really resonates with people! I haven't caught up on all the posts yet, but I wanted to add some thoughts.

I wonder how much of a person's inability to ask for help is related to the responses he or she would frequently get in the past (including childhood), or how much is related to one's ingrained personality? This question could probably be debated quite a bit, and I can't figure it out, even looking at my own past. I know I sometimes get what I would see as an unreasonably negative response when I ask something of my DH, including a long-winded explanation of how much he has to do and how much he helps me already. And that leads me to say, "Forget it. Sorry I asked." But I don't always get a negative response. I know I am very sensitive to anything negative (except maybe my own attitude), so I try to avoid things that could possibly cause that bad feeling in me. Could be some people are simply less sensitive, or have trained themselves to be more immune.

I've also found ways to work around the possibility of a negative response while still getting at least some of my needs met. This morning, I really needed a shower, but knew that DH would find it inconvenient for him to supervise the children for the half hour I needed. I spent much of the morning mentally grumbling over how I, too, have the right to be clean and should not have to ask to have a shower. In the end, I didn't ask. I sort of set things up so that I could take the time I needed without putting DH out too terribly (DD was napping, DS was peacefully playing, DH was enjoying his morning coffee), then simply told him I'm taking a shower on my way into the washroom, and didn't give him the opportunity to object. It seems crazy that I have to think this much about some simple piece of self-care that most people take for themselves without thinking twice, but maybe that has more to do with me than anyone else in my family.

I often put off self-care because I get caught up with looking after the house and the children, or I have to choose one item of self-care over another. When it's late at night and I've just finished the dishes and cleaning... do I have a shower, watch a movie with DH, work on that piece of art that's been on my mind every day, or go to sleep? Often, I choose sleep. Because that's what my body needs the most.

EnviroBecca, you are both the breadwinner and the child-care provider, and I find it shocking that the counselor you were seeing didn't grasp that fact. My father, who is pretty old-school, did a lot of child-care while my mother worked (pregnant, her broken foot in a cast) in the family business. There was no question of whose role it was to change the diapers. They both just did whatever needed to be done at the time.
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:53 PM
 
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It seems crazy that I have to think this much about some simple piece of self-care that most people take for themselves without thinking twice, but maybe that has more to do with me than anyone else in my family.
See, I don't think that this is at all unusual for anyone who is a caregiver. I think that this is normal (including the grumbling). This is what I meant when I said "that's mothering." We are limited in options in passing on and spreading around that responsibility to others. Just because something needs done doesn't mean that everyone invested is going to work, especially if there is someone else who might. There is almost always someone in a social structure who can't or won't pull their weight. Accepting this is important to solving this problem, and it's mainly a problem for women, since we still do most of the caregiving in society.

I think that there are a lot of inaccurate and dangerous messages in society, such as that modern parenting is 50/50, it's not, not even close, although there are exceptions and improvement. I've known marriages to break up over this issue of woman=home even when there were no children. So I think we as women have keep our eyes open and help ourselves every way that we can so that we can improve this problem on a personal and societal level.
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Old 11-07-2014, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I wrote:
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But because I am taking care of other people, I would like to feel comfortable asking other people to take care of me, too.
to which Pumabearclan replied:
Quote:
That makes sense, however it isn't the reality for most adults as these issues arise so very frequently in households, especially over chores.
I do think that if you want tea and you don't get it when you ask that you should get it yourself if it's that important for you. It would be nice if you received what you ask for but it isn't happening.
No, that's not what I said. Please read the story about the tea again. This was a time when I did ask for what I needed and because I asked I got it!!! This thread is not intended to be whining that I don't want to do the housework and I want my partner to do it for me without my even having to ask. It's about my struggling to overcome the feeling that I'm not allowed to ask for help.

I understand that some people don't have co-parents to help them. I don't see why that means I shouldn't ask for help when there is a person around who could help me and has actually stated that he wants me to ask. I didn't say, "Because I am taking care of other people, I deserve to be taken care of exactly as much," I said I would like to feel comfortable asking for some help sometimes.

So is it your intention to tell me that I should suck it up, assume that nobody will help me, and not even ask?

Quote:
Is your husband emotionally abusing you by shaming you if you can't "do it all" or ask and remind him of things? Telling you that all you have to do is ask and then putting you down when you do? Telling you you don't deserve what you ask for?
For the most part, no. The trouble is the maybe 5-35% of incidents (it varies; some seasons of our lives have been worse than others) in which he reacts negatively when I ask or remind are the ones that come to mind more than the good ones when I'm again thinking about whether to ask for something. It is fairly common for him to sigh heavily and roll his eyes while doing a chore, to respond to a request by listing all the other things he's done recently as if those mean that this new request is frivolous, to respond to a reminder by snapping angrily that he's going to do it soon, or to respond to my thanking him for doing something by complaining about how difficult it was. I wouldn't call any of those things abusive, just discouraging. Less often, but several times a year at least, he really flips out and starts screaming at me and slamming doors. At those times I feel abused, but then I am very sensitive both to loud scary tone and to anything that even suggests I am disappointing someone I love.

More recently than the above-mentioned couples counseling, we went to family counseling hoping for some help with our son, who clashes with his dad frequently; it's a long story. That was some help, but ultimately the counselor said my partner needs individual therapy for emotional self-regulation and resolving his issues with authority. So far he has refused to go.

(I'm over my cold now. Thanks!)

Head4thehills wrote:
Quote:
I know I sometimes get what I would see as an unreasonably negative response when I ask something of my DH, including a long-winded explanation of how much he has to do and how much he helps me already. And that leads me to say, "Forget it. Sorry I asked." But I don't always get a negative response. I know I am very sensitive to anything negative (except maybe my own attitude), so I try to avoid things that could possibly cause that bad feeling in me. Could be some people are simply less sensitive, or have trained themselves to be more immune.
Yes, exactly. What I hope to get out of is expecting the negative response instead of the positive one, and feeling sorry that I asked as if it were my fault.

Your strategy for getting a shower is one that I find surprisingly effective when I try it. It's the same thing that I find shockingly presumptuous when my partner does it: The kids are clamoring, chaos is everywhere, and he says, "Welp, I'm going to take a shower," and just walks upstairs. I think, snidely, "I wish I could get away with that!" but the fact is, I can, usually, if I'm willing to try.

Quote:
EnviroBecca, you are both the breadwinner and the child-care provider, and I find it shocking that the counselor you were seeing didn't grasp that fact.
I find it shocking, too, but I do want to make sure you didn't misunderstand the child-care situation: I pay for baby care while I'm at work. My partner cares for our son on his own for about 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. But we are still working our way out of the assumption that I'm the Parent On Duty for both kids whenever I am not at work unless I specifically delegate otherwise. My partner is doing pretty well at taking the baby while I spend time with the big kid, but it's always been rare for him to take the kid(s) by himself while I do something on my own. Anyway, it's true that I do most of the diaper-changing and all of the nighttime parenting, and I certainly feel he ought to give me credit for that.

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Old 11-07-2014, 02:57 PM
 
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Aargh. I need water because I'm sick and nursing and I've been exercising; I want the water to be in the form of peppermint tea because it will help decongest me and warm me up from the cold weather. So you're saying I can ask for the tea, but I ought to just get the water by balancing the baby on the Boppy and staggering awkwardly into the kitchen? What??
This is the part I was responding to; yes, you should make your own tea if you have to.

And yes, unfortunately, I perceive that you will have to suck it up, at least for the short-term, because you have dependents (under 18) and a partner who will not help you when asked.

This is indeed what what I'm saying. In addition to advising you to sort out what changes you may want to make in your life to improve the problems that you are having.

I'm saying it from a place of kindness and hope that you can make real changes in your life that will provide the comfort and joy that you need/want for you and your children.
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And I'm very glad that you are feeling better
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Old 11-07-2014, 03:20 PM
 
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This thread has given me some great insight into something that has bothered me about someone close to me. I have often wanted to do something nice for her or offer help, but when I asked what would be helpful or sweet she would seem almost upset and wouldn't give an answer. In one instance she said she didn't want to decide, she just wanted me to choose and offer without her having to say anything. It felt - to me - like an avoidance of responsibility (if she didn't like what I offered she could feel justified in not liking it because she had no role in making the choice). But now I wonder if she was simply trying to express that the biggest gift is a gift or help that does not require anything that resembles her being in a role of "asking". And that maybe just the simple expression of need or want is fraught with anxiety.

Hmmmm. Lots of good stuff to contemplate.

I will offer that I have experienced both sides.
I can totally identify with not wanting to ask for help to simply get a shower while knowing my baby is cared for. My internal voice says I should be able to do something as simple as bathing while the baby sleeps and DH and older kids are busy getting ready for work/school. I feel like i am just not doing things right if I can't manage a shower with the baby and I should just figure it out on my own. So I don't ask for help in the mornings. But reality rarely allows me to shower during baby naps and I feel stuck and inadequate. I can talk myself out of those feelings and eventually ask for help once or twice a week, so my experience is not of full blown anxiety like the OP, but I get what she is going through.

On the other hand, I have felt rejected when I have wanted to know how to help a loved one (and have said that I really want to know what helps) and been responded to with silence or a wish that I would just guess. Guessing makes me feel even more vulnerable to yet more rejection.
What I read from the OP is different from my offers of help. I don't complain when asked to do something. (Not even internally)

I wonder if it would help to do an experiment for two weeks:
Make a list for yourself of all the things that you would like to ask for right now. Stack them up like a ladder, with the easiest asks on the bottom and most anxiety ridden asks at the top. Find some way to gather the courage to talk to DH about how much the process of simply asking for a cup of tea is excruciating and say that you need his help to change a pattern. You need to desensitize yourself from those nasty feelings and self-talk through practice and having a positive experience associated with asking over and over again. He can help by being great about a positive response to every little ask for two weeks and you can help by committing to asking for help at least 4 times a day: for a drink of water, for holding the baby while you go pee (before you really HAVE to go), clearing dishes off the table.
Just an idea. I'm typing fast on a phone while nursin a baby so I hope this is understandable and comes to you with the love intended.
How old is your little one? Mine is 17 months and I keep thinking I should be much more capable at all these things because this is my third and he's not even a tiny infant any more, but I'm still struggling!
Thank you for starting such a great thread.
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Old 11-08-2014, 01:31 AM
 
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I agree that it seems "he is clearly not interested much of the time" in being a helpful, loving partner to me, yet every time we talk about it, he says, "Just ask. Please just tell me what you want. I can't do it if I don't know." He is right that I too often assume he will not help without even trying to get him involved. He is right that I too often take the approach of explaining what I'm afraid will happen and why, instead of saying what I do need or want. Here's a thing I wrote about it back when we first identified this issue:
.....
Hair-splitting about whether I really "need" it or I only "want" it is one of the ways I talk myself out of asking. If it isn't absolutely necessary, I'd better just take care of it myself. But if somebody else needs me, it's going to have to wait. Oh well. I don't deserve it anyway.
It sounds like he gives you VERY mixed messages about what the rules are in the relationship. Right now it sounds like the rule is that if you ask, he may split hairs about whether or not you asked the right way, or roll his eyes, or some other subtle way of reinforcing to you that you really shouldn't ask. But if you try to discuss this issue with him straight out, he tells you just to ask. Since you don't ask until you are exhausted and overwhelmed, there's no emotional energy left for sorting out this issue when it comes up. So, based on what you are saying, I think that the problem is

1. You have a hard time saying what you need/what, which is something that you could choose to work on.
2. When you say what you need/want, he is sometimes shitty about it -- enough to make you unsure of what will happen and to discourage you for developing in this area
3. When you try to discuss the issue with him, he blames it all on you by implying that if *only* you asked, he would be helpful

I used to worry a lot about the need vs want thing, and I've given up on it. Because of the way I was raised, I can make my "need" list so, so short and get by on so, so little that I will eventually drive myself into the ground. Realistically, a lot of stuff that isn't really a short term need is stuff that I need to include in my life in order to thrive as a human being.

For example, yoga. I don't really need yoga. I can get through my week without it. None the less, my emotional balance is better and I feel more comfortable in my body when I take time to do yoga, and I block out an hour and a half class once a week for it. I won't cancel for much of anything (because if I started skipping it for things, I would end up never going). Did I really *need* to go to yoga last night? No, but I have learned that if I pare my life down to the minimum I can get by with, I end up hating my husband and regretting having children. What's the point in that?

Self care is something we need before it reaches the crisis point. While we can ignore it in the short run, if we do so, it WILL reach a crisis point.

We don't have a baby in the house, which makes things different. It's a different deal to just mark something on the calendar and go do it when the kids are big, but I think I could have spared us some uncomfortable marital problems by taking more time for myself when they kids were younger. I left myself get very angry and resentful before realizing that I had some control in how all this stuff played out.

I don't understand the point of a spouse who doesn't care how the other person feels, or what they are experiencing in a situation. I used to discount how I felt, and I let my DH do so as well. Part of our readjustment is that I know that how I feel matters deeply, both for me and for the emotional health of our whole family, and DH also HAS to care what I'm feeling. When he is home, he has to care. Because frankly, if he doesn't, then why should he come here at all?

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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Old 11-08-2014, 07:35 AM
 
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I left myself get very angry and resentful before realizing that I had some control in how all this stuff played out.
^ Yes. Me too, about 3 years until I realized and then finally bit the bullet and started to take more control over my life. Not only are things better for me now but I feel better about myself, it is a major accomplishment to raise children and I have esteem and confidence for having done it. I did have help in some ways, for which I'm grateful.

That said, however, I really wish that society was more realistic about caregiving so that things would go easier for families. Women shouldn't have the unpleasant surprise of mother=housework, for example. We need to get on the same page: parents, employers, government, family so that kids get the healthy parenting they need from happy people. I think there needs to be more honesty on the issue, such as "someone is going to have to shower only twice in a week and do housework after 10PM every night because the child is sick or somebody has an attitude problem and won't help, or someone else has to work." Instead there is the idea that if everyone just chipped in caregiving and family life would be easy-breezey - I don't think it ever could be easy, it's very very hard! And there will always be some kind of problem or setback or loss at some point and I think we need to be able to address that openly when we talk about families. This cognitive dissonance between what should be and what is has worn out a lot of women. Rant over.
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Old 11-10-2014, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm glad I didn't respond over the weekend, because when I first read Pumabearclan's response I was really frustrated and angry. But I see now that you're talking about the situation IF my asking did not get my partner to make tea--that I should suck it up and make my own tea or settle for cold water, rather than punish myself with dehydration because nooobody will take caaaarre of poor little me. Sure. Yes. The times I have taken that approach, it was invariably a wrong and stupid thing to do that was bad for me and did not motivate anyone to help me in the future.

But I do want to reiterate that I was trying to think of that as an example of success: I had my hands full, my partner was showing no signs of thinking about whether I might need/want anything or not, I was aware of the exact thing which would really help my well-being, I asked for it, and he got it for me. I am 100% certain he would not have gotten it for me if I hadn't asked, and my asking had 100% positive consequences. So this is an example I need to keep reinforcing in my mind as one of the possible outcomes when I am considering asking.

OrmEmbar wrote:
Quote:
This thread has given me some great insight into something that has bothered me about someone close to me. I have often wanted to do something nice for her or offer help, but when I asked what would be helpful or sweet she would seem almost upset and wouldn't give an answer. In one instance she said she didn't want to decide, she just wanted me to choose and offer without her having to say anything. It felt - to me - like an avoidance of responsibility (if she didn't like what I offered she could feel justified in not liking it because she had no role in making the choice). But now I wonder if she was simply trying to express that the biggest gift is a gift or help that does not require anything that resembles her being in a role of "asking". And that maybe just the simple expression of need or want is fraught with anxiety.
Yes, I think that's what it was. I try not to be that much like that, but I'm sure I come across that way sometimes. And when I ask someone, "Is there anything I can do to help?" and she requests a specific thing that is going to be difficult for me, I feel kind of shocked and like I can't say no--so I don't want to make anyone feel that way.

I think the middle ground is to offer, "Would it be helpful if..." and propose something general: "...I brought you some food this week?" "...I took your older child somewhere during the weekend?" "...I did some cleaning or laundry for you?" With an offer like that, I'm usually able to come up with a permutation that would be genuinely helpful to me and can work into the person's schedule: "Something we could heat up for dinner Monday or Tuesday would be great." "He'd love to go to the arts fest, or he's been wanting to see this movie." "I'd actually love to do laundry myself, if you could hold the baby." (That last one is popular--other people are not tired of holding my cute baby!--and in my years between babies I was asking moms, "What would you do with both hands free? I can hold her while you do it.")

Quote:
My internal voice says I should be able to do something as simple as bathing while the baby sleeps and DH and older kids are busy getting ready for work/school. I feel like i am just not doing things right if I can't manage a shower with the baby and I should just figure it out on my own. So I don't ask for help in the mornings.
Yes, that is my kind of thinking exactly! For showering specifically, I'm lucky that both kids have been the type to nurse around dawn and then keep sleeping for a while, and that I now have a 9-year-old who likes to lie next to his baby sister waiting for her to wake up and then entertain her until I'm available. This baby also is willing to sit in her infant seat outside the shower, although she expects to get a bath when I'm done--she loves baths--so I only do that on weekends when I have time for her bath.

I like your experiment idea. We have not done it that formally, but there have been times when we agreed to put more of an effort into it, and it does help. I think we need to do that again as soon as he is over the cold (which he caught from me and has not fought off as quickly as I did).

My baby is 6 months old. She's less demanding than my son was, and I think that's mostly her personality, but I also made an effort from the beginning to avoid some of the mother-martyr traps I put myself into with the first baby. For example, if I say, "Please hold the baby while I use the bathroom," I am allowed also to brush my teeth while I'm in there and change my shirt on the way back and whatever other needs I can fulfill within a few minutes; I don't have to do ONLY the thing I said I was doing and then race back.

Linda on the move, after an excellent analysis of my problem (as it applies to my partner), wrote:
Quote:
For example, yoga. I don't really need yoga. I can get through my week without it. None the less, my emotional balance is better and I feel more comfortable in my body when I take time to do yoga, and I block out an hour and a half class once a week for it. I won't cancel for much of anything (because if I started skipping it for things, I would end up never going). Did I really *need* to go to yoga last night? No, but I have learned that if I pare my life down to the minimum I can get by with, I end up hating my husband and regretting having children. What's the point in that?
Yes, exactly! I have learned this lesson a number of times with various self-care and self-fulfillment things. The big one at the moment is that I go to Working Moms' Coffee every month because I need that time talking with other moms in real life--even though it means that I miss dinner with the family and putting my son to bed, it's just once a month, and I can bring my baby. (After she's weaned I will do more things without her; for now, I feel that my job gives me plenty of time away from her, so I don't really need more of that, just time when I am not holding her so that I can use both hands.) It's actually easier for me when these things are scheduled and outside the home because I can insist on the particular time, whereas if it's just me doing something at home, it can easily be pushed aside, by me as well as by the rest of the family.

Quote:
It's a different deal to just mark something on the calendar and go do it when the kids are big, but I think I could have spared us some uncomfortable marital problems by taking more time for myself when they kids were younger. I left myself get very angry and resentful before realizing that I had some control in how all this stuff played out.
Yes. My feeling of needing to "ask permission" and to make sure everyone will have everything they need while I'm out, often gets in my way. My partner's very different attitude grates on me both because of genuine disregard for his responsibilities and because I resent his assumption that he can just do stuff without checking with me.

During and just before my last pregnancy, I took several 3-day trips by myself to visit long-distance friends. The first (non-pregnant) one was especially liberating because everything went perfectly, I felt great and had a really nice rejuvenating time, and it was literally the first time since before my son that I'd taken an overnight trip without him that wasn't part of my work as a Girl Scout leader or church vestry member. When I then got pregnant again, I was really really glad I'd had that trip.

Pumabearclan wrote:
Quote:
Women shouldn't have the unpleasant surprise of mother=housework, for example.
I see what you mean, but I do wonder what kind of childhood you had, that that could be a surprise to you? I grew up in a community where mothers/wives did housework and a woman's worthiness was based primarily on her appearance and housekeeping. My mother fell short of standards and was gossiped about. I am still struggling with the idea that the condition of our home reflects on ME more than any other member of the family, but I've made progress.

My experience has been that in every place I've lived (with parents, with housemates, with partner and no kids, with partner and kids) I have to do more than my share of housework or live in conditions that are uncomfortable to me. I don't even have very high standards! I just don't want dirty dishes on every kitchen surface, floors so dirty my socks turn gray in ten steps, dining table so cluttered I can't set down a plate, etc.

But yes, I think it's high time that housekeeping stopped being considered a "women's issue" when it is a family/household issue that affects everyone living in the home.

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Old 11-19-2014, 01:33 AM
 
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I relate to having had difficulty asking for help in the past - grew up in a family with lots of female martyrdom (in a stoic and strong way, not a manipulative way) modelled and a primary role model was always saying she didn't want to be a bother. I still have trouble asking (and often don't)....but I have found it helps to try to have a motto of 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. It really can't hurt to reach out and ask for help sometimes. Most people enjoy helping.

When you have a sleeping baby on your lap (worried about disturbing baby and peace), exhausted from bouncing or carrying or whatever....then it is totally reasonable to ask your dh to make you a cup of tea. But sometimes when exhausted, it's easy to forget how to assess what is and isn't reasonable and find yourself second guessing yourself.

Just use a lot of I-statements. e.g. "Dh, I had a really rough night with baby and didn't sleep well. It would be really helpful if I could have a half hour of peace in the bathtub before you leave for work" (or whatever). An empathic partner would do it. And after you express appreciation, an empathic partner might feel motivated to give more. I think that gratitude felt and expressed can positively reinforce helping behaviours in a partner.

On the other hand, an emotionally manipulative partner will feed any sense of guilt you may have over asking for help. Often we can have these feelings of "yuck" about asking and getting help, and not know why - yet the signs are given in the body language, sighs, martyr act, reminding you about ALL they do, etc. Sometimes maybe it's a sign they need gratitude or appreciation. But sometimes it's just plain manipulation. Then it's no wonder we feel bad about asking. An emotional manipulator will always turn it around onto you (e.g. complain about things, "forget" to do things, etc.....and then have the gall to turn around and say, "Just ask and I will help".).
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Old 11-21-2014, 12:40 PM
 
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Right now, I'm of the feeling that all people are complicated, and it's well nigh impossible to predict exactly how a person is going to react to your request. A person can be empathetic some of the time, cranky and selfish other times. It depends on what they are going through at any given moment.

But we can't be expected to know exactly what another person is feeling at any given time, any more than they can know what we are feeling. To us moms, it may seem obvious that we are exhausted, foggy-brained, hungry, thirsty, grungy, whatever. But DH may be thinking, "I have so much work to get done, I need to go somewhere where I can hear myself think..." and not notice that mama needs a cup of tea.

In my experience, my DH has often thought to offer me a glass of water just when I need it, but he'll almost never think to offer to look after the kids while I have a shower. Maybe it's just because, when I'd like to have a shower, it happens to be the time of day when he's got a lot of work ahead of him. I'm learning to be aware of that, and just accept it. It's just the wrong time of day. The best time for me to take that shower, though it's not ideal, is late at night after the children are in bed, and I still have to let him know that he's "on call" to pick up DD if she wakes up crying before I'm done. But at least he doesn't feel put out if it's that time of day.

I don't know if I'm writing anything of practical value here. I'm writing from my parents' place, where DS is watching Sesame Street, and I'm distracted by the Cookie Monster. Mmmmmmm... cookie... me want...
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Old 11-24-2014, 12:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've had some insights from the experience of having a friend stay with us all month while he's between homes and jobs. He has done a lot of the chores my partner is supposed to be doing but often slacks on, as well as doing some of the things I would do before I get to them, so that's making my daily life easier and happier...but it's also making me aware of how much resentful "Why should I clean up after you?" kind of stuff goes on in our house, in all directions, including the 9-year-old. Our friend sees dirty dishes on the table and simply picks them up and washes them; any of us would think about who left those dishes and therefore should take them to the kitchen and do any necessary rinsing, and my partner as the current dishwasher and I just because I used to be the dishwasher feel resentful about any behavior that makes any dish more difficult to get clean.

One thing my partner and I have going pretty well, since early in our relationship, is the habit of thanking each other for doing stuff, including routine chores. So lately, more than half the time I see something that got done while I was at work and say, "Thanks for vacuuming!" or whatever, he says, "Actually Vinnie did that." Obviously then I thank Vinnie for it. But my partner is supposed to vacuum once a month but typically does it every 3 or 4 months...so I want to tell him, somehow, how great it's been having his chores actually get done, and how much I wish he would do that himself, without sounding like I'm just nagging again! Any suggestions?

It's amazing that Vinnie has been very much in my space, using some of my stuff without asking, doing some things differently than We Do In Our Family, yet not only is he rarely bothering me but he seems very sensitive to what I need. (I don't need a lot of personal space, apparently, but I'm always surprised when that's demonstrated, possibly because my partner and my mother both are introverts with a strong need to control their space and stuff.) I had a big crisis the other day where I was not even entirely sure what was wrong, but I felt miserable and stressed and suffering, and my hands weren't working right--I was spilling stuff and knocking things together and very self-blaming about it--and my partner's reaction to that kind of thing is always to try to stay out of my way and protect me from the kids' demands, which is not UNhelpful, but Vinnie stood in the kitchen doorway asking what seemed to be exactly the right questions to make me admit what was wrong, think about what specifically I needed instead of just feel upset that I clearly needed help and wasn't getting it. I don't know how he does it. But I want to find out so I can do it for myself.

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Old 11-25-2014, 01:42 PM
 
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I just mentioned this issue in a thread about surviving with a newborn, but I've had trouble with it in many areas of life. I'm hoping to discuss it with people who can relate and might have some more strategies for me.

PLEASE, no responses like, "You're being stupid, just quit doing it, or seek therapy." I've had some therapy, which helped, but I'm still working on it. Please respond only if you can relate to this problem yourself or if you've found helpful ways to work with someone you love who has this problem.

I feel like I'm supposed to take care of myself. If I need something and it is possible for me to get it myself, I ought to do it, even if I am overwhelmed and it might take me a while to get to it. When I consider speaking up for my needs (or worse yet, my wanting things I don't outright need), especially if there is any possibility that doing something for me might inconvenience anyone, I get this feeling like, "Who do you think you are, some kind of princess?" and I feel guilty and frightened.

I want people to take care of me without my having to ask. I want them to look for what I need and offer to help or just do it. That's what really makes me feel loved. We have a friend staying with us right now, and last night after dinner he just calmly cleared the table and started washing dishes. I almost cried because I was so grateful not to have to make two trips carrying my dishes in one hand and my baby in the other while asking my son to bring his dishes to the kitchen.

Often, I will not ask for help and will push taking care of myself to the bottom of my to-do list for a long time until I suddenly freak out and/or something goes physically wrong with me. Just one example: When my daughter was a newborn, I stepped barefoot on a tiny bit of gravel that had been tracked into the house, and it stuck in the skin of my foot. I kept meaning to get around to picking it out, meanwhile spending many hours holding my baby and rocking from foot to foot, plus carrying her in the sling for longer walks when she was fussy. By the time I sat down with my foot under good light and both hands free, I couldn't get it out with just my fingernails or even with tweezers; I needed to soak the foot to soften the skin. But everyone else was asleep, and if I went upstairs to the bathtub leaving the baby alone, she'd probably wake up. So I didn't do it for about two weeks because I kept "forgetting". When I finally said to my partner, "I need you to hold the baby while I soak my foot and dig this thing out," he did it right away. I had to remove a sort of plug of hardened tissue from my foot. Then the spot filled in with even more hard stuff, and it hurt, but by the time I admitted it needed professional attention, I was back to work, so I just kept walking on it until I felt like I had worked my regular schedule long enough that I could come in late one day. The podiatrist had to dig a hole about 1/4" deep in the sole of my foot. It did heal properly after that, but it was raw and painful for several days, during which I kept walking as much as normal because my partner didn't offer to drive me.

Am I wrong in thinking this isn't just about me? I mean, sometimes, not always, but sometimes when I ask my partner to do something for me, he's all like, "But if I drive you and the baby to childcare, that'll take half an hour of my work day!" and then I feel terrible like I shouldn't have asked. But he's "working freelance from home" which so far has meant he works on various programming projects but never actually finishes anything and gets it into the app store to earn money--and his argument is that he'll never be able to finish anything if he doesn't have plenty of uninterrupted workdays, but it seems to me I deserve some support for my role as the breadwinner and mother of an infant. He is doing more housework now than he had done for years, and that's great! But it's something for him to rub in my face some of the times I ask him to do more, and what I hear is, "How dare you ask for that? You're already getting more than you deserve!" (that is much harsher than he ever actually says it) and it makes it harder for me to ask next time. Even though at other times he does do exactly what I ask, promptly, I'm still always afraid when I ask. We have talked about this, but I feel like we're missing any really effective strategy for breaking the pattern.

So...does anybody know what I mean? What helps you?
At least you have asked, and have gotten a straight answer from your partner. I usually get guilt trips, sarcastic remarks, and manipulative tricks.

OK, so you got a straight answer, but it wasn't really a good one. Your partner could have said "that would take a half-hour out of my day and today I am on a really tight schedule...I can do it any day this week, but not today unless it's an emergency" or "I would love to drive you every now and then, but I really need at least 24 hrs from now on so I can rearrange my work day in advance" instead of just "that takes a half hour out of my day".

Perhaps you could have replied "I realize that, but I really need your help today. I will give you ample notice next time I need a ride somewhere so you can plan accordingly, but today it would be great if you could make an exception". I wonder how that would go over??

You could also try the old "taste of his own medicine" thing and next time he asks you to do something out of the ordinary, just tell him it will take half hour out of your day (I know it's not paid work, but it is still work!).
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