My husband and I are currently experiencing the great joy of expecting our first child. It has been a time of preparation, anticipation, and dreaming about what the future of our little one might hold. I was lucky enough to not be plagued by the dreaded morning sickness throughout this pregnancy, but I have still struggled with exhaustion and various aches and pains. It has been during this time in our marriage that I have been reminded of the importance of communicating my needs directly with my husband.
During the first trimester, it was all that I could do to get through the workday without falling asleep. By the time that I was done for the day and home, I was utterly exhausted. The various household duties such as laundry, cleaning and taking care of our animals took a back seat as all I really wanted to do when I got home was crash on the couch. It would have been easy for me, or any pregnant woman for that matter, to hold the expectation that my husband would anticipate my every want and need and automatically pick up the slack where I was falling behind.
While he did try pick up so many of the household chores and attempted to be attentive, no husband is a mind reader.
I was reminded of the power of honest and direct communication. A simple phone call on the way home from work saying “I am feeling drained today, would you mind getting dinner and the laundry started?” made such a difference. He was happy to try to help me out in any way that he could, but I needed to let him know what I WANTED.
So often I have couples in my office for marital therapy and one of the biggest struggles I witness is the expectation that their partners should “just know” what their wants and needs are. Whether it be help with household chores, certain displays of affection, or something as simple as how to spend a weekend together, many couples struggle with directly expressing their wishes to their partner and then end up feeling disappointment when their partner is unable to guess what they want. This can lead to resentment, discontent, and endless misunderstandings. It is unrealistic to expect our spouses to read our mind and it is OUR responsibility to communicate our needs.
Oftentimes the issue is finding time to just sit down and communicate. At times, I have assigned couples that I work with to schedule time with each other to sit down for 20 minutes at the end of each day after the kids have gone to bed to allow for adult communication. If this feels uncomfortable or you are unsure about what to talk about during this time, having a list of questions can be helpful. A dialogue as simple as “What was good about your day? What was not so good about your day? What do you need from me tomorrow?” can get the communication ball rolling until such conversations become more natural.
No matter what dialogue you use, start communicating with one another and hopefully you will begin to notice how many conflicts can be avoided.