RJ was sitting at the kitchen table when I explained to him that I needed to start saying “No” more. He was rightfully concerned that our life may have to adjust a bit to accommodate my boundary education. So far, his willingness to embrace my desire to grow has yielded a more authentic and forgiving wife so it’s worth it. I think. Except maybe when it comes to dinners. Here’s the first example:
After being stuck in a meal rut, I attempted several new recipes in a row, a few of which were kind of a disaster. RJ, who enjoys a close relationship with his taste buds, mentioned that he would prefer 2 or 3 new meals a week, spread out and accompanied by several old standbys. I started to feel really frustrated, resentful and trapped by his lack of adventure until I realized he was simply stating his perspective and I had never actually told him why I was trying to add to our dinner repertoire. The conversation went something like this:
Lindsay: Even tone, fighting the urge to sound defensive: “I really enjoy eating dinner together as a family. I know it’s important to both of us and I appreciate all the things you do to help prepare and clean up after dinner. I work hard to plan our meals and prepare them and I’m happy to do it. Sometimes it gets really boring to make the same meals again and again and I need to spice things up a bit. It helps me feel excited about planning and making dinner if I can be creative and try new things. I know sometimes this means we end up with a dicey meal but I’m learning.”
His reaction: “Oh, ok.” I cannot overstate my gratitude at my spouse’s level of understanding. This conversation opened up a dialogue about what stresses me out about making dinner and he is more than happy to offer menu ideas (which I really appreciate) and he has since made an effort to be even more helpful when it comes to meals.
Here’s one more example. Rest assured that I will feel completely awkward the next time I tell you no. And I’m trying to be brave but we’re operating on the edges of my comfort zone. As you will see, I don’t employ all of the ideas every time, it just depends on the situation…
A friend called to ask me if I would be willing to teach a gardening class to a group of women next month. She openly acknowledged that I may not be able to and if that was the case, asked if I had any recommendations. I called her back and left a message telling her we’re about to get a puppy so I’m not adding much more to my April calendar. I offered her the handouts from the last time I taught the class (respecting her need and request) and told her how good it was to hear her voice (love you friend) and I gave her the names of several contacts who may be able to help. I have always appreciated her down-to-earth approach to service.
I wanted to say yes. I almost always want to say yes. As I thought through my response to her, these were some of the questions I asked myself:
If I say yes to this request, how much time will it realistically take? (I pretty consistently underestimate here, even if I ask. I don’t take into account prep time, travel time, social time, the time it takes me to get out the door, you name it.)
What will I be giving up so that I have the time? I like to think that I have more time than the actual 24 hours that are regularly allotted to me. Oftentimes I say yes, assuming that a few extra hours will magically appear. Remember “I can fit this in…” Sometimes I pray for help with managing my time but I have yet to be granted more, heaven has helped me in other ways.
And then, How would this sacrifice of time impact my priorities? In those first years of our marriage, I would routinely attend to everyone else’s needs first, assuming that our marriage and personal needs would be taken care of on their own. RJ patiently pointed out numerous times that I was leaving very little time for him or our home. I figured the frantic pace I was keeping was all in the name of service so somehow our marriage and family culture would just fly on autopilot right? (Are you beginning to see why my emotional credit card was maxed out?) Over time, I began to realize that being intentional about my marriage and family meant managing this mortal life of mine a little better and reserving some available prime time, not just serving up whatever exhausted minutes I had leftover. We all have unique situations and priorities but we are probably similar in our ‘out-of-balance feeling’ when important priorities get subverted for too long.
Is there anything I can offer that would take less time but would still be helpful? In the Chester Karrass Effective Negotiating course this would represent my efforts to follow the win-win principle. It takes some creativity but it can be fun to figure out how I might be able to help in a different way than what I’ve been asked that would still allow me to respect my priorities.
These are basic examples: a situation where I realized and defended a need and a situation where I declined a chance to help. I am working on a few for next time that are a bit more uncomfortable.
Until then, I send my love,