A few days ago, I was talking to my boyfriend, and he made a comment that he felt a little uncomfortable sometimes, because I never made any specific requests of him. He would like me to specifically tell him some things he can do for me, so that he can feel sure that he is making me happy, not just keeping me content.
I’m a pretty easygoing woman. I am quite content to go with the flow, and if I don’t object to a suggestion I’ll always agree with it. I enjoy doing that because if I follow someone else’s ideas, it’s more exciting than choosing what to do myself. Life is more unpredictable, and I have more unique experiences.
However, I think my boyfriend has a point. I never ask him for things. He does things for me all the time, but I never ask. I don’t want to be demanding. When I broke my arm, he helped me move and unpack my stuff, and it was really great. He and I enjoyed decorating my new apartment, and I really liked having him help me. However, I just have too much pride to ask for help if I need it, and I don’t like to be demanding and ask for things I don’t need.
On the other hand, he’s not afraid to ask for things. When he’s working the night shift, he’ll ask me to set my alarm and give him a wake-up call to make sure he gets to work on time. If he hasn’t had a home-cooked meal in a while, he’ll ask me if I can cook for him next weekend. His requests are always simple and reasonable, and I feel good when I help him out. I can understand that he wants the opportunity to do the same for me.
I just don’t know what kind of stuff to ask for. I’d like to go out to dinner with him more often, but we’re both incredibly broke right now, and I think it’s not fair to make him feel bad that he can’t afford to take me out. I’d like to spend more time alone with him (he often invites a friend when he comes to my house) but I know he’s trying to avoid temptation by bringing a friend along. I don’t care much for gifts, so I can’t think of any physical object to ask for (except a ring, but we’ve got to save first).
If I had more money and the weather were nicer, I’d ask for stuff like “hey, will you go rafting with me this weekend?” and “how about taking a road trip?” but we’re both really broke and really busy.
Suggestions? Ideas? Advice? How do I go about being more demanding, and how do I get over the discomfort about asking for what I want or need?
Ever thought of inviting him to pray the Rosary together? Just the two of you. It could be on any church! I guess in Korea you don’t have those small isolated chapels over the beach and lost in the middle of the mountains, which are great for praying the Rosary!
Or it could be at your home, and afterwards you could cook and eat together. I am sure that after praying the rosary, and specially if you avoid the bedroom, you won’t certainly be temptated to anything than a nice chat.
I study Economics, and my girlfriend, who studies psicology, has asked me for helping her studying Statistics I and II. Sometimes I also do some works for her. Is there anything that your boyfriend may know that can be useful for you?
Oh, I wish we did! That sounds so serene. Here in Korea we have Buddhist temples overlooking the beach, but the beach is surrounded by guard posts and barbed wire to protect against North Korea. It’s more surreal than serene.
Maybe when the weather warms up, we could go to a mountain, and pray the Rosary there.
Well, perhaps there’s a difference in your personalities, or rather in your approach:
he’s not uncomfortable asking for things, perhaps partly (or largely) because he’s ready to do the same for the other person
you’re a little uncomfortable asking and much more uncomfortable making demands, which is because you don’t want to be a burden and you want to rely on yourself if that’s enough
Now, he wants you to phrase some demands (let’s call it like this) so that he can know he’s keeping you happy, rather than just content. But the key is not there. Nothing you demand will make you happy. Happiness is not a checklist of demands you tick and the mere fact that you demand and those demands are met, will not make you happy, either.
So I suppose he mostly wants a tangible proof that you’re happy with him.
One other thing I noticed is that while you don’t want to ask and you try not to do that because that’s your nature, you like it very much when someone cares and lends you a hand on his own initiative.
My suggestion is that he has a point about one thing, which he doesn’t seem to phrase directly: if you feel like asking for something, perhaps it’s better to ask. If he can, you can too, and it shouldn’t feel like he’s burdening you but you aren’t burdening him. Also - perhaps better ask for some things than be unfulfilled. Obviously not talking about material items.
Now, about him, you might explain to him how nice it makes you feel when he cares and that you don’t actually need that much, but it’s always nice when he notices and comes in with some help. For instance.
As a middle ground, it’s not bad that you two have each a different approach, but perhaps you might from time to time phrase your wishes rather than keeping them unspoken, and he might relax a bit, realise that it’s not demands and meeting wishes which makes people happy, and continue being a nice guy.
The little things like helping your friend (or girlfriend) with unpacking when she has broken her arm isn’t something you can replace with a, “let me know if you need help.” However, one can’t notice everything, especially if one’s busy working and all, so asking him from time to time will make him feel needed. Just do it when you really need it, or when it just might make things a bit easier for you, not just to give him an opportunity and have it done with his wish to be asked. And perhaps ask him if he would like a home-cooked meal or some other thing she likes, instead of waiting until he asks? Just make sure he doesn’t feel like he needs to guess your wishes but if he has some, he has to speak them out. So I’d say, communicate your wishes from time to time and do some guessing of his own wishes, a bit the way he does, but don’t let it devolve into a wish for wish game, and don’t let it replace the kindness which makes you look to each other’s needs instead of ticking a checklist.
if you are boyfriend and girlfriend you are not in a relationship where two people are free to make demands on each other, because you are not in a relationship of mutual total self-giving in which filling those demands is a joy rather than a sacrifice, and where demands to prove your love are not needed. That relationship would be called marriage, and until you decide that is the relationship you are called to, demands will be out of place. All I can tell you as an old lady with a long hard experience in the generation that wrote the book on how to cheat the rules of relationship, as that your future happiness depends not on making demands but on committing in faithful covenant marriage before God and His Church. I am speaking as I would to a daughter in your circumstance who asked the same question. If you don’t obey the commands of God you will not by spiritually and psychologically able to obey the reasonable natural demands of love.
If I read OP wrong and you are not living together, I am relieved to hear it, but what I say still holds true. For now, concentrate on the reasonable demands of friendship, don’t look for ways to increase those demands to “make each other happy.” One must first be happy in and with oneself to be a good friend, or a good marriage partner. You should both be concentrating on your own spiritual growth and preparation for eventual demands of marriage–career education etc.
thanks for your honest answer. We are not living together, but we have discussed marriage a lot. We’ve decided to wait one year to get engaged, because we won’t be able to afford to fly to Canada and the Philippines to meet each other’s families for another year or so.
I’m finding it hard to sort out my feelings for him - my heart and mind keep jumping ahead and thinking “future husband” when I should be concentrating on the present. I wonder if we feel too much too quickly, since we can’t get married yet, but I’m not sure how or whether to back off or slow down a bit. When I’m with this man, I feel like I’m at the beginning of the rest of my life.
Thanks a lot for your post. I really liked your responses to my questions. I’ll try my best to follow your advice. Since I’m planning to marry this man, I want our communication to be open and honest from the get-go.
Hi there. Chevalier gave you some good advice. I’ll just add that, being a strong independent woman, it took me many years to learn that men love it when you give them a job to do and then show your appreciation. Like you, it’s not my nature to ask people to help me, so I had to learn do to this and it wasn’t easy at first. But the thing is, if you act as if you can do everything just fine by yourself, your man won’t feel needed. This doesn’t mean turning into a demanding diva – there are ways you can ask him to help you with little things which are appropriate for where you are in your relationship right now. For example, if he is going to the store, ask him to pick up a couple of items for you; if you’ve had a bad day, ask him to just sit quietly with you and hold you; if there is something he is knowledgeable about and you are interested in, ask him to tell you about it; that sort of thing. And when he does those things, show your appreciation with thanks and affection. Trust me, he will love having the chance to be your “hero” even in small things. Good luck and God bless.
Yeah, men are task oriented. Men have a need of accomplishment. By this I don’t mean they have some zeal to work than women don’t. By far not! Men simply need to have tangible proofs. Trophies if you prefer. We love our certificates, papers, raises, sport cups, awards, titles even.
However, it needs to be kept in check. Loving someone is a continuous exercise, not a series of exercises. We won’t fulfil our obligation by ticking this and that off the list. We can’t narrow love down to a set of tangible factors.
But I suppose his need for appreciation can be fulfilled without giving him any set conditions. Perhaps a little bit of explanation that spontaneity is a great value, relaxation is needed and that life is to be enjoyed rather than conquered. Sometimes men are insecure and they wonder how they are performing in the eyes of a lady. Because sometimes you don’t know and then you hear sorry, it won’t work, we aren’t meant for each other - and then a guy thinks he didn’t do enough. So I would look at (and for) ways of showing him that he’s a good guy doing a good job and worthy of appreciation - just without pushing him into pride. It would be better, I think, to explain to him that a checklist is not needed, rather than making one.
Note: men don’t normally like guesswork. We need a lot of motivation for that and we need to feel the adrenaline, see the contest is being fair or the woman is our ally. We hate being held to the wishes we didn’t guess. And it’s not about girlfriends or wives - we have the same with mothers and female bosses. And sometimes friends.
Like you, it’s not my nature to ask people to help me, so I had to learn do to this and it wasn’t easy at first.
Actually, I’m beginning to think women are by nature less inclined to ask for help and more prepared to act on their own. Men will be less shy about an exchange or about asking help where the other person is also free to ask when needed. A bit like in the military.
But the thing is, if you act as if you can do everything just fine by yourself, your man won’t feel needed.
Yeah. They say it’s a challenge we need to face in the modern world because women are independent, they have education and they can be strong too. I’d add that at the same time, men are less and less the handymen and less physically strong, so all in all, repairs and such stuff is being done by hired experts.
I’d say think about situations when you do need your guy rather than making yourself into a plastic doll - he wouldn’t like that. You wouldn’t either. You can always give him a gratuitous opportunity to show off his physical strength if nothing else come to mind. You know, I’m a lawyer and I still love to throw around that 18 litre drinking watter canister at the office, especially when ladies are around. Well, what can I say.
This doesn’t mean turning into a demanding diva – there are ways you can ask him to help you with little things which are appropriate for where you are in your relationship right now. For example, if he is going to the store, ask him to pick up a couple of items for you;
Yeah, that sounds reasonable. It goes along well with preservation of effort and that’s something every guy understands, I think (or hope). There’s no need for two people each to go to the same shop if one can do it.
if you’ve had a bad day, ask him to just sit quietly with you and hold you; if there is something he is knowledgeable about and you are interested in, ask him to tell you about it; that sort of thing.
Guys can be practical. Ladies more often assume that role than we do, but we have a natural gift for it. That’s basically how our brains work. Some of us are linguistics, writers, whatever, but we still have the practical bone. Well, try it. And I’d say be careful about rejecting his unorthodox solutions. My ex wasn’t all too happy with my mopping a whole empty room clean with lots of water and detergents instead of stroking it to death with a small cloth and neither was my mother happy with my father turning a washing machine upside down instead of pumping the water away with a proper device. The goal matters. And we don’t care about our methods being too brutal. Know what I did to prevent vibrations from a fan in my computer? I removed metal and plastic components from that part of the case and hung the fan in the air on cords in the 5.25’’ bay so it wouldn’t touch anything (pulling the cord through screw holes). So before you think anything wrong about your boyfriend’s ideas (talking to the Opening Poster here), remember that ALEX THE GREAT CUT THE FRIGGIN’ KNOT!
Probably at this point (since you are not married and not engaged) the best thing is to show appreciation for what he does do. Make sure to thank him for all his un-asked for help. You can also talk in a future-looking way about the things that it would be nice to do together when weather and finances agree. Not in response to his request, but just as another way of getting to know him better.
Carrie H, I appreciated your ideas. I’m definitely going to ask him to help me with things he’s an expert in. It’s a little hard to ask him to run to the store for me - we live 90 minutes apart! But I understand the thought - just make little requests so he doesn’t feel like I don’t need him.
I think it’s tough for him because we both live in Korea, and I’ve been here a lot longer than him, so he often needs me to translate for him at the bank or with the telephone company and stuff. I wonder if he feels a little bad that I can handle that kind of stuff on my own, while he can’t. I’ve also been helping some of his friends set up cellphone service and stuff, so I think he’s feeling like I don’t need his help for anything.
I guess I’ll start asking him for help about computer stuff - usually if the computer breaks down, I just haul it off to the repair shop. Maybe I’ll give him a chance to tinker with it before that happens. I suppose I could also break something else, like the blender, and ask him to fix it next time I see him .
Chevalier: thanks again for all your insight. It’s nice to have a man’s perspective on things. I really appreciate how much you’re willing to share, and all your ideas and suggestions are great. Thanks.
Sr Sally: I agree, probably the best thing to do would be to show appreciation for the things he does.
For example, yesterday was the anniversary of the day we started dating. It was originally the day he’d planned to pop the question, but since we agreed that it wouldn’t be right to do it without having met each other’s families first, we put it off for another year. However, he works on Saturday, so he wasn’t going to be able to see me. Then I got a surprise phone call - he was at the station. It turns out that he worked out an agreement with his boss to work a double-shift on Friday so that he could have dinner with me on our anniversary. I was really touched. I certainly told him repeatedly how happy I was that he did that for me! (He’s just lucky that I hadn’t made other plans on Saturday evening!)