Help for Help Saboteurs

Are you a help saboteur? (Do you sabotage your partner’s help?) Some might understand what this means without further explanation. For those who don’t, you might be a help saboteur if:

  • You wish for your partner to take some things off your plate, but when they do, they don’t do it “right”.
  • You feel very strongly that the “right” way (aka your way), is the only way.
  • Your motto is “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” (Just kidding – sort of.)

If this sounds like you, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Millions of relationships are affected by this every day.

All joking aside, in the months leading up to the arrival of our first child, I knew I was going to have to get better at accepting help from my husband around the house; I simply would not be able to do it all.

I also knew that I would be annoyed.

I would be annoyed because things wouldn’t get done in the exact way that I like to do them. However, I also knew that complaining and criticizing the way he did things would be exercising a level of control-freakiness that I didn’t want to be guilty of. Plus, it would cause tension and resentment between us, which would be the last thing we’d need added to the stress of taking care of a new baby. The reality is, your logical mind can tell you one thing, but your emotions can get the best of you in the moment. Here are some tips to help fight that urge to sabotage your partner’s help:

Acknowledge the intention.
Yes, the dishwasher does need to be unloaded. When my husband takes the task upon himself, I will likely find utensils in random places and the Pyrex scattered amongst three cabinets instead of the one where it usually all lives. But did he go through the trouble of putting things in “wrong” spots just to annoy me and make my life harder? No, probably not. In fact, his intention was likely to do the opposite, to show love through an act of service. I try to remind myself of this when I’m on the verge of making a less-than-grateful comment.

Check your pride.
My husband will often tell me to sit down and relax while he cleans up after our son’s dinner/bedtime routine. Sometimes I let him do it, no argument here! But other times, I stubbornly want to refuse. Why? Because I feel like if I don’t do it myself, I’m somehow failing or not carrying my weight, that I’m being outperformed. It’s silly. Even sillier is the fact that after I’ve argued myself out of accepting help, I’ve found myself muttering under my breath about the fact that I’m scrubbing bottles while my husband relaxes on the couch. Yikes.

The fact is, it’s not about me. It’s not about how many chores points I’ve racked up compared to my partner. It’s about us helping and supporting each other through the daily grind because we’re a team.

Laugh and love.
Have a sense of humor about the different ways you do things. Sometimes it just comes down to personality differences, and that’s not really something you can change, nor is it worth wasting the energy trying. Yes, I do try to communicate my “tips” (See, when you put the new garbage bag in the can, you need to get all the air out around it so that trash can fall to the bottom easier, and you can fit more in it!) But at a certain point I just know those kinds of details are not on my husband’s radar. And that’s okay. I also never wash my car, much to his chagrin. Does he get mad about it? Hold it against me? No. And the least I can do is extend the same grace and acceptance to him.

So, what’s the moral of the story here? At times, some of us have a tendency to want to control the little things, and in doing so, we reject or undermine help from our well-meaning partners. But if we catch ourselves getting caught up in the details, and we take a second to zoom out a bit, we can see how the offer of help – and the way we respond to or accept it- serves our relationship in ways much bigger than the task at hand.

10 thoughts to “Help for Help Saboteurs”

  1. Thank you for this. As a therapist I can see some women (and men) who will relate to this. And as a woman in a relationship myself, I relate to it as well. Thank you.

    1. This was my daily chastising,as I JUST got off the phone with my husband with some of these “complaints” and in fact told him I could make a list..
      Hung up with him, then this popped up..
      Thank you Lord for loving me too much to leave me there

  2. I needed to read this today. I just got up this morning and found it in my emails. You have described my day yesterday. Help me Lord to be alert and aware of these feelings welling up inside me today so I do not allow them to repeat. Than You for helping me to change and loving me Through this.
    Thank you for this blog site and the advise that makes so much sense.

  3. This is me! I’m so embarrassed. He recently pointed this out to me. We haven’t been married long. Makes me wonder how long I’ve been like this. Ugh!

  4. I would add to your points an attitude of being open to learning new/different ways of doing things, especially if the partner has been doing a certain task for quite some time. In his/her mind, there is a rational for the way things are planned, approached, and executed that maybe the other partner had never considered.
    Problems/conflicts in these common areas of help and support may reflect challenges for the couple in the larger issues of planning and executing goals related to career, finances, family. Something to be explored.

  5. I can’t believe how much I needed this! This is so true of my husband and I’s relationship. I am guilty of picking at the little things. Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one. I will do my best to change this.

  6. I am guilty of this too. I have started to notice that when I am picking at the details I should check my underlying motivation. I usually find that I am struggling with a deeper identity issue. I am struggling with feeling good enough or successful in my parenting or my life as a whole. That is when I place to much emphasis on small details around the house. This is a time when I need to go to Jesus to be the one who is perfect because I can’t be.

  7. Im glad i came by this blog ! Is showed me my stubborn self , little mrs.perfect yea right ! And learn to be thankful for the help and praise my husband for wanting to help me! Even if he put things in the wrong place , fold the clothes the wrong way …I didn’t have to or could do it. Learning to be thankful in All things with Gods help with love ! Blessing this was for me ! Thank you!

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