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.