As much as we get it, expecting your husband to essentially read your mind is unrealistic, and ultimately, it will only ever frustrate you while robbing you of what you actually need.
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, simply because there is no such thing as a perfect husband or a perfect wife. Every marriage has its unique challenges, some of them bigger, more complicated, and more taxing than others. But every single married couple will face their fair share of battles nonetheless.
And one of those battles, which has been getting quite a bit of screen time on various social media apps like TikTok, goes something like this: a wife, overwhelmed with an onslaught of family and household responsibilities, who wishes her husband would “just know” what she needs help with around the house or with the kids rather than having to tell him what he can do.
A simple scroll through TikTok will present you with countless videos of women complaining about their husband’s inability to recognize her needs: what needs to be done around the house, what the kids need, how he can help her out, and what is overwhelming her. Many of these videos easily have millions of views and thousands of comments from wives who lament that they, too, are facing the same predicament: Their husband asks her a question like, “How can I help?” in reference to the house or the kids, rather than taking a step back, surveying the situation, and just knowing how she can be helped. Hearing this question upsets her to no end, though.
But wait, isn't that a husband who is willing to help around the house? What could be the problem?
Why Women Are Upset
A husband who has offered to help out with the kids or around the house doesn’t sound so bad, but the reason these women say it’s still upsetting to them is that their husband’s offer of, “Tell me what I can do to help,” still puts the pressure on her to delegate tasks, rather than him taking the initiative of tackling what exactly needs to be done. Meaning, this is just another issue added to her already-heavy, already-overflowing mental load. The wives in these videos end up saying it’s just easier not to have their husband help at all – they would rather not have to dictate to him what he can do.
There are in fact men out there who, despite being told countless times, either never totally understand or don’t care about meeting their wife’s needs when it comes to helping with the kids or the house or anything that has come under her domain. In this case, it’s entirely understandable why she would become frustrated and expect him to know what she needs – she’s told him enough times, after all.
But what if this isn’t the case? What if her husband isn’t actively ignoring or disregarding her previous attempts to express her needs to him? What if he genuinely doesn’t know what would be most helpful for him to do, but wants nothing more than to assist his wife? What if he’s genuinely trying to lower her stress and shorten her to-do list?
Expecting Your Husband To Read Your Mind Is Unfair
Assuming the case isn’t that the husband knows exactly what his wife needs help with and is actively choosing not to help her, this complaint rings, at best, like a misunderstanding, and at worst, like an unfair, unspoken standard being placed upon him.
The wives claim it adds to their internal list of responsibilities to have to dictate exactly what would be helpful.
The common complaint with the wives in these TikToks is that she doesn’t want to have to tell him to wash the dishes. What she really wishes is that he would just see that there are dishes in the sink and go do them. It adds to her internal list of responsibilities to have to dictate exactly what would be helpful, they argue. A real man wouldn’t wait to be told – he would figure it out and just do it.
At face value, this seems understandable, but it’s also incredibly idealistic. It lives in a world that is made up of what “should” be, if everything were perfect. Would it be wonderful if these husbands magically knew that there was no more laundry detergent or that the baby needs to be bathed? Sure. Is it all that realistic, assuming he’s not often at home during the day, that he would know that? Not really.
It’s Important To Remember That He Has a Mental Load Too
Expecting your husband to somehow know exactly what you want help with without telling him is both unfair and unrealistic. It assumes that he’s perfectly in tune with your life, clued in to every aspect of your to-do list and your needs (and the kids’ needs and the house’s needs), all without any kind of communication on your part. It also ignores the fact that your husband likely has his own heavy mental load too.
Your mental load is telling you that there’s a pile of dishes in the sink, that the dry cleaning needs to be picked up, and that you don’t have enough eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast, but what is his mental load telling him? Possibly that he needs to make sure to stop by the bank before the end of the week, or that he needs to finish that report by Wednesday, or that the car needs gas. Every person, man or woman, will have a different mental load. And to them, their mental load is very real. It’s crucial to remember that your husband’s mental load is just as pressing and real to him as yours is to you.
Saying that your husband should know your mental load with the same familiarity that you do fails to take into account everything else that he has on his mind – things that you might not know anything about.
Don’t Punish Your Husband for Wanting To Help
Another reason this kind of response to, “What can I do?” isn’t fair to him? It punishes your husband for wanting to help. It takes his willingness to help and tells him that it’s not enough, that he didn’t do it “right.”
This won’t only make him feel penalized despite going out of his way to offer assistance, but it will also make him think twice about offering to help again.
And this won’t only make him feel penalized despite going out of his way to offer assistance, but it will also make him think twice about offering to help again. If he’s met with shame, annoyance, or anger after asking, “How can I help you out?” he’ll quickly learn that it’s best to just avoid helping you altogether so as not to be punished again – which will only breed more bitterness and resentment toward him in the long run.
If getting help from him is something you would truly appreciate, then show him that. Encourage his desire to help by thanking him for his offer, by letting him know how much he’s helping you out, and by showing appreciation for a job well done. Resist the urge to punish him for not getting something done perfectly or for not magically knowing what you need from him.
It All Comes Down to Communication
So what is the best way forward? How should a wife respond when her husband asks how he can help? At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, tell him exactly what he can do. Ask him to load the dishwasher while you give the baby a bath. Ask him to stop by the dry cleaners on the way home. Ask him to call the pediatrician to make an appointment. Ask him to switch the laundry over.
You could even consider having a physical or digital to-do list so that asking him to do something is as easy as glancing at the list and choosing the task you need the most help with. Eventually, you might find that he begins to have a better grasp on how he can help you in the future.
So be willing to communicate what you need from him – it’s far easier than getting upset with him and actually takes less energy from you in the long run. Doing a quick survey of what needs to be done and telling him what he can do will require a fraction of the time and mental energy that starting a fight or angrily doing the task he could’ve done for you will take. Not to mention, it protects your marriage from the poison of resentment and unmet needs.
Instead of wasting time wishing your husband would “just know” how to help you out, remind yourself that he’s carrying his own mental load, and choose to take the time to communicate your needs to him. Oh, and don’t forget to say thank you!
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