Activating the hubs with a compliment sandwich 🥪

My first job on my meandering path to becoming a blogger was rookie TV news writer. Fresh out of college, clothed in a new “professional” wardrobe—I was ready to impress. I soon realized my nifty Ann Taylor blouse offered no advantage. I was overwhelmed in that chaotic, noisy, bustling, newsroom. 

It was like journalism boot camp: people barking orders, TVs blaring everywhere, and… deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! I learned very quickly to turn out copy fast and efficiently, even as the stressed producer hovered over my shoulder shouting, “We need it NOW, not tomorrow!!!!”

As traumatic as it was those first few weeks, that grueling experience whipped me into shape and made me the writer I am today. To be fair, I may not have been so appreciative if you’d asked me back then. But I learned how to tap out stories faster than you can say, “This just in…” This became my default system for getting things accomplished at work and at home.

Deadlines worked as my motivator. For instance, if I had a party planned at chez moi, I knew the drop-dead date that I had to have a clean house… and voila! 

When my husband and I merged our lives in wedded bliss, I figured we were so compatible, he would have the same feeling about deadlines. About 10 years into our marriage (which didn’t feel a day over 9 ½) I started to notice that something was amiss. We approached things in very different ways: tasks, duties, projects, goals.

I would lay down a hard-hitting deadline. “We have to get this basement bathroom renovation dunzo by the time your brother and sister-in-law come to visit.” Strangely, my confident husband became unsettled and angsty. He would wring his hands for weeks, clearly stressed out while I continued to needle him about the fast-approaching visit.

“Shouldn’t you be getting the vanity in by now?”

It only seemed to make him more stressed and less confident about his tiling/ dry-walling/ painting skills, which resulted in mistakes and many many days when he just skipped working altogether.

During this particular deadline-driven project, our normally easy-going relationship grew tense and combative. Needless to say, we were both caught running around like the house was on fire as we completed many, but not all of the tasks as the doorbell rang announcing our house guests. I was so frustrated saying, “Sorry it’s a little unfinished looking, but the shower works like a charm.”

“Why wasn’t it done?” I wondered. We had a deadline!

 A wise friend mentioned to me that my husband obviously had a different temperament than I did. Huh?

Apparently, the ancient Greek, Hippocrates (c. 450 BC) devised four temperaments to classify human health and behavior. Amazingly, experts still use these as the basis for psychological studies and theories today. My friend suggested this book which spelled out our problems immediately. This reasoning struck a chord.

While I was driven by urgency and deadlines, my husband was better motivated by positive encouragement and support. Harping on deadlines actually slowed him down.

It suddenly all began to make sense.

Over a decade of struggle, and I had never thought to consider walking a mile in his shoes. What a difference this has made in understanding him and working together to achieve household tasks. Not only has it helped him be more productive around the house, but it has also opened up our communication channels in new ways. Translation: I don’t (usually) nag.

Men land all over the temperament scale, but the lesson of trying to step into my spouse’s sized-12 Timberlands has provided a profound shift in my thinking. While I work well under harsh deadlines and learned my trade that way, it’s just not ideal in marriage. Go ahead, say it… Duh!

I’ve learned that there are other more effective, universal motivators that work for every temperament. Here are some extremely simple, yet brilliant, tips to help activate your husband in a loving way that has the added benefit of building communication and partnership. I call this method the “compliment sandwich.” A couple slices of positivity wrapped around a meaty need.

  1. Always begin from a place of gratitude. Before you begin shouting demands/orders, consider all the things you are grateful for that your husband does well. Share that. It will help you to frame things positively, but it will also help him to feel valued. And isn’t that what we all yearn for in our relationships?

  2. Let your husband know that he is your hero! This is not a joke. Men are programmed to want to be our protectors and providers. Let him know how much better your life is with him in it. He ratchets up the goodness in your life!

  3. Help your husband picture your vision for a particular task or project. “I imagine coming home with everything straightened because it puts me at ease. A place where piles of stuff aren’t on our table and counters. I picture countertops that are clean and clear… mail stacked in the drawer. This would ease my stress because I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed when I first got home.” If he’s a really visual guy, show him pictures of what you see in your mind.

  4. Now ask his opinion or input about how it can be accomplished. We all want to be a part of a process, not feel like puppets in an elaborate performance. Dialog and take his ideas seriously!

  5. Articulate what you want very clearly and specifically. Men are not mindreaders. If it would help if he vacuums on Saturday morning, let him know. Stay positive but communicate very clearly. “It would help me out a lot if you made dinner two nights a week.”

  6. Don’t just say thank you when a job is done. Explain how this has helped you and your family. 

Important reminders

You both need downtime. No one needs a guilt trip if they’re relaxing. When he does complete tasks, don’t be critical. So many women….not me! 😉… place their own high expectations on their hubs.

“When I fold, I always put the sleeves in first, so that there are no lines visible.”

…Good for you, but let him do it his way. You’re not the CEO of the house. Once your husband takes over a task, let it go! You don’t have to micromanage and know every detail. And remember, praise his good work. Again, feeling valued is empowering.  

I’d like to tell you that you have exactly 14 very short days to put these rules into practice, or else… but I won’t. Instead, I’ll remind you—you’ve got this! You’re a natural. Communication in marriage can always use a little retooling. We're confident this approach to activating the hubs can be effective in your marriage, too! Now give it a try…Enjoy that sandwich. 

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