If you’re like me, you have a long list of things that need to get taken care of around the house (it usually starts with “Clean the garage”). If you’re like me, then you probably also have a second list with the more urgent tasks on it – the burnt-out light bulb that makes it impossible for your daughter to read at night, the drawer in the kitchen that always sticks which finally fell apart when you yanked it out in frustration, the few items you need from the grocery store to make that new chicken recipe you just read about.

And like me, you’re probably hoping/expecting that your husband will attend to many of these tasks.

And, if you’re like me, you’re probably going to go about it all wrong. My favorite (and least effective) strategy is to verbally assault my husband as soon as he walks in the door. “You’ve been promising to clean the garage for months and you still haven’t done it. Why do you only have time to do the things you want to do and not the things I want?!”

This disastrous technique is frequently followed by the equally ineffective and ill-advised silent treatment. Now I am left with a messy garage and an unhappy husband.

The better and wiser approach would be not to frame the issues as an attack or even as a demand but rather as a need.

“Even when I stand on a ladder, I can’t reach to change that light bulb. I would be grateful if you would do it for me.”

“I’m making your favorite chicken for dinner tomorrow night. It would be really helpful to me if you could stop at the store on your way home.”

“I like the way you organized the garage for me last time (don’t mention that it was 10 years ago!). It would take a huge burden off my plate if you could do it again.”

All of these requests have many advantages – for us and our husbands.

We can be proud of our behavior and our character. We are not shrieking. We are not reacting out of frustration. We are calm, polite, even loving.

We are not criticizing our spouse (never a great motivation for change) and they will therefore feel no need to be defensive or to attack in response.

And we are not expressing our request in terms of their lack but rather in terns of our need. Our husbands want to be needed. They want to give to us. They want to be helpful. But they also want to be appreciated for it.

We all get frustrated. There are so many things we want done. And we want them done yesterday. But none of them are worth harming our relationship over. All of these household chores pale in comparison to our marriage itself.

Learning patience, learning softer, gentler ways of speaking and asking will enhance all of our relationships. But most of all, we will be building up our husbands instead of knocking them down. We can tolerate that messy garage for a little longer…