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Episode 30 - Just Ask!

Episode 30 Overview

What's the one thing you can do to transform the dynamic of your relationship? Start asking for what you want. Sound easy? It's not. For most of us, even identifying what we want is hard--it's not the things we're nagging him about, it's the deeper, more meaningful things that would truly light us up. It's the things we can't do on our own or get for ourselves--and it's so hard sometimes to admit that there's a limit to our independence. But when we lean into that vulnerability and offer him a real chance to win, the payoff in your relationship is unbelievable. By the way, this is an area I personally struggle with SO MUCH... so expect to hear more about it in the future!


00:00 Episode 30, Just Ask! Welcome to the First Year Married Podcast, where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm marriage coach Kayla Levin, and I take newly-married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected, through practical tips, real life inspiration, and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:38 Hey, ladies, welcome back. You know, I thought I'd be excited about episode 25, but I'm super excited about episode 30. We got to 30. When did that happen? It's so exciting, so thank you all for coming back and listening and all the sharing that you're doing. I know this podcast is being shared among a lot of people. We are so beyond thrilled with the growth. I'm really excited, because we are planning our next First Year Married round for October, and we have a lot of new people around here, so I'm super excited to see who we get for the next round. That's just a little tease. The card is not open yet.

01:09 Okay. This week I want to talk to you about something that came up in the group course, which I thought, you know what? We're going to go ahead and share this one with the podcast, because it is so super helpful, and it's a bit of a challenge for you. And the thing I like about you ladies is you are up for it. I think you like a challenge, and you definitely like homework. That I hear from you. So we're going to do a challenge, I'll get you some homework, and have a little mini coaching session right here.

01:33 Okay, here's the deal. I'm going to be shamelessly sourcing Alison Armstrong and probably Brooke Castillo in this podcast, as usual. I'm not going to note every individual one. So if you want to learn more about this material, this is primarily Alison Armstrong, and then also the work that I've done with my clients and what I've heard from them. Men and women relate very differently to the idea of asking for things. I always have to say this, there's always a spectrum. Sometimes we're more masculine, they're more feminine. Fine. Okay, moving on.

02:06 What that means is that we tend to have among us ladies a bit of a tit-for-tat experience of asking. What does that mean? That means that those of you who are moms will relate to the one mom that's always asking you to pick up their kid from school, but when you need something, she's never really available. We're super conscious of that, yeah? Could be at work, someone's always asking you to grab her a coffee when you go to Starbucks, and she doesn't offer you when she goes. Or she never goes. That could happen too. We kind of are very aware of that, which means that what happens is that, I actually don't know which is the chicken or the egg, but the point is that we're very aware of that, and what happens is that when we're asking for something, we kind of go through three stages.

02:49 The first thing that we do is we try desperately hard to find out how we could not need it from anybody, because now I've got to like use my points if I'm going to ask for something. So I don't want to need it from anybody, so I'm going to try really hard to provide this for myself. If I do need it, then I'm going to go and try and figure out who owes it to me. If I have two friends, and one's going to coffee and I just bought her a coffee, I'm going to ask her over somebody else. So who owes it to me? When I'm asking for something, what I'm really asking is to maintain the balance of a relationship. I'm not asking for a gift.

03:27 Why not? Because gifts are something that are never earned. Gifts are something you give someone just because. We're not asking for a gift, we're asking for a return of a favor, the same way that you pay your babysitter at the end of a babysitting session, because they did a job for you. So you pay them. They're not like, "Oh my gosh, $30, what a nice gift." $30, ha ha, as if that's what babysitters cost anymore. Point being, this is sort of a typical female approach to asking for things. There's obviously personality plays in. One of my very best friends is a tremendous giver. She's always giving, and I don't know that she keeps the same level of accounting that other people do, because she's a lovely person.

04:09 The male version is very different. As we've said before, and this is an inherently Jewish concept, and it's also something that Alison found in her research, which is that men are inherently providers, which means that giving is a natural and healthy thing for them to do. They actually really enjoy giving, and you'll see that if you start looking for it. If you start paying attention, you'll see that there are certain guys who are really good at giving certain things. They love to give advice on buying a car or taking care of a car. Or maybe it's in their profession. Or maybe they got really into how you take care of children, and they're teaching other dads. Whatever the thing is that they've sort of decided that they could be an authority on, they love giving that information. They will often do it for free, because it's just such a natural and healthy and wonderful part of who they are and what they want to do.

05:00 So now if you put the two together, you've got a really funny situation, because you've got a woman coming to a guy who wants to give to her, because he loves giving. And she's like, "Remember how I washed the dishes until really late last night? Well, the dining room floor is really dirty." And then she pauses. Note, no request has been made. No asking, so nothing's actually been asked for. And I hear it from the women, "Why should I have to ask? I washed the dishes. He steps on the floor too. Why do I have to ask him?" I love it, because it's just so consistent.

05:42 So no request has been made, and the tit-for-tat has been explained. I deserve for you to do the floor, because if anything, you owe me. If anything, you're way behind. That's what's being ... But on the other hand, you have a guy who wants nothing more than to give to his wife, and she has just created a situation in which he literally cannot give. He can't give. It's like you went to go give your friend a gift, and they insisted on paying you for the time and money that you spent on the gift, because they want to keep it fair.

06:21 I'm telling you, some of you won't believe me, but a normal healthy man would love to sweep the floor. He would love to, if it would bring a smile to your face, and you'd be excited, and it would make you happy and maybe even, God forbid, grateful. Oh my gosh, it makes us so uncomfortable. It's so hard. I'm telling you, I've been working on this material. I've been married now 10 years. We just had our anniversary. Very exciting, thank you for your congratulations. I probably started working on literally asking questions in a sentence that would end in a question mark if it was written down, not like, "The floor needs to be cleaned," but "Would you please sweep the floor?" It is like nails on a chalkboard for me still, this long after.

07:08 I hope your success is much quicker than mine. I happen to have this extremely well-ingrained, that I need to be self-sufficient, I shouldn't have to ask for anything. But honestly, a lot of you are very similar to me, because I know, because I talk to you and I coach you. We have such a hard time asking, but what I want to show you is that there is no bigger gift you could give to your husband and to your marriage than to just ask. And you know what? If you don't want to, that's fine. You can stay in your relationship where you're doing the tit-for-tat thing. Just know that you're working in a dynamic that's probably not the same dynamic he's working in. And even if he comes and joins you in your dynamic, it's really not as fun. It's not as nice. So you might get to the point where he's like, "Okay, yeah. It's fair. You did the dishes, I'll do this." Fine, it's not terribly romantic. It's really not.

07:57 So you can do it. You totally can, and you might want to even stay there for a little while, just to observe the dynamic and to sort of see what you've been doing and what's natural to you. But when you're feeling very ready and very brave, and I'm telling you, I learned from Brené Brown, enthusiasm requires vulnerability, and I don't think there's anywhere that we're more vulnerable here than in our marriages. So it's hard. It's hard to say to your husband, "You don't know how excited I would be if you blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Because you have to be enthusiastic. You can't be ironic, you can't be sarcastic. Those are very, very nice protections against vulnerability. I know them, I love them too. But they don't work here.

08:41 But if you want to create a relationship where you guys ... I mean, here's what I want you to imagine. You know those really amazing 80-year-old couples, and they're just like still doing all those cute little romantic things? And it's all a gift. He's giving her these little gifts, and she's giving him gifts. And it might be laughing at a joke, or it might be calling, or it might be writing love notes, or whatever they're doing. But they're gifts. You see it as an energy of giving, of gifts.

09:08 This is why people say a marriage can't be 50/50. It's 100/100. You're both just all in, in a healthy marriage. Because why? Because when I'm going 50/50, I'm in that tit-for-tat mode and that mentality. Is it owed to me? If not, I can't ask for it. You know what's so cool about letting your husband give to you? You don't have to have earned it. I could sit at home all day long, do nothing productive, and my husband could walk in the door, and I could say, "I'm overtired. I didn't sleep well last night. It would mean the world to me if I could take a nap for 20 minutes." For me, we have four kids, so me taking a nap is a group effort, because he has to watch them.

09:56 You know, if I could do that, then that'd be amazing. Now, I can ask him this with, let's say this is a day where I'm not working and I'm hone with the kids, and let's say they're in summer and they're not in camp, and I'm with the kids. Let's say they're even in camp, okay? I'm not even responsible for them the whole day. And I'm home and he's at work, and he comes home, and I could have dishes stacked, and I could have the laundry not done, and I could have toys all over the floor, and most women will say they don't feel comfortable asking for something, because look at all the proof of how they don't deserve it.

10:34 And what I want to show you is, this is kind of similar to the episode two weeks back about beauty. You deserving it is irrelevant. And you can stay there in the thought of, "I don't deserve it," or maybe trying to convince yourself, "I do deserve it," but what I want to offer you is that if you bypass "deserve it" by saying to yourself, "Worrying about whether I deserve it doesn't help me be a better person or a better wife, or happier, so I'm just going to ignore 'deserve it' for now." Just do an experiment. All you need to focus on, so here's your challenge and your homework, all I want you to focus on is what would get you excited. That's it.

11:19 We just moved, as I said before, out of my house and into my in-laws'. As we were moving, we were moving a lot of boxes, and I'll tell you my thought work during the time was, "I don't have to like it, I just have to do it." That was my very elevated thought about the situation. I just kept reminding myself, "This is a short period of time. It's not worth getting comfortable with, it's not worth doing all the getting enthusiastic. Just get it done. In a couple days it'll be done. Just keep going, and it'll be done." All right, it was relatively motivating.

11:51 But my husband, being the guy that he is, was like, "I want you to be excited. Let's have fun with this. What would get you excited about this?" So for two days of schlepping boxes, I had nothing that would get me excited, and I was annoyed by the question. This isn't about being excited, this is about getting it done. We're just getting it done. We're just going to keep schlepping boxes til it's over, and then it'll be done. Very motivating, Kayla.

12:16 So finally I was kind of like mulling it over one day while packing, and it occurred to me that what would be super exciting for me would be that before the week was over, I would have a night where I could focus instead of getting out of the house, I could focus on setting us up in the house that we were living in, in my in-laws', which fortunately for us, they have this great gorgeous basement. We're calling it the basement apartment. We're living down here, and there's a place for me to put away my kids' clothes. I can really do a little bit of nesting here and sort of feel like we have a temporary home. Doesn't that sound mundane? But as soon as I had the thought, I was lit up. I was so excited, because that's what I wanted. That was what I truly wanted.

13:07 And the whole time I was schlepping boxes, I wasn't really thinking about what I wanted. I was thinking about what I needed to do. What do I deserve? Oh, my husband's working so hard. I'm able to scale back this week. I'm not working. The kids are in camp. It's my job. I need to do it. This is what's fair. But once he asked me that, first of all, then he was in a position where he could consider, is he able to provide that for me? And we talked it through, and we figured it out. It wasn't exactly one of the nights, but it would be one of the days. He was able to provide that for me, and I was able to do it, and it made me really happy. It made me really happy to be able to do that.

13:42 But the other thing is, it worked so well for me, because then obviously it's just a much more empowering thought, that on the other end of this, here I will get to sort of create this little temporary home for us, and that will be really nice, because then we won't feel like we're sort of just flying every day, but that we have a little structure in our lives. Okay, I'm giving that example to show you how hard it can be to even know what we would be excited about. We often don't even know what to ask for.

14:13 I have almost an entire class in the six-week course about how to identify this, and that is a very homework-heavy week, because it's hard. It's hard work. And we have a lot of different tools of how to do it, because you know what? There's the physical, and there's the spiritual, and there's the friends, and there's all these different parts in your world and your life that you have to check in with. But sometimes, if you can just stop and ask the question my husband asked me, "What would get you excited about this?" then you might find an answer right away. It might just pop into your mind.

14:49 And it has to come from a place of we're bypassing what you deserve. What you deserve is not helpful, so just drop it. It's just not going to help you. So great, maybe it's accurate, maybe you could make an argument this is what's true and this is what's accurate. Find, go ahead if you want to, but you're not going to get the results that you want. And one of the results that I want is to show up the best that I can. That's what I'm looking to create for myself with my thoughts. And I find that when I get very caught up in what I deserve, I'm not showing up at my best, so it's just not a helpful thought.

15:28 There are just other thoughts that are also true. You don't have to think a thought just because it's true. So just find a different thought that you also think is true, that's more motivating. I just want you to, as you're going through your week, especially whenever you're starting to feel frustrated or resentful, I want you to stop for a second. If your husband's there, you could even say to him, "I'm trying to figure out what I really want right now." And you get an A if by this time next week you've thought of one thing where you just lit up. And I don't care how simple it is. It could be that when you went to the movie, you got the popcorn. I don't care. Try to stay away from food though, because that's usually like the one that we go to straight, and sometimes you can be more creative than that. Not that food's not great, but it's too easy. I'm going to give you guys a harder assignment than that.

16:18 It might be very mundane, it might be very exciting, but try and find that thing where when you hear it, you're just like, "Oh, that's it. That's the one I want to do. That's the thing." And then share that enthusiasm with your husband. Tell him, and you can say to him, "I don't know how this is going to happen, and I don't know if we can make it work, but I would love it if XYZ." Share that with him, and know that that requires vulnerability. Leaving out the sarcasm, leaving out the irony, leaving out the "I deserve it because XYZ," that requires vulnerability. If you can't be vulnerable with your husband, then you're not fully there.

16:57 And then what you're doing is you are creating a dynamic in which he can give you something that matters, and in that way, you're giving to him, because you're allowing him to provide. It's a really beautiful thing. I've been watching some of you as you've made this transformation. You've started to use this in your relationships. It's beautiful. It's really amazing to see. It's amazing to see what sides of our husbands we don't know about, because we haven't allowed them. And I wish you all the best. I would love to hear how it went for you. What was your thing? What did you get excited about? Let me know over on Instagram, or you could just send me an email. I'd love to hear from you, and have a fantastic week. See you here next week. Bye-bye.

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