A few years ago, a friend of mine was dating a soldier. He sounded absolutely adorable to me. She, on the other hand was nothing but complaints about him. He was in school, on active duty and starting a new relationship with her. All she could do was complain about the guy. Oh, he also lived an hour plus drive away. He would make the drive frequently. It wasn’t good enough for my friend. She kept complaining he needed to “drop in more”. He begged her to be patient until after school was done for the semester as then he would definitely have more time to spend with her. No. “I need you to drop in more” and apparently she needed this like last year. They’d only been seeing each other a little over a month. At the time I felt really uncomfortable hearing her rail on and on about what he wasn’t doing. I had no idea what she meant by “dropping in more”. I’m pretty sure he didn’t either. Did she want him to stop by more often? What was her specific request? I’ll never know as this was about five years ago. After multiple sessions of waaa about soldier cutie, who to me seemed to be trying to figure out what she wanted based on her description of his words and actions, she broke up with him. I never did learn what she meant by “drop in more” and I’m sure he didn’t either.
So what’s the problem with her request to “drop in more”? It’s vague. There are way too many variables, too many possible interpretations to know if there’s even a real request in there. No way can your guy be successful in helping you be happy with this kind of demand. And it’s a demand, not a request. This is a “do this or else” demand. If your sweetie feels like there’s just no way to win with you he’s gonna slip in to FUIDGAS mode. FUIDGAS = F*ck You I Don’t Give A Sh*t. A lot of us, men and women are walking around in FUIDGAS mode right now. We get there because Bratty Cathy shows up, throws a tantrum, makes some vague demand (notice how Le Brat never asks for anything?) and then gets pissy because she didn’t get her way. Uh, yeah. Watever. FUIDGAS. There’s no way to win when you’re demanding and vague. So what would’ve been a better approach? How about “You know I’m feeling X about X. I’d really appreciate it if you could do (fill in the blank) for/with me. Thank you!” You’re making a request. You’re being kind and not expecting your guy to be a mind reader and figure out what of the million possible manifestations of your demands it is that you’re after. You’re expressing gratitude for his efforts. He stands a shot at contributing to your happiness. No crystal ball necessary. You’re happy, he’s happy, everything works out!
You could alternately say something like “When you do X I feel X. How about we try this instead” then outline a simple action plan. Simple is the operative word here. Now is not the time to drag out your Prince Charming Reformation Manual in four volumes. He’ll take one look at that stack and quit. He knows he’s bound to forget something in those damn books, you’re gonna get cheesed off and Bratty Cathy will be paying a visit. She may even move in. Guys aren’t stupid. That’s a no win situation and most aren’t up for playing that game and the ones who do bother to play awhile learn it’s a game they can’t win and walk away. Another thing is to make sure your request doesn’t begin “I want you to…” Personally, my first reaction to anything starting with “I want you to…” is FUIDGAS. I really don’t care what you want because now you’re being pushy and making demands. Whereas I might have been interested in hearing you out had I been asked I’m now on the defensive. Who cares what you want? You apparently don’t think much of me since you’re demanding I do something for you like I’m your serf. Not happening. Btw, your children will respond similarly. They may be your children, but they’re still people and certainly not your property.
State your desires clearly as requests. Show gratitude and encouragement when your guy even makes a little move in the direction you want and do your best to ignore the flubs. Be genuinely thankful and enthusiastic when he does what you ask. And if he does something you like without you asking, i.e. he came up with something cool all on his own, please thank him for it! People really do like to be thanked when they make an effort on your behalf. Be generous when things don’t turn out exactly as you’d have referred; people are only human, after all. People wil absolutely make mistakes. Guys are people. Really. And they’re some of the most wonderful, beautiful people on earth. They’re damned adorable when you encourage them and treat them with dignity. Even the crochety ones will be adorable if you see and treat them as the adorable muffins they are. They will make mistakes. So will you. Remember that and be forgiving when goofs happen. The more specific you are in your requests the less likely they are to flub and the happier all will be in your world.