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The way one gives and receives makes all the difference.  It’s all in the communication.

  • The asker must convey the message that the other has no obligation to comply. In essence, this spouse is asking for a favor.
  • The giver must convey the message that s/he helps as a matter of course, as the natural outcome of their special relationship, not as a favor.
  • Tone matters!

A request addresses the whole person. A demand relegates the other to merely a service provider.

Everyone wants to be recognized as an individual rather than a machine. People comply more easily with a request than a demand.  Additionally, no one likes to be taken for granted or ‘used’.


Words you might use:

  • “Please…
  • “I would so appreciate if you …
  • “If it isn’t too much of a bother

Some asking techniques that get buy-in:

At their convenience.

Make your ‘ask’ easy to fulfill. The idea is to put the completion of the request on their terms. “The door squeaks and is giving me a headache. When in the next few days can you address it?”

Ask for their input.
“My goal is to make the kids’ vacation less stressful. Any ideas?” “How might we make this happen?”

Give a choice.

“When is easier for you – this evening or tomorrow?”


Regular use of respectful language demonstrates that you value your spouse and appreciate what they do.

Requests that lack respect convey the opposite and generate feelings of estrangement.


A couple experiencing communication problems will feel that everything they do for each other becomes a burden. They feel coerced to give; and everything done under duress seems like a great effort.  As a result, their resentment deepens.

In contrast, a congenial relationship makes it a delight to give, and the giving seems comparatively easy.

Aliza and Chaim  fought constantly. When they wanted something from the other, they made demands.  They argued a lot because neither liked being told what they must do. They each felt the other took them for granted.

In the end, they might have done what was asked, but neither was happy about it. The one that was asking always felt that the other did it begrudgingly.  And the giver felt used.

Aliza and Chaim  were respectful to each other. When asking for something they were always considerate of the other.

They did for each other all the time, willingly and happily knowing that they were making each other’s lives easier and happier.


We feel more willing to give when someone says they need something rather than  when they say they want something.

It is the complexity of  human nature.   On one hand, we might be kind and giving. On the other hand, no one  likes when another gets the better of him.

On one hand, most people are willing to accommodate another’s needs.

On the other hand, when someone ‘wants’ from us, it awakens the competiveness in us and creates a case of conflicting egos.

Why is it that when someone cuts us off, we get annoyed. But when someone asks us to allow them to go before us to make a turn, we graciously allow them?

The first one didn’t give us the opportunity to give graciously.  They just ‘made us give to them’.  In the second case, we had the chance to help someone in need.


Much of what we want is really a need.  Saying that we want something is only a function of language, what we feel is a need.

We all have physical and emotional needs. Sometimes we need help  because we don’t have the skills, time or energy to do whatever it is.  Sometimes it is that we need to know that our spouse values us.  We have a human need to feel comfortable and secure.

While it would be better if our spouse worded their needs as ‘needs’ and not ‘wants’, it is worthwhile to view them as ‘needs’, not ‘wants’.


Do not try to make [the other] do; Try to make him want to do, and to be happy while doing. Rabbi Dessler in Michtav Eliyahu

Shnei Luchos Habris:

  • No one should force others to do things … even if he has the authority or means to impose his will.
  • A token attempt to persuade the other is not enough. One must try every means of persuasion.
  • The goal must be that the other person complies willingly, out of self-motivation.

A properly phrased request breaks down  any obstacles or unwillingness, and actually promotes the desire to give.

Tone matters!

  • A request should be uttered slowly in a soft manner, and accompanied by conciliatory remarks.
  • Ask, don’t demand.
  • Ask, don’t hint.
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