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Dear Christine, Hungry in Howell

| February 15, 2016

ccc 2Dear Christine,

I have been with me wife for 40 happy years.  I feel so lucky to be married to the love of my life and best friend for all of these years.  We’ve both worked hard and lead a nice life with a beautiful home.  Three months ago she was able to begin her retirement.   I plan to work through to the end of this year before I can join her in that endeavor.

I may be totally wrong here, so before I bring it up to her, I thought I’d get your take.  We’ve always been equal breadwinners as well as home makers.  Since she retired, I thought she might step it up around the house a bit.  Ok, listening to me say that sounds awful but… Not once as she had dinner ready for us upon my arrival home from work.  She’s been enjoying catching up on reading and has even started a couple of soaps!  It’s not like she’s busy, so i guess I had hoped, perhaps wished, that I would now have a housewife in the traditional sense, i.e., make my dinner!

Our former habit was to make it together every night or go out.  I don’t know how to say something without offending her but even though it sounds a bit sexist, I’d love to be cared for that way.  Am I nuts? 

Hungry in Howell

Dear Hungry,

No, you’re not sexist, and it’s fine to want to be cared for by having your wife of 40 years make dinner for you now that she’s retired and you are still working.  It would help if you would ask her directly, rather than expect her to read your mind!  I imagine you both can finish many of each others’ sentences after 40 years together, but she needs a direct request from you.  Will she want to cook solo for you?  I have no idea!  How is making a request offensive?  I think you can find a way to tell her you have an unusual request that you’d like to ask, and you don’t intend it to be offensive, so could she please listen to your request with an open mind?

The 3 part rule of negotiation is:  Ask 100% of what you want, Be willing to hear no/sexist, and Negotiate for what can be.  You can manipulate her or you can ask her directly.  Either way works, but I’m more a fan of the direct method, as it allows for dialogue and both partners feeling heard and getting their needs met.

My mother-in-law deliberately worked for 3 years after my father-in-law retired, to make sure he got used to making his own lunch and doing his own laundry.  I have no idea if they discussed this, but guess that they did not.  When she did retire, he was independent about feeding himself lunch, washing his clothes and making and baking dog treats!  That saved a lot of tensions from her perspective.  Maybe it could have been achieved sooner with a more direct request.  Who knows.  Ask for 100% of whatever it is you want and see what you both can settle on that is fair to both of you.  And be prepared to renegotiate when you retire as well!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD,
Licensed Psychologist

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Category: Featured Column

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