Helping our relationship by understanding opposing views on asking for help

It’s a tale as old as time: Woman meets man, the two fall in love, they make a home, they start a family, and along the way, the woman falls into a family and home management role, leaving her energy depleted and resentful.

My husband and I recently discussed this problem, specifically our differing views on asking for help. From my perspective, part of my constant overwhelm is that I have a hard time asking for help (a “me” problem and one I’m trying to work through), and one of my sources of frustration has been that he asks for help all the time for things that he doesn’t really need help with. After talking about it, we realized we have very different schools of thought about asking for support.

I’ve been raised to believe I should do as much independently as possible. Asking someone to do something for you is placing a burden on their shoulders, so it should be done sparingly and only when truly needed. Also, when someone asks me for help, I automatically assume it’s a last resort, so I have difficulty saying “no” because this person must have a metaphorical burden that is too heavy to lift solo. It would be almost unkind to leave them to continue struggling with it alone.

My husband’s view is entirely the opposite. He was raised in a big family that helps each other and asks for help all the time. They ask for help for things they can’t do by themselves as well as things they don’t want to do alone. They ask for help to make the work faster or less lonely. My husband assumes if the person he asks for help doesn’t want to do it for any reason, they will say “no” and he might as well ask because not asking is an automatic “no.”

So the result is that my husband asks me for help with every unpleasant task that he’d prefer to do with someone. And I say “yes” every time because I’ve learned always to agree to help unless there’s a reason I can’t. Meanwhile, I do all of my tasks by myself because I can (and, honestly, because I find it more efficient to do things myself without stopping to delegate tasks or answer questions). Then I often feel resentful because it seems I’m doing all my chores and contributing to my husband’s.

Having a nonjudgmental conversation about where we are coming from has been the best way for us to approach this problem without adding strain to our relationship. Although I’m still learning, I’ll say “no” to many of my husband’s requests and try to identify tasks I could do faster with a helping hand. My husband is trying to dial back his requests because he understands now that it takes energy from me to say “no.” He is learning that sometimes he needs to offer help because I may not think to ask for it.

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