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Explain My Wife to Me

Explain My Wife to Me

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Question:

I’m wondering if you can explain my wife to me. She complained last night that I’m not helpful around the house. She claims that yesterday I came home and plonked myself on the couch to relax, leaving her to look after the kids and dinner and everything else. When I pointed out to her that I actually offered to help, she says it wasn’t sincere. I’m at a loss. What more can I do? Is it my fault if she ignores my offer to help?

Answer:

You think you’re being sincere. And you probably are. But sometimes what you say and what your wife hears are miles apart. You need to appreciate how your words come across.

So when you said, “If you need any help, I’m happy to help you,” you thought that was being nice.

But your wife heard, You think you’re being sincere“I am going to the couch to chill. If you really, desperately need me, then you’ll have to come and disturb my peace, and I will reluctantly come and cut up a few vegetables like a martyr.”

Not a very convincing offer. Even though you didn’t say those words, between the lines you implied a willingness to help, but not an eagerness. You are not presenting yourself as being at her service, but rather as not opposed to doing your bit if absolutely necessary.

Your wife does not feel supported by this offer, because it is passive. You are making her feel as if you are doing her a favor, and she should be forever indebted to you for your heroic gesture of bothering to get off the couch to cut up a salad. No wonder she doesn’t feel you are sincerely offering to help her.

Here’s a different way of saying it:

“I’m here for you. Tell me what I can do to help.”

The words are only slightly different. But the meaning is worlds apart. Here you are making yourself available, putting yourself at her service. There is no “if.” You are not requiring her to interrupt you; you are there for her, at her beck and call, ready for instructions. When you offer help in this way, the offer is received graciously because it was presented sincerely. Let’s call it an active offer, rather than a passive one.

We Actively offer your helplearn the idea of active offering from an event that happened over 3000 years ago—the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. G‑d wanted to give them His laws, but before they even heard the first commandment, the Israelites committed themselves to fulfilling His will. They said, naaseh v’nishma”—“Without knowing what You are about to ask of us, the answer is already yes, we will do it. Now let’s hear what it is that You want.”

I have no doubt that you truly want to support your wife. So try expressing it in a way that she’ll hear. Actively offer your help, so she feels you are not just there for the salad, you are there for her.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Chaya Pittsburgh, PA via chabadsh.com November 20, 2015

Well done Rabbi Moss, your response to the husband is right on target. I've been in this type of situation and your interpretation of the words and their underlying meaning is correct. Reply

Rabbi Z. Wineberg November 18, 2015

A way for men to understand What we men don't get is what Chassidus says, the dynamic of male / female, is the giver / receiver and no one likes receiving, hence unless someone feels you desire... - in other words, they are doing you the favor by allowing you to help! (As this may be very difficult for men to conceive, think about how it feels to be an employee - if your boss tells you - "If you need a favor I am here for you" how likely would you be to ask.) Reply

smc Jerusalem November 18, 2015

A better offer: Hey husbands, when your wives are multi-tasking (as the writer said, making dinner, dealing with the kids, and most likely responding to phone calls, and work demands, and...) don't ask, just DO. Say, "come on kids, time for baths!" (or: "let's take that ball out into the yard", or "let's go finish that homework in the den") or any other offer that takes the kids out from under mom's feet (or removes one of the tasks from her shoulders). I know, I know, you'll say, "how can I read her mind?" Don't bother trying, just take over a task and do it. Here's a script for your first time: "Here, let me take that, you finish your phone call. I got this."
She'll thank you for it! Reply

Karin Kruger Oklahoma City, OK/USA November 16, 2015

Explaining women Just for balance ... Rabbi Moss hit the nail on the head! IF, a tiny two letter, word is actually huge. (I could also apply it in the situation of death or care-giving. How often have you heard yourself say to a mourner or care-giver, "IF you need something, just call me"? The offer sounds helpful, but the underlying thought is "I know they won't call." It is far better to say "what do you need or how can I help?")

So it is with husbands and wives ... a husband who walks into the kitchen and asks "what can I do to help?" is showing his wife that he loves, treasures, and respects her. Need I add the benefits will be tenfold ... even if she says "nothing?" The important thing is that a real offer has been made! Reply

sunil subba India November 15, 2015

Usually, when women are stressed they blame their partners whereas men when stressed need time to be alone.By forgiving her and helping her when she is calm helps.Often what i have experienced is that when the partner is angry all help would be refused. Reply

D.J Denver November 15, 2015

Eve vs. Adam I'm sorry Ribbi Moss, but your answer was far to convoluted for the question. The simplest way of saying it is 'she's a woman, and there's not a man on earth who can understand them!' Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn November 15, 2015

Explain my Wife??? Old story goes like this:
G_D appeared in a dream to a fine jew like you named Jacob and the following discussion ensued:
G_D: Dear son Jacob, you have done extraordinary good deeds lately and I want to reward you. What would you like?

Jacob: Oh dear G_D I always wanted to visit Jerusalem but am afraid of planes and boats. Please build an 8 lane highway over the ocean so I can drive to Jerusalem!

G_D: Not a complex job at all, but it poses many problems for people. People may get stranded, or lost, or need medical help midway over the ocean! Please my dear Jacob, ask for something else.

Jacob: Dear G_D, ok. Please explain to me what my wife is thinking, how her mind works, her thought process.

G_D: Jacob, how many lanes did you want on that highway? Reply

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