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?


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.