First there was the Horse Whisperer. Then came the Baby Whisperer, then the Dog Whisperer. Seeing all these whisperers tapping into their extrasensory ability to bond with less communicative creatures, I began to wonder if I could do something similar with my husband.
Could delving into his psyche help strengthen our relationship? Or, on a more pragmatic level, could I get him to do what I want without nagging, yelling or being passive-aggressive?
I decided to consult several marriage counselors in my quest to become a bona fide Husband Whisperer. Anything to get my spouse to, among other things, throw away his used yogurt containers, leave the toilet seat down and place his dirty clothes in the laundry basket rather than going for a three-point shot and letting them fall as they may.
So, armed with an arsenal of expert tips, I embarked on a four-week experiment to see if I could somehow morph into a Husband Whisperer and, with practice, patience and perseverance, mold my spouse’s mind ever so gently. Here’s the advice I followed, along with the results.
1. Always say please and thank you—and touch him when you do. I know it sounds like old-school advice, but every marriage expert said the same thing: No one likes being bossed around, especially by their spouses, so there’s no point in throwing down orders like a drill sergeant. All it does is evoke memories of their mothers nagging them to clean their rooms. My husband told me point-blank in our early days that if I told him what to do, he’d do the opposite simply out of spite. Real men don’t get henpecked.
With this in mind, therapists concur that we need to approach our husbands not like children, but with the calm, respectful manner we would friends. And ask, don’t tell. One evening I heard myself sputtering to my husband, “The garbage?!”, like a frustrated teenager begging for the car keys. Not surprisingly, that didn’t even bring a response. Realizing I was off to a bad start, I tried again. “Could you please take out the garbage? It’s starting to stink.” I could have left out the last part, I suppose, but I did get a response, although it wasn’t the one I wanted: “I’ll do it when I get back from the gym.”
Later, when the garbage remained unchanged (and still smelly), I upped my game and took the advice of Toni Coleman, LCSW, a relationship coach from McLean, Virginia, who’d told me, “Your husband will respond better if you place a persuasive hand on his arm or back. Men really respond to physical touch.”So I leaned in closely until we were practically cheek to jowl, but not close enough to block his view of the evening news, and I placed my hand gently on his shoulder. Using the sweetest voice I could muster, I said, “Honey, could you please take out the garbage now that you’re back?” Not only did I succeed in getting his attention, I got him to spring into action. He seemed pleased (and a bit shocked) when I thanked him afterward. Now, whenever I want him to take out the trash, I summon my kinder, gentler self.