Side by Side

Q: For some reason, I can’t seem to get my husband to do what I ask him to. Whether I ask him to stop leaving the cupboard door open every time he takes out a glass or to not leave the toilet seat up, he just tunes me out. How do I get him to do the things I want him to do?

A:  My guess is that your husband isn’t tuning you out. He probably hears your every word, but isn’t doing what you want him to because of how you are asking. Instead of asking him for what you want, it sounds like you are asking for what you don’t want. For example, instead of saying, “Would you stop leaving the cupboard door open each time you get out a glass?” say “Would you close the cupboard door each time you get out a glass?” A small shift in your words can make a big difference. By avoiding the use of words such as “don’t,” “stop” and “not,” you will learn to ask for what you do want rather than what you don’t. In the event that your husband does grant your request, do you reinforce his new behavior with appreciation and gratitude or do you think, “Why thank him for doing something he is supposed to be doing?” This may sound like you’re training a dog, but we humans are highly motivated by positive reinforcement!

Kathy Dawson is a Cleveland Heights author and relationship coach. To learn more about Kathy, visit If you would like your anonymous relationship question answered in a future column, send your question to Kathy at

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Volume 2, Issue 9, Posted 11:36 AM, 08.18.2009