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I’ve tried several methods of broaching difficult subjects with my husband over the course of our marriage.

I’ve tried talking to him directly about them.  This is the method most often suggested by people with “degrees” or “long marriages.”  I have to say, I don’t care for it. Perhaps if when I brought up the difficult subject directly he said, “You make a valid point and I will do what it is you’re proposing because that is what’s best for both of us” and that was the end of it, maybe then I would be a little more open to this method.  

Instead what I have found is that this method often leads to uncomfortable conversation, dissent and sometimes I am even asked to contribute to whatever solutions are being proposed.

The direct method involves far too much talking about the difficult subject which I didn’t want to talk about in the first place because it is difficult.

The next method I tried was hinting followed by silent fuming when he doesn’t catch on to my hints.  I eventually grew tired of this idea because with my husband never getting my hints and then him wanting to know why I was so furious we would eventually circle around to the direct method again.

The third method I tried was never bringing it up and trying to fake that I never had problems with anything.  Surprisingly, this led to periodic rage explosions that led my husband to demand where they were coming from which led us back to the direct method. 

At this point, I was only interested in keeping this marriage together entirely to find a way to make my husband aware of difficult subjects without any sort of actual conversation with him about the difficult subjects.

And then I stumbled across a solution to my problem while I was writing “flour” on the grocery list.  I’d been agonizing all week over how to bring up that I was irritated by his mother constantly encroaching in our lives.  As I stared at the grocery list, lost in my thoughts, underneath the word “flour” I wrote “the ability to tell your mother ‘no.’”  

That was it!  Why hadn’t I thought of it before?  If I’d learned anything from my three semester hours of junior college psychology summer class and commercials for the Dr. Phil Show, it’s that men have a very strong urge to bring food home to their family.  It’s one of their most primal instincts. If I could tie the behavior changes I wanted from my husband to that very primal instinct, he’d be powerless to resist my suggestions.

And what better way to connect the two than with the grocery list?

There was no dialogue involved.  There wasn’t even monologue. I wasn’t telling him what to do so much as having him pick up some things while he was out.  Things such as familial boundaries, the wherewithal to put his socks in the hamper and at least enough diligence to counter out his slothfulness.

Occasionally, he’d be looking so hard for some self respect that he’d forget the gallon of milk, but for the most part, this system works for us and has done wonders for our marriage.  It’s been years since we’ve talked about anything deeper than “what was in the mail today?” And we only have that conversation when he drops by for his mail on the home way to his new apartment.

Take that people with “degrees” or “long marriages”.

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