Over the years I’ve counseled several couples, and sometimes even individuals who want to work on their marriage. One of the things I seem to hear over and over again is women thinking their husbands aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe they don’t do enough for the kids, or aren’t helping around the house as much as you’d like. Often it’s not just that they aren’t trying hard enough, it’s that when they do help, it feels as though it’s not actually helpful. One thing that often comes to my mind when I hear women saying these things is an image you might have seen, a pot of half peeled potatoes boiling.
There are different quotes about this image, but the one I like says “A man sees his wife busy cooking in the kitchen and says: ‘How can I help?’ She says ‘Grab the potatoes, peel half and then boil them.’”
What woman doesn’t want her husband to come to her in the kitchen and say “How can I help?”!? That statement lets someone know their husband’s intentions. It’s clear he wants to be helpful. Now, I understand that 5 minutes later when you turn around and see literally half of each potato peeled you may no feel he intended to be helpful. It suddenly feels like you have even more work to do. But let’s try to look at it from his perspective for a moment. Maybe he just came home from work, or came inside from mowing the lawn. He sees you hard at work in the kitchen, which may not be his domain, but he thinks, ‘she looks stressed, I’ll help her out’. Maybe he’s thinking ‘I want to lighten her load, even if I don’t know my way around the kitchen so, I’ll give it a shot for her.’ So he asks how to help and gets to work. Yet just a few minutes later he’s being shooed out of the kitchen or worse, yelled at for messing up, when he was only trying to help. He’s not likely to offer his help again anytime soon, and if you ask for it, he’s concerned about messing up and getting “in trouble” again, making him more likely to mess up or scurry away as soon as he thinks he’s finished. Take a moment to image how you might feel. Maybe you have free time and your husband is working hard on the car or in the yard. Maybe neither of those are things you enjoy or know much about but you want to help. Now if you’re like me and try to help work on a vehicle you can imagine how it might be easy to make things worse. How would your husband respond to you? I think my husband might just laugh; he’d help me fix whatever I messed up and teach me something new along the way. We might actually enjoy the time together. That’s why I like the picture of the half peeled potatoes. It makes me laugh. So why not laugh at that situation? Why stress over it? Enjoy the moment, and take the time to encourage your husband in making an effort to help you. And most importantly before you start thinking how unhelpful he was and how much worse the situation is, remember his intention – to be helpful, let that leave you with a smile.