Dr. Greg Cason
The problem with relationships is that they involve other people. As you are well aware, other people have minds of their own and often do what they want despite your best efforts to show them the correct way—your way.
In my previous article, I illuminated you to the fact that—like your dog—your man can be trained. I know, it's distasteful to liken your man to a dog, even when he acts like one. But the fact is that we’re all animals and we respond to the same things that animals do. And it’s all based on one thing.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE: When your man does something and it’s followed by something he finds pleasant or satisfying, he’ll tend to do it again in the future.
Yes, this is just like your dog. If your dog believes he will get a tasty treat by holding up his paw when you say “shake” and then he does, he will most likely do it again when you shout out your monosyllabic request. And though you may not be worried about getting your man to shake your hand on command, you probably want his hand with a few other things.
Let’s say you want your man to take out the trash—whether it is taking that can of rubbish out to the curb or taking you out on a date—you can get your man to do it.
Last time I asked you to figure out what motivates your man to do the things he does, did you?
What generally motivates us is the expectation of something pleasant or satisfying. What does your man find pleasant or satisfying? It can be similar to what you use to train your dog—only human food treats. But the problem with things like food is that we get full. And when we’re full, the treat no longer works.
If you did your homework, use that as his “treat.” If you didn’t, stick with the treat that no one can ever have too much of—appreciation.
APPRECIATION, THE HUMAN TREAT: For those who may be unclear on the concept, appreciation is showing gratitude or an expression of thanks. It is also the recognition of the value, quality or significance of someone and their actions.
Unfortunately, over the course of my work I regularly encounter people who state they appreciate their partners but refuse to show it, usually proclaiming, “He should just know.” Well, chances are if you don’t say it or show it, he probably doesn’t. Appreciation doesn’t count when it isn’t communicated. You can’t just appreciate someone in your head; you also have to open your mouth (generally for words, but other uses of your mouth count, too).
Since ‘taking out the trash’ is our example, let’s get back to it. Whether it’s you or that sack in the kitchen, follow these basic pointers:
FIRST, STOP YOUR BITCHING: Though nagging, complaining and criticizing may get your man to take out the trash once (mostly to get you to shut your trap), he is not likely to want to do it again on his own. That’s because every time he thinks about doing it, he also thinks of you getting your bitch on. It will make him want to avoid it and you.
ASK HIM & SHOW HIM: Rather than bitching, make a friendly request, “Honey, will you please take out the trash?” Simple and to the point. If he hesitates or says he doesn’t know how, offer to do it with him (and without judgment). This also goes for planning a date. Don’t just ask him to take you out—tell him where you would like to go and sit together and show him how to make a reservation. And don’t treat him like a child. He is your man. You are not teaching something, you are sharing something.
GIVE THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE: Your man is not going to want to do something if he believes he is forced into doing it or has to do it your way. If he wants to take the trash out after his favorite TV show or if he wants to take you to his favorite restaurant, go with it. If he doesn’t make the new task at least partly his idea and choice, he is not going to change his ways.
OPEN YOUR MOUTH: When your man has done as you want (whether you asked for it or not), give him a treat. If you are unsure what that is, show appreciation. Say, “Thank you!” And, don’t be sarcastic or give weak praise. Give it in a strong and encouraging way.
THE SOONER THE BETTER: Give thanks as soon as he has done what you want. Don’t wait! If the task is small, like taking out the garbage, the thanks can be immediate after it’s done. If the task is big, like taking you out, find ways to give him treats (such as showing appreciation) throughout the night. Call out things you like along the way. Say things such as, “that was a great meal,” and “I loved that movie,” and especially something good about him—”It’s fun being out with you.” Then end with a great big thank you, however you want to show it (wink, wink).
RINSE AND REPEAT: The above pointers are not just something you can do once and expect a result. They are something you must do over and over again. As our high school teachers were fond of saying, “repetition is the mother of all learning.”
Next time I will show you how to get your man to STOP doing something you don’t want him to do. Meanwhile, try this at home: Identify something you want your guy to do and follow the above principles and pointers. If you have resentment about his past inactivity, set your ego aside and focus on the task at hand. Give your man the same encouragement and optimism you would in training your dog, and be ready to give him his treats.
Dr. Greg Cason is a licensed psychologist based in West Hollywood, specializing in cognitive therapy with individuals and couples. He can be contacted by going to DrGreg.com.