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Couples Clinic: Say What You Mean — Without Being Bossy

Simple tips for more effective — and loving — communication with your spouse.


Does your husband ever complain that you're too bossy? Even if he doesn't, chances are you know if you've crossed the line from making reasonable requests to being downright demanding. For instance, you love when he does the grocery shopping, but find yourself yelling at him for buying the chunky spaghetti sauce instead of plain — again. The kids hate chunky; doesn't he know that? Things like, "You're never helpful!" come out of your mouth. And when he offers to go back to the store for the right sauce, you bark something like "It's too late; dinner's already ruined!"

Sound familiar? The problem with this scenario, and the many others like it that play out in homes across America, is that it only makes the husband — your husband — more resentful, and ultimately less likely to do what you want. The trick is to get him to do what you need him to do without copping a bossy attitude. Here, some tips:

  1. Remind yourself that you're entitled to your feelings and have every right to speak up. However, when you do, choose your words with care. Speak firmly, but in a way that doesn't demean or criticize. You might say: "Thanks for getting the spaghetti sauce. It saves me ten minutes that I really needed." And, let the chunky slide — he'll get the hint when the kids groan; or if you must, tell him gently (after dinner) that next time he should buy the plain.

  2. Stick to the facts, and skip the provocative attacks or ultimatums. Refrain from phrases like "You always..." or "You never..." Accusing him of being a bad shopper, for instance, will only make him less likely to make a food run next time.

  3. Acknowledge your differences with respect and make clear your willingness to brainstorm ideas and solutions. For example, you might offer to make your husband a specific list of what you need at the grocery store, so there will be less of a chance he will buy the wrong items.

Taking the time to think before you act will not only help you get your feelings heard but your needs met. We promise your husband will be grateful, too.

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