Why I think everyone should get married

I can’t wait to hear the outraged responses to this one.

Yes, I do think everyone should get married if you’re with the person who’s best for you. But I promise I have something deeper to share with you than my Puritan-esque beliefs.

See, we all get told advice when we’re growing up that goes something like this: “you should get married”. And even if no one says those words, let’s get real. You know it’s an expectation.

So you spend a significant portion of your life looking for your mate. Becoming more attractive. “Working on yourself”. All in the hopes that the person you say “I do” to will show up on your doorstep, ring in hand, and ready to commit!

And yet, why did both my parents get divorced 3 times? They followed all the ‘get married’ advice, didn’t they?

So why, in the same parallel, do we listen to advice that tells us: “Be agreeable. Be kind.”

Which ACTUALLY means: Say yes to what anyone asks of you and never say no (because that’s bad and will make people angry).

And so day after day, you say yes. And day after day, you feel resentful. And day after day, you feel so burned out you’re considering ripping your hair out and donating it to Locks of Love.

But that’s it right there.

The system doesn’t care whether or not “the rules” work for you. The system cares whether you follow them, period.

It’s why we have a small heart attack when we’re faced with conflict and need to ‘say no’ when it really matters.

So today, it’s time we find a better way to ‘say no’–to people’s demands on your time, to ‘favors’ and oddball requests, to people crossing the line–without needing to be put on a stretcher to get your heart rate down.

Let’s work through this together.

Example #1: Let’s say in early morning, you feel like a freshly hatched chicken and you’re diving in to do ‘important project work’. About 10 minutes later, you get a text–which means it’s important–from your boss:

“Are you busy right now?”

And I know we WANT to say: “Yes, I am actually. Please leave me alone, don’t you understand I’m doing important things”?

But we know we can’t do that.

See, this is the turning point. You think ‘no’ means saying the actual word ‘no’.

Wrong! In fact, never say the word ‘no’ in these situations if you can avoid it. It makes the other person get all “you’re defying me?”

Instead, do this:

“Hey ‘name’! I’m working on ‘X’ right now and I can come to your desk in an hour to help”


What happened there?

First of all, you’ve gotten yourself out of this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ trap and are now dictating the tone of the battle.

You greeted your superior with warmth. You told that person what you’re working on (so they can either A) agree it’s a priority and leave you to it or B) say “actually, that’s not important right now). In a very subtle way, you’ve given them a sense of control and validated their power.

And then–even better!–you said when exactly you would find your boss to help them in a time-frame that indicates you get she wouldn’t be texting you if it wasn’t important, and are still respecting the work you have to do. (So if you were to say “I’ll come to you later today to help” that wouldn’t be as effective. It sends the message that you think what she needs help with is not important. A time frame like an hour shows a sense of urgency and that she can count on you.)

And the word ‘no’ was not said once!

Let’s do another one:

Example #2: Let’s say your in one of those Friday afternoon meetings, and you’re all “can’t wait for the weekend”, when you hear your boss say: “We’re going to have to work this weekend” and you deflate like a balloon.

You feel like you’re backed into a corner. You feel like there’s nothing you can say. What are you going to say to your wife when you have to tell her you have to cancel plans you made?

Tricky, right?

And you don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who expects your team to do the work and not you. And you don’t want to come across as someone who can’t step up to the plate when the going gets tough.

Instead, do this:

Talk to the people on your team, individually, and say: “Wanted you to know I’ve got something important to take care of on Saturday, but will be available all day Sunday to help you with this”

Now, even if you don’t use those words exactly, let’s examine what’s going on here and why it works.

The main thing is you don’t want anything to fuck with your weekend plans, and you also want to keep it cool with people at work. Great. One does not have to be sacrificed, contrary to popular belief.

But this is why you must talk with the people on your team individually. Why? Because if you just announce it at the meeting, you will still get a text on Saturday saying: “Hey, can you help with this?” As if you never said anything.

When you deliberately pull people aside, it feels more personal. It also gives you an opportunity to make sure they understand what you are saying: That you’re busy all of Saturday, and only free on Sunday.

And by saying “you have something important to take care of on Saturday” you are stating when you’re unavailable and placing blame on another entity that people can’t argue with. ‘Something important’ sounds important, doesn’t it? No one is going to ask you what it is. If they do? “Family or personal issues” works every time.

And even better? Just like the last script, you stated when you would be there to help your team do whatever they need to do. This shows you’re not leaving them high and dry, and when you show up on Sunday to help, they’ll know you mean what you say.

And to be clear, it’s less important to use these exact words than it is to understand how and why they work. You can adapt them to any situation, so you can stop getting freaked out about the “no” conversations.

Now, the one thing I know is how hard this is in the moment. Just the other day I got asked the “Are you busy right now?” question and I just looked at them and said “yes”, with no explanation, even though I wasn’t doing anything. I just wanted to be left alone.

So I am working on this just as much as you are. Even though it’s hard, I tell myself “no excuses, Spahr!” because sometimes I take on the alter ego of a lieutenant.

What’s one thing you’re going to make an effort to do the ‘say no’ thing with this week?

Leave a comment below.



2 Responses to “Why I think everyone should get married

  • Great point, and not only during one week, but fear need to improve this continuously, am very bad at this saying no in a nice manner… So, I think will start with simply counting to 3 whenever someone asks me to do something that I can’t or don’t want to do at that moment, that might help before replying;)

    • Eva, that’s a great way to look at it. Just taking a ‘pause’ first can help you collect your thoughts and respond in a different way than you would have before. If you do it, comment back here and let me know how it goes!

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