The power of positive reinforcement has been proven time and time again to be far more effective than its negative counterpart, not only in achieving immediate results, but also in gaining an overall happier life.
For better or worse, we come into our relationships with the duffle bags, suitcases, backpacks, and baggage of our past hurts, stitched together in a patchwork of varying degrees of scar tissue. It is for this reason that when you come home after a long day and want him to take the initiative to cook, you’re disappointed when he says, “I’m exhausted. Let’s order out.” It may be his face you see, but the voice you hear is that of your lazy, good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend who never lifted a finger to attend to anything you ever needed.
It is also for this reason that what he hears is the nerve-shattering screech of his former flame, rattling off one nagging demand after another, when you ask him (in your sweetest voice possible, of course) to take out the trash. Although it may be true that men are from one planet and women from another, it is through the dingy lenses of past damages that our differences are truly realized. So dinner gets ordered, the trash is taken out, and somehow neither one of you are happy about any of it.
There is no shortage of examples to demonstrate that marrying someone with the intent to change them is a devastating proposition, inevitably ending in more scar tissue from which to fashion a handbag to complete your collection. But what if he actually is the man you want him to be, and you simply have yet to discover it? Better yet, what if he wants to be that man for you?
The power of positive reinforcement has been proven time and time again to be far more effective than its negative counterpart, not only in achieving immediate results, but also in gaining an overall happier life. From psychologists to animal trainers, everyone has tapped into the overwhelming results of encouragement over punishment at one time or another. Even auto insurance companies are jumping on the positive reinforcement bandwagon, offering rewards for good driving rather than simply hiking up prices for the more accident-prone.
With this positive reinforcement in mind, try a different approach. Instead of asking him to take out the trash, simply wait. Although days may pass and you may want to scream at the mounting heap of garbage, wait. With bulging bags surrounding the overflowing kitchen trashcan—with the rank odor of rotting dinner scraps wafting through the house, causing people to wonder what stray animal picked your basement to die in—you wait.
Finally, when you have nearly lost hope, the unimaginable will happen. He will shuffle through the door, drop his phone, wallet, and keys exhaustedly on the counter, crinkle his nose, and look down at the mound of trash that has taken over the corner of your kitchen. You may be shocked speechless as he begins to take the bags out two at a time without ever being asked. Allow me to feed you your next line:
“Baby, you are the sexiest trash-taker-outer in the world.”
It’s obviously silly, ridiculous even, but as the two of you chuckle at your words, he will know that you appreciate his efforts, and your usual irritation at one another will be replaced with humor. He will also no longer associate your request to take out the trash with that of his nagging ex, and it will never pile up like that again.
The more time that passes, the more ‘titles’ you can add to the list. He may advance his way to The Manliest Kid-Bather, or Toughest Laundry-Folder on the Planet. You may be surprised to find yourself holding the designation of Most Breath-Taking Bill-Payer, or Most Radiant Bed-Time-Story-Reader on Earth. More importantly, you will have become his cheering section, and he will be yours.