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Know When to Say NO

When Saying YES Can Hurt Your Marriage


Time to Say No
Photo: Brand New Images / Getty Images
Are you a "yes" person or part of a "yes" couple? Do you know how to say "no" to others?

Volunteerism can hurt your marriage. If you and your spouse are finding yourselves just too busy with no time for your relationship or your kids, perhaps you are having a problem saying NO.

Popular lecturer and author Clayton Barbeau wrote: "Where you place your time you place your life, and where you place your life you place your love."

Why You Say YES and Volunteer

Studies show that most people volunteer for one of the following reasons:
  • To help others
  • Out of a sense of duty
  • For enjoyment
  • Having a child in the program
  • Not being able to say NO

Volunteering Can Multiply

You may notice that your volunteerism is multiplying. You say yes to this, then you get called to help out with that, then another call comes, and another and another.

This isn't describing just organizations like the PTA, or Scouts or 4H, or other worthy organizations.

Family and friends can ask you to volunteer to run errands, babysit kids, pick someone up or drop someone off, attend a dinner function, watch their dog or cat, etc.

Peter Bregman: "Know your no. Identify what's important to you and acknowledge what's not. If you don't know where you want to spend your time, you won't know where you don't want to spend your time. Before you can say no with confidence, you have to be clear that you want to say no. All the other steps follow this one."
Source: Peter Bregman. "Nine Practices to Help You Say No." Harvard Business Review (hbr.org) 2/15/2013.

Ask yourselves questions about how you spend your time. Over scheduling and saying YES too much to others can lead to conflict and stress.

Saying NO Tips

  • Remember that saying NO is often saying YES to your relationship.
  • Saying No is a fact of life. You have to say NO if you are to survive all that is thrown at you by life in general every day.
  • If you have dysfunctional, demanding family members who won't accept or respect your NO when you've stated it in a clear and understanding way, then seek some professional help in dealing with these difficult relatives.
  • Before either of you volunteer for one more organization or job, or agree to do something for someone else, really look at how it will impact your marriage.
  • How long will it take?
  • How much time will it keep you apart?
  • Choose to volunteer at something you can do together or preferably as a family.
  • Be open to saying NO. People will still like you. Honest.
  • Look for opportunities to share yourself that are "one shot" deals or that don't last for the next 200 years.
  • Don't feel guilty about missing a meeting now and then. Ask yourself if this meeting is really all that important! It probably isn't. Most meetings aren't.
  • Plan some special time on your busy calendar for one another and for your kids.
  • Be honest about why you need to say YES so much or why you need to be a people pleaser. Could the volunteer time you spend be "peanut butter" in your marriage relationship?

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