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How I Stopped Asking My Husband for Permission

I looked at my husband and said, “I need your opinion.” His ears perked up - I had his full attention.

“Do you think we’ll make it?” I asked, wanting him to soothe my worries about my business succeeding.

He looked at me - wanting to give me the answer I desperately needed - and said, “Jen - I just don't know.”

I wanted to sob. I couldn’t be angry - he was telling the truth.

The situation felt grim: my partners & I were in the 2nd year of our fitness business, not making a profit & unable to see how to ever get there.

If I only I KNEW MORE about business, things would certainly improve, right?

And John, an expert in business with an MBA, must know more than me.

If I only had the right training, all our problems would be solved.

I’d heard of an online program called B-School for women wanting to learn about business!

It sounded REALLY good - the woman running outlined exactly what I would learn in her program - it was everything I needed!

B-School was going to save me - but it cost $2000.

So far, I’d not only made ZERO dollars from my business, but I’d also…

  • borrowed $25,000 for startup investment…
  • worked 60-70 hours weekly in sweat equity…
  • spent my own money on childcare!

How the HELL could I invest another $2000 in this business?

So, I did what any woman who feels broke, powerless, and confused does: I asked permission.

I said to John, “Well, I’d really like to try this thing called B-School. I think it’ll help me run the business. And I know a couple of people who’ve been through it and they rave about it…”

I felt excited by the possibility of learning everything I needed to learn.

Then I made my mistake: I asked permission. “What do you think? Can I do it?”

He looked it over & said, You don’t need this, Jen. You’ve already got what you need. This isn’t going to save the business.

I was crushed. B-School was my big hope that we could turn our business around.

In that moment, I sighed, turned over, and went to sleep because he’d said, “No”.

To me, that was the final word. I couldn’t argue because..

I wasn’t making any money. I was COSTING us money.

I had no power. I had no leg to stand on.

So, I never brought it up again. It was demoralizing on so many levels.

You need to know: my husband is a wonderful guy. He doesn’t keep me back, hold me down, or want me to feel bad.

His mantra in life is, “Happy wife, happy life.”

In his mind, I truly did NOT NEED this program to be successful.

In my mind, I TRULY NEEDED his permission to feel validated and move forward.

Would B-School have saved our business? Looking back now, I know that an online class was NOT what I needed at the time. (I hate it when he’s right!)

But I’m sharing this story because it’s a vital moment when I realized by asking my husband for permission, I was setting us both up for failure.

“Can I have this?” is a shitty question for one adult to ask another adult. It puts one person in the power position and the other person feels like a child.

I also realized I put us both in this situation all the time.

  • Can we buy a new couch?
  • Can I sign up for this new gym?
  • Can I go to North Carolina to visit my family?

These are questions that set him up to either be the HERO with a “YES” or a jerk with the “NO”.

Shortly after the B-School debacle, John got real fricken honest with me: Every time you ask permission, I feel like an asshole if I have to say ‘No’.

Frankly, I resented the shit out of him because no adult WANTS to hear no.

It creates shame & guilt & embarrassment & pain - for everyone involved!

This pattern SUCKED for both of us. Believe me - my husband did NOT want to “give me permission” as much as I didn’t want to ask for it.

FINALLY, I realized, I was asking the wrong question.

Ask, “Can I do this thing?” and there are only two answers to that question: YES or NO.

When I started asking better questions, we had better conversations. And I got better outcomes for myself:

  • I’d like to talk about how we can we make this thing happen...
  • Let’s make time to discuss how this might get me where I want to go…
  • What are your thoughts about how this might help me reach my goal?

And every time I asked him a question that led to conversation, he would come back with great questions too. I stopped feeling so judged & powerless.

And he stopped feeling like he was the Oracle who could either feel like Superman or a schmo.

The paradigm became less about “Can I do this” and more about “How can I make this thing happen” - with real solutions to follow! Solutions that I could be a part of!

For example, in late 2017, I wanted to join an online coaching program that cost $297/month. I’d followed this coach for over a year, had read her books, consumed all her content, and trusted her.

I knew she could help me reach my goals… but $297 was a lot of money! I’d just started my own coaching business & didn’t have a ton of money in my account to pay for this…

I went back to the old question, “Can I do this?” and John said, “Jen - I want you to think about this differently:

How many clients will it take for you to pay for this yourself - out of your business account?”

And the light went on in my head!

This coach would teach me HOW TO GET MORE CLIENTS - essentially, paying for herself within a short amount of time!

I’d always come at him with a “Please solve my problem” perspective. Basically, “I want to do this thing and I need you to pay for it.”

UGH - even writing that creates such shame in me. I’d put myself in such a powerless state by asking permission rather than collaborating…

Rather than talking about outcomes or solutions.

Rather than discussing how this would get me where I want to go.

I never thought about coming to him with a solution - or being prepared to show him the value!

“Stop asking for permission” is easy to say & hard to do.

In my house is that my husband still makes a lot more money than I do.

And sometimes I fall back into my permission-asking ways.

When what I’m REALLY looking for is a conversation with him. I want to talk WITH him about it.

I’d like his input sometimes. Other times he just really needs to know this is important to me. And sometimes it’s about how the cost will impact us.

Here’s how the conversation goes now:

“I’m thinking about doing X because I really want Y. I’ve done some research and found this option. Here’s why I like it. What are your thoughts? Can we talk about how to make it happen?”

It opens a conversation - it opens a pathway forward.

When you give someone only the opportunity to only say “Yes” or “No”, there’s no room for conversation.

There’s only room for either, “My hero!! Thank you!” or anger, resentment, shame, guilt, and pain.

Are you spending a lot of energy asking permission?

You might be waiting for permission from yourself -

Or a mentor or coach you admire -

Or a family member or friend -

Or from a spouse or partner in your life.

If you are, please stop judging yourself - and the other person you’re waiting for a hearty YES! from.

This is merely a long-established pattern that’s can be disrupted, but it takes both time and confidence - and trust in yourself.

Don’t spend one more minute beating yourself up - or berating your partner in your mind.

Instead, start formulating some better questions to create a conversation.

And start finding solutions rather than merely stating problems.

Come to the conversation with a plan. With a solution. With an open heart & an open mind.

When you do, you’ll begin to see different results. You’ll move toward your goals faster. And you’ll experience an empowered, peaceful way of getting what you want.

This work isn’t easy, and you might need some support around it. I work with clients in groups & privately to help them script the words that feel good to them.

Curious about how to change YOUR outcome? Let’s get on a Strategy Call & talk about it!

Xo, Jen


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