Sign up for our FREE marriage skills e-mail series.

We'll send you tips, activities, and articles to help your relationship.

We take your privacy seriously. We won't share your email address with anyone else.



The marriage skills e-mail series includes:

  1. It's all about listening.
  2. How affair-proof is your marriage?
  3. "What the !@#$*?" How fights start.
  4. What kind of marriage problems should I look out for?
  5. What are the keys to supportive & intimate relationships?
  6. 10 reasons anger hurts your marriage.
  7. The sexless marriage checklist.
  8. Stop trying to help! Or... how to be a supportive partner.
  9. How can you fix your relationship?
  10. What is Good Communication?

Would Like Worksheet

Change I don't want to I would like.

A great way to express your concerns is to talk about what you would like rather than what you don't want. When you speak in a negative way, it often leads to a negative response. If you open with I don't want, you are risking that the conversation will take on a complaining/defending tone. To increase positivity in the exchange, use a would like to message.

  • Don't want: I don't want to see another action movie.
  • Would like: I would like to see a romantic comedy.
    • While this small shift is very simple, it can have a huge impact. Using a negative statement leads to defensiveness and discouragement. Using a positive statement leads to cooperation and enthusiasm.

      Don't want statements are problematic for another reason. When you talk about what you don't want, it can be inaccurate and misleading. As an example, read these statements and guess what type of car Susan wants to buy:

      • "I don't want an SUV."
      • "I don't want a motorcycle."
      • "I don't want an American car."

Now here's a different version of what Susan could say:

"I would like a Honda Accord."

Wow. Now it's so obvious. Even if your spouse wants to be nothing but helpful, they will have a hard time doing so if they receive insufficient information from your negative statements. The chart below explains how would like statements reveal useful information in a nonthreatening way.

Would like to Chart

Don't Want
Would Like To
Don't want can be confusing. Would like to statements clearly reveal your preferences.
Don't like often leads to defensiveness. Would like to leads to constructive conversation.
Don't want/Don't like create ill will and negativity. Would like to creates positivity and an aura of goodwill.

Be careful:

Make sure you avoid following would like with the word you. "I would like you to" sounds like you are telling your spouse what to do. Instead, "I would like to," or "I would like a," or "I would like more," work well because they encourage cooperation. These openers explain your own concerns without controlling your partner or telling him/her what to do.

Another tip:

If you do find yourself saying I don't want, you can neutralize the effect by adding a would like afterward. For example, I don't want to watch a DVD, I would like to go on a walk so we can talk to each other more.

Time to Practice

Practice this skill by converting these negative statements into positive statements. Come up with details that reveal what the speaker actually wants in each situation.

Example:

  • Don't want: I don't want the bed to be so messy during the day.
  • I would like: I would like to have the bed made after we get up in the morning.

Your turn:

  • Don't want: I don't want to eat chicken again tonight.
  • I would like:

  • Don't want: I don't want to be late to the party because you weren't ready on time.
  • I would like:

  • Don't want: I don't want to be the only one who does any yard work.
  • I would like:

  • Don't want: I don't like how cold we keep the house.
  • I would like:

  • Don't want: I don't want to overdraw our bank account.
  • I would like:

  • Don't want: I don't want to go to the picnic with all of your coworkers.
  • I would like:
print this worksheet