“I want to do this a way that keeps you happy, but the current one isn’t working for me. Let’s brainstorm some other possibilities.” That is one very good way to start a discussion about something you want to change.
For example, he likes to leave his chair where it lands when he leaves the table, but your “this is wrong” alarm goes off when he does.
You might say, “I want you to keep on pushing your chair away from the table after dinner, but the current outcome of doing this isn’t working for me. Would you be willing to brainstorm some other possibilities with me?”
Here are a few to get you started (the odder the better because you’ll laugh together, and that’s worth 37 bonus points right there):
- Bolt the chairs to the floor, the way fast food places do.
- Sit on giant exercise balls instead of chairs. You surely don’t have a ball placement alarm, too.
- Put a cozy restaurant booth in your kitchen, just for the two of you.
- When you get up, push the table to his chair and your chair under it. Eat in a different part of the kitchen every night.
- Attach bungee cords to his chair.
- Make it a practice to kiss him as he gets up. Back him and his chair to the table while you kiss.
- Wash the floor after dinner, so it seems perfectly normal to put the chairs up on the table.
- Serve dinner on a tablecloth on the floor and forget the table.
- Attach a ticket counter to his chair and click it when you push the chair in for him. Once a month, give yourself a $1 reward for each click. See if he doesn’t start giving you extra clicks.
- Paint targets on the floor under the table for each chair leg. Some folks cannot resist aiming for a target. You might be married to one of them.
- Add casters to your chairs. It could turn out he loves to give a chair a good shove if it will roll into place.
- Buy soda fountain swivel stools and put your table up on blocks.
This method has been known to work a whole lot better than the “You know, civilized men push their chairs back under the table after eating, and it creeps me out that you still don’t after 17 years of being married to me” approach.