Get the puzzled look off of your face and be proactive with these juicy pieces of relationship know-how. You can thank us (and Tor Constantino) later.
In 2015, my wife and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary as well as 25 years together as a couple; and while I don’t have all the answers, I do have some.
There’s a laundry list of obvious factors that contribute to a lasting relationship or marriage including: love, commitment, fidelity, physical health and intimacy, sacrifice, friendship, compatibility, honesty, healthy communication, common experiences, economic stability … etc.
Everybody knows the basics of the list and can add a bunch more.
What I’m talking about are specific things that guys can do to enhance their committed relationship with a woman and stay together.
Here are five specific things that she wants from you but might not say—not necessarily because she’s being mean. She may assume you already know these things, or perhaps she’s not sure herself, or she might not be able to fully articulate them to you, or you might not be listening… who knows.
What I do know is these nuggets of nuptial know-how have been gleaned from a quarter century of firsthand experience in a committed relationship with the one and only love of my adult life.
1. Exclusive Lust
If your wife, fiancée, or girlfriend tells you that it doesn’t bother her when you look, flirt, or admire the physical attributes of another woman—she may not totally mean that.
For many women, any competition for your lust could negatively affect her self image, inner self talk, and interaction with you.
It might not be a big deal to you, but I’m telling you, it might be to her. It’s almost a cliché how men are more eager to ogle and so much more easily stimulated visually. I’m a guy and I know how easy it is for me, but that can’t be an excuse to gawk at another woman.
You may say, “I can’t help it,” or “There’s nothing wrong with admiring beauty,” or “Lighten up, it’s not cheating if I’m only looking.”
But each time you ogle or comment on another woman’s physical assets, you may be invisibly punching your significant other in the heart.
Sex is important in a marriage or committed relationship, and she probably doesn’t want to share you.
She probably doesn’t want to be compared to other women either; she wants to be desired and the sole sexual focus of your lust.
2. Affectionate Attention
While sex is important, it’s important to recognize that it can also be isolated as a purely physical activity devoid of intimacy. Let’s face it, intimacy tends to be a problem area for many men.
Intimacy or “affectionate attention” requires intentional, non-sexual contact and interaction from you. If you truly want a better relationship or marriage, focus on building intimacy with her, which is different from sex.
For example, hold her hand while walking; hug her daily for 10 seconds straight; kiss her good-bye before you both leave for the day; tell her how much you love her—if you’re rolling your eyes at these seemingly corny suggestions, that’s a good indication you’re not giving her enough affectionate attention.
Bonus tip: ask her how she would like you to engage in this particular activity. One woman might love a shoulder massage while doing the dishes, while another might be grossed out by a back rub while scrubbing suds.
3. Random Romance
Remember back when you were courting/dating, and you would always try to think up new ways to surprise her or go out of your way to impress her?
She probably still wants you to do that—no matter how long you’ve been together.
If you think the relationship or marriage is “fine” by your own definition—it’s probably not by her definition.
By the time you think it’s “fine,” she might think the relationship is “dull,” “boring,” or “stale.” Don’t use the excuse, “I don’t have to say I love her—she already knows I love her.” Don’t just tell her you love her; show her you love her.
And don’t just send her a prosaic floral arrangement (I’ve learned that lesson)—think bigger, think spontaneous, think uniquely her, the woman you love. If you skipped work to get Madden NFL 15 for your Xbox—ask yourself, “What’s her Madden 15?”
Whatever that might be, get it for her or do it for her, then rinse and repeat when she least expects it.
4. Secure Sharing
Your spouse needs to know that she can talk—share her heart with you—without you trying to solve her problems; pass judgment; minimize or dismiss her feelings; talk over her or mock her vulnerabilities.
This is the toughest area for me personally, because it requires me to listen empathetically, put down my iPhone or tablet to focus on what she’s saying, and try to see her particular perspective regarding the set of circumstances as she’s expressing them.
This is not the time to debate, solve, or pontificate.
Just listen to her.
You may think you’re a great listener—but you’re most likely not.
You want her to get to the point. You want a summary. You want the problem described in 30 words or less.
Here’s what you need to do—you’ve got two ears and one mouth, and you need to use them proportionately whenever she wants to share with you.
5. Sweat the Small Stuff
I’ve always had a problem with Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series.
I understand his premise that tyranny of the minutiae can overwhelm a person’s life, but when it comes to committed relationships it’s all about focusing on minutiae, because the small stuff ladders up to big stuff.
Trust me on this.
If she hates that you leave the toilet seat up, the cap off the toothpaste, that you drink directly from the milk jug, never fill her gas tank … etc., then try to change those little behaviors.
If you stubbornly refuse to change small habits for the sake of the most significant relationship in your life, be prepared to spend a good portion of your life alone.
Also, focus on doing small things that she will appreciate such as cleaning up after dinner, bringing her coffee first thing in the morning, getting her car washed, picking up the dry cleaning or whatever mundane duties she usually handles.
Sweating the small stuff matters.
The truth is that men and women often communicate differently. She might want you to know all this stuff and understand her without having to tell you—it’s not that she’s being mean; she just wants you to understand her.
She may even have told you parts of what she wants, but you might have missed it.
I may have missed all of it with this article, but try some of these tactics in your own relationship anyway.
At the very least, use this article as a discussion starter with her to begin a dialogue and develop your own list together—hopefully it won’t take you 25 years like it did for me.
Written by Tor Constantino
Originally published with the Good Men Project.
[image: via Samuel Hearn on flickr]