Tag Archives: affection

What Women and Men Want

In much of my research about marriage, a couple of words pop up frequently—love and respect. I recently heard a discussion that gave these concepts some fresh understanding. That is: Men primarily desire respect, and women primarily desire love. If a man doesn’t feel respected, it is difficult for him to provide love. If a woman doesn’t feel loved, it is difficult for her to provide respect.

So, there’s the rub. You’re telling your friends that your husband is not fulfilling your needs for love and affection, but you find yourself exasperated and rolling your eyes when he opens his mouth to speak to you. (Marriage researcher Dr. Gottman talks about that eye rolling stage as a dreadful sign.) Guess, what? He won’t feel respected and will be virtually unable to provide the love you desire.

Honestly, I knew a man who used to yell at his family, “I demand respect!” It’s almost laughable today, but rather sad when you think of it. Of course he didn’t get the respect he wanted. The way to earn respect is to provide for the needs of your family in a loving way. Still, a mature wife goes into marriage not telling her husband to earn her respect, but rather offering it to him because it’s a necessary ingredient in a happy marriage.

Respect is a gift that is given not because the husband deserves it, but because the wife has decided she will provide it unconditionally. She will respect him whether he fails or succeeds, when he is unemployed or at the height of a successful career. The wife does not have to endorse all of his behavior, nor does she have to agree with him on every matter. However, she disagrees in a respectful manner (as does he).

I’ll bet if you found 10  men who felt truly respected at home, you would find 10 men who are bending over backwards to make their wives happy. If you don’t believe me, do your best to make your man feel respected and see what happens. Don’t be subtle; tell him outright that you respect him and why. Compliment him to other people, especially when he is within earshot. (One of my interviewees says she can always tell the unhappy couples when they go out, because they are tearing one another down. She says she and her husband work to build one another up to others, “because if I don’t, who will?”)

Now men, you are not off the hook. Men should make a similar decision upon marrying the woman of their dreams that they will love her and always treat her lovingly as an unconditional gift. Your wife doesn’t earn your love by taking care of your children, cooking a nice meal and making sure the dry cleaning is picked up. If husbands behave faithfully (let’s not look for any positive role models in the news today!) and lovingly, they are sowing the seeds of lasting joy in their relationships. Do you think the men who treat their wives with such care and love benefit from a happier homes and better love lives? Try it out and see.

This is not the time for blame. Start with yourself.

Tell us, how does your wife make you feel respected? How does your husband make you feel loved? When you increase the love and respect you give, what happens to your mate?

Who will Make the First Move?

Continuing from our last post about not keeping score in your marriage, there is often an internal debate with husbands and wives that if she would only stop nagging him, he would fulfill her every need, and visa versa. Are you waiting for your spouse to change before you are willing to do your part? Then once you do your part, are you only willing to continue if you see your spouse adjust accordingly?

No one should tolerate an abusive spouse, but if you are regularly focusing on perceived faults of your spouse or personality failures (how they “should be” or how they “should act”), you are not really valuing them as a person along with the attributes they have been given. Remember, if you don’t build up your spouse, who will? If they fail and you aren’t there to help them through a crisis, who will? (In fact, a crisis is a wonderful opportunity to solidify your marriage and what you truly stand for. This is why I have interviewed so many successful couples who have been through extremely difficult circumstances.)

Since wives are prone to nagging, try to be the sweet voice your husband longs to come home to, the one who praises his strengths and encourages his dreams. Make him miss you the minute he backs out of the driveway. Husbands, keep your focus and priority on your wife. Be aware of her needs. Praise her beauty and her skill. Listen to her concerns. Be affectionate. Put your computer and phone down when she’s sharing her day or her struggles.

Put effort into your marriage, not monthly but daily. Forgive when you’ve had a bumpy day and try again tomorrow. Work together through adversity. If these acts seem too difficult given your current conflicts, it’s time to see a marriage counselor.

Share the small actions you or your spouse take that make a big difference in your relationship.

7 Small Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Marriage

Sometimes people are looking for the magic pill or the one right answer that will improve their marriage. The successful couples I have interviewed have not always followed the same path to success. Many of them have faced extreme adversity. However, most of them share some common behaviors and attitudes. There are plenty of simple things you can do—this very day, requiring very little time or effort—to improve your marriage. Here are some ideas:

  1. Perform a very small kindness for your partner. Leave a sticky note on the mirror that says I love you. Send them a quick email with appreciation for something they did. Give them a genuine compliment. Call a babysitter and book her for a future night out. One man I interviewed mails his wife notes from the office even when he is not traveling. He sometimes leaves a note under her pillow if he is going on a trip.
  2. Find something to laugh about together. Is there something one of your kids or pets did that was amusing? Call and tell them. Rent a funny movie, or tell him a funny story from work. Share a private joke at a party. A well-developed sense of humor can carry you through some tough times together.
  3. Spend five or 10 minutes during the day or just before bed talking/connecting—with no TV or kids nearby.
  4. Consider holding back one criticism today, especially if it really isn’t that big of a deal. If something is really bothering you, find the right time and place to have that discussion.
  5. Touch is important. Kiss him hello or goodbye (a real kiss); hug her after the dishes are done. Rub your partner’s back, or run your fingers through his hair. Hold hands while you take a walk. Sit close while you’re watching TV.
  6. Plan something fun for the future. It can be in 15 years when the kids are grown or next weekend, but have something you both look forward to. Make a list of places you would like to go or things you would like to do together “one day.”
  7. Be consciously grateful for the good things in your life, even when you have some very bad things happening. Talk to your partner about what you are thankful for in life in general and in your marriage and family. Many couples found this to be a conscious decision during a difficult time, that they would focus on the good in their lives.

Which one are you going to do today? Make a mental note of your spouse’s reaction and try another one tomorrow. Do you find your spouse is responsive?

Is Love a Decision or a Feeling?

What does the word “love” evoke in your mind? Is it your love affair with cheesecake or warm chocolate pudding? Or an image of you and your sweetie having an afternoon picnic? When you were a child, you probably loved your teddy bear or your parents. As you grow older, your understanding of love should grow and evolve, just like your understanding of everything else. Too often, we have a shallow understanding of love, concluding as long as two people make each other happy, that’s love.

Love has lots of definitions. The most common are 1) a deep feeling of affection or attachment, 2) sexual affection or 3) a strong liking or predilection for something.

I would suggest that none of these definitions encompasses what mature love involves. In my interviews with long-time married couples, their view of love is not the fly-by-night romantic view. You might be surprised to learn the romance and affection is still there even for older couples, but there is something much more, something that happened along the way to make the love richer and more permanent.

What these mature couples have developed is a view that love is an action—a decision—not a feeling. The fact that they have been married a long time doesn’t mean they didn’t face serious obstacles. What it means is that they found a way through the obstacles. They didn’t always feel loving toward one another, but they decided to love anyway. One couple who faced tremendous difficulties including a marital affair early in their marriage, talked about how this decision to love one another changed their perspective. They found that if they led with loving actions, their feelings soon followed. In other words, after they started acting lovingly, they felt more in love. They transformed their entire marriage more than 30 years ago to an extraordinarily loving one that continues today.

Anyone who has children knows that children don’t always act in ways that deserve love, but good parents decide to love them anyway. You can’t say you love your children while you neglect them. Similarly, you can’t say you love your spouse if you neglect him or her and refuse to act in a loving manner when your spouse doesn’t “deserve” it. For example, if your spouse is having a bad day, do you contribute to it, or do you provide encouragement? If you’re having an argument, do you sometimes choose to give in, or do you dig in your heels?

The bottom line is that you have to decide whom to love and how to love. Use your behavior and choices to lead your feelings, rather than allowing your daily feelings to determine your behavior. That’s mature love.


To love is to choose.–Joseph Roux