Tag Archives: better husband

Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Meet All Your Needs

How many close friends do you confide in? Half of Americans have just one person with whom they discuss important matters. For many married people, that person is their partner. In recent decades, the number of people we truly connect with and count on has dwindled. The problem is that one person—even your “soul-mate”—can’t be expected to meet all your needs.

In a Times of London article titled “How to Stay Married,” correspondent Stephanie Coontz argues that a strong network of friends is the best way to keep a marriage strong. She says that it is only in modern times have we expected so much from the marital relationship and so little from everyone else. This article was a reminder to me to rekindle some of my friendships, not just for my own benefit, but as a possible benefit to my marriage. Just because I consider my husband my best friend doesn’t mean he wants to go purse shopping with me or discuss hair styles. (I’ve asked my poor hubby to do both. He declined.)

Common advice tells couples not to let other relationships interfere with time together with our spouse. We are urged to “deepen” and “strengthen” our bonds. “But trying to be everything to one another is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to the tensions of modern marriage,” says Coontz.

She explains that until the middle of the 19th century, the word “love” was more often used to describe feelings for friends and neighbors than for spouses. Both women and men often had extremely strong bonds with friends and family members. It was during the postwar “Golden Age of Marriage,” when spouses began to expect their partner to meet more of their needs, Coontz says. However, she says housewives soon found “they could not find complete fulfillment in domesticity” while men also felt diminished in their less social roles.

In the modern era, we often see “happily ever after” as living in marital bliss and perfect harmony while meeting one another’s emotional and physical needs. Perhaps we are expecting a little too much from each other?

In addition, we are likely neglecting other relationships. Modern married couples are less likely to visit, call or offer support to their parents and siblings than are single individuals, according to a U.S. study from 1992 to 2004. When our children are young, we may spend time with other young families. However, with the exception of that time period married, people are less likely to socialize with friends and neighbors. This isolation can be unhealthy to the couple, and it also doesn’t allow us to reach out and help our neighbors when they need us.

Women and men today often have careers and hobbies, so why are we so weak at having multiple strong relationships? Coontz explains that “our speeded-up global economy has made balance harder and harder to attain, leading us to seek ever more meaning and satisfaction in love and marriage.” Sadly, that makes sense to me. We’re so busy rushing around seeking accomplishment that “obtain a great marriage” becomes yet something else on our to-do list.

I was relieved that Coontz does not recommend we try to lower our expectations of intimacy and friendship within marriage. Instead, she suggests we raise our expectations of other relationships and invest in those relationships. “The happiest couples are those who have interests, confidants and support networks extending beyond the twosome,” she says.

Stephanie Coontz is the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage. She is also the director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

How much do you rely on your spouse for friendship, problem solving and socialization? How strong are your relationships with friends, coworkers, neighbors and family members?

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What Have You Done For Your Marriage Today?

The Catholic Church is running public service messages and billboards in different parts of the country asking, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make small investments of time and love in their marriage. Last post, we discussed how it’s so easy to give children all of our time and attention in “Who Gets More of Your Attention—Your Spouse or Your Children?”

Today, we’re looking for solutions and ways to show we care. I’m providing a couple of options—one for the busy slackers like me who often feel overwhelmed with just one additional task, and two other levels for those who want to go the extra mile. For example, one man said after reading about how many women view their bodies, he would post a note on his wife’s mirror saying, “My husband loves my body.” That’s the extra mile.

Try to focus on your spouses’ love language. I’d love for you to contribute your own ideas to these suggestions.

Show Appreciation

Level 1: Before going to sleep, thank your spouse for something he or she regularly does for you or the family. For some people, words of affirmation mean a great deal. You can even send a text or email if that is how you regularly communicate.

Level 2: Buy a card and add a note of appreciation. Leave it under his pillow.

Level 3: Write a note expressing a sincere appreciation for your spouse’s contributions and support. Mail it to work her at work or home.

Give a Gift

Level 1: Pick up a book, movie or other item your honey would enjoy. For those whose love language is gifts, this will make them feel loved. Wrap it lovingly.

Level 2: Add some fun: Plan a scavenger hunt with clues around the house from one point to another until they find the gift. Or fill balloons with cute notes that have hints.

Level 3: Buy something nice for your spouse he wouldn’t buy on his own. Present it at a special time like on a lunch date out.

Show Care

Level 1: Stock up on her favorite beverage and offer one when she is working or relaxing.

Level 2: Prepare his coffee or tea each morning as a sign of care and love.

Level 3: Clean or organize an area of the home that has been driving your spouse crazy (a closet, area of the garage, basement, etc.)

Involve the Senses

Level 1: Bring home some lovely, fragrant flowers or a scented candle or lotion. Or have them delivered to home or work.

Level 2: Bring home her FAVORITE flowers or perfume or his favorite lotion or cologne.

Level 3: Plant some pretty flowers in the yard to enjoy for months and surprise him/her.

Involve Touch

Level 1: Give frequent hugs, back scratches or loving pats/touches during the day.

Level 2: Give a foot or shoulder rub at the end of the day.

Level 2: Offer a full-body massage at your spouse’s chosen time.

Make Plans

Level 1: Hire a sitter if needed and plan a night out. Play his/her favorite song while you are out or request that it be played. (Music is emotionally bonding even when you are having some conflict.)

Level 2: Do something unusual or new like seeing a live concert or show, or participating in a new activity. (This creates excitement and closeness.)

Level 3: Plan a weekend or vacation away with just the two of you.

Commune with Nature

Level 1: Take a leisurely stroll in a nearby park or garden.

Level 2: Visit a state park together for a hike.

Level 3: Plan a surprise picnic with delicious food near uplifting natural surroundings.

Or, ignore all of these ideas and just come up with one small thing you will do today to show love—make her favorite dinner or his favorite dessert. Take care of one extra errand he had on his list. Buy some lingerie he would enjoy. Draw her a bubble bath and play her favorite tunes. Whatever makes your sweetie smile and lets them know you have been thinking of them. I think one small thing each day or week is better than a bigger act of kindness every few months. Don’t complain when your spouse doesn’t immediately reciprocate. You are doing this as an act of love, not so you can get something in return. In general, couples who are doted on do begin to think more about expressing their love in return. Some couples even find they are competitive with which spouse can come up with spontaneous or creative ways to show their love.

What are your easy or fast ideas to express kindness, love, or appreciation to your spouse?