Loving your Husband

This page is the result of a request to speak to a group of wives with preschool children who wanted to know how to better love their husbands. I asked them to pose some questions for me to answer and they came up with some very good ones. Here are their seven questions and the answers they wanted me to address.

Question #1 - What are the top three things that cause marriages to fail and tips to avoid them? 50% of all failed marriages are caused by friction over finances. Communication issues and unrealistic or unmet expectations are probably number 2 and 3. Other causes of failed marriages include unfaithfulness, personality clashes, male and female differences, sexual problems and family of origin issues. The best way to avoid being caught by one of these issues is to educate yourself and become more aware of all of the causes of the issue especially the financial issues of your family. Learn how to be a better communicating couple and spend some time exploring your expectations and your husband’s expectations in the marriage.

Applied knowledge is power. That is the power to change and the power to learn a better way to behave, instead of staying in the rut of how you were programmed in your family of origins. Make sure both husband and wife are aware of the financial pressures facing the family. My wife likes to deal with the nuts and bolts, the intricate details of things. I don’t! She reviews the bills, analyses what can be paid and what can wait and writes the checks. Then she hands the unsigned checks to me for a signature or veto. This allows both of us to be informed and accountable to our financial status. We both know when we need to tighten our belts and not spend, if things are tight.

It is a good idea to write out your expectations separately. Both you and your husband should write a list of your expectations. Both should write about the expectations of the role of a good wife and mother and the expectations of the role of a good husband and father. Be specific! Talk about finances, chores, discipline, recreation time, relationships with family and friends, sex and your future expectations. Then come together and compare notes. Are there unrealistic expectations? Can you live up to your spouse’s expectations of you? Can you compromise so that his needs and your needs can be met? We are talking about “needs” and not necessarily “wants”. A good start for improved communication, please read my pages on “Communication 101” and “Active Listening”. For understanding your personality and your husband’s, consider taking the Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory. Every one is different and there is a role for all types of personalities. Usually people that are extroverts consider introverts as somewhat limited. People who love a schedule and organize their life to a tee, think that those who pursue all possible options and wait to find out the best option are unorganized and hard to pin down. But it takes all kinds in life and one personality is not better that another. When a couple understands this, conflicts are avoided and their partner is better appreciated.

Question #2 - What are (or should be) the rules for arguing? The "8 Rules of Combat" are as follows:

1. It is us and we, not I and me It is not about someone winning and someone losing. If the argument is about me and what I want instead of what is in the best interest of the family, then you are already off track. All the rest of the rules depend on this one to work.

2. Deal with it quickly “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”. If you can make love tonight without dealing with it, then you can put it off until tomorrow.

3. Stick to the subject Don’t bring up the past. Don’t pile on all your gripes for the last decade. Get some help from a therapist if there are lingering hurts from the past.

4. Don’t intimidate Men and women both do it differently. Men like to use their size, strength, loud voice and anger. Women are more subtle. They may threaten to leave or withhold love or be passive/aggressive.

5. No name calling or put downs

6. Listen intently - be an active listener The key is to ask good questions. Each partner needs to express themselves and the other needs to truly listen. Don’t ignore the other while you prepare for your own next assault! Listen with your eyes and ears. See Active Listening page and Communication 101 page.

7. Practice give and take It can’t always be one person’s way. Don’t make assumptions. It is not one person’s job to always give in.

8. Celebrate your victories This empowers and encourages the couple to continue doing it right. This list of rules was given to me by Don Ostendorf

Question #3 – How do you encourage your husband to do something without it becoming “nagging”? If you understand TA or Transactional Analysis found in “Communication 101” on this websight, you will understand that adult to adult, parent to parent and child to child communication is the most successful approach in getting what you want. It is really important to speak to each other in an “I’m OK, You’re OK” tone, body language as well as words. Basically, we are talking about communication that says “I respect me” and “I respect you”. The trouble comes when you speak down to someone with words, tone of voice or body language because you are going to tap into that “deep well of not ok feelings” that have been festering since childhood. Parent to child communication is going to reap a defensive reaction most every time. Nagging, I assume is a parent to child communication which is really saying “I’m OK, You’re not OK”. Another thing to remember is that you really have no control over another human being. They are going to do what they choose to do and you can not make them do anything. We can “influence” people around us especially when you have a “sweet and gentle spirit”. When requesting something of your husband, speak to him in a tone of respect, as an equal partner. Do your research. Ask him if he agrees with you on the need for this to get done. Discuss appropriate timetables and deadlines. If whatever you have agreed upon does not get done then approach him “adult to adult” to discuss again the need to get it done. Repeat as needed. If he flat out refuses then ask him if he would have a problem with you getting it done, like paying someone to do the task. Although prayer is not supposed to be our last resort, but first, consider speaking to your Almighty Father.

Question # 4 - How do you keep a passion for your husband after years of marriage? (including sexual passion) Passion is a mutual feeling. If one partner loses it then the other will soon follow. So for a woman, she can do certain things to keep her husband’s passions alive, therefore ensuring that her own passions don’t subside. First, stay fit. Your man appreciates you being fit. Remember the earlier days of your romance. You were more playful and fun loving. Your husband likes to play and he wants to play with you. Play golf with him, or fish with him, kayak with him, sail with him, join a coed baseball team with him. When your husband comes home, are you waiting with open arms? Is there a smile on your face, are you happy to see him. Let him know you are happy he’s home. He will look forward to coming home if you make it a pleasant experience for him. Don’t bombard him with the troubles you are having with the kids or your own troubled day. Lastly, find ways to affirm him. Think up new ways to appreciate him. Tell him he is special and why he is special to you. If you really don’t like your husband on some days, focus on the positive, not the negative. Question # 5 – How do you develop a deeper level of conversation and emotional intimacy in marriage? This is a hard one because most men are not that interested in deep levels of conversation and emotional intimacy. In comparison to men, women are masters of the spoken word. A man will speak much fewer words a day than a woman does and when he gets home he probably has already used up all his quota of words. This can be very frustrating for a woman. When he gets home, she is ready to talk, especially if their day has been spent dealing with young children. He is ready to rest. I like to break down the word intimacy into in-to-me-see. A woman needs to teach her man how to open up, how to share what is really going on inside. If a man has the courage to share his true feelings about himself, his inadequacies, his weaknesses, his doubts and fears then his wife needs to embrace him and accept him for who he is. True intimacy or openness draws a couple together but if a man opens up and feels condemned or criticized or questioned, he probably will not dare to open up again. The answer to question 4 also applies to this answer. A man needs to feel accepted and respected by his woman. Most probably, until your husband is comfortable with emotional intimacy and deeper levels of communication, a woman needs to meet that need with other trusted women.

Question # 6 - What are the steps to overcoming a grudge? (Like holding onto previous incidences of hurt or anger that tend to resurface in later arguments) In my years of working with people, I have noticed one thing about all of them. Every single one of them is human! They all make mistakes. They all say the wrong thing to their spouse. They all disappoint and even hurt their most loved one. The most difficult couple clients are the ones who cannot stop pointing their finger at the other. The most successful couples in therapy have one common element. They are humble. They admit their mistakes. They admit they need help to change. They feel bad about hurting their partner. “At the epicenter of all healing, is forgiveness.” The steps to overcoming a grudge are as follows: Each person expresses to their partner what they are upset about and why it hurt them. The other partner must listen to be able to understand from their partner’s point of view. Then they should paraphrase what their partner said and why it hurt them. Both need to come to an agreement to not do what it was to hurt the other. The key is to let their partner know that they understand why their partner was hurt. Each needs to ask the other for forgiveness, not just say “sorry”. Then they need to discuss how to eliminate future mishaps from happening. See the page on Forgiveness: the antidote for bitterness, retaliation and resentment.

Question #7 – What should women know about men, that they often don’t know, that would help them understand their spouses better? When male babies are in the womb, at a certain time, a fluid is excreted that dissolves some of the connective tissue and connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. This process allows boys and then men to be able to focus on their work or whatever they need to focus on. This is a blessing for them in that they can compartmentalize their life into manageable boxes. There is separateness and a focus that can be had even if some of their life is not working or is dysfunctional. A man can lose himself in his work and not be bothered by other parts of his life that may not be working. That is why when it is time for sex, he can jump into that mentality, and then when it is over, he can move on to some other focus. Women on the other hand, still have those connections between their brain hemispheres which allow them to think about many things. They are more global in their thinking. They might be wondering how are the kids doing, what will I make for dinner, next week is Mom’s birthday, I wonder what she would like? As far as sex is concerned, they say that “sex begins in the kitchen”. She will remember how he treated her throughout the day, what he said that may have hurt, did he remember something very dear to her? All these thoughts come into play as the mood for intercourse gets closer. Women are attracted to the whole man. Is he kind, is he gentle, strong, supportive, does he take care of himself and his family. Men are more focused in their attraction. Is she cute, curvy and lovable? Men think differently than women and that was established way back in the womb!