A Little Advice?

A friend of mine from college recently revealed he’s having
trouble in his marriage and admitted that he thinks the problems are mostly his
fault. He has followed my blog for awhile and heard through mutual friends
about my life. I guess I now serve as an official warning for him, because he
also admitted that he doesn’t want to share my fate….divorced and/or alone
facing 40. (Yes, one of my proudest moments.) He wanted to know what he could do to turn things in his marriage
back around. He said he knows she has her issues to deal with but was mature
enough to realize that he can only deal with his own, rather than doing to the
proverbial “waiting for her to change.” (Shout out to wife….this is GOOD. Notice this!)

As much as I’d like to help, I have to also laugh. I
envisioned a scene from a movie, where he has an earpiece as I coach him
through things to say to make his wife fall in love with him all over again. I
also want to laugh because I hardly feel qualified to help him keep his
marriage in tact. When you think about it, I’m anything but an expert on how to
keep a marriage together. But then again, my mind was filled with ideas for him
before we ever finished our conversation Maybe my misfortune has taught me a thing or two? Isn’t that what life’s all about? Learning from mistakes…sharing the wisdom of experience? I don’t know his wife very well, but
in a way I know her all too well because she is a wife and mom in her late 30s
who obviously feels very alone even though she isn’t. She’s starting to shut down and he has a small window left to keep it from happening. I’m almost certain I know
exactly what she wants even though she’s never told me. I now also know what he
wants – to keep his marriage in place and to make sure she knows that he really
does love her, even though he (stupidly) hasn’t told her or showed her in far
too long. And what’s that old saying? Stop telling your wife how much you love
her, and eventually, someone else will? Well, that’s what he’s afraid of. So
here’s my best guess on how to keep your fear from ever becoming a reality,
friend….. And may you never have the terms “decree,” “visitation,” or “ex” fall
from your lips.

Don’t assume she knows how much you love her. Tell her. Even
if you’re bored of saying it and even if she has irritated you enough all week
that you don’t even feel it at the moment, tell her that you love her. You don’t
have to exchange “I love you’s” like two soap opera stars going at it, but at least say the
words once a day. Try really hard not to walk out of the house without saying
it. And just like your grandmother told you, don’t go to bed without saying it,
either. I can now vouch that hearing those three words right before you fall asleep can make all the
difference in your attitude and even your relationship. It sounds cliché, but you really just don’t know
what’s going to happen after you part ways. Try to remember that if something
bad happened, you would always wish that your last words to her were “I love
you”… so say them. There are times when it will start to feel awkward to say it
simply because it’s been so long, thanks to the mundane, daily routine of real
life that gets in the way of feelings. When that starts to happen, make it a
point to say “I love you” even more so you never get out of the habit again.

Don’t assume she knows how much you love her. Show her.
Women love words but they also love a man to back up what he says. I don’t mean
show her by buying her gifts. Sometimes, believe it or not, that’s too easy.
Show her in little ways. There are things she either can’t do or just doesn’t
want to do even if she says she doesn’t mind. (Trust me.) Take the trash out to
the curb on garbage day, clean out the garage before she starts nagging, fix
whatever it is around the house that needs fixing, have dinner ready when she comes home, start
cleaning the kitchen after dinner before she even gets up to start….or just get
up and help her, pick up that "whatever it is she’s been wanting lately" on your way home and surprise her on a random Tuesday.When she sounds tired, bring home take out. When she’s sick,
take care of her. Take the kids out for an hour or two without her begging you
to do so, so that she gets some alone time. Don’t judge what she does during
her alone time, either. It could be a nice, long nap. It could be organizing a
closet. It could be watching back-to-back tivo’d Oprah’s. And when life’s
special occasions come along, even though you might feel silly doing so after
all this time….celebrate them. They matter to her. A lot.

Tell her why. One of my favorite movies is The Last Kiss. In it, the dad is telling his son-in-law, who is fighting with his daughter and wants her back, "Any asshole can say ‘I love you’ — it’s what you do with those words that counts." Now and then, let her know you love her or what you love about her. Chances are, she sometimes wonders….especially if a lot of what she hears is things you do wrong or things about her that bother you. When you magnify her character flaws — yes, we all have them — she more than likely dwells on that. Give her a break and let her blush a little when she hears what you do love about her.

If she has questions, answer them. Don’t roll your eyes or ask
if you can talk about it later. Most of all, don’t ignore her questions. If she
is feeling uncertain about the relationship, there must be a reason. Like it or
not, women are “feelers.” They like to gauge where the relationship is and
where it’s going. If she thinks your relationship in trouble, respect her fears
and feelings, even if she’s way off base. Maybe you’re stressed out about
something at work and your distance has nothing to do her or the relationship.
When she asks, tell her what it is and what it isn’t. More than likely, she’ll
stop asking and you can go on about your daily life. And if there is something
wrong, then you might as well get it out there. Problems in a marriage or relationship sit on
both sides. If you’ve been harboring resentment and anger about something,
there’s no better time to talk about that when she brings it up. Women start
shutting down when they begin to feel like their feelings aren’t being
validated. An easy way to keep that from happening is to listen and validate.
It’s a lot easier than it sounds – promise.

Address her complaints. Is what she’s asking for really that out of the question to do? Maybe it’s to call her in the day…answer her texts….acknowledge
when she does something nice for you. Maybe it’s to sit at the table with you
instead of in front of the television during dinner. Maybe it’s to take her to lunch now and
then. Maybe it’s to be nicer to her parents when they visit. Maybe it’s to try
to avoid talking about politics at a dinner party. Maybe it’s to lower your voice when you’re angry. Maybe it’s to take turns
changing dirty diapers. Maybe it’s asking you to be more forthcoming with
affections and affirmations so she doesn’t worry so much about you. If it’s not that big
of a deal….then just do it. Address the issue and then “poof” – like magic – it
goes away.

Notice her. Women are born with a need to please. They’re
doers. Givers. This is especially true when it comes to the person they love. Most
women are nurturers from the time they get their first baby doll to when they
get married and have children of their own, and then grandchildren. They just
never seem to run out of love to give. Giving and nurturing is as natural to us
as peeing outdoors is to you. Every time you don’t acknowledge something sweet that she
says or does – even if it’s the simplest gesture – she shuts down a little
more. Keep it up….take it for granted… and over time, she will shut down
completely. Some women have the capability to open back up when their men
scramble to make it up to them. Some don’t. I said in a blog once that when I
love someone, I will color outside of the lines with wild abandon…..but
eventually, I will run out of crayons. It’s a flaw of mine, I suppose. I am a giver,
and I will give and give and then give some more…..but eventually I run out of
give and I’m done. The simplest thing you can do is just acknowledge the gift –
whatever it is. It might be a note she left for you, a sweet text she sent
during the day, a suggestion to dance to a song she likes, that she washed,
folded, and put away all of your laundry for you, or that the house is sparkling
clean when you get home after she’s worked all day, shuttled the kids around,
and put them to bed. Notice it. OUT LOUD. Reciprocate the favors when you can
but if nothing else, I can guarantee you that what she wants more than reciprocation
is acknowledgement.

Do you think she’s pretty? Tell her. I bet you told her how
great you think she looks quite a bit when you first got together. You probably
couldn’t keep your hands off of her. Maybe she’s older, but so are you. Maybe
you’re tired, but so is she. If you notice that she looks particularly pretty
tonight while she’s putting the dishes away, stop her and tell her so. If you
love the way she looks when she hugs your daughter, tell her. When she’s off to
work and dressed up, let her know she’s dressed to kill that day. Even though
it’s ancient thought and a bit sexist, women spend a lot of time and energy
trying to look good for men. They need and want to feel desired by the man they
love. Nothing makes a woman feel more sexy and confident than when she is
certain the man she’s with thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the room….or on
the planet. One way to let her know how you feel is to initiate affection. Note
I didn’t say sex….. but affection. If you can initiate affection and let her know
you think she is, in fact, the most beautiful woman in the room and on the
planet, there’s a good chance it will lead to what you
want anyway. Women think about getting attention; men think about getting “it.”
The first almost always leads to the other in a relationship. Try it out. If
you start out at the “last step” every time you’ll eventually get into the
habit of skipping the “first steps” and women are wired to require the steps in
order. Well, most of the time anyway!

Value her mind; not just her body. This said, as
much as a woman loves feeling beautiful, she also wants to make sure the man she’s with knows she’s about so much more than the way she looks. (Well, most women
anyway.) If you’re intimidated by an intelligent, independent-thinking woman,
then you probably shouldn’t have married or dated one. A smart woman can, for
awhile, try to be “small” to fit inside an insecure man’s world. But
eventually, a smart-enough woman will no longer be able to stay small and she’ll
settle for nothing less than being her intelligent and capable herself.
Appreciate all of her gifts….intellectually, emotionally, and physically…and
then there will be no reason to feel insecure because you’ll have the love and
devotion of a whip-smart, driven woman who knows what she wants….you.
Belittling her or making fun of her to make yourself feel better or more important will almost
always – if she really is that smart – backfire. She’ll get tired of it and
leave, making your jokes hardly worth it.

You’ve probably noticed by now that the woman you’re with is
unnecessarily complicated. You’re right.
She wants you to read her mind, romance her, acknowledge her, and
do things for her all while maintaining she could do it all on her own if she wanted. But when you ask her what’s wrong she’ll say “nothing.” If
you ask her what she wants she’ll say “you should already know.” Or worse, she’ll
answer “fine” to everything. I hate this part about being female. I’ve been
guilty of it. I guess in this department, what I can tell you is that if you
sense something is wrong, it probably is. And if you ignore it, it won’t go
away. It will get worse. She’ll pull away emotionally and then physically. And
then you’ll complain that she’s not affectionate anymore and that she withholds
sex from you. She’ll say that’s just what happens when she starts feeling
unloved and underappreciated. The talking stops, unless you’re fighting. And
then you find yourself fighting about anything but the true problem at hand –
that you’re both scared of what’s happening and unraveling right before your
very eyes. By this time, resentment has built up on both ends so no one does
anything about it. Life alternates between being completely numb, to completely
silent, to screaming at the top of your lungs at each other to…. the end. Well,
if you’re not careful anyway. Find the way to communicate with each other….by
actions, words, affection…..It may not be the same for both but find what works
for each and use those tools. As long as you’re “talking – in whatever form that
is – then you’re together. And that’s what you said you wanted, right? Now, stop reading this and go give your wife a big hug. And then take out the trash.

*** Disclaimer: I wrote this off the top of my head in about
30 minutes while monitoring homework, boo-boos, and while on cold medicine. I
don’t speak for all women. These are just a few tips I picked up on the way. And if you’re doing all of this stuff already and your relationship is still headed for the toilet, I’m guessing you have bigger problems than texting back "i love you too" during the day. Also keep in mind that most of the time, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Now and then a nugget of wisdom is released….maybe you’ll find one here. (P.S….have you taken out the trash yet?)

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3 Responses to A Little Advice?

  1. Patricia says:

    Holy Gravy Batman! You did this in like 30 minutes while doing homework with the girls and drugged up! Dear Lord Woman, writing really is your calling in life. You very well might have a job in marriage counseling as well. Sure you think you are the last person to give advice. I say the opposite. Your just the person to give advice. Your not some paid door knob that takes stabs in the dark with your life. YOUR THE REAL THING! Where as having the experience in these types of situations is not something your proud of, never the less you can speak from the heart, speak the truth, no matter how brutally honest it might be. I think that this advice can go many ways. Not just what the man can d I willo to help save or improve his relationship, but what the woman can do to save or help her\’s as well. I think you and your words are amazing. I hope the Holiday Season is off to a good start for you and the girls. I wish you 3 all the best in the coming days as you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

  2. Shari says:

    Well said….

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