1. Your Husband Wants to Make You Happy
I've posed the question, "How important is it to you that you're wife is happy?" to thousands of men, and no matter the man, time, or place, the answer is always the same: "It's everything."
It may not seem like it right now, but your husband wants to make you happy, too. In fact, few things are more important to him than knowing that he has pleased you.
Every time I see a man holding his wife's purse in the store, moving across the country to be near her family or driving the old car so she can drive the new one, I'm reminded of just what lengths men will go to ensure their wife's happiness.
If you're thinking your husband is different, think again. If he hasn't made any effort on your behalf in a long time, perhaps he has lost faith in his ability to delight you.
To restore his hope, thank him for the things he has already done that make you happy. Once he sees that he can succeed, his natural instinct to please you will return in full force.
2. Trade the Illusion of Control for a Romantic Reality
When I focus on what my husband could be doing better, I enter a fantasy world in which I can change my life by changing him. In my fantasy, I can have more romance if I tell him to be more romantic, I can be rich if I tell him to ask for a raise, and I can have an easier time keeping the house tidy if I tell him to clean up after himself.
Unfortunately, the reality of my control was dreary. Instead of having more romance, I had a distant husband. Instead of more money, I had a resentful husband. Instead of a cleaner house, I had wall-to-wall hostility.
When I was honest with myself, I had to admit that controlling, or attempting to control, accomplished nothing. The only product of harboring my illusion was loneliness. It wasn't until I gave it up that romance returned.
3. It's Okay to Have the Last Word, as Long as It's "Ouch!"
When your husband says something that hurts your feelings, you may be tempted to lash back with an insult.
Don't do it!
Instead, remember to express your pain by saying, "Ouch!"
It's tempting to express your anger, which may seem like the more prominent emotion at that moment. But admitting that you hurt rather than lashing back curtails the fighting because it reminds your husband that his job is to love you, not to hurt you. This is a good habit to get into because you will transform a moment of pain into one of intimacy and emotional honesty. Your husband may even apologize for what he said, but even if he doesn't, you can be glad that you avoided saying something you'd probably regret later.
4. Bringing Home the Romance
The best way to make space for romance in your relationship is to let your husband see that he is safe. By that I mean he should have confidence that you are not going to complain, nag, criticize or dismiss him. Once he realizes that you're treating him respectfully, he's more likely to share what he's thinking about and let his guard down -- and you won't have to do any prodding. What's more, his desire to make you happy will resurface. That's when he'll be most inclined to bring you flowers, give you a backrub or tell you how beautiful you are.
Romance will blossom when you create an atmosphere of safety.
5. The Magic of Gratitude
Before I surrendered, I always remembered to complain when my husband didn't do something he was supposed to, but I rarely remembered to thank him for what he had done. Naturally, he felt that his efforts were invisible, as though it didn't matter what he did or how hard he tried.
Today, I'm quick to thank him for big and small things alike, even if I consider them his responsibility, such as taking out the trash, driving us home from a late party, or paying the bills. I used to worry that if I thanked him, he would come to see those jobs as optional. Now I realize that expressing my gratitude just lets him know I notice how hard he works, and that I don't take it for granted. He does more chores than ever (even the dishes), and seems happy to do them -- all because I say thank you.
6. Marvel at Your Imperfect Marriage
If you're feeling like you can't possibly stand to live with your husband's snoring, laziness or selfishness one more day, spend some time with a single friend to remind yourself what it's like to be alone.
First there are the little things: No one to snuggle up with in bed, or help you move the heavy furniture.
Then there are the medium things: Nobody to share dinner with every night, help out with the kids or run out for medicine when you're sick.
And then the big things: Wondering if you're unlovable, knowing that you're the only one you can count on, and always being on the lookout for that special someone. I'm not saying it's better to be with just anybody, but you aren't. You married a man you love and respect, and lucky you -- you still get to be with him. Hug him tight when you see him next.
7. 'Tis Better to Receive Graciously than to Reject Gifts
Years ago a friend of mine told me I had the most beautiful hair, and wanting to seem modest, I responded by saying, "Too bad I never do anything to take care of it!" My friend insisted that it looked great just the way it was, but I shook my head as though she didn't know what she was talking about.
I've noticed lots of women have trouble receiving compliments, and not just because we're trying to be modest.
It makes us feel vulnerable to hear those tender words and so to draw attention away from the compliment we make a joke or put ourselves down. At times I've felt undeserving of kind words. When I reject them, however, I also miss the chance to acknowledge the person who's complimenting me. This is especially true with my husband, who sometimes says I'm beautiful when I have bed-hair or mascara under my eyes. No matter how uncomfortable I feel taking it in, now I simply smile, look him in the eye and say, "Thank you."
That mutual acknowledgment is intimacy.
8. The Best Time to Be Intimate is in the Present
If you're worried that your husband won't feed the kids a nutritious dinner while you're out or pay the bills on time, you're anticipating the future. We all do it, but for the sake of intimacy, it's especially critical to stay in the present. Every second that you spend anticipating what's going to happen is another second that you're not in the relationship. Seconds turn to minutes, hours and days. You could miss your whole marriage worrying about ways that your husband will disappoint you. Some women do.
Instead of focusing on the future, take a minute to inventory this moment. Just for today, are you okay? Do you have everything that you need? Do you have more than you need? If you find yourself saying "yes, but -- " to this question, take a deep breath and come back to this moment where everything is fine. Nothing terrible has happened yet, and it probably won't, but while you went away you may have missed a tender moment, a funny story, or a loving caress from your husband.
Intimacy can only be found in the present.
9. Put Your Own Pleasure First
If you feel overwhelmed by physical and emotional demands and are always counting the days until the weekend, you need to rearrange your schedule and make time for self-care. Until you feel grounded and relaxed, you won't have the energy you need to contribute to intimacy in your relationship.
Everyday, do three things that you enjoy doing just because they're pleasurable -- not because they are necessarily productive. They can be simple things, like walking barefoot on the grass, reading a trashy novel or taking a hot bath. Lying in the sun or talking to a girlfriend on the phone might make your list, or even watching your favorite TV show.
Your self-care will go a long way towards improving your mood and your attitude with everyone in the family, including your husband.
10. Promote the Positive with Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecies
Every time you reinforce your husband's faults you're creating a Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy. In Success Self-Programming, Lee Milteer talks about how one wife complained that her husband had a terrible temper, and every time it flared, she would say, "That's just like you to lose your temper!" After attending Milteer's workshop, however, this woman realized that she was inadvertently reinforcing her husband's behavior and she made a decision to start saying "That's not like you to lose your temper!"
The next time he started to fly of the handle, this wise woman told her husband that it was not like him to lose his temper. He nearly fell out of his chair. Even the kids looked at her funny, but she stuck with her new affirmation. Finally, months later, this woman was at a restaurant with her husband where he was irritated by the slow service. He started to fume about it, and then suddenly he stopped, turned to her and said, "That's not like me to lose my temper, is it?"
This time, she nearly fell on the floor.
11. For the Best View, Take the High Road
Once when Janet's husband was rushing around in a panic like a little boy who needed his mother to help him find his shirt, she found herself watching him with amusement, detachment and even a sense of smugness. "It's not my job to rescue him," she told herself.
In the past, she would have jumped up to help him, thus encouraging his behavior and neglecting her own work. This time, however, was different. When her husband asked her in an agitated tone where his shirt was, she calmly told him the truth: "I don't know." A few minutes later he slammed the door as he rushed out. Janet made absolutely no comment, critical or otherwise, and so she was surprised when he called later to apologize. "I'm sorry I was so childish this morning," he told her.
When Janet took the high road of not engaging or criticizing her husband it left him with the stark reality of his own behavior. In that quiet space, he saw his own shortcomings and decided to apologize.
Often we only see this beautiful view when we've taken the high road.
12. Enjoy an Energy Surplus
If you're feeling exhausted, overworked and stressed out most of the time, you'll especially appreciate having an energy surplus when you surrender.
An energy surplus is what you're left with after you let go of all the things you worry about on your husband's behalf, like his driving, health, and the way he spends money. Now you can transfer all of that effort and thought to yourself. It may feel odd at first, but you'll get used to it. It's not selfish to do this -- it's self-loving.
What will you do with the surplus? Daydream? Sing? Solve a problem you're having at work? Think of new colors for the bedroom? Meditate?
The point is to keep that energy for yourself.
13. True Romance Always Accentuates the Positive
When you spend a lot of time with someone, you get to know all of his faults, and they can seem quite glaring. You may think your husband has more than his share of problems, but chances are, he just has the usual number of human foibles. He also has a number of gifts, talents and strengths that impressed you at one time. If you can't remember what those were, it's time to shift your focus.
What was it about your husband that made him so magical when you were dating? How have his strengths been an asset in your marriage? Build a case in favor of your husband's good qualities, and use it to persuade yourself that you can trust and respect him. You may be tempted to make a case against him, but don't--nothing is more damaging to intimacy. Accentuating the positive will go a long way towards re-igniting your romance.
14. A Side-Effect of Surrendering: Restoring Your Dignity
Nothing erodes your self-esteem like hearing yourself screech, yell and complain at the people you love. No matter how provoked you are, each unpleasant word out of your mouth makes you feel awful, as you hear yourself sounding like your mother on her worst day.
By contrast, when you follow the surrendering principles by sticking to expressing your feelings and desires, you avoid having a hostility hangover, as well as having to make apologies. In this way, surrendering restores your dignity, as well as the intimacy in your marriage. As you make a habit of saying what you want and how you feel instead of criticizing your husband, you slowly but surely become your best self.
15. Having Harmony Sometimes Means Holding Your Tongue
As you already know, arguing with your husband can have a negative effect on the entire family. Even pre-verbal babies tune into their parents' tone and react with howls of unhappiness. Certainly older children react with fear and anger when the tension is high. It's safe to say, therefore, that the cost of engaging in a fight with your man is loss of harmony for the whole family.
If peace in your home is something you hold dear, consider the cost of your actions before you issue a complaint, criticism or sarcastic remark. Sure, you might feel some relief in the short run, but in the long run you can't afford the luxury of starting a brawl.
As you become conscious of this switch in priorities, you can give yourself credit for producing so much harmony in your home every time you hold your tongue.
16. Beware of the Red Herring
When your husband is getting on your very last nerve and you're dying to give him a piece of your mind, check to see if there's something else that's bothering you. Are you angry with your sister? Frustrated at work? Overtired or hungry? Perhaps the issue with your husband is a misleading "red herring."
Often my desire to lash out at my husband is a cover for another problem. I'm tempted to blame him when I don't want to have to blame myself or the boss or my mother. Other times I'm just too depleted to have a reasonable perspective, and the tiniest things start to bug me more than usual. Now I know to look inward before I lash out. I may still be miserable once I find out what's really bothering me, but at least I won't have acted on a red herring -- and alienated my number one supporter in the meantime.
17. Remember What Made You Fall in Love
Sometimes the things that we're most attracted to at first become the things we find most irritating later on. Maybe you think he's irresponsible now, but at first you enjoyed his great sense of fun. Perhaps you were impressed with his success in business and now you wonder why you married a workaholic. Even a man who was always a terrific lover might now seem like a man who only ever thinks about sex. Nothing's changed about your husband but your perspective.
Examine your complaints to see if you can re-frame them as qualities that you delight in. You'll soon remember what made you fall in love with your husband.
18. The Law of Nature Works in Your Favor
In marriage, as in nature, water seeks it's own level. Chances are your union doesn't defy the laws of nature. That means your husband matches you perfectly. His strengths are the perfect counter for your weaknesses, and vice versa.
Are you dismissing the talents he brings to the relationship because you don't see them as valuable? If that's the case, then you're missing out on one of the biggest gifts of marriage -- having reinforcements in the areas where you're weak, and the benefit of two perspectives. If you still think your husband is not as smart or capable as you, ask yourself why you married him. Answering that question will remind you that those traits are right before your very eyes, and that they're there for your benefit.
19. Intimacy is Knowing You Can't Anticipate the Outcome
Whenever you anticipate what your husband is going to say or how he's going to act, you're not in relationship with him -- you are outside of it. I used to miss a lot of my marriage treading around its edges. I would be afraid he would be angry about something I did and anticipate what I would have to say to defend myself long before I knew if he would really be angry or not. Now I try to remind myself that I have no idea what my husband will do or say before he does it.
Sure, you may feel safer if you could anticipate everything, but you can't. Pretending that you can just creates NET (needless emotional turmoil) that stands between you and the intimacy you crave. Once you stop anticipating, you may be surprised at how different your husband's words and actions are from what you expected. That element of the unexpected is part of what makes intimacy so scary and exciting.
20. For A Close Connection, Curb Your Urge to Communicate
You may have heard, just as I did, that the key to a good marriage is to communicate. I figured that if some communication was good, more was better.
I was dead wrong.
Even though I have a degree in communications, trying for years to "communicate" with my husband never got me the connection I craved. Instead, I found that my propensity to talk things out actually worked against me because so much of the time I wanted to talk about what he was doing wrong, or wasn't doing at all. Of course John and I still talk a lot -- about serious and silly things. But now that I practice surrendering principles, we rarely have to "communicate." The result? Our emotional connection is better than ever.
21. Faking It Can be Valuable
Sometimes a woman will tell me that she can't treat her husband respectfully because he really is being a jerk, or really blew it with the taxes or just doesn't seem worthy. She will even go so far as to tell me she feels dishonest about acting like she respects what he thinks when she just doesn't.
What she means is that she doesn't feel like treating him respectfully.
Of course it's important to be honest in your relationship, but it's also important to be polite. If you have to overlook your husband's minor faults to treat him respectfully then do it. Do this for the same reason you would go to work in the morning even if you didn't feel like it -- because it's something you've committed to doing and others are counting on you.
Just as it's not "dishonest" to go to work when you're not in the mood, it's not dishonest to treat your mate with respect when you don't feel like it. It's just a matter of keeping your commitment -- in this case, a sacred one.
22. Sleep With Both Eyes Shut
If you're anything like me, you're used to being vigilant all the time. This means that although you have plenty of your own responsibilities, you keep an eye on lots of other things as well. We do this because we believe that if we were really to let go and sleep with both eyes shut, everything might go to hell in a hand-basket.
For instance, I used to think that when my husband was driving it was up to me to warn him about cars in his blind spot, tell him when he was tailgating and point out choice parking spots. Otherwise, I feared, we would get in an accident (or have to walk too far). When I thought about it, my husband's good driving record reflected that he didn't need any help from me.
Now I know what to do: I close my eyes -- both of them.
23. Why We Love Men
They do seem completely bizarre at times, but there are some characteristics that are universally male that I'm very grateful for.
For one thing, they don't harbor grudges like we do. That means that while I've still got a list of grievances from things my husband said in 1989, he's generally focused on the present and has forgotten (and therefore forgiven) all my transgressions from the past.
For another thing, they don't talk as much as we do. That makes me the only one around here who goes on and on about how I feel. Thank goodness.
Finally, let's not overlook their willingness to put themselves in uncomfortable and even dangerous situations for our comfort. This covers a range of behaviors, including giving us their jackets when we're cold and risking their safety to protect us.
Men are not as complicated, require far less maintenance, don't mind lifting heavy stuff and are easy to please. How many women can you say that about?
I thought so.
24. Make Love
The one thing that differentiates marriage from a friendship is making love.
Without that one significant act, you and your spouse are no different from roommates who share expenses and responsibilities around the house. If your sex life is currently non-existent, then you're in grave danger of becoming roommates instead of the lovers you set out to be. Fortunately, you can turn this situation around by taking the following steps:
First, stop controlling your husband. This reminds him of his mother. Men are not attracted to their mothers.
Second, be a seductress. That means you make yourself available for sex and invite him to pursue you, rather than pursuing him.
That's it. If you do those two things on an ongoing basis, a passionate, healthy sex life will return.
So say goodbye to your roommate, and kiss your lover hello.
25. Lighten Your Load By Relinquishing Responsibility for the Finances
If you're nervous about trusting your husband to take care of the finances, but long to relinquish the responsibility of juggling bills, try this experiment: For six months, give up control of the checkbook to him. Remind yourself that if you really want to, you can go back to doing things your way.
Acknowledging that this change need not be permanent may help you keep your fears in perspective. It is important, however, that you keep this perspective to yourself. While you're in the experiment, act as if you trust your husband and have no intention of reclaiming control of the finances in a short time.
Many a wife has turned the finances over to her husband in just this way -- as a temporary trial -- and lived to say she wouldn't have it any other way.
26. The One Thing You Can Improve
There's nothing you can do about your husband's bad habits, but there is one part of the world that you can be certain of improving -- you. Oddly enough, whenever I focus my energy completely on improving myself, my husband seems to raise his standards too. For instance, if I refuse to engage in an argument by letting little things slide, he's quick to apologize for making a sarcastic comment. By contrast, if I jump into a fight with him, we're both at our worst. When I'm willing to listen to what he thinks, he's more likely to listen to what I want. If I remember to express my gratitude for him, he seems to put more effort into pleasing me.
I know I can't control or improve my husband, but he certainly seems to respond well when I behave maturely. That means the burden's on me to improve the one thing I know I can: myself.
27. Express Your Desires To Be True to You,
Before I surrendered, I used to try to get what I wanted by using my authority, or by trying to convince my husband with logic. He typically resisted with all his might. When I tried to make demands on him or nag him, I completely crushed any intimacy we might have had.
Today I've learned that simply expressing my desires by saying "I want" or "I don't want" is the most effective way to negotiate with my husband. It's not always easy -- sometimes I feel guilty for wanting too much, or I'm too lazy to think about what I want, so I turn the question outward and ask my husband what he wants.
But when I do express my desires purely, my husband sees it as another opportunity to make me happy. If he can't give me what I want, I know it's because he's balancing my desires with our family's other needs. If he can meet my desire, he feels like the hero, and I am reminded once again how very much he loves me. Either way, I've been true to myself by expressing my desires.
28. Giving Up NET (Needless Emotional Turmoil)
Needless Emotional Turmoil (NET for short) is what you feel when you try to control things that are not in your control.
Imagine you wear a backpack every day, and inside it are all of your concerns, fears and instructions for your husband. The first day you decide not to wear the backpack, you're going to feel light and free, but also strange. You might miss the familiarity of having that backpack on. You may feel jolts of anxiety throughout the day as you realize you're not wearing it. Remind yourself that you don't really need that backpack, or want anything that's in it. Eventually, you will come to love how easily you move without it.
All of this will come from making a decision to give up NET.
29. The Miracle of Perpetual Dating
Remember how much fun it was to date your husband when you first met? Those glory days return when you surrender control. Every time you go out to eat or to a movie, he takes care of you by paying for both of you and handling any details. Instead of bickering at dinner, you can talk about things that interest you, what you hope for and how you're feeling. You can laugh together and hold hands, as you enjoy being treated like a princess again.
Most of all, you can let him treat you the way he did when you were first dating by letting him know what a nice time you had and thanking him for taking you out. If you do, you'll enjoy the miracle of perpetual dating for many years to come.
30. The Cure for The Overcommitted
Before you take on more work, responsibility or expense, ask yourself if you can really make snacks for the team, head up a committee or work late without causing yourself distress. Will you have to sleep less, speed to be on time or skip out on going to the gym? Then don't do it.
Instead, practice saying these empowering words: "I can't." They work just as well when your child's teacher asks you to volunteer in the classroom as they do when your husband asks you to stop by the dry cleaners on an already too-busy day. They require no further explanation.
If you're thinking, "but that's not true because I can do it ," think again. If what you want is to feel good, stay balanced and have enough energy to foster an intimate marriage, you really can't do it all. Think of the phrase "I can't" as shorthand for reminding yourself that it's okay to save your time and energy for you and your relationship.