Over the next month or so I will running some requested guest posts from folks I respect. Today I start with Lori Lowe:
What does a wife want from her husband? To be fully known, desired and loved for who she really is, despite her baggage or faults. This vulnerability and trust is what makes marriage worth the effort. You become life partners—it’s you against the world.
Since you spend time here at The Generous Husband, I’m betting you know this, and maybe you even communicate your devotion to your wife. That’s a remarkable feat in itself! But there’s always room for improvement, so let me share seven brief relationship tips backed by research that demonstrates why certain actions can help your relationship blossom.
1. Be generous with your touch. Did you know basketball teams who touched most (high fives, bumps, hugs, etc.) were more successful during a season, and teams that touched the least were on the bottom? Read about the impact of touch. Studies have shown simple touches help people bond. Why? Touching releases oxytocin, a hormone that builds trust, while simultaneously reducing stress hormones. Touch is necessary, not a bonus. Don’t keep touch just for the bedroom. Hold your wife’s hand as you walk. Hug her while she is washing the dishes. Snuggle when you’re watching TV. Massage her back or neck. Touch her arm when you are crossing in the kitchen. Squeeze her leg in the car. Kiss her hello and goodbye for about five seconds. (Kissing is a proven stress reducer.) You will feel closer together, which also benefits your sex life.
2. Be generous listeners. I know, women like to talk. And maybe you even give your wife a time limit for how long you can listen. But when your wife needs to tell you about something she feels is important, try your best to give her your undivided attention. No TV. No phone. No interruptions. Now, here’s the hard part…don’t solve her problems unless she asks for your advice. Just listen, affirm her feelings, and ask probing questions. If you learn to be a better listener, you can more effectively influence those around you. Understanding must come first. In fact, a psychiatrist and author of Just Listen provides proven strategies for how to use listening tools (not talking tools) to get through to your spouse. Here’s an article with 10 useful listening strategies, including the empathy jolt, reverse play, and more. I’ve found them useful with children as well as adults.
3. Be generous with your time and attention. Study and learn about your wife’s interests, preferences, concerns, fears and dreams. Encourage her. Think about her during your day. (Yes, you’re married, you can even fantasize about her.) Pray for her. Pray with her. Treasure your wife for who she is, not who you want her to be. Share your true self. Be vulnerable. Allow her into your heart.
4. Make dating your wife a lifestyle decision, not a weekly event. Build mystery into your romantic life. Make an effort with your appearance. Flirt with your wife throughout the week. Leave a sweet note or voice mail for her. Plan an activity where you can be physically close and active. Make time for dates and love making. Here are some other tips for dating your spouse.
5. Celebrate small successes together. When your sweetheart comes home enthusiastic about something small that went well, celebrate with her. If you give a neutral response (that’s great, what’s for dinner?) or ignore her, it is very damaging to your relationship. Buoying one another’s joy during happy times may help cement feelings of satisfaction and commitment. Research has shown this is even more important than supporting your wife during tough times. Difficult times can often bring a couple closer together, but the day-to-day annoyances and failure to listen may drive you apart.
6. Be generous with heart-felt apologies and with your forgiveness.
7. Be generous with your praise, gratitude and positivity. Research by Dr. John Gottman has shown successful couples need five positive interactions for every negative one. Smile. Praise a great meal she prepared. Thank her for her work at home or on the job. Compliment her appearance. Thank her for just being there and loving you. Expressing gratitude in relationships is a proven relationship booster and has been shown to reduce the number of breakups. Read more about the 5:1 ratio. When you have a concern or complaint to raise, do so gently and using “I” language, not “you” language.
Clearly, generosity is a critical component to marriage and to making all these tips work well. That’s why I’m so fond of The Generous Husband and The Generous Wife as great concepts with superb messages. It’s hard to go wrong when your focus is on giving of yourself in a spirit of generosity.
To stay up-to-date on marriage and relationship research that can help you improve your marriage, sign up for updates at www.lifegems4marriage.com. I’d love to have you join our conversations about love and marriage.
Lori Lowe is marriage columnist and blogger from Indianapolis. She is writing a narrative nonfiction book called First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: How to Improve Your Marriage through Adversity. Follow her research-based marriage tips at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori has been happily married to her husband, Ming, for 15 years. They live in Indianapolis with their two children, a crazy cat and two aquatic frogs.