If you’re anything like me, you stop and wonder every so often what your “job” is as a husband and how you’re measuring up at that job. Can I do more? Am I doing too much? Am I becoming too domesticated?? Do I still wear the pants in the family or am I whipped beyond recognition? (Hint: If you think “wearing the pants” is sexist, you’re probably whipped beyond recognition). Being married to a woman is tricky. Just when you think everything’s running on all cylinders, she seems unhappy about something. And being men, we tend to think it’s something we did–or didn’t–do, and need to fix. Again, if you’re “anything like me”, the ONLY way you know the answer to the question “how is my marriage doing?” is by asking your wife! So what follows is a sort of “checklist” of things to do in your marriage or long term relationship so that you know whether you’re doing your job or not. Let’s get started…
1. Men are action oriented and perform best when they have specific tasks that they can attach a “success or failure” or “yes or no” to. In other words, we do best when we can measure how we’re doing.
2. Men have absolutely no relationships skills and therefore need a simple list to follow. This is not meant to be demeaning to us men, it’s just a truth that we are hard wired differently than women and “relationship skills” are not one of the things we’re wired FOR. We’re hard wired through 50,000 years of evolution to provide for our family and to protect our family.
So here’s the list!
Be master of your territory
This is a twofold task. The first part is about having an area or place in your home that’s ONLY yours. It could be as simple as a drawer in your bureau but more than likely it will be the garage, a room in the basement…the “Man Cave.” You make it clear that NO ONE is to enter it without your permission. Keep it exactly the way YOU want to keep it and under no circumstances allow your woman to redecorate it or talk you into the same. It’s an extension of you where you can go and be yourself and NOT have to be socially acceptable, clean smelling, watch your language or be politically correct. You can be the Jerk you always wanted to be! The other benefit is that it’s a way to separate from the rest of the family when you need some “cave time”. Every couple is different, but in general, men are hard wired to be alone for a bigger part of the day than women or children. Now make sure you don’t do anything to “encourage” encroachment. Strange smells leaking uptstairs from your basement lair will encourage the woman of your dreams to sneak in and use some sweet smelling spray. Avoid the urge to “show her” what you’ve done with the place or ask her opinion about decorating it.
The second area of your territory is to know what you’re responsible for, and more importantly, what you’re NOT responsible for. This is all about trust and cooperation. Examples might be who the primary breadwinner is, who pays the bills, who’s responsible for the social calendar. If you’re married, you probably already have these mapped out, but maybe not consciously. Maybe you and your spouse are having repeated arguments about how long little sally has to stay in time out. Do we spank or not spank, things like that. It pays to know whose territory is hers, yours, or shared…not only so you can master yours, but also stay out of hers! I am responsible for yardcare, income into the house, managing our investments, for example, while my wife Deb is in charge of household finances, all price negotiations, our social calendar, and our image in church and community. Often times, when we have disagreements, it’s in the area of one of us encroaching upon the other’s domain. Men, if your wife is very “strong” you may have to fight to take back your territory on a regular basis. One way to avoid this is to be very clear on what your territory is, and manage it impeccably.
Some things will be clear: taking out the trash, painting the house for example. Others will be esoteric, like “our social image” I mention above. We didn’t sit down and decide that Deb would be in charge of the kind of image we portray, it’s just something that’s really important to her and she manages it well. Whether it’s shaving my neck, or teaching our daughter Elissa how to color coordinate her clothes.
My advice to men is to be liberal about telling your wife what is NOT your territory, but be careful how much you verbally commit to. I always prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to giving my wife anything to hold me accountable for. She’ll make up enough on her own! Again, this is not a sexist slam, just a reality. You do NOT want to give your woman any more than is absolutely necessary to hold you accountable for.
Give listening time
Give your woman 20-30 minutes of absolutely riveted attention each day. It can be at the beginning, middle or end of the day, or a few minutes here and there. Here’s a clue that you’re NOT doing this. “You NEVER listen to me!!”, or “What did I just say??” – If your wife is constantly complaining that you don’t listen, or testing to see if you ARE listening, guess what? You’re probably not listening! That’s the wonderful thing about wives. They WILL tell us exactly what they need if we learn to listen. Not what they WANT, but what they need! The benefit is always found by listening to the “action”. What are you telling your wife when you stop what you’re doing and make her the center of your attention? That she’s important to you and that what she’s saying is also important to you. Which leads us to…
Be keeper of her self esteem
High self-esteem is extraordinarily important for a woman to have. When you begin to love her or show her more love than she has for herself, she’ll begin to subconsciously sabotage the relationship. She can’t take more love from you than she has for herself. It’s just a universal truth. By contributing only self esteem building words and actions to your wife’s life, you’ll enjoy the benefits as much, if not more, than her. One rule to keep in mind is that woman thrive on praise while men thrive on challenge. So different tactics are required, and often you can come up with some great ideas just by using that one simple rule. Here’s a classic; your wife has put on a few pounds and she’s lamented to you to encourage her. From a masculine standpoint you might “challenge” her like you would a friend, but that will only hurt her feelings and lower her self esteem. Using an angle like “Hey, those workouts are REALLY starting to pay off, honey” will work MUCH better than “Hey, how many of those ******* twinkies are you going to eat?!” Everything can be traced back to the “Caveman Days.” Back in those days, if a woman lost the approval of her man, he’d go off to some other Cave woman’s cave, and leave his woman and children to fend for themselves, which was really a death sentence. So women’s brains are hard wired to be absolutely devastated by the prospect of the loss of approval of her mate. This isn’t always a practical state of affairs nowadays; it often leads woman (especially young ones) to compromise themselves for that approval.
Cooperate without Selling Out
This is vitally important, but filled with nuances and traps. This is about cooperating and compromising on things that are unimportant to you while maintaining your “terms” as a man. Vacation plans, helping around the house while your wife is working extra hours, being nice to the in-laws. The key here is “what can I do to make my wife happy without handing over my balls?”
Let her know what’s going on without dumping the emotion
Since the sixties, the “sensitive man” has come to be a household name. This man, when telling his wife how his day went, likes to share his anger, his fears, his insecurities as well as his triumphs and kills. For the benefit of the third entity, I advise men to simply deliver a more cleaner, polished, “woman friendly” product. Take the emotion out of it. It is NOT a good idea to share the ENERGY of your feelings with your woman. She needs a rock, someone who’s the “same” no matter what’s going on. (don’t ask her if this is true, if she’s a modern woman, she’ll tell you it’s not and that she needs you to be expressive and in touch with your feelings. Don’t blame her, she doesn’t know any better!)
When you “go deep” with your feelings with your woman, it scares her a little. She can’t go that deep with you, and the BIG one … she will most likely take SOMETHING you say personally, which violates #3 (be keeper of her self esteem). In addition, when you dump negative emotions on her, you’re exposing your weaknesses and that’s just not a good practice in a male female committed relationship. That’s what your “men” are for. You DO, however, need to LET HER KNOW what’s going on with you. She is the “relationship manager” and she needs that information much like the CEO of a corporation needs to know how sales and profits are doing to make his decisions. Here’s an example of an emotional vs. “cleaned and polished” version.
My boss has REALLY been riding me, and I don’t know HOW much longer I can take it. Everybody else seems to get ahead at that office and this guy really has it out for me.
Here we have a little whining to start off with. (weakness when she needs a rock), you’re frightening her with the comment “I don’t know how much longer I can take it”. Translation: I might come home tomorrow and tell you we no longer have money coming into the house. Weakness. (I’m the only one who doesn’t get ahead, therefore I must be weaker than the rest).
Honey, if I seem a little on edge this week, it’s been a hard week, boss is giving me grief, deadlines and all that garbage. Not a problem, it’s not you, and it’ll all be better next week. I love you!
Here you’ve given her the tools she needs to “manage” your relationship. She’ll probably egg you on for a little more detail, but don’t give it to her. She’ll be grateful whether she admits it or not. You’ve shown her your strength by being able to deliver such news without “needing” any sympathy from her, you’ve assured her there’s nothing to worry about and that it’s “finite” (all be better next week).
Try this as a 30 day excercise. Let her know how things are going, say once a week or more if needed, and keep your insecurities, doubts, fear and anger out of it.
Give her great sex
Give your lady the best sex you can give. If you have a LOT of sex, at least take time on a regular basis to make it “world class” and all about her. (Yeah, yeah, I know, you ALWAYS give world class sex, me too! grunt, hoo-ah!) If you have it once a week, once a month, then ALWAYS make it your best. For men, it’s about getting laid. When we’re in a great mood, it’s about getting laid, when we’re feeling needy and insecure, it’s about getting laid, when it’s raining, hailing, sunny or mercury’s in retrograde, it’s about getting laid. It’s friction. (Isn’t it elegantly simple being a man?). For women, their self esteem is connected. Remember, women have relationship skills, so they’re using the quality of the sex as one more measure of the “status” of the relationship. Women subsconsciously know that you just want to get laid, so by making it all about “them”, they now subconsciously know that they are important enough to you to slow down and focus on them. I’m lucky in this respect in that it’s always given me more pleasure to pleasure my wife than to receive it. Something about seeing her … oh, hi honey, didn’t see you standing there!! Oh, nothing, just writing in my journal … uh, are you busy in a few minutes???
So slow down, learn to LOVE spending time pleasuring just HER – (I think you know what I’m talking about – it rhymes with “being pushy”). Make it about loving her, showing her as much pleasure as you can stand.
Regularly do things to show her how much you love her.
This is alot of fun, but it can be daunting if you make it more complicated than you need to. Every so often, on a regular basis, do something outrageous that shows your woman that she is cared for, important and the love of your life. Again, this falls in line with women’s unconscious understanding that this is “hard” and “undesirable” activity for men. The fact that we got out of our own way and made it happen appeals to women on many levels.
1. They “get” that we love them and work hard to show them (great for self esteem)
2. They “get” that we’re multi dimensional and can get OUT of our comfort zone all by ourselves
3 They “get” that we’re just great guys!!
The possibilities are endless, but these are the things that go into the “relationship bank” of the “third entity” as deposits and make the relationship stronger and stronger. By doing these things on a regular basis, and “tracking” yourself, you can honestly and accurately know in any given moment how you’re “doing” in your relationship. If your relationship ends, and you KNOW you’ve done the above with any measure of excellence, you can rest assured that you’ve done your best.