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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: December 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Make Your Woman Happy (More Relationship Building Ideas)

So here's part two of my top ten list for making your partner happy...(and having more and better for yourself too...)

And here's my usual disclaimer (same as the one in the previous post...) if you are in serious emotional pain, then the top ten list is not so easily followed. And when your brain is on rev due to anger, frustration, fear or addiction, depression or severe anxiety, extra care is a good idea. And as always, I think its a good idea to talk things out in a neutral place.... okay, so without anymore's my top ten list for making your woman happy...and building better feelings... (in no particular order)

1) Make sure she knows you love her. Accept that this is ongoing, normal and totally a female thing to want. (Yes, men want this too, but don't underestimate the importance of this for women.) You can do this in a variety of ways. Words are usually a good bet. If you are not good at finding the right words, ask her how to best let her know how much you love her. And then practice saying it. Flowers are good, too. I know its stereotypical, but it still works. In fact, most of the top ten list centers around helping your woman feel that you love her. Giving her the right feelings. (you will most likely benefit greatly from this).

2) Call her a lot. Especially if you are going to be late. I know this seems silly to a lot of men, but to women, it matters. And be specific about where you are and what time she can expect you. Most men are not accustomed to doing this, but most women find it very reassuring. Its not a trust thing. Or maybe it is, but it almost doesn't matter. If you do it, it will give her good feelings. Call and say, "I'm on the parkway at exit 136, there's a lot traffic and I'm stuck. And then I am going to stop at Mike's house to pick up his pliers, since I can't find ours, and I need to fix that faucet this weekend." Even if you work a very busy hectic day, or you are trading on the floor, or with potential clients, or your boss is breathing down your neck, calling her for 10 seconds to say, "I am so hectic today, but I miss you, and look forward to seeing you later" goes a long way. If you have time, ask about her day. If she starts to tell you every detail and you can't or don't want to listen, say something like, "I want to hear everything, but I if I stay on with you now, I'm going to miss the staff meeting" or something that says " I want to hear you, but can it wait? I still love you."

3) Ask and Tell. If/when she is seemingly upset with you, and nothing seems to be working, "What would you do if you were me?" Now this may yield you some attack back, but it also may yield you some pause, and some understanding. Be wrong sometimes. Even when you are right. Fess up to your shortcomings. We all have them. And tell her the the effect she has on you. Say, "when you threaten me, it makes me too angry or hurt, it has a dangerous effect or it really pushes me away." Or "I am going to walk out right now because I have to calm down." or "I want to work this out with you, but I way too frustrated right now."

4) Find out how she likes to be approached for sex and stick with that for a bit. You can always talk to her about your own preferences, but check with her. If saying "Hey baby wanna get naked?" turns her on, or is part of the playful part of your sex life, then fine. But if she would like some conversation, a little romance, or more of a warm up, then be open to that. You'll still get what you need, right? And if your sex life is not what you'd like or need, talk with her about how you'd like more intimacy. If its difficult to bring it up or discuss it, get help. Don't figure that you are stuck.

5) Be open and cooperative about money. Money is one of the biggest sore points in many relationships, and far too complicated to talk about in this post. But, know that money has meaning to everyone. It can mean love, security, faith, respect, intention, commitment, and togetherness. Especially, if one or both of you has your own business, money issues can pack a lot of punch. If you've got money issues, and you fight over them, get help.

6) Say thank you and appreciate all the things she does. The small and large. From putting your socks away to making dinner, to being so gracious about "letting" you go out with the guys. It may be a no-brainer to you, but you cannot go wrong by acknowledging her efforts.

7) When you want or need more time alone, or away, tell her where you are going, with whom and reassure her that its a man thing. Most woman understand this on some level, but feel hurt about it anyway. Accept this. It's not a criticism of you. And accept the fact that a relationship does mean that you can't always go and do what you want when you want to. There are trade offs. Stay aware of the benefits, of what you "yes" have.

8) Don't criticize her or compare her to other women. Compliment, compliment, compliment. Okay, I know these are two things, but I am putting them together. If you want her to wear, do, say, things differently, tell her what you like, why you like it and how much you enjoy it when she makes such an effort to make your relationship good. Tell her she is sexy, beautiful, hot, whatever....but tell her often, (not just when you want sex). Compliment her mothering, her housekeeping, her kind heart, sharp mind. The things that attacted you to her in the first place, and the things she is good at.....notice and tell her.

9) Ask things. As often as you can say, "What can I do to help you?" Even if she rejects you, keep asking. Ask for her opinion.

10) Listen. Don't assume that you have to solve things, or that her unhappiness is all because of you. Paying attention and listening goes a long way. Tell her you are on her side. Reassure her. Be comforting. Even if you are unsure about things yourself, you can tell her you're in it together.

Okay, so this does not mean you have to be on all the time. It's just a guide after all. But it does mean that you have a better chance of being understood, less frustrated and having better sex, if you practice the above. You can tell her when things bother you, but prefacing things with love really helps. Most women are after an emotional connect. If you get better at this, things will flow from there.

Of course, again, I know that when you are frustrated or feel criticized or put off by her, if things are strained, you may not feel like doing any of the above. Its hard to give love when you feel this way. Old resentments creep in, things can seem irrational or irrelevant, and the urge is often to punish, or withdrawal and escape, rather than try to sort things through and give more. And sometimes it's hard to push ourselves to act right when we feel so wronged. But we can do this, I believe. We can forge forward. If we are stuck, we can get help. Sometimes, character is character, but the basics, even when they seem hard to do can go a long way toward making things so much better.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Making Your Man Happy (Good Relationship Building Ideas)

Lately I have been working with a lot of couples in crisis, as well as with couples and individuals who are seeking to make their relationships better. And folks have been asking me what it takes to make things work well. So here's my top ten list for women (men soon!) who want to make their relationships better. I know, by the way, that when you are hurt or hurting, especially when you are angry or frustrated or feeling betrayed, that taking the lead in turning things around is not exactly what you are in the mood of doing. And I know that it's not quite as simple as it will seem from my list below. And.... I still believe that the best way to get from bad to better or better to even better is to talk about things. To figure out what's in the way of things getting better. And of course, to go gently. But I do have a short list of ideas to consider if you are trying to make things good.

Okay, one more disclaimer. Emotional pain and/or a brain revved up by anger or fear or frustration make it difficult to take good action, to even want to take good action. Often, when we have been hurt, we want to punish, not preserve. And this feeling is, like all others, worthy of attention. But here's my list anyway.... (in no particular order)

1) Appreciate him. Say thank you. Often, and genuinely. Tell him specifically what he does right, well and good. Even if it seems mundane, ordinary or given. For coming home on time, taking out the garbage, calling to say hi, paying the electric bill. Especially let him know when he does things that make you feel loved, happy and satisfied. Even if you have to pull out "small" things at first.

2) Smile. Seriously. It's so appealing. Be happy to see him.

3) Feel good about yourself and show it. Confidence is appealing to men. If you are depressed or your self esteem is in the gutter, tend to it for real. It's okay to ask for reassurance from your man, but too much asking him if you are fat, or pretty or if he loves you can take a toll. Women can help men to say the right things, and to create good feelings. Women do need words, but it's not realistic to expect them to know exactly what to say, and if they don't say the right thing, to decide that they don't love you or do not want to make you happy.

4) Be realistic. Even though women often wish for their man to be their sounding board, their source of emotional nourishment and love, relationships fair better when women have additional places to talk, to process and to get good care and good feelings. It can't all come from your man.

5) Don't criticize. This is not to say you should not express what you fact doing so, and being thankful goes a long way. But telling your man what's wrong with him usually undermines his confidence, helps him to feel disrespected and unappreciated. It creates bad feelings all around, which then creates a distance, leaving you with even less of what you want. You can help him be a better spouse by building him up, not breaking him down. By the way, "observations" about how he does things wrong are the same as critiscism. If he experiences your words as critcical, then there is something to look at, even if you think he is oversensitive.

6) Don't threaten. Most men do not respond well to threats. Women threaten when they feel too hurt, frightened or deprived of love, but threatening to leave or throw him out, or find another man will usually yield you more distance, or a threat back, or in some cases, he will leave. If you are hurt, talk it out with a trusted, neutral third party, slow your revved up brain down and then go back and say how you feel, not to a list of all the things he does wrong. Helping him to feel like a failure will not yield you a good result.
7) Initiate sex. And don't withhold sex. Don't' underestimate the importance of sex in most relationships. Sex does not always have to be "great" or even result in orgasm. And couples often have different sex drives, but sex usually helps couples feel closer. While words and talking are foreplay for women, sometimes it's okay to have sex without a good conversation first. While couples often have different sexual needs, it usually helps build a relationship when women show interest in sex.

8) Feed him. Yes. food. If you can't cook, then try to learn, or come up with ways to show him that you are trying to provide food he likes. I am not saying that you have to do this all the time. Even once in a while, with good sincere effort can go a long way.
9) Show respect. Let him lead the way. You can go ahead and prove you are right, but it will cost you good feelings and closeness. I am not suggesting you let him drive into the Hudson if he wants to ignore the GPS, but sometimes it's worth keeping quiet for a bit, and talking about it later. You can also genuinely ask for his opinion, refrain from accusing him of being selfish when he is late, demanding to know where he is, and saying a simple, "Okay, I respect your decisions." Apologize when you are wrong and fess up to your own mistakes. And, hold back from name calling.

10) Give him space and trust him. Most every man I know needs space. This does not mean he does not love you, that you are unlovable, that he is cheating, does not want to be with you, or that you have a bad relationship. It just means he is a man. Many women tell me that their husband will "run to help everyone else, but not me." Letting him know that you know how helpful he is can be a great way to build him up. And then let him know how much you appreciate it when he also takes care of your "honey-do" list as well.
Of course, you may have to repeat and repeat and repeat some more, but persistance can pay off.
And if you are in a verbally or physically abusive situation, or your sex life has been seriously halted, one of you has an addiction, or serious depression, or the difficult feelings seem really big and long lasting, or, as often is the case, you find yourself saying, "yes, but...." to the above list, its a good idea (surprise) to get outside help. Talk, talk and talk some more, in a place that is conducive to understanding what's going on and how to make progress.

Many women fear that they will only end up giving, and not getting anything back, or that they will not get the love and emotional connect they need, but I have found that more often than not, when women initiate, good things come around.