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 need...in 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.