Inspired by my recent Gottman Couples therapy training, here are four things your wife loathes about you and wishes she could change. You, and these items, become girls' night fodder as females congregate to lament their choice in their male partner.
You don't accept her influence. You expect her to accept your ideas and influence but you seldom accept hers. I know. I do the same thing. My wife will suggest something. I balk or stall and don't really give it the merit it deserves because of the source. Then one of my male friends will suggest essentially the same idea, which I eagerly decide is the best route for me. Then I tell my wife what my friend suggested and cue the fireworks. Just try listening to her ideas like she is one of your buddies. Seriously, she is smarter, cares more, and knows you better than your pals.
You don't turn towards her. Couples in a relationship constantly make what John Gottman calls, "bids for connection". She talks excitedly about a recipe, concert, or book that interests her. You say nothing and play on your phone. I know. I do the same thing. Master couples, as Gottman calls them, turn toward each other constantly with attention, interest, and eye contact, thus making big deposits into each other's emotional bank accounts. If the day comes when a big withdrawal from the emotional bank account happens, you don't want to ever dip into overdraft. Believe me, that ain't a pretty place. Turn toward. Simple, and perhaps the easiest one of these four to change tonight!
You stonewall. You have a discussion. You don't like what she said. So you shut down, withdraw, and go into your pouty little Man Cave. I know. I do the same thing. I take my ball and go home - I'm not playing with you anymore. But without dialogue, the problem will only escalate. In her eyes, if the 20-pound cannonball didn't work, then maybe she will try tossing the 50-pound cannonball. No progress there? Let's try the 100-pound cannonball. You see where this is going. Pretty soon your relationship house is in shambles, so try not to shut down. However, if you feel 'flooded' (ie, feel like you might 'Hulk', explode, and possibly say or do something stupid) then yes, withdraw respectfully to calm down, but remind your partner that you will return to this discussion after this power pause.
You don't court and cherish her anymore. The fun exciting guy that wooed and courted her is dead; replaced by a lazy predictable potbellied lout that cares more about his fantasy sports team than her real life fantasies. Where did Mr. Wonderful go?
Everyone, including you, talks about date nights, but you never do or plan anything. I know. I do the same thing. I know and write about how important connection and couple time is, yet I permit life and our kids' busy schedules be the major excuse for not planning anything. If you have kids, you must bring back the fun and adventure that 70% of couples report is GONE after babies arrive. Use your roster of great babysitters and plan something SHE would love (pottery class, dance lessons, etc.) not what you would love. Make bi-weekly or even monthly date nights an absolute must. Once you establish a routine of date nights, then try alternating the planning to appeal to each other's love languages and interests! You happily attend her yoga class (dig out your bike shorts), then she happily attends laser tag, monster trucks, or your next LARP event.
If your relationship is riding on four bald tires with gunky old oil clogging up your car engine, then what should you do? Your relationship needs perpetual regular maintenance and up keep. Like a garden that needs daily weeding, we all must constantly recharge our relationships. Anyone that has been married for a long time will tell you it is 'work', but it isn't heavy lifting, just non-stop vigilance that your partner, and her needs, remain your top priority.
By accepting, rectifying, and implementing these four simple ideas, you will improve your relationship. I promise. And what man doesn't want to be the main topic of envy at every future girls' night?
Ladies, am I right? Which one of these hits home with you in your relationship? Did I miss something else you hate? Do I need a list longer than four?
Gentlemen, do I need another article about your dislikes?