Remember when you and your sweetie were dating? Besides being unable to take your hands off each other, you most likely were engaged in a mutual admiration society -- he'd tell you how beautiful you looked in that dress, you'd tell him that you love the way his eyes turn from bluish to greenish on cloudy days. And every back rub, movie date, intimate dinner, weekend getaway -- every little kindness you got or gave was received with a heartfelt "thank you."
Most relationships start off this way, and those loving beginnings are what send many couples walking down the aisle together to say, "I do." They vow to care for each other "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part." Oddly they do not vow to continue to be so kind and complimentary to each other. Perhaps they should -- a new study by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project indicates that generosity -- "the virtue of giving good things to one's spouse freely and abundantly" -- greatly contributes to marital happiness.
This seems like a no-brainer. We like people who do special things for us, and it feels good to do the same for our loved ones, too. We want to feel appreciated. Famed relationship expert John Gottman suggests that the happiest couples are the ones who say or do at least five positive things to their partner for each negative thing. That's the second principle in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work -- "nurturing fondness and admiration for your spouse: This means laying down a positive view about your spouse, respecting and appreciating their differences."
Yet, couples often start to take each other for granted after some time together. "Thank you" and "You look nice today" are forgotten or, worse, replaced by criticism, passive-aggression or focusing on the negative: "Why can't you ever remember to ...." In fact, many wives are generally pissed off at their husbands, and if you're feeling like your hubby isn't pulling his weight, you're probably not going to make it to five positive reactions a day -- or maybe even a week.
This isn't healthy in any relationship, marriage or not.
"My wife was constantly critical. She never let anything go. She bitched and she carped," one man told Judith Viorst, author of Grown-Up Marriage: What We Know, Wish We Had Known, and Still Need to Know." Eventually, he had an affair. "The other woman wasn't any sexier or prettier, but she seemed to approve of most everything about me."
That might change if they were married, however.
But, beyond feeling appreciated, at least he was getting sex (albeit outside the marriage), and the NMP study indicates that sexual satisfaction is even more important than kind words and acts in a marriage. This is a no-brainer, too. Husbands have been saying this for years.
As the report states:
(W)omen are more likely to report that they are sexually satisfied when they report that they share housework with their husbands. What happens outside of the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom.
And it doesn't take too much to get a woman out of the mood; if she's angry (see above), stressed from caring for the kids or feeling distrustful -- or even if her feet are chilly -- she's not going to get turned on. Men, please don't fight it -- accept it, and learn how to work with it. We'll all be happier if you do.
That may explain why as many as 20 million married Americans who aren't getting it on with any regularity, the sexless marriage crisis is more dire than the jobless situation, with some 13.3 million unemployed. And that lack of sexual satisfaction can lead to divorce.
So here's my suggestion; start doing nice things again while telling your spouse that he or she looks so sexy that you just can't keep your hands off him or her. Then, follow through.
Oh, and don't forget to say, "Thank you" after.