It’s nearly peak wedding season, which also means peak honeymoon season.
When it comes to keeping the magic alive for a lifetime, here’s what I know now: forget about pre-marital counseling or talking exhaustively about how to parent, where to live, and how much to save for retirement.
Turns out that song about how the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return was right... sustained romance is a matter of learning a few simple skills.
But, maybe they didn’t offer Relationships 101 at your school, just like they didn’t have it at mine.
I didn’t learn Intimacy SkillsTM
before the wedding, and just a few years later, I thought I had married the wrong man. I dragged my husband to counseling but ended up feeling more hopeless than ever when he didn’t want to spend time with me or even make love to me.
I thought my only options were to spend the rest of my life in a loveless relationship or to divorce. Then, when happily married women showed me a few of their practices, something magical happened. The man who wooed me returned.
One of the big secrets they taught me was that women are the keepers of the relationship, and that we have more power to make the relationship happy and intimate (or, alternately, stressful and tense). Just as Spiderman learned, with great power comes great responsibility. I believe we women have a responsibility to learn the skills that contribute to lasting love and to pass them on to each other.
Here are things I wish every bride knew, but most don’t:1) Respect is Like Oxygen for Husbands
Men need respect the way wives need love. That doesn’t mean you would always agree with him; lots of times you won’t! But, it does mean you honor his thinking instead of second-guessing or trying to improve on it.
I wish I had known this before I spent so many years giving my husband suggestions about how to write a resume, make a budget or load the dishwasher. Turns out, “helpful” in wife language equals “critical” in husband language.
These days, I trust my husband to think for himself and I expect the best outcome. Not only is he happier, but we get to spend most of our time together laughing and holding hands.
Recently, I was brushing crumbs off of the counter and he said, “Don’t move” and pulled out his phone to take my picture. It feels wonderful to be so loved after 28 years of marriage, and I know it means that my husband feels respected. 2) Express Your Desires
One of the unfortunate habits I had when I was an untrained newlywed was complaining about the mess around the house. I would say, “John, this kitchen is a disaster!”
I expected him to jump off the couch and start cleaning the kitchen, but that never happened.
I’ve since learned that men can’t even hear us when we’re complaining, so all he heard was, “John, blah blah blah blah.”
Finally, I learned that if my husband knew how to make me happy, he was much more motivated. So, I started saying, “I would love a clean kitchen.”
That was over 15 years ago, and he’s been doing the dishes ever since.
Your husband wants to make you happy, and expressing your desires instead of complaining will give him instructions on how to do that successfully.
That could be, “I would love a puppy,” “I would love a bigger house,” or “I would love a day off from the kids.”
Anything goes when it comes to your desires, as long as you’re not demanding or expecting... just hoping. 3) Listen Without Agreeing or Disagreeing
Sometimes your spouse will want to blow off steam. He may say he’s going to quit his job immediately because he’s so mad at his boss.
That could scare you.
You could be tempted to say, “Maybe you should sleep on it.” Or, you could jump on board and say, “Yeah, he’s never appreciated you!” But, is that what he really wants?
We all have a deep need to be heard and understood.
Listening to your husband without weighing in with your opinion is a wonderful way to create emotional safety, which is critical for intimacy.
One powerful way to do that is to use this magical, three-word phrase: “I hear you.”
That’s it. Not, “I hear you and I think…” or, “I hear you but what about…”
Just, “I hear you” is a wonderful way to show that you’re bearing witness to his experience and that his words matter to you.4) Keep Doing What Makes You Happy
One new bride tried to take up golf because her husband loved it. She took lessons, bought a set of clubs and practiced, thinking it was a great way to spend time together.
Instead, she realized that she missed going to her dance classes. Despite her efforts, she just didn’t love golf.
No couple ever got happier because she gave up doing something she loved to spend more time together.
Doing what fills you up and makes you happy makes you a magnet to your man. You’re never hotter than when you’re smiling, laughing, singing or dancing. 5) Talk to Your Girlfriends
When I tried to make my husband my sole source of emotional support, he felt smothered and overwhelmed, and I felt unsupported and miserable.
That’s because one mere mortal man is not enough.
Some days it takes two sisters, three best friends and my husband to put me right again.
My friends help keep my marriage magical because they help keep me happy.
Sure, my husband is my best friend, and all my other friends help keep it that way.