A New Year's resolution for a better marriage

Posted: Dec 23, 2003 12:00 AM

 Making New Year's resolutions is a great idea. Even if we violate them before February, it is good to resolve to improve one's life. It is far better to try and to fail than never to try.
Most resolutions deal with dieting, exercise and other forms of self-improvement. These are fine and important. But any married person will tell you that there is no surer way to misery than a troubled marriage, so it is strange and unfortunate that people rarely make New Year's resolutions to improve this part of their life.

 The reason is not that husbands and wives don't care to improve their marriage. Most married people would pay a lot of money to do so. The problem is that they don't know how. They think that they have but three choices: go on as at present, seek professional counseling or split up.

 But there is a fourth option that can be enacted immediately: Find out what one or two things your husband or wife could do to make you feel loved. The reason that this must be asked and responded to is that most men and women have different answers to this question.

 Men and women go through life thinking that what is most important to them is what is most important to the other sex. This assumption is reinforced by our society, which conveys the dangerously erroneous message that men and women are quite similar.

 Of course, both sexes want many of the same things -- love, respect, attention -- but the ways they want them expressed are often very different. The moment men and women realize this and act upon this realization, their relations will dramatically improve.

 For example, most women think about those they love more than most men think about those they love. Most mothers worry about their children more hours per day than most fathers do; and a wife who loves her husband thinks about him more often each day than a man who loves his wife. Therefore, while it may not be that important for him to talk to his wife during the day while at work, it is probably important to her. Consequently, a major way a man can show his wife love is to call her during the day.

 To cite another example, one woman I interviewed said that to feel loved she would like her husband to take her hands in his, look into her eyes, and ask her what is on her mind and what is going on in her life. Most men -- including this writer -- would never think of that on their own. That is why it is important for wives to tell husbands exactly what makes them feel loved. They often do not because women generally want men "to just know" without having to be told. But the vast majority of men do not "just know." We rarely have a clue. That is why women often think of their man as "clueless." But cluelessness in this area is not a male fault; it is a male trait.

 When it comes to men's specific desires, they are usually too embarrassed or afraid to say. Especially when it involves sex. For years, I have been lecturing on men's sexual nature, so I feel competent to say that most men are afraid and/or embarrassed to tell their wives how important her trying to look good and having sex with him are to his feeling loved by her.

 To summarize, in too many marriages, women are not telling men what they most want because of their romantic belief that he should know without her telling him. And husbands are not telling their wives what they most want because they are either embarrassed or afraid to do so.

 If it is too difficult to honestly answer this question -- what one or two things do you most want me to do to make you feel loved? -- write your answer and leave it for your spouse to read. However you do it, it can profoundly improve your marriage and, therefore, your life.

 Then you will both really have a happy new year.