Does Your Wife Feel Loved?

Last night, after dinner (we had heart-shaped pizza), I said to two of my daughters, “I have a theory. When a woman or girl truly feels loved, that’s when she is happiest.” They both enthusiastically agreed. (One is married, one is in her late teens.)

This is something I learned later in life. At least that’s when it came clear to me. When I was bishop and in a position to counsel with couples on a regular basis, that’s when this realization solidified in my mind. A woman is happiest when she feels loved. And she is really happy when she is loved in the way she wants to be loved.

A man or husband who understands, and does something about it, will be happier himself.

To love your wife, you have to live outside of the moment. You have to see beyond the day. You have to see her with spiritual eyes. You have to see the truth.

I think so many men get caught on the coat hook of their wives’ snarlieness, but the secret to overcoming that is to show your wife the love she deserves in the way she can understand.

A man who understands his wife’s love language will know how to love her in the way she needs to be loved.

Gary Chapman’s five love languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

There are probably more love languages than this, but this list covers most cases.

I know what my wife’s love language is. Do you know what your wife’s is? Finding out and doing something positive about it will bring a lot of peace to your home.

My wife needs quality time. I know that and I know the particular flavors of quality time she needs. She knows my love language—words of affirmation. And she knows how to keep my love bucket full. We have a very happy, successful marriage. 

My advice is simple and it is this: find out what makes your wife tick, how she really feels loved, and then love that way. Serve her. Quit hanging onto your pride and just love her with all your heart. Don’t wait for her to change or for your desires to be requited.

If you do this, it will change everything for the good.

P.S. If your wife has some deeply held emotional or hidden issues, it may not be as simple as this. See my disclaimer.

What Your Husband Really Wants for Valentine’s Day

Last time, I talked about what wives really want for Valentine’s Day. Now, I’ll turn my attention to husbands. I am no world authority, and I don’t know what every man wants, but I have a good idea of what most of men want.

Your husband is often painfully aware of his weaknesses and mistakes, his failures and slip ups, but even though he has not succeeded in overcoming them, he desperately and quietly wants you to believe in him, to respect him and trust him. (Again.)

You are his last, best hope against all he struggles with in this world.

If he feels like you are there for him, that you truly believe in him, even though he has stumbled, that means everything to him, even if he can’t (or won’t) say it out loud.

For you to be truly pleased with him, and, best of all, to look up to him, that is what he hopes for most.

What if your husband is a Darth Vader, brutish and surly? Or a John Wayne, quiet and withdrawn when it comes to words of love? Those things are hard to look up to, I know. But that is his shell, the shell he uses to protect his pain.

But you know or can know who and what he really is, what is in his heart of hearts. You are the one that can see that and draw that out. Very few can see what you can see.

One other thing he would like is for you not to be hard on him, to focus more on the positive than the negative, to see the good in him more than anything else.

Criticism and negativity are force, or attempts at it. Patience, kindness, and positive words are persuasion. He can’t be forced, but he can be persuaded. And no one can persuade him like you can. He wants to be persuaded that you still believe in him.

That’s what he wants most. It will mean so much to him.

What Your Wife Really Wants for Valentine’s Day

I think I know what your wife wants for Valentine’s Day. I offer my opinion and welcome yours as well (in the comments). What I say won’t apply to all women, but it will apply to most.

Very simply, she wants you. That’s it. You.

She would like your undistracted attention. She wants you to be with her in the full sense, meaning that you will lend her your time, your ears, your eyes and your heart. That also means that when you are home on Valentine’s, she would appreciate it if your cell phone, laptop, video games and TV were off.

She wants you to patiently listen to her, without your eyes or attention wandering elsewhere. She doesn’t want you to solve her problems and difficulties for her. All she needs is for you to listen to her explain those problems, and not to jump in with solutions. The solutions will be evident after she has had a chance to express her feelings; and if the solutions are not immediately evident, even so, she will feel a lot better.

She wants you to romance her the way she wants to be romanced. This means you have to ask her a question soon, before the big day is here. You need to give a her a chance to be perfectly honest. Ask “What would make you feel special on Valentine’s Day?” Then be open to the answer. Don’t mold her answer to your own. Listen carefully and then thank her for telling you.

Some like dinner out, others love flowers and chocolates, while yet others want acts of service or a gift card with your encouragement to buy clothes. Some want you to help her solve a puzzle at home, often with the kids. Some will want time alone to just think or read or even sleep.

She would like some real affection from you. Hugs and kisses with real meaning behind them. She would like you to hold her hand, in public, in front of other people. She wants you to not only tell her that you love her, but to show it with an outward display of affection.

She wants you to forgive her for her weaknesses and to see past them to who she really is. 

She wants to know that she is the most special, most important person in the world to you. Nothing takes the grumpies away like knowing that.

Romance is wonderful, but there is something better. I love this quote from President Hinckley that was mentioned in an article in last month’s Ensign, but was originally from a conference talk he gave in 1991:

I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

If you will give her these things, her trust will grow and trust is the most important foundation for love.

I conclude with this quote, a recent message from Music and the Spoken Word:

Recently, a team of researchers surveyed thousands of married men and women and discovered something that most couples already know: spouses who are emotionally generous with each other are happier. That common-sense finding gets at the heart of marital happiness—what changes hearts and homes and families is generosity of spirit, which the researchers define as “the virtue of giving good things to [one’s spouse] freely and abundantly.” And what does that look like in a marriage? It includes small acts of service, hugs and kisses, forgiveness, patience, and a willingness to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to look past annoyances and into each other’s heart.

If you do these things, you will find that the tension and negativity that has arisen in your relationship will be lessened, maybe even erased, if you patiently listen, try to understand, give affection backed by genuine love, forgive her and willingly give her the time, attention and respect she deserves from you.

Don’t wait for her to change or be perfect to give her fully of yourself. God doesn’t wait for that from you.

What My Mother-in-Law Taught Me about Love

Years ago, my mother-in-law asked me a question about love which I have never forgotten. She asked this:

If a man and woman were placed on a desert island, though they were different ages, looked different, came from different cultures, spoke different languages, and had different interests and personalities, what would eventually happen to them?

 After some thought I said, “They would find a way to fall in love.” Yes, that was her point.

What do you think?

I have thought about that question for many years, and I have come to the conclusion that love is possible in any situation where a couple offers respectful attention to each other.

Have you ever said to yourself, “Wow, how did those two get together?” Or, “What do those two see in each other?” I think it’s because the “desert island” principle can apply to any relationship.

To me, respect is the doorway to love, and respect opens the way to trust which is the foundation of love.

On a desert island, you would be forced to focus and give your attention to just that one person. (Well, you could choose to ignore that person, but you likely would not.) And as you gave attention, if you wanted a desirable response, you would have to offer your positive, respectful attention, and then the thousands of daily, even hourly negotiations you must make with another person in order for your relationship to work.

My point is—and I think my mother-in-law’s point was—in marriage, we are essentially on a desert island together, and if we choose to give this respectful attention to each other, the kind that builds trust, love will grow, no matter how different we are, no matter how different we see the world.

Some of you may feel shipwrecked, marooned on that desert island, and that there is no escape from your bad relationship. But I look at it differently, the result from what I have seen in hundreds of marriages over many years.

First, love is a choice, not an accident.

We talk of “falling of love” and I do believe in that magical part of love that we all experience and that comes from romance. But more than that, I believe that love is the result of how we choose to treat another person. If we treat them with kindness and true respect, if we serve them from our hearts, and give them our earnest attention, we will love them and that love will grow stronger and stronger and stronger.  Even if we are vastly different from that person. Even is we have in the past been disappointed by that person, or even heart broken by their choices, we can love them again.

Second, if love is a choice, we can choose to love the same person again and again.

Even if we have fallen into stinky little patterns of disrespect and distraction in our relationships, even if we have allowed our hearts to grow cold, we can choose again. And again and again. And if we choose to show respect and offer service, love will grow again.

I am not saying you can always trust again. There are some situations where trust is absolutely broken and is impossible to rebuild in this life. But I tend to be optimistic and to believe that trust can be rebuilt in most situations, even where transgression is involved. But again, that is a choice.

If your love has waxed cold, you can love your spouse again, if you choose to, even if that spouse has made mistakes, perhaps big ones. It is your choice, and no one else can choose for you. But I will say that, over the years, the couples I have seen who choose to hold things together, to work things out, to choose love again, tend to be much happier in later years.

There are some situations, I am sad to say, where one or both parties have gone so far off the deep end, that it is impossible to trust the other and to live with them.  As a friend and colleague recently taught me, “Divorce is never the right thing, but sometimes it is the best thing.”

No one can choose that for you. No one can be your conscience for you. Not your bishop or your priest or your minister. But I do know this. We must not judge. We must not burden others with our judgement, for God will render the same judgment on us that we render to others (see Matthew 7:1,2).

More often than not, I believe that love, and the relationships that nurture and protect love and the family, can be rebuilt if they rebuild on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You might have to carve your way through a jungle on your desert island to “find” that person again, but I know this for sure, you can love them again, if you choose to.

The Secret in a Man’s Heart

There is a secret in a man’s heart. I can’t tell you what is in every man’s heart, but I can tell you this: every man I’ve asked this question—”What do you want most from your wife?”—has agreed with me when I told them what I thought it was. And I have asked a lot of men this question.

What is it?

He wants to be your hero. He wants you to think of him as your prince, your knight in shining armor. He wants you to look up to him and to respect him and to trust him. To be completely accepted by you.

He wants this just as bad as you want to be cherished and adored by him and to be the center of his world, to be the most important person in his world. More important than work or sports or any of his interests or hobbies. To be completely accepted by him.

They are kind of similar, these #1 desires, aren’t they? But they are also different. If you know these desires are almost universal, you will understand a lot about men and women.

(If you disagree, man or woman, please comment on this post. I want to hear from you!)

Now from observing your husbands, you might think the thing he wants most is to watch college football, play golf, collect tools, or to be physically intimate with you.

Those things may be what is showing up when what he really wants is something else but he can’t figure out how to get it.

The other thing that shows up when he can’t figure out how to get what he wants is an addiction of some sort, too often these days a roller coaster addiction to pornography. (That was a simplification; a pornography addiction is way more complicated than that, but what I am talking about here will play into it.)

My wife understands the need I have to be her hero, and she encourages me endlessly to be her hero by showing and telling me how I can be.

That is what the honey-do list is about at our house. It is actually the hero list. I know that and my wife knows that.

And what is the hero list composed of? It is a list of things that (1) she doesn’t know how to do; (2) are hard for her to do; (3) are too yucky or dirty or smelly for her to do; (4) are too scary for her to do; and (5) she is overwhelmed and just needs help.

That’s the way it is at my house. How about yours?

If you have a hero list for your husband, and most wives do, explain in a bit of detail why you want him to do the things on your list, why he is better suited to do them than you are. It will help him if you calmly share your feelings about the things on your list.

And when he does do them, thank him genuinely and let him know you admire him for what he can do to make your life better, easier and more convenient, even if he is not perfect at it.

You will get much, much more, over time, from your husband by praising him, intreating him, persuading him, coaxing him, encouraging him, honoring him, and respecting him, than by any other method.

Positive words will inculcate positive behavior. Usually.

If your relationship is way out of balance, though, meaning that you or both of you are using negative words and actions in an attempt to get your needs met, it will take awhile to bring things back into balance again. But err on the positive side of getting things done, remembering that:

That which doth not edify [build up] is not of God and is darkness (D&C 50:23.)

You can’t use darkness to bring forth light. You can bring light out of darkness, but you can’t use darkness as the instrument to produce light. It just will not happen.

In conclusion let me say that my wife is a world expert at this. She really knows how to make me feel like I am her hero. If I could read to you what she wrote in my birthday card this past week, you would know what I am talking about. The little positive, appreciative things she says and does, to support me in my far flung efforts to improve our lot temporally, is what I really want and need. It is wonderful.

I doubt myself, but I don’t doubt that my wife thinks of me as her hero. Knowing that in my core is what keeps me putting out my best effort, and bettering my best. And it makes it easy for me to adore her and to love her the way she wants to be loved.

Have fun with this. It is like a game! The funnest game there is, when you play it right.

How to Get Your Husband to Listen to You

Generally speaking—as if you haven’t already noticed—men and women communicate a little differently. Understanding the differences is important if you want to improve communication with your spouse.

I am not saying that men and women are always miles apart in the ways they talk, but that there are notable differences. I am not saying that men are always right in the way they communicate, or that women are always right. I am going to make a few rather broad generalizations, and hoping that as we gain more understanding, we will take positive action on what we learn.

This is a continuation (sort of) of the series “The Number One Complaint I Heard from Wives.” (Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.)

We like to joke about these differences. And sometimes we might put the opposite sex down, especially in their absence. I don’t do that and I don’t like hearing things like that. I don’t think it’s right or smart to disparage others. I want to understand others, especially my darling wife; I want to be part of the solution, not a liability to everyone around me.

Here’s a story that gives these differences in communication some perspective.

A few years ago, when our second oldest daughter was in college, she invited her roommates and friends over for a Sunday dinner. Our table was full. They are all wonderful girls. And it was a fun evening, if you were a girl.

I sat at the table as the lone male. I could not get a word in edgewise. I could not keep up with the conversation. It went too fast for me. Way too fast. Men out there, have you ever been in that spot?

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. I just am not fast enough to keep up. I thought at the time that it was actually kind of fun. Eventually, though, I left the table and crawled into my shell someplace else in the house, probably in the basement office, my favorite man cave. 

No doubt there are some males that could keep up with the speed of that conversation, but I am not one of them, and I have yet to meet one who is. If you are male and a supersonic talker, congratulations! How do you do it?

What I have learned from this and other experiences is that I am uncomfortable communicating when all alone in a roomful or car full of females. I am more comfortable talking one-on-one with my wife or daughters, or among couples. I am sure that women often feel the same way, too, that is, they might feel uncomfortable being in a situation where they are outnumbered by men. (But there is probably a reader out there who loves it.)

Here is another example. My wife and I went up to Park City for a few nights in August. We went to the pool while we were there. Actually, we moved back and forth between the hot tub and the pool. You know, the hot and cold thing. Anyway, there were two women in the hot tub. They were talking incredibly fast. No men were involved in the conversation to slow them down, so they were talking at light speed. Inwardly, I smiled, but I still couldn’t keep up.

I thought then, maybe women have to r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w d-o-w-n to communicate with men. Maybe that’s annoying to them. No, that’s too broad of a generalization. Or is it.

I don’t say any of this to deprecate men or women. There is just a difference, generally, between the way men and women think and talk. I haven’t captured all the differences, but one of the reasons why a difference exists, something I have mentioned in an earlier post, is that women have 40 percent more connections between the right and left hemispheres of their brains. That means that they can jump back and forth acrobatically between them. Amazing. Useful, too.

It also means that everything is connected to everything and when she is thinking and talking she is in a limitless ocean. When men think and talk, that ocean is held in individual and varying size buckets.  

This might be one of the reasons why, as a male friend said to me recently, women can “cover a lot of ground” when they get together. I think it is a wonderful quality; I just can’t participate fully. (Okay, maybe I’m just jealous or embarrassed that I can’t.)

So what’s my point? It’s a simple one. Ladies, when you think your man is not listening to you intentionally, he may just not be able to keep up with the fast pace at which you are delivering your message.

We men like to hide out in our boxes. We have a lot of them. The work box, the laptop box, the working-in-the-garage box, the golf box, the fishing box, the horse box (I have one of those), the blog box (I am in that one right now), the fill-in-the-blank box. (Usually, things are in those boxes, not people.) When we are in one of these boxes, we have a hard time backing out of it. It takes us a while. We like to concentrate and give something intense focus. My wife understands this about me. She gives me time to get out my current box to talk to me.

I am not trying to excuse men for not listening. I am just saying there is a difference here, though it might not be universal. He might be in one of his boxes—focusing narrowly on one thing—while you are trying to talk to him, and he may, therefore, have a tough time catching or focusing on everything you say until he has time to back out of his box.

There are things you can do. 

Once when my wife really wanted my attention and she see saw that I was distracted, she held my face between her hands and forced me to make eye contact with her. I remember when she did this. It was when our youngest daughter was small. She had to go away and wanted to make sure I attended to our little girl’s needs while she couldn’t.

It struck me as a tender thing. I didn’t feel put down when she did it. I think it was pretty cute, actually. And I got out of my box and listened.

Just last Friday when I was at work and we were chatting online, my wife asked, “Do I have your face?” We both know what that means, especially since we have been talking about it over the last little while.

Two other things that wake me up and get me into listening mode is when (1) my wife addresses me by name (“Mike?”) and waits until she sees my ears and eyes pointed in her direction before proceeding; and (2) she asks for my attention directly and won’t continue until she has it (but she doesn’t do this in a bossy way).

So, these three things my wife does help me give her my full attention: Hands around face (my favorite), addressing me by name, openly and directly asking for my attention.

In addition to this, let me say that it’s not my wife’s job to get me to listen and pay proper attention to her. I know it is the best and rarest compliment to give someone your full, sustained attention. It is a great gift, especially when it is voluntary. The need for attention from others, and all that it implies, is among the deepest human needs.Without it, we shrivel and die, first inwardly and then outwardly.

That is why I try to give others this kind of attention. I try to give my wife this kind of attention every day. Nothing says “I love you” like giving someone your intense interest and attention.

I have a lot to learn about how to communicate better with my wife. But it is fun game, and now that I know a few of the rules, it’s even more fun.

I am not saying women are better communicators than men. But I will say that I think women are often but not always better at communicating their feelings than men, and that it is frustrating to wives when their husbands clam up and won’t talk about what is going on inside of them. That was the number one complaint I heard as bishop: men not talking, especially about their feelings.

Wives can’t force their husbands to talk, but they can draw them out. They can persuade them and encourage them. They are not powerless to change their situations. They may be frustrated—and I don’t blame them—but they are not powerless. My wife has ways of getting my attention and drawing me out. She does it gently, so I trust her. She is safe to talk to, and she hears more about my feelings than she used to because of it.

I still have a long way to go, but I am making progress.

The Number One Complaint I Heard from Wives (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a discussion I started last week in Part 1

I would like to confess one of my bad habits: I wait until the last minute to pack for a trip. Not every time, but usually.

There are too many details to manage in my detail-oriented mind. It shorts me out, so I put it off until the clock forces me to act. Bad policy, I know.

This drives my wife to distraction. I don’t blame her. I am not proud of my disorderly conduct, especially when I really like things to be orderly.

I took a short trip last week. I knew I had to pack by early Tuesday evening. I have a packing list—several, actually (one for regular trips, another for camping). When I focus on a list, I do a much better job of packing.

What would you expect my wife to say? Hmmm. She said just two things.

Thing #1, in a kind tone (really): “Would you like me to help you pack?”

I told her at what time I planned to pack and that I was using my “list,” which I now store as a checklist in Evernote.

Then a little later, thing #2: “Are you sure you don’t want my help?”

By then I was mostly packed.

My very kind wife of 32 years, who could predict my every move, refused to naggravate the situation by throwing spicy words at me. Instead, she conquered me by kindness. Or, better, she helped me conquer myself through her kindness.

Rather than sniping and griping, she offered her help, without saying things like “You always…” or “You never…” Unwilling to belittle me, she completely won me over with her love. She used her power to persuade me, not her bitterness to force me. I get packed with time to spare, and she keeps her sanity, and our love is stronger. Wonderful arrangement, don’t you think?

But life goes fast and we get in a hurry and we tend to rush the ones we love and forget that the power of patience must preside over every relationship. Patience pushes out the boundaries of love so it can grow ever larger.

With our patience we say, “I love you, so I will help you. I love you, so I will wait.”

When you are involved with a human being, patience is an absolute requirement if you want that relationship to last and grow.

My wife has no trouble getting me to talk to her. Can you see why?

P.S. Ours is not a storybook relationship yet. We still, each of us, can get a bit snippy. But that is getting more and more rare as time passes.