Friday, January 8, 2016

5 Ways to Love Your Wife

Women are complicated. This is a well-known and widely accepted fact. It tends to be easier to follow a man's logic than it is to follow a woman's. Women cry for no reason, have hormones that are almost impossible to keep under control (and every malady that affects our bodies wreaks even more havoc on those hormones, not to mention that lovely monthly cycle that seems to create a truck load of problems all its own). 
It's also a widely accepted fact that men and women are different. 

Duh.

We think differently, we act differently, we are wired differently. Different factors motivate us, we have different physical capabilities (well...most of us). 

Women are upset by different things than men.
And all the husbands in the house said "Amen!"
And all the wives rolled their eyes...

It's not rocket science. We aren't supposed to be exactly the same, and thank goodness for that. We need to balance each other out. I need my husband's analytical, logical, thinks-of-all-scenarios, deliberate-ness to offset my spontaneous, scatterbrained, no-I'm-not-sure-why-I-did-that, emotionally-driven mindset and vice versa. I bring the fun, spontaneity, and heart to the relationship and he brings the responsibility, steadiness, and ambition. We drive each other crazy complete each other. 

That being said, I understand that there is still a certain level of frustration involved when you're romantically dealing with a woman; specifically a woman you are married to. If that's the case, I have a few tips for you that are based off of my own, albeit very limited, experience. These aren't foolproof and they won't solve all of your problems, but I think they're a good place to start. 

1. Be willing to share the blame.
Honestly, this one goes both ways because I am just as (if not more) guilty of this as Jake has ever been. I know that the running joke about marriage is that the man can either be right or happy; not both. Men are jokingly encouraged to learn the phrase "You're right, honey." The truth is (and maybe this is just me...but I don't think so) that is infuriating. The last thing a woman wants is your pity or your ridiculously transparent attempt at avoiding any more of the argument. There needs to be a genuine acknowledgement of what you've done wrong. I'm no statistician, and I don't have any data or studies to back this up, but I would be willing to guess that at least 90% of arguments in a marriage (or any relationship, for that matter) are due to a fault in both parties. One person may hold more of the blame than the other, but most of the time there's something each person could've done differently to avoid the situation. Don't be so blinded by your anger or your desire to teach a lesson or prove a point or to be right that you ignore how you could've handled the situation differently to produce a more favorable result. And trust me, it'll take your wife by surprise. I doubt she'll anticipate you acknowledging that you've messed up, too. If you are genuine and don't come off like you're just saying it to get her to shut up then most of the time she will be caught off guard enough to slow down and listen. If both of you can admit where you were wrong then it makes it a lot easier to reach a resolution. Also, admitting where you're wrong means that you have to actually listen to the other person and let them know you care about how they feel and what they are saying. Coming from a person who really struggles with admitting when she's wrong, I can say from experience that arguments always have a better, more peaceful, more concrete resolution when I can admit - and I mean really, genuinely, and thoughtfully admit - when I'm wrong.

2. I don't care who she is, she likes romantic gestures.
It doesn't have to be big, expensive, or flashy. Do something that shows her you were thinking of her when she wasn't around. Bring home flowers after work on a random Tuesday for no reason. If she is usually the one who does the grocery shopping and the meal planning, cook her dinner. You don't have to create a gourmet meal, just show some effort. And clean up after yourself. You'll undo everything if she has to clean up the kitchen after you; that kind of defeats the purpose. Leave her a sweet note somewhere you know she'll find it when you aren't there. Bring home bubble bath, a bottle of wine, and a scented candle and tell her she deserves a good relaxing soak. Send a card to her work. Even something as simple as a text message during the day that says "I was just thinking about you and I hope your day is going well," can make her feel special. That's all romance is, really; making a woman feel like she is special to you. Let her know she's on your mind. Let her know she means something to you. Don't just do it when she's mad, that's slightly selfish on your part because she knows it's a hollow gesture intended to get you out of trouble. Do it just because. 

3. Learn her love language.
If you can handle this one, then you'll probably be covered on all the rest. There's a book you can read by Gary Chapman about the 5 different love languages, but you don't need to be that studious about it if you aren't the type. All you really have to do is just pay attention to the things that make her feel loved, and keep in mind that her love language may be different from yours. In fact, most people show love in the way they would like to receive it. For instance, if your wife's love language is words of affirmation, then she may compliment you frequently. She is modeling for you the way she wants you to love her. You probably do the same thing. If your love language is acts of service, then you probably expect her to notice when you wash the dishes, mow the lawn, or help with the laundry. Humans are selfish beings. We project ourselves - our feelings, thoughts, etc. - onto others. Because of this, we tend to show affection to our spouses and loved ones the way we would like to receive affection, instead of the way those we love would like to receive it. There's actually a quiz you can take online (here's the link http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/couples/). I'm mostly "words of affirmation," followed by a hefty helping of "receiving gifts." Honestly, the gift one annoys me a little, because it makes me feel materialistic and superficial; but, I enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them and I think that's part of it. I spend a lot of time picking out gifts for the people I love because I want to get the perfect thing. So, I tend to assume that gifts mean time, effort, energy, and a true knowledge of the other person. In fact, this point was originally going to be something about surprising her with a small gift for no reason, but that seemed too specific, and if she isn't a gift person like I am then that won't minister to her the way she might need. 
Figure out what her love language is. Learn what you can do that will serve as an outward manifestation of your love for her and keep doing that thing. It'll pay off in the long run, and it may even result in her paying attention to your love language as well.

4. Yelling creates more problems than it solves.
The main reason I've added this point is because I'm so terrible at it. I can't tell you how many times I've fallen prey to the belief that louder = winning. First of all, in a marriage it's never about winning. That's a point I could probably write an entire blog post about if I weren't constantly forgetting it. I'm driven by my emotions. If I feel it, I typically act on it; and if I don't it's only through a sheer force of will. This temperament tends to lead to yelling during arguments. I yell because I believe I'm right and that you aren't listening. I yell because I want to make sure I'm heard. It seems logical, but it never actually works that way because when I yell that also tells you I don't want you to be heard. Yelling is counterproductive. Jake immediately shuts down when I yell, and I do the same when he does (although he does it a bit less often...). 
Yelling is a 100% guaranteed way to ensure that the other person stops listening to you or caring what you have to say. Once you yell at someone, you are essentially communicating to them that their opinions don't matter as much as yours and that you are done listening or trying to effectively discuss anything with them. 
I am a word person. I love literature, so it makes sense that I love words. I think that all plays in to the fact that my love language is words of affirmation. And maybe this is just me, but when I'm yelled at it really has a negative effect on me. If the best way to show me love is to speak kindly to me, then it makes sense that unkind and harsh words would be just as effective to me as kind ones. I don't love that about myself, but it's part of who I am.
I'm confident enough to posit that most women don't like to be yelled at. It's the quickest way to shut them down. Don't yell at us. I know we may make you want to - a lot - but you're only making the problem worse when you lose your temper and yell. Maybe sometimes we deserve it, but we don't always, and even when we do someone needs to step up and be the bigger person. 

5. Remind her why you love her.
I know I keep going back to the love languages thing, but from a 'words of affirmation' person, this is huge. Even if this isn't your wife's love language, it's still huge. Remember back when you first started dating? You'd speak softly and sweetly to her, telling her how beautiful she is, how you couldn't imagine spending your time with anyone else, how she has such a big heart, how [insert any other cheesy/romantic/gag me comments here]. Eventually, that initial infatuation fades. It's inevitable. If you do it right and work hard enough at it, it should be replaced with a deep love and respect for the other person that lasts longer and runs deeper than infatuation or puppy love. 
But the truth is, you can't re-create the feelings of wonder (and slight obsession) in the relationship that you had in the beginning. That's ok. But sometimes, she needs a reminder of what it is about her that initially got your attention, and what it is about her that still takes your breath away. Because even after the butterflies fade, there should still be something that makes you think, "Wow, I can't believe she's mine." Tell her that. Women tend to have self-image issues. Some of us are more confident than others, and not all of us fall prey to the increasingly ridiculous body standards and social demands placed on us by society. But even the most confident of us have our days where we feel worthless, ugly, useless, and unwanted. Every now and then, take the time to tell her how much she is worth to you, how beautiful she is, how much you appreciate her, and how much you desire her. And for goodness sake, let her know that you support her. Be proud of her accomplishments, whether they are at work or at home. Make sure you are communicating to her that you support her decisions and trust her judgement. You should be her biggest fan, her loudest cheerleader, her most devoted groupie. A well placed word of confidence goes a long way in the heart of a woman. We try to act like it doesn't really matter, but it does. 

Some might argue that I'm too young and I haven't been married long enough to give anyone advice on marriage. I would agree completely. But I do feel like I have enough experience as a female person to claim that these 5 things are- for the most part- universal when it comes to women. I would write a post geared towards wives, but I feel like that would be hypocritical because I know I have waaaay more work to do before I can claim that I am qualified to give wifely advice. Although, I do think these 5 things can be applied to wives as well as husbands. 
Marriage is hard. It doesn't matter how often people tell you that, nothing can prepare you for how hard it actually is except marriage itself. It makes me think that people who believe love is a feeling we can't control are ignorant naive. There are plenty of days where I don't feel like loving my husband and Lord knows there are plenty of days where, if I were him, I wouldn't feel like loving me. Love is a choice. You have to wake up every day and decide to love your spouse. You have to act on that decision when they annoy you, make you angry, upset you, and let you down. Because they will do all of those things at some point. We are human and we are fallible. Nothing about us is perfect and the way we love each other is no exception. 

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