I’d love to say that I’m an expert. I’m not. I have no fancy degrees in “couple-hood counseling” or whatever the latest is. I’m not anybody’s whole life coach, and I don’t have all the answers to anything. What I am is a woman of 51 years, who is (finally) in a truly happy relationship, and I’ve learned some stuff. I’m here to share it.
First, I’d like to say that categorically, I hate articles that categorize that ‘all men’ are like this and ‘all women’ are like that, or all men or women want ‘this or that’. All men and all women are individuals. What works for one couple will perhaps not work for another. What I hope to do here is just offer some suggestions and insights that have worked for me. Give them a shot, see what happens!
Now, here’s a short list for both men and women:
- Women: Stop reading Cosmo Quizzes to find out ‘If He’s Cheating’. Stop snooping around in his phone or his email. If you’re concerned about an issue in your relationship, sit down and calmly express what you are sensing. Don’t accuse. Use language that expresses what is going on with YOU. “I’m concerned about ______.” Allow him to speak to you. Shut up when he talks. Give him time to finish his thoughts. Allow pauses in the conversation. Let him think. Be present and calm.
- Men: LISTEN when your woman speaks. When my son was about 3 years old I was in the kitchen doing dishes while he was talking to me and he kept saying, “Listen, Mamma, listen!” I kept saying, “I am, Honey!” and kept doing the dishes until he said, “No Mamma, listen to me with your eyes.” I dropped the damned dishes and listened. Men, listen to your woman with your eyes. Give her all of your attention for 15 minutes and then you can go back to whatever else you were doing. Be available. She’ll feel cherished by this. (Oh, and don’t cheat. If you want out, get out. It’s really as simple as that. If you want many women, go be a single guy who dates many women. Cheating makes everyone crazy, including you. Gals, same goes!)
- Women: Ladies, give up the fairy tale. Fairy tale expectations define you as a powerless reflection of a man. When you buy the fairy tale, you believe that you must be weak and accommodating. Heres a little secret; many, many men do not like that. Most men want you to be independent. He wants you to have an opinion, he wants you to have your own life, instead of just wrapping yourself around his. If everything is all about him, he may just get bored. And guess what, so will you.
- Men: Make special occasions SPECIAL. They tend to mean a lot to us. If there are gifts involved, and you don’t know what to get, ask for advice–and not from her! She has girlfriends, sisters, a mom; ask them for insight. WRAP THE GIFTS, or pay someone to do it for you. Many stores gift wrap. Get a card. It’s stupid, we know that. But get a card, and sign it, because it delights us. And don’t do it with an attitude of drudgery. Nothing steals the joy from an occasion like a man grumbling about how much he hates it. Do this with joy and watch how she responds. You won’t be sorry.
- Women: ASK YOUR MAN what he wants for his special occasions. Ask what he wants for his birthday, for Christmas. Just because you adore a big party with fancy food and everybody dressing up doesn’t mean he does! It might be his idea of torture. Tell him he can have whatever he wants and do that joyfully. If all he really wants is to stay home, order in pizza and throw his arm over your shoulder while the two of you watch the game, make it so. If it’s the Science Center and a Liam Neeson movie, so be it! BELIEVE him when he tells you what he wants. Do not make a bug fuss if he says he does not want one. He means what he says.
- Guys, don’t let a woman emasculate you in public and then shame you when you don’t show up like John Wayne in the bedroom. (Gals, there’s a little something for you to pay attention to here, too…) If a woman wants to control every move you make, if she micro-manages the way you fill the dishwasher, and publicly complains about the fact that you like to sit around in your underwear all weekend, or makes fun of you when you drop a bite of spaghetti on your shirt in public, do you really think you’re going to feel like superman when it comes time for sex? My guess is, she’s micromanaging you there, too. *Here’s an interesting tidbit: The biggest complaint that I hear from other women is that they want their men to be more in control in the bedroom. They want to feel his power, and his desire; his maleness. They want to feel his strength, and how his hard body meets their soft body. (Musculature, bones, –this is not about needing perfect bodies or criticizing anyone’s shape or size.) So, don’t allow a woman to push you around, especially if you want a sparking sex life!
- Women: Stop expecting your men to act like your girlfriends. He loves you, but it’s quite likely that what Margie said to Betty about that skirt that you bought a week ago sounds like white noise to him. (This is not to trivialize what women have to say, but the truth is that often the stuff we care about doesn’t make sense to our partners.) If it’s burning a hole in your psyche and you’re dying to talk about it, call a gal pal. Most men would rather talk with you about the bigger things as opposed to the smaller things. (What do you BOTH enjoy? Share those things with him in depth.)
- Men: Sometimes listen to the story about what Margie said to Betty about her skirt that she bought last week. Sometimes. And understand that it’s important to her. And while we are on the subject of communication. Tell her she’s wonderful. (I work every day to keep the roof over our heads, doesn’t she know I love her? — Sure she does, and she still likes to hear it!) Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her that she is the bright light in your world. Love words are magical for us. We love to hear them, and they bring you rewards. Trust me.
- Women: Let your man spend time with his friends. Encourage him to have male friends. ENCOURAGE him to spend time with them. Men need other men. We have this weird cultural thing going on where we view men as these solitary beasts who only need a woman to bed, a leg of mastodon to chew on, and a job to go to. Wrong. Men need emotional support from other men. Even if it comes in the form of a sock on the arm, and sitting in silence together as they drink a beer and watch a game at the sports bar. It’s still support. It says, “I get you, brother.”, and they need it.
- Men: When you go out with your friends, don’t do stuff that you know will hurt your partner. Is the strip club really necessary if it bugs her? Do you really need to buy those girls drinks at the bar? If you want female attention, there’s a woman at home, who’ll likely give it to you if you ask. The reason so many women don’t like their men to have guy time is because they fear that you’re doing that stuff. Don’t, and when she asks you what you did with the guys, tell her. And don’t get defensive. She just wants to know that all is well.
- Women: Praise your man in public. At dinner parties, make a habit of telling everyone what a great job he did repairing the deck, or how he handled that awful job he was given at work with such dedication. Tell people about the great gift he gave you at Christmas. Praise him. That which you focus on, becomes more. If you constantly tell him he’s an ass, and make that clear in public, guess what he will become? Most men get very little praise in their adult lives. Be the one who notices his greatness. (What do you think that might do for your sex life?–BTW, praise him in the bedroom, too. When he rocks your world, tell him so!)
- Men: Every once in a while, make a plan for your woman. Call her from work and say, “Get dressed up, and be ready at 6:00. I’m taking you for a surprise evening.” (or if she’s not the kind of gal who likes that–‘Get your baseball togs on, I’m picking you up at 6:00”–make it what SHE likes) Get yourself looking sharp and then take her on an honest to goodness date. Wine and dine her. Take her to the game. Go to a play. Most women feel that the efforts they make in their lives for their loved ones go unnoticed. If she washes your clothes, packs your lunches, makes you dinner… whatever it is she does for you, surprise her with an evening she doesn’t have to plan. Watch her glow with happiness.
- Women: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER USE SEX AS A WEAPON, A REWARD, EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL, OR AN ASSERTION OF YOUR POWER. Sex is the time when you appreciate him the most. Sex is when you take joy in your connection together, when you give and receive pleasure, when you celebrate that you have chosen to share this only with each other, and savor it. Sex is the energetic exchange of your mutual appreciation and contribution to each other. Why on earth would you want to turn it into anything else? Never withhold sex as punishment. That’s a wall, that once erected, is hard to take down.
- Men: A little romance goes a long way. Rolling over and grabbing a boob gets the message across, but stroking her hair and telling her she’s beautiful, she’s wonderful and you love to touch her, might just jump-start the kind of mutual ‘I want you now!’ that you’re really looking for. We love it. And believe it or not, we really DO want you, too! Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, we’re hungry for you, too. You’re awesome, delicious and when you take the time to start our engines, we are more than happy to go for a drive!
- Men and Women: This world seems to have polarized into a kind of weird battle of the sexes where we are at war with the other sex! As my boyfriend so succinctly puts it, “Cut that sh@t out!” Appreciate each other. Be fully in the moment together. Give each other space. Laugh together. Love each other’s quirks and be there when one of you is sad, or lost, or uncomfortable. Be the partner you desire. Be the soft place for your partner to land. Stop demanding, and battling. Reach for joy.
Just BE, together.
Cheri is a writer, writing coach and hosts Creative Energy in YOU on A2Zen.fm.
She is available for speaking, coaching and workshops.