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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, coaches Nicole Cunningham and Kim Giles share some tips for men and women to create healthier relationships.
The question you wrote about last week might as well be about the two of us. My husband and I both come from dysfunctional families and didn’t learn how to do relationships the right way. We seem to constantly disappoint and frustrate each other, and we are fighting way too often. He is never happy with our intimacy, and I never feel my needs are important, and sex is one more chore. How can we learn to have a healthy relationship if we’ve never seen one?
Unfortunately, most of us grew up watching parents who didn’t know how to do relationships right, and they couldn’t teach us what they didn’t know. So most of us need some tools and skills to improve our marriages. The good news is, it is never too late to start educating yourself and doing things differently.
Almost all the people we work with say the same thing about their marriage. They don’t feel their needs are getting met. They usually feel unloved, unappreciated and unwanted. The interesting part is both partners, in the same marriage, say the same thing. They both feel unloved, yet they can’t seem to find a way to give love to each other.
We believe the problem is twofold: 1. Your fears make you incapable of giving real love to your spouse because they keep you focused on what you need, and 2. Your subconscious projections are in the way of you seeing what your spouse needs.
Projections are the way you see the world through the lens of what your past experiences have taught you. This is not wrong, but these perspectives are not necessarily accurate or effective, either. They also mean you might have a tendency to love your spouse the way you want to be loved or were taught to love, not as your spouse needs or wants to be loved. You also may not know what you need to feel loved, or how to ask for what you need.
Your first job is to have awareness about these issues, figure out your core fears and values (and what makes you feel loved and safe) and accept the challenge to continually work on them, which is your main responsibility in creating a healthy relationship.
Here is a checklist for men and women with general guidelines of how to love your spouse the way they want or need to be loved:
1. Treat her like a queen, and be the cure to her fears. Most women have fears about not being good enough, so if you want a wife that is crazy about you, love everything about her, including her flaws and weaknesses. Comment often and validate how amazing and capable she is at running the house, tending to your children, her work, or managing and balancing all she does. Validate her kindness, her actions and her sacrifices.
Anytime she shows up for you with intimacy, be nothing but happy, and tell her she is amazing. Wives often feel they aren’t a success in this area, and if it becomes something that triggers her fears, she won’t be excited about more of it. Make sure you are the cure to her fear, the one place where she can’t fail and is always appreciated.
2. Drop the scorecard. Every time you do something nice for her doesn’t mean you deserve intimacy. Unfortunately, a lot of men engage in this hidden transactional agreement with their wives as a way to get the connection and touch they need. This transactional approach negates your gifts of service because you are only doing them to get what you want, which means the whole thing is really about you. If you are going to do something to help out, do it with no strings attached.
When you drop the scorecard, stop counting how often you are or aren't physically intimate, and focus on building your wife’s confidence and self-esteem instead, you will get a wife who is interested and offering herself to you because she wants to, which is really what you want, right?
When you make your spouse feel safe, valued and irreplaceable (as she is), she will begin to feel better about herself and her limitations, which is the primary reason she is not 100 percent comfortable with her sexuality in the first place. Women are super critical of themselves. They measure themselves, compare and often feel completely inferior as a wife, mother and sexual partner. This means it's even more essential for you to validate her and make her feel worthy of self-acceptance and your love.
3. Validate all her assets. Many women struggle with intimacy because they are not comfortable with their bodies or vulnerabilities. Many women do not believe they are beautiful, sexy or attractive enough for their spouse. They feel these limitations within themselves, and it impacts their ability to be connected to you. One of the greatest ways to move your wife out of this space is to validate her beauty, ask her to flaunt her assets with confidence and really enjoy herself, even with imperfections.
Dropping your expectations about how she should look, behave and perform helps her feel less burdened.
4. Be patient with your spouse. The realities of a women’s mind and emotions mean they are often overwhelmed. You are not last on her list by any means but, when there are children involved and a lot to manage, it might take some time to step into giving you attention. Don’t make a victim story about this and make it bigger than it is. She is not asking you to take a ticket; she just needs to empty her mind of the worries and tasks creating stress in her life before she can switch her focus to you.
1. Claim all the beauty you are. Your spouse wants your confidence and sass more than he does a supermodel body. Give yourself permission to step into your curves, your sexuality and your confidence. Every woman is beautiful, and you just need to flaunt what you have with your man. Give yourself permission to feel beautiful and sexy, and step into all that you are behind closed doors.
2. Be open to the idea of constant learning. A great love life and a healthy relationship is the long game plan in your marriage. Connection and intimacy are a big part of this successful long game, but this requires you to stay open to feedback and be teachable. You and your spouse have to communicate about intimacy to make it amazing for both of you.
When you get loving feedback from your man, don't react with fear or drama about it. Remember it isn’t about your value, it’s about growing together. Don’t be insulted and build walls around your heart.
Drop all expectations of perfect — it doesn’t exist. The perfect marriage is a delusion. Instead, invest in the long game of growing and learning together.
3. Be realistic. Some women have incredibly high standards for themselves and others. Their investment in perfect behavior is high, and maybe we have Disney or other media to blame. Are you still waiting for that Disney movie ending, to be rescued, or do you expect your spouse to make you feel whole and happy? Guess what, it’s not going to happen.
The truth is your happiness is your responsibility. No one can give it to you. Get into action to work on the aspects of your life you aren’t happy with. Hire a life coach to start healing and letting go of emotions, fears, actions and behaviors that are not serving you or your marriage. Do the work to create a life you are happy living in. Let go of your perfect expectations of your spouse and children, too, and let the whole family be a work in progress.
Your marriage cannot thrive if you are unhappy, and only one person can change that — you.
4. Stop the blame and shame game. Women who struggle with low self-esteem will subconsciously create drama and cast their spouse as the bad one, to feel better. Stop the blame and take responsibility for how you feel about yourself and the marriage you have created. It is at least half your fault. Get some professional help if necessary to help you own your part in the problem and grow.
Be proactive, so you are the one who makes your spouse feel good about himself. Be the cure to his fears of failure. Validate him, appreciate all he does and let him know you’re lucky to have him.
5. Make your spouse feel wanted daily. Work on your intimate life, and master the art of being comfortable in your own skin. Learn what you like and what he likes, experiment and be OK with setbacks in the process. A great life together will include having great intimate relationships you both enjoy.
Intimacy is about you too, ladies. Drop the shame, and decide to work on this aspect of your life together because you both deserve it. Making your spouse feel wanted will also make him adore you.
Improving your marriage will take some time and work, but it will go better faster with some additional tools and skills. Read the article from last week about using the platinum rule with your spouse, figure out your spouse's core values and fears and start giving your spouse what he or she needs, not what you need.
Last week's LifeAdvice
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