Remember when you and your sweetie were dating? Besides being unable to take your hands off each other and thinking about each other constantly, you most likely were engaged in a mutual admiration society — he’d tell you how beautiful you looked in that dress, she’d tell him that she loves the way his eyes turn from bluish to greenish on cloudy days. And every back rub, movie date, intimate dinner, weekend getaway — every little kindness you got or gave — was received with a heartfelt “thank you.”
Most relationships start off this way, and those loving beginnings are what send many couples walking down the aisle together to say, “I do.” They vow to care for each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part.” Oddly they do not vow to continue to be so kind and complimentary to each other. Perhaps they should — a study by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project indicates that generosity — “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — greatly contributes to marital happiness.
Well, this seems like a no-brainer. We like people who do special things for us, and it feels good to do the same for our loved ones, too. We want to feel appreciated. Famed relationship expert John Gottman suggests that the happiest couples are the ones who say or do at least five positive things for their partner for each negative thing. That’s the second principle in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work — “nurturing fondness and admiration for your spouse: This means laying down a positive view about your spouse, respecting and appreciating their differences.”
Yet, couples tend do the opposite. Couples start to take each other for granted after some time together. “Thank you” and “You look nice today” are forgotten or, worse, replaced by criticism, passive-aggression or focusing on the negative: “Why can’t you ever remember to ….” In fact, many wives are generally pissed off at their husbands, and if a wife’s feeling like her hubby isn’t pulling his weight, she’s probably not going to make it to five positive reactions a day — or maybe even a week.
This isn’t healthy in any relationship, married or not.
“My wife was constantly critical. She never let anything go. She bitched and she carped,” one man told Judith Viorst, author of Grown-Up Marriage: What We Know, Wish We Had Known, and Still Need to Know.” Eventually, he had an affair (and I’m not saying that this is the appropriate response). “The other woman wasn’t any sexier or prettier, but she seemed to approve of most everything about me.”
That might change if they were married for any length of time, however.
But, beyond feeling appreciated, at least he was getting sex (albeit outside the marriage), and the NMP study indicates that sexual satisfaction is even more important than kind words and acts in a marriage. This is a no-brainer, too.
As the report states:
(W)omen are more likely to report that they are sexually satisfied when they report that they share housework with their husbands. What happens outside of the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom.
It doesn’t take too much to get a woman out of the mood; if she’s angry (see above), stressed from caring for the kids, feeling like she’s the go-to person for all the emotional caretaking, feeling distrustful or even if her feet are chilly, she’s not going to get turned on. Men would be wise to take note of that.
That may explain why with as many as 20 million married Americans who aren’t getting it on with any regularity, the sexless marriage crisis may be more dire than the jobless situation. Lack of sexual satisfaction can lead to divorce.
So here’s my suggestion; start doing nice things while telling your spouse that he or she looks so sexy that you just can’t keep your hands off him or her (this shouldn’t be hard; we love our spouse after all, right?). Then, follow through.
Oh, and don’t forget to say, “Thank you” after.
- How important is sex in your relationship?
- How important is gratitude in your relationship?
- Are either or both being met?