Tag Archives: spouse

7 Simple Ways to Treat Kindly

My recipe for a perfect marriage has two ingredients. The first is choosing wisely.  When people don’t choose wisely, start grinding out kids, and then call my show, there’s not a lot I can do to help them.  The second ingredient is treating kindly.  Treating kindly means behaving in a loving way whether you feel like it or not.  The fact is, when you act in a loving way, you actually feel more loving.

So, what can you do to keep your spouse happy and feeling loved?  You may think saying, “I love you,” every now and then means you’re racking up points, but unless you back it up with actions, your words are empty and hollow.  There’s a big difference between words and actions. 

Here are some suggestions (remember, these are only suggestions – use your imagination):

  • Write a poem.  I don’t care whether you know how to rhyme or not, write your spouse a love poem.  It doesn’t have to be a work of art, just something short and sweet.  It shows that you put in some thought and effort, and that he or she was on your mind.  After you write the poem, leave it by their pillow or coffee.
  • Surprise them.  While your spouse is still at work or out with the kids, put out some candles and cook their favorite meal.
  • Do the little things.  Do the laundry or the dishes without making a big deal about it or having it seem like it was some heroic effort. Just do it!
  • Remember the special times.  Guys, listen up: remember her birthday and your anniversaries (your wedding, the first time you kissed, when you first met, etc.).  She’ll love that you remembered.
  • When you first get together after a long day, take time to just chat.  Sit down in your living room or on the porch, have a glass of wine, and say, “Let’s talk about the cool things that happened today.”  The first thing a lot of people do when they get home is just bitch about all the crap that happened that day.  Who wants to hear that?!  You’ve been away from each other for a long time and you’ve both had to deal with difficult things.  Don’t sit there dueling about whose day was more difficult.  Just clink glasses, rub your toes together, and talk about some good things that happened.  Wouldn’t that make for a much more pleasant atmosphere?
  • Leave them little notes.  Texts are OK, but not a tenth as good as hand-written notes.  A hand-written note requires getting out a pen and paper, writing the note, and putting it somewhere.  For example, place one in the refrigerator so that when your wife goes for the baby’s bottle, she sees, “You are the best mommy and I love you.”
  • Arrange a date night.  Find a babysitter: your mom, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, grandparent, etc.  For all you men reading this, here’s an idea: When you come home from work, pick up your wife and carry her to the car.  Whatever way she’s dressed will tell you what kind of restaurant to go to.
  • Take a bath together.  Hop in the tub and sit there talking, giggling, and giving each other back and foot rubs.

It doesn’t require a lot of time or brilliant creativity to show your spouse that you love them, but it does take effort.  And if you behave in a loving way, it will magnify your own feelings of love because loving actions make us feel loving.

Getting Along with Your In-Laws

Generally speaking, the divorce rate is lower for people who have good relationships with their in-laws.  However, the sad reality is that the majority of husbands and wives do not. 

For the most part, it’s the daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law who take issue with one another.  According to a study conducted by Terri Apter, a psychologist at Cambridge University, 60 percent of daughters-in-law report having a stressful relationship with their mother-in-law, but only 15 percent of sons-in-law do.  The primary reason: mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law feel a need to compete.

Let’s break it down.  A mother gives birth to her son and puts all her energy into raising and caring for him.  Then, this other woman comes along and takes him away after only knowing him for maybe two or three years.  This is what sets the stage for the competition between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.

My first rule for all you daughters-in-law out there is to stop being so prickly and try to look at things from your mother-in-law’s point of view.  I recently had a caller on my program who felt insulted because her live-in mother-in-law was constantly cleaning her house for her.  From the mother-in-law’s perspective, she was simply trying to have a purpose – instead of sitting around watching TV all day, she wanted to do something.  However, the caller interpreted her cleaning as a hint that she couldn’t take care of her own house.  I advised the caller not to confront her mother-in-law, which would only make her upset.  I told her instead to think about things from her mother-in-law’s perspective: How was she feeling?  What did she need?  

Another piece of advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff.  People say and do things all the time that they may not intend to be hurtful.  Be able to stand back and ask, “Does this person really want to hurt or harm me in some way, or are they just being a little assertive, overbearing, or excited?” 

Next, always try to avoid the criticism or insultListening will win you more points than arguing. 

In addition, remember that everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Find ways to show your in-laws respect.  Take your mother-in-law out to lunch for her birthday, or remember to send a card and/or flowers on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. 

Finally, don’t always think of your in-laws as “the in-laws.”  They can certainly be your friends and mentors.  Try to get involved with something they enjoy, like gardening or golf.  At the very least, sharing a common interest with them will give you something to talk about during family dinners and holidays.

Now, there is a caveat to all of this.  Some people simply have mean and nasty parents.  If that’s the case, you can expect that no matter how hard you try, they will create stress for you and your spouse.  Don’t let them.  Husbands and wives need to watch each other’s backs.   Mark my words, if you side with your parents against your spouse, it’ll be “The End.”  If her mother is being a pain, then she should talk to her.  If his mother is being a pain, then he should talk to her.  Don’t allow them to tear your marriage apart.

How to Pillow Talk

Should you and your spouse engage in pillow talk when your heads are on the pillow? 

Most people don’t communicate about sex in general, much less when they are in the middle of it.  There are some reasons for that.  You could be afraid of your husband or wife getting angry and interpreting it as criticism.  You may also be worried about making them feel inadequate or spoiling the mood.  Or, you may simply not care about pleasing your spouse (yes, there are people like that out there).  But generally, I think that while you’re having sex is not the best time to be talking about it.

There has been significant research showing that non-verbal communication while having sex is a lot more effective and fulfilling.  “Non-verbal” means the way your body moves and the sounds you make (e.g. the moaning and the groaning, the “Yes, that’s good, a little more to the left…Oh, that’s fabulous,” and the “Let’s try ___”).  Even though you’re speaking, it’s not really verbal – you’re just egging on the situation.

However, it is still very important for married couples to talk about these things because it leads to more satisfaction in their relationships.

So when is a good time?

When you’re not in the bedroom. 

At some point in the near future, say to your spouse, “You know when you did such-and-such?  That really turned me on.”  He or she may not even remember that they did it, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s really important that you give each other positive strokes – literally and figuratively.  It should all be enthusiastic, and none of it should be critical.  The second your statements start turning critical, it’s over.  Your spouse will realize that they didn’t please you, or even worse, that you’ve been miserable for a very long time. 

In addition, when you are talking about it, try saying something like, “Oh yeah, honey, that felt good.  Do you want to try doing ____ while you do that?  I think I’d like to know how that feels.”  In other words, you’re not critiquing your spouse – you’re exploring your own body. 

Husbands and wives are usually enthusiastic about pleasing each other, and yours will most likely be willing to try something out (unless you’re asking for kinky, weird stuff).  Just remember, people who communicate their enthusiasm, interests and positive reactions have more fulfilling sex lives with their spouses.

Keeping Secrets from Your Spouse

Just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be said.  Everything that crosses your mind shouldn’t necessarily come out of your mouth.  Honesty is sometimes a cross between stupidity and cruelty, and when it comes to keeping secrets from your spouse, honesty is not always the best policy. 

The most successful long-term relationships are based on very strong emotional and physical connections.  However, intimacy is not necessarily equated with absolute and complete honesty. 

There are obviously some things you ought to be honest about:

Debt.  I’m amazed at how many times I talk to somebody who wasn’t told that their spouse-to-be had college loans, credit card debt, and no money in the bank until after they were married.  A lot of times people don’t find out that their new spouse is in debt until they see their credit when they’re applying for a mortgage.  Hiding bad money skills leads to feelings of betrayal and mistrust that can sometimes never be overcome.  A lot of people walk away from marriages in which their spouse put the family in debt due to their spending or unwise financial schemes.

Eating disorders and substance abuse.  If you have an eating disorder or a substance abuse problem, you have to disclose it in advance.  Ongoing substance abuse or addiction will almost always interfere with intimacy.   Why?  Because something else is more important than your spouse.  Unless it’s dealt with, addiction will destroy just about every relationship.  That’s the truth.

Past illegal activities.  It’s best to reveal and explain past crimes and jail time because not only are they available on public record, but keeping them hidden only fills you with enormous guilt.  And if you’re exposed, it will scare everybody into thinking that the behavior could be repeated.

Molestation.  There was a period of a couple days where it seemed like just about every woman who called in to my show had been molested when she was younger and had no interest in having sex with her husband.  I put a question up on my website asking women who had been molested if they thought female molestation victims should ever get married.  When reading the responses, I was shocked to find that most of them said, “No.”  That blew my mind.  Quite frankly, I didn’t expect that would be the answer.  Considering this, I think that if a molestation is clearly still part of your life today, you need to tell your spouse-to-be.  Generally when a woman is a victim of molestation, the molester never gets exposed and the woman feels residual fear and anger.  They feel bitter about justice not being served and get mad at their parents and whoever else failed to protect them.  However, it’s their spouse who ends up getting the brunt of it because that’s the one area where the victim has power.  Withholding sex from their spouse, for example, is a way they maintain that power.  It’s not really all that complicated.  Past molestation should be revealed because it can lead to a very painful marriage if left concealed.

Lack of sex drive.  There are a lot of women who keep their disinterest in sex a secret and fake their orgasms.  Some guys keep their Viagra in a hiding place.  Although we live in a culture that is erotic and pornographic, we don’t seem to be able to talk about intimacies with the people we’re closest with.  Every day I get a call from some man or woman upset because they have misinterpreted their spouse’s physical disinterest as a lack of love and caring.  The first thing I always recommend for couples to do in this situation is for them to each get a complete physical.  Check everything out.  Examine your hormone levels because they have a lot to do with your sex drive.  Next, take a look at your schedules and lifestyle.  What is it that’s making you tired or preventing you from being playful and affectionate?  It’s sometimes advantageous to talk to an independent third party like a therapist or a religious person who has counseling experience.  

Because of the above concerns, I think it’s important that you go through six months of premarital counseling with your spouse-to-be so these secrets get uncovered.

However, not everything needs to be shared with your spouse.  Intimacy and complete openness are not one and the same.  You need to share your vulnerabilities with each other, but you also have to be sensitive to the consequences that sharing brings. 

Affairs.  I’ve had a lot of people call in to my show saying, “Oh my gosh, I had a half-hour fling, but I know it was stupid and wrong.  I understand why I did it, and I take full responsibility for my actions.  What should I do?  I don’t want to lose everything I have.”  My response is, “Well, get yourself tested to make sure you didn’t contract a disease, and then keep your mouth shut until the day after you’re dead.”  A lot of times, the spouse who had the affair wants to unburden themselves so they can feel better.  However, if they do, they are only going to destroy the trust in the marriage forever.  If you’re truly remorseful and you’re not going to repeat the stupid mistake, it’s best to just get on with life.

Not everything that can be said should be said.  If you have fantasies about someone, don’t tell your spouse.  You’re only going to make him or her feel inadequate.

Just about everybody has a list of stuff they’ve done when they were younger that they’re not proud of and they’ve learned from.  If a past behavior is clearly no longer part of your present (e.g. speeding tickets, fist fights, etc.), file it in the “private” cabinet and keep it to yourself.  Keep it safely between you and you.  If it’s seriously no longer part of your life, leave it alone because you’ll be judged by what is no longer true.