Marriage 101 Real advice from the real experts
A few years ago, my wife received an audio book from a friend and started listening to it while she did housework. I was never sure what the book said, but I did notice that whenever she had been listening to it my wife was extra nice to me. The book was called Light His Fire, by Dr. Ellen Kreidman. I recently contacted the author, who was gracious enough to grant the following interview; she shares tips on showing love to your spouse and making your marriage a priority.
Dr. Ellen has been featured on Oprah, The View and The Today Show.
Over 1 million of her programs have been sold.
The Donkey: Let’s say there is this husband who has been asked by his wife to rate her looks on a scale of 1-10? What should he do – avoid the question, lie, or be honest?
Dr. Ellen: LIE!!! (and here’s why)
First of all, if a woman asks that question, there’s a good chance she has not gotten a compliment on her physical appearance from husband for quite some time. She’s probably wondering if he still finds her attractive. I think a man should be more concerned about the effect his answer is going to have on his wife’s feelings than worrying about whether he should tell her the brutal truth. We lie to strangers all the time because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. For instance, if I came to visit you in your home and accidentally spilled soda all over your new couch, I’d be very upset. You would probably calm me down and tell me not to worry about it. But if one of your children did the same thing, I wouldn’t want to be there to hear you scream at him or her for the stupidity and lack of respect for the furniture.
If you started a new job and your boss came over and asked, “How is it going,” most of you would grin and say, “Fine.” You wouldn’t dream of telling him how overwhelmed you feel or how afraid you are that you’ll never learn it all. You’d save the truth until you got home, and then you’d dump it on the people you love.
If a good neighbor came up to you all upset because of the awful haircut he or she had just gotten, (and it really did look bad) most of you would say, “It’s not bad. In fact, I really think you look good.”
Even though we may not feel like it, we all smile pleasantly and greet people who we can’t stand, but are forced to work with. Why can’t we do the same thing with the people we love? Why can’t we say something complimentary and enjoy the feeling of giving someone else pleasure, even when we’re really feeling rather neutral?
I’m suggesting that we learn to give the people we love the most, what we somehow give instinctively to strangers and acquaintances. Initially, most men and women in my classes say, “Oh, I can’t say anything unless I mean it.” But when they stop to think about it, they realize that they say things they don’t mean to strangers all day long. Why not give the same gift to those you love? According to the dictionary, to appreciate means to increase in value. Increase the value of your spouse by giving her lavish praise and lots of compliments.
An ad in the personals of a New York paper read: I am 32, 6 feet tall, handsome, well built, athletic, intelligent, absolutely amazing and completely perfect in every way. I’d like to meet a woman who’ll humor me when I get like this.
Although the ad is written in a humorous style, I sense that inside that man, and every man, is a desire for his mate to see him as having all the qualities he wishes he had. Women feel the same way. They want to know that in your eyes, they are beautiful and no other woman compares to her. Alberto Giacometti, a twentieth-century sculptor said, “To look at the same face every day of the year and never fail to find something new in it is the greatest of adventures and greater by far than any journey ‘round the world.’
Noticing a woman makes her feel alive. It makes her feel like she matters to you. When she feels like she is invisible, a little part of her dies. So, if your wife is looking for some validation and asks you to rate her looks, I hope you’ll rate her a 10!
The Donkey: (Gulp) You make some great points. I’ll let “my friend” know. How can couples remain in love while raising children?
Dr. Ellen: I have asked hundreds of couples who are still in love with each other and whose children are happy and well-adjusted, the secret of their wonderful relationship. Although each couple may say it differently, the bottom line is always the same. Their relationship has been, is, and always will be, their top priority.
Even couples with five or six children seized the chance to make love when the baby took a nap or when the older children were in school. These happy couples are the ones who would hire a baby-sitter so they could go to a movie, for a walk or have a romantic dinner alone.
They are the ones who would trade baby-sitting with a neighbor so they could spend a weekend alone together. As the children got older, these parents taught their children to respect their privacy when the bedroom door was closed.
These were not terrible, selfish parents. On the contrary, theirs was the healthy, normal behavior of a couple who respected their own sexuality and valued the romantic love they shared.
The ideas below may seem far-fetched to some people but I have incorporated every single one of them in my own life. After 37 years of marriage, I am still in love with my husband and have raised 3 happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.
- A 10 Second Kiss Everyday – A peck on the cheek says, “I love you,” but a 10 second kiss says, “I’m still in love with you!”
- A 20 Second Hug Everyday – When giving a hug, focus on sending love from your heart. It takes at least 5 seconds to block out all the outside distractions and another 15 seconds to exchange that loving energy with one another.
- A 5 Second Compliment Everyday – When your head hits the pillow at night, ask yourself, “Did I make my mate feel good today? Did I give a compliment? If the answer is NO, you owe your mate two the next day.
- 30 Minutes of Dialogue Everyday – Share your day. You need to spend 30 minutes of uninterrupted time talking to each other every day. If you don’t, then the days become weeks, and weeks become months and before you know it, you’re sitting across from a stranger thinking, “I don’t know you!”
- Date Night Once a Week – It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as it’s just the two of you. You have 6 other evenings to be with your family and friends. This is your special night together.
- Schedule Intimate Time Together on the Calendar – We put doctor and dentist appointments on the calendar. We even schedule car maintenance on the calendar. We also need to put the person who means the most to us on the calendar.
- Do Something Spontaneous Every 6 Months – Inside every man there’s a little boy and inside every woman there’s a little girl waiting to come out and play. The man or woman who knows how to be playful is a joy in someone’s life.
- Once Every 3 Months Schedule an Overnight Stay at a Hotel – Everyone goes on a honeymoon. A mini-moon every three months is very important. You have to stop seeing each other as mommy and daddy and instead as lovers. Many hotels have inexpensive get-away packages. It will renew your mind, body and spirit and give you more energy when you return.
- Once a Year Take a One Week Vacation – You can be very creative so that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. You can make an agreement with a friend to exchange babysitting once a year. You can stay home and pretend you are at a resort. Having breakfast in bed, taking long walks, and just connecting in way that is not possible with your children there, fortifies your relationship for another year. Camping is another possibility. Going for hikes, eating whenever you want, sitting around the campfire, makes you more patient and relaxed when you return.
- Make a “Do Not Disturb” Sign for Your Door. Explain to your children that mommy and daddy need time alone. Help your children make a sign for their door as well.
Learning how to put fun, romance and communication in your relationship will form a solid foundation for your children. Remember, if you don’t have a love affair with your mate, someone else will!
The Donkey: I like the “Do Not Disturb” sign idea. I wonder if I can hang one on my neck and walk around the house with it so my wife won’t ask me to help out so much.
What do you think about Dr. Ellen’s suggestions? Have these kind of things worked for you?What are your tips on making marriage your top priority?