Staying Married: Listen to Your Wife; Talk to Your Husband

My husband forgot about the first Valentine’s Day after our marriage.

I didn’t get so much as a card.

That was what you might call a mistake on his part; one he has learned not to repeat.

The reason he’s learned this is because I told him. I didn’t go home from work that day (I was in the legislature at the time) and hit him with my purse. But I did tell him. And the next Valentine’s Day, I told him in advance.

Which leads me to half my point.

Women, if you want a happy marriage, do not assume that your husband understands what you want. Based on decades of happy marriage to the one and only love of my life, I can tell you that he does not.

He. Doesn’t. Have. A. Clue.

I grew up with an involved father-in-residence and then married another y chromosome type person and have lived out the rest of my life since then with him. This experience has led me to form a theory about the male brain.

It doesn’t think like ours.

From what I can tell, the male of the human species thinks that if he makes sure you go to sleep in a warm bed under a roof that doesn’t leak after eating three square meals and that every man around knows that insulting you will get him in a fight, well then, that’s love. And you should know it.

If he comes home at night and doesn’t dally with other women, if he would rather cut his arm off than raise a hand to you, if he provides for, protects and cossets you, he thinks he’s done everything any woman with half a brain could possibly want. He’s finished. Done. Through. In his mind, he’s got that good husband stuff handled and now it’s time to get a brewski and plop down in front of the television for some football.

You, on the other hand, need to be told that he loves you. You think that all this protecting, providing, cosseting stuff is just a sort of baseline that any decent person would do. You don’t want a bag of groceries … or … well … you do want a bag of groceries, but you want something that feeds your heart as well as your stomach. You want affection. And you want a few complimentary words thrown in with the affection.

The trouble is, he’ll never know this if you don’t tell him. In fact, if your way of telling him is to go off and throw a hissy fit and cry and slam doors and answer “Nothing!” when he asks you what’s wrong, he’ll never figure it out. Nothing comes of that kind of behavior except a husband who is convinced he’s married someone who has mental problems, and a wife who honestly thinks her husband does not love her and that she’s probably unattractive to him to boot.

So, the first half of the point I’m making is, wives, talk to your husbands. Tell him what you want. I don’t mean yell at him and demand what you want. Just … tell him. Be specific. If you want him to take you out to dinner, say so. If you want a box of chocolates, say that. Do not make him try to figure it out. He won’t. Because he can’t. His brain doesn’t think like yours.

After you’ve told him, let it go until the next Valentine’s Day or whatever it is you were telling him about rolls around again. Then, gently, gently remind him. As the big day comes into view (be it your birthday, your anniversary, Valentine’s Day or whatever) start reminding him a few weeks out. You don’t have to make an issue of it. In fact, you shouldn’t make an issue of it. Just use your knowledge of him and your relationship to go about the business of reminding him in the gentlest way possible. If you don’t remind him, he won’t remember. Not, mind you, because he doesn’t love you, but because he’s a man, and their brains don’t think the same way ours do.

Which leads to the second half of my point.

Men, if you want a happy marriage, listen to your wife. When your wife tells you and reminds you, that means she’s handed you the ball and you need to run with it.

Do not quibble about this. Listen to your wife. Go forth and buy chocolates, or make dinner reservations or whatever. It does not matter that you just rotated the tires on her car and filled it up with gas. If she wants dinner and a movie, give her dinner and a movie. And for pete’s sake, tell her she’s pretty. Stand in front of your bathroom mirror with the door locked and practice if you have to, but say it.

Wives, talk to your husbands. Husbands, listen to your wives.

And while you’re at it, forgive one another for the subtle differences between the sexes that make this post necessary. There’s a reason God made us like this. When husbands and wives cooperate with one another this way, love between them grows. Our differences, which can drive us apart if we are stupid about them, can also meld us together for life.

Now, husbands and wives, start talking and listening. Your lives and your family will be the better for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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