Browse the shelves at a bookstore and count the number of books offering advice, insight, and steps for better relationships. My search of the 500 pound gorilla of online book sales returned hundreds of hits on the topic. Some of the authors are well-known and have proven track records in relationship advice. Others are self-proclaimed purveyors of knowledge. Does one achieve expert status with a particular degree, a defined number of years in counseling practice, appearances on a select list of television broadcasts, or is the designation dependent on real world experience in a functioning relationship? Astute readers always ask, “Why should I read your book? Why should I believe your advice?”
I’ve been head-over-heels in love with Shawn since she first asked me out in early 1980. We became husband and wife in 1981. Does that make me an expert in relationships? No, but I do have a great deal of experience in one relationship. Shawn’s a precious lady, but I’m not going to spin a yarn and tell you our marriage has always been fluffy clouds and rainbows. On rare occasions I’ve asked myself, “What was I thinking when I married her?” I am certain she has wrestled with similar concerns.
What cements us together? Certainly our faith in God and our knowledge of His expectations play a major role. My job as husband requires continuing education and I learn better husband-ing (husbandry has another meaning, I think) through books, blogs, and practice. I recently acquired a copy of John Grey’s masterpiece Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Do tell. That book answers a bunch of questions.
Relationships fail from the destructive forces of erosion. The incessant drip of aggravation eats away at the foundation. Annoying habits, miscommunication, perceived and real slights, as well as the slow-burn of unresolved issues combine to overshadow the love and attraction that created the marriage in the first place. Neglect, the lack of meaningful investment, wears away the substance of the marriage. Over time the institution crumbles.
Men, if you want to keep the razzle-dazzle in your relationship let me share a simple, practical, and low-cost tip. Take out the trash. Yes, you read that correctly. Take out the trash without any need for her nagging or cajoling. Go through the house, gather the refuse, and get it outside to the can. Make it your habit, and take pride in doing the job right.
There’s no need to announce your actions but gaining indirect credit is possible. “Honey, I’m taking out the trash. Is there anything else that needs to be added?” You get credit for the effort, the thoughtfulness, and the initiative without tooting your own horn.
While you’re at it grab your tools and fix the drawer that sticks in the kitchen. No need to turn a spotlight on your work. Perhaps ask, “Love, can you try this drawer now, and see if you’re OK with it.” Give her a chance to test your work. Sneak in a big kiss and a full body hug. Invite her to call you with any further issues and don’t forget to clean up any mess created by the repair.
The male mind is often single-tracked while the female enjoys full blown multi-processing capabilities. As you gather your tools and leave the job site she’s dedicated some portion of her massively complex computer-like brain to answering a question, “What a wonderful hunk of manhood. He takes such good care of me. What can I do for him?”
Guys, do you see where this is leading? Warming the wife to the possibility of shenanigans begins long before we take the stairs three at a time on our giddy scamper to the bedroom. In this example we’ve focused on a small task that demonstrates our commitment to the relationship. We paid attention to her world and addressed a little aggravation that disrupts the calm. That whispered thoughtfulness on our part, if done with the correct spirit, shouts volumes to her.
I hear your questions.
Does this really work?
Yes, take my word for it, or spend $24.99 on another relationship book and grope in the darkness of babble-speak.
How long can I get away with this before she catches on?
Ask me again in ten years.
Men, take the discussion deeper if you dare:
- Ask your wife to share her top three needed repairs around the house. Talk about how to conquer these items.
- Ask what tasks you can lift from your wife’s list? Develop a habit of asking, “How can I help?” Be sincere. Follow through. Shawn’s grandmother told me, “There’s no such thing as men’s work and women’s work. There’s just work and both need to pitch in and get it done.” Wise lady.
- Ask, “Is anything eroding the foundation of our marriage? How can we repair the damage?”