Catholic marriage is the permanent faithful union between a man and a woman. How to keep it permanent? Some suggestions for keeping it that way, from our friend Dr. Scott Haltzman.
How to Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever
By Scott Haltzman MD
I still remember the first time I met my wife. We were sitting across the dinner table from each other at a Mexican beach resort. I leaned over to my friend and said, "I like her!" Once I knew which woman I had my sights on, I made sure she knew how deeply and intensely I was interested in her. For the week we vacationed together, I greeted her each day with a smile, asked her what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go. Looking back, I have no doubts that paying attention to Susan, and actively seeking to meet her needs, attracted her to me. Now I'm not saying my good looks and humility didn't have something to do with it. But the difference between George Clooney and me is that I expressed an interest in Susan, and she knew it. (Good thing George didn't meet her first!)
Many men share similar recollections of courting their wives and falling in love. When future bride and groom meet, a sense of closeness and safety wrap around them like a protective cocoon. In the months or years before they exchange rings, couples dream about being together forever. This dream is nourished by the belief that passion is like crazy glue: once two souls are fused in marriage, they will forever stay cemented and support the other. But the marriage ceremony doesn't guarantee anything, except perhaps some extra place settings for your dinnerware collection. Like the saying goes, sooner or later “The honeymoon’s over.”
Contrary to the end of Disney movies, love doesn’t always conquer all. In fact, many couples that I see in therapy tell me the protective cocoon begins to feel like prison walls. When things start to go downhill, is there anything that a man can do to change this downward spiral? Yes. And surprisingly, keeping a marriage thriving doesn’t require much more of you than when you were dating.
So how do you draw your wife close to you? Think: Give. Most people settle into a relationship asking, "What can I get from this?" If you keep passing the hat looking for handouts, eventually you'll end up with an empty hat. I told you the story of my wooing Susan for a reason: because the very techniques I employed to make her pick me over all the men in the world—even George Clooney—is the strategy I use to keep her choosing me. Back then, I showered her with attention, I let her know I adored her, and I asked her in many different ways: “What can I do for you.” Today, I must do the same.
Your mission, Mr. Newlywed, should you choose to accept it, is to direct all your attention to making your wife feel like the most beautiful, bright, and wonderful woman in the world, just like you did when you first met her. Here are some practical tips to bring back that lovin’ feeling.
First, learn to listen. Most people listen just long enough to give their own point of view. When you do that, you jump to conclusions. If your wife says: “You’re not listening,” it’s because she doesn’t feel heard. Make sure she knows you are paying attention.
Second, spend time with your wife. It’s hard to undo your habits of regular weeknight poker games and Saturdays and Sundays on the golf course. But you have to expect that some of your bachelor habits must change when you get married—even if she seemed O.K. with them when you were dating.
Third: Show you love her with words and deeds. She needs to hear you care, and she needs you to show it. You may think that slaving at your job for eighteen hours a day is enough, but it’s not. Flowers, cards and candlelight dinners are still high on her wish list—and you’re the only one who can fulfill it.
Fourth: Think: “long-term dividends.” We’re told in the stock market not to run away when things aren’t going well. In marriage, you’ve got to keep your eye on the long-range goal. Staying with the woman you fell deeply in love with, and being a role model for your children and the community may seem like too much to bear when there’s conflict in the marriage. But remember to ask “What can I give?” and, over time, you’ll be gratified by how much you get.
Dr. Scott Haltzman, author and psychiatrist, is a married and lives in Rhode Island. Visit him at drscott.com.
©2012 Family Ministries, Archdiocese of Chicago