If you're just joining this series, If you're just reading for the first time, the introduction to this series is here and part 1 on spiritual intimacy is here, and part 2 on emotional and physical intimacy is here.
Honey-Dos and Honey-Don'ts
We'd all like to believe that a fabulous marriage relationship just happens, and we don't even have to think about it. Well, we'd like that but it's not even close to reality. The truth is, marriage relationships can be quite complicated sometimes and if both parties are not willing to do what it takes to work through the rough spots they'll only get worse. You and your spouse might find yourself aptly described struggling with one of the categories of intimacy I've mentioned in the earlier posts in this series, or you might be facing quite different trials. Either way, life brings hard times and as a couple, as a team, you and your spouse need to band together and determine to work through those times if you want that awesomely wonderful relationship.
Toward that end, here is a list of things that will help. While this isn't an exhuastive list of suggestions, and while I will focus more on the DO list than the don't list, it's the most commonly forgotten list based on all I've read from professionals that counsel couples who's marriage has fallen onto hard times. Due to the fact that men and women think differently and respond differently, I'm going to point out what may seem obvious to some, but in reality isn't always that obvious. Sometimes it's not even obvious to the husband or the wife. For both men and women, learning and understanding that your spouse does think differently than you do and learning how to go that little extra step to make sure they know how loved and appreciated they are goes a very long way toward intimacy in all three areas, spiritual, emotional and physical.
I know someone who often says "don't tell me, show me". While words carry a lot of weight, actions often speak volumes themselves. Just by incorporating a few little things and by making simple gestures you're expressing your love and appreciation for your spouse in more than just words and it makes a world of difference.
FOR BOTH SPOUSES
Do pay compliments often - Don't use insulting or demeaning titles even in jest ("ball and chain", etc.). Both husbands and wives like to hear nice things from the other so when he's done a great job mowing the lawn and your yard looks quite lovely, make sure you tell him you think so. If she comes in the room in a pretty new dress, tell her how beautiful she is in the dress. On the flip side, don't ever call your husband or wife by a demeaning name even if it's in jest. Doing that actually brings an air of negativity (and insult, and disrespect) into your relationship even if it's not intended. Instead, use fun little pet names that makes the other one smile.
Do tuck love notes in his/her purse or wallet - don't let a day go by without an "I love you". This is one of those things that might seem like a given, but it's a little habit that often gets forgotten. Instead of physical notes, you could send him a text or send her an email with a short note telling the other how much you love them, thanking them for the good time you had on your date night, or telling them how much you love the new book, flowers, or that favorite meal last night.
FOR THE HUSBAND
Do bring her (from time to time) little tokens that say "I know you'll like this". It could be flowers, it could be some kind of collectable she loves, or chocolates, or it could be a new book from her favorite author. Whatever it is, doing this shows her that you're thinking of her and it means a lot to her.
Do tell her she's pretty, and often. Women especially in our modern culture feel the pressure to be fabulous and beautiful all the time and quite often don't feel like they measure up. The media projects an impossible image of the standard of beauty for women and even though it's an unrealistic image the message is still coming across for women. Make sure she knows you think she's beautiful just the way she is.
Do reach for her hand to hold it while you're walking together. A simple gesture of physical touch like this simply says "I love you". It's a small thing that yields a pretty powerful result. Likewise, if you're sitting on the couch together watching tv, put your arm around her. Or surprise her with a big hug when she's walking through the room. She needs to know you enjoy that physical closeness and showing her this way is an effective way for that message to be sent.
FOR THE WIFE
Do tell him how much you appreciate him, and often. Men have an inner drive to provide and care for their wives and families and it reassures them when they hear from you that they're doing a good job of it. While men are more analytical thinkers and women are generally more emotional thinkers, men still do need to hear from their wives that they're doing a good job of being a provider and this support he gets from you goes a long way towards his peace of mind.
Do wear his favorite perfume. This seems like another simple thing but it's a very powerful one that sends a message to him that says "I know you love the way this smells, and I'm wearing it just for you". He will notice you're wearing it and it will being him pleasure even if he doesn't say anything. Husband, make sure you tell her she smells wonderful, you know you notice it, and she can't read your mind. As much as it pleases you that she's wearing it, it pleases her to hear you say you notice it. (And ladies, "wear his favorite" can be applied in other areas as well, such as during your private spouse time together. Remembering that men are very visual creatures allows you to be a little more mindful of how to bring a smile to his face).
Do surprise him with his favorite thing from time to time. Does he love barbequed ribs? A sports magazine? Whatever it is, just as he brings you little tokens that say "I know you'll like this" do the same for him. It's another simple thing but it tells him you're thinking of him as well, and he will definitely appreciate it.
One of the most exciting things about a great marriage is the opportunity you both have to wow the other, and show them how much you love them and appreciate them. In most marriages that wowing has taken a back seat to work, home repairs, kid's routines, and great number of other important but distracting things. When you begin to bring that wow factor back, it's a wonderful way to bring a spark of passion back into your relationship that you'll both notice, both really enjoy, and have quite likely missed over the years.
In tomorrow's conclusion of this series I'll be sharing some favorite quotes about marriage relationships, a little bit of personal experience in applying some of this advice that you've read about in the series and how it's changed my own marriage, and the long lasting benefits for the whole family when your marriage is something you work hard at. My husband and I were discussing this series yesterday and agreed that our hope was that both husbands and wives might be reading these posts together and being honest with themselves (and each other) in areas where their own relationship might be in need of a little help. Our hope is that by taking in this information and applying the suggestions where needed, that other marriages might be wonderfully blessed and rejuvinated.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas if you'd like to leave a comment!