1) It’s time to put your big girl/boy panties on. Nothing good will come of blaming the other person or waiting for your partner to change before you make changes. Relationship problems are a cycle where whatever you are doing exacerbates whatever your spouse is doing and vice versa. So if both of you are not ready to focus on yourself and make changes with yourself, therapy isn’t going to go anywhere.
2) Most men aren’t sex-obsessed horn-dogs, but they do want to feel loved and desired. Ask a random man on the street if he’d rather have frequent obligatory sex with his wife who just wants to get it over-with OR if he’d rather have less-frequent sex with his wife who he knows admires and desires him. If that guy on the street looks at you like you’re crazy, simply clarify your question by whipping out a perfume-scented love letter and announcing, “Pretend I’m your wife. Would you rather me give you this heartfelt note that smells like Jasmine and Vanilla, or would you rather me close my eyes, count to ten, and tell you to get it over with?” When he calls the police on you, simply explain that you were merely participating in scientific inquiry.
3) Most women are sexually selfish. According to research, women respond sexually to being desired, pursued, and doted-on. Also, while men get turned-on by providing others pleasure, women not-so much. Wanna turn a woman on? Pursue her with the fervor that you would a sex goddess, even if she is standing in the kitchen with oven mitts, quiche batter in her hair, and an apron that features a set of men’s abs and says, “Mr. Good lookin’ is cookin’.”
4) Most men are huge Chinese-Finger-Traps. If a wife aggressively tries to get her husband to listen/do what she wants, he will retain her pointer fingers in a choke-hold for the rest of the day. Errr… I mean, he will resist her with defensiveness, criticism, or stonewalling. If she uses what is called a “soft approach” (calm, I-statement and direct request), he will be significantly more likely to accommodate. (This was Gottman’s research, although, to my knowledge, he never made metaphorical reference to any politically-incorrect trinkets in his publications.)
5) Most women are huge jack-in-the boxes, but not as creepy. Research shows that when husbands actually do what their wives ask them to do, the relationship experiences more satisfaction, health, and longevity. If you crank the lever on your wife- errr put away the laundry, pick up milk, go to Home Depot to fein interest in paint samples– your wife will pop out with a big, pleasant smile, all ready to play. (Gottman again.)
6) This stuff is normal, guys. Research psychology, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology suggests that losing the “spark/passion,” in a long-term relationship is normal. Also, machines that measure sexual response indicate that both men and women respond to novel sexual stimuli (even watching animals mate in the case of women) more enthusiastically than they respond to their own long-term partners. But before you go out and get a chimpanzee costume to use in the bedroom, take heart that couples that intentionally share even non-sexual new experiences can regain their spark.
7) EEEEWWWW…. You mean I really have to talk about painful stuff and do stuff I don’t wanna do?! The stuff that really gets under your skin and the unconstructive way you manage being upset probably have something to do with stuff about you you’d rather not admit and/or unpleasant past experiences (Mom and dad throwing darts at each other at family picnics?The ex that broke up with you on the jumbotrons at Camden Yards on your birthday?) The only way through all of that stuff is to access it, explain it to your spouse vulnerably, and seek to change the behaviors.
8) EEEEWWWW! You mean I actually have to listen to my spouse tell me how my behavior makes him/her feel?! And I can’t be defensive, and I actually need to consider it? What is this bizarre thing called restraint and humility? Make it stop; It feels icky!
9) You can brainwash yourself into feeling fondness and admiration for your spouse. If you want to. An awesome study demonstrated that when a person focuses on the positives of their spouse (even small traits), over time those characteristics become the traits that are legitimately important to the person, and the spouse’s shortcomings fade into the background. For example, if you have a reliable yet messy husband and focus on how reliable he is, you can truly admire him when he gets every item on the grocery list but this is his idea of putting the groceries away:
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