Recently, my husband and I were running some errands in downtown Honolulu. It was just the two of us, and we were enjoying a little time away from our rowdy boys. But we were both distracted: Dave was getting many calls from the hospital, and thinking about the work waiting for him there…I was going over my mental to-do list, and calculating where and when I needed to pick up our boys.
Suddenly, just as we neared a corner where we waited to cross the street, the scene brought me back in time. I had a little flashback. I suddenly saw a much younger Monica and Dave, on a similar street corner, 17 years ago. It was dark, and we were on the streets of Portland, Oregon. We had been dating a short time, and Dave had just recently came to the conclusion that I was the woman for him. In our brief season of dating, he had determined that he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life.
Nearing that corner in downtown Portland, Dave did something completely out of character–something unlike anything he had ever done before, or has ever done since. Something that, if you know Dave, you may not believe could be true. In a moment of wild abandon, Dave stopped, turned to me, and waved his arms as if trying to get everyone’s attention, and yelled in a loud voice: “See this girl! I’m in love with her! I love Monica!” Though I think the streets were pretty empty, he was ready and willing to tell the world.
I blushed and giggled, loving every single second of this public display of adoration. It was one of those moments that will be etched in my romantic head forever.
Fast forward to Dave and Monica, running errands last week. That flashback hit me, and I’d be a liar if I said that it didn’t affect me. In a brief moment of temptation I had a few thoughts race through my head: “Wow things have sure changed,” and “I’d be happy if he just held my hand at this point.” I wasn’t expecting any public proclamation of his love for me, but maybe just a little affection.
Instead he checked his pager, made another call, and walked across the street, a few feet ahead of me.
To be fair, Dave is often quite good at showing affection. He has actually grown to be more thoughtful over the years. But as time seemed to freeze for that moment, I pondered all of this, and what I ought to do with the whole thing. And I do believe that there is a message in it. For all of us.
TO THE MEN: Whether you’ve been with your girl for 7 months, 17 years, or longer, she will ALWAYS love some attention, and adoration. It is a rare woman that doesn’t eat that stuff up until the day she dies. So do it. Don’t waste a day. Be romantic, and spontaneous, and be every bit the gentleman you were when you met. (and then some.)
TO THE WOMEN: If you sense a distance between you and your man, don’t let it grow into a gulf. Do not let some space cause you to move even further away from your husband. When you sense a lack of emotional and physical intimacy, please, do something about it! I know it is hard. Sometimes it is the last thing you feel like doing. I also understand if you are sick and tired of being the only one to initiate conversation, or plan dates, or put effort into your relationship. We women crave attention, and affection, and I’m 100% a woman as far as all of that goes.
But please listen, and write this down if you must: Our men need us just as much as we need them. Sometimes–whether it is their personality, or the season that they are in, our men just don’t have it in them to reach out. They carry a heavy burden, and often they are as worn and weary as….(dare I say,) as we think we are. And sometimes even more.
Sometimes, our men need us to reach out to them. To bridge the gulf. To make the first move.
When I make that first move to reach out to Dave, he is quick to respond. He appreciates my attention, and he in turn draws near to me. Once a connection is made, it opens the way for communication, and everything seems to improve.
Maybe some people don’t go through this kind of thing at all, but if you relate, and could use some tips, I’ve got a few to share. Here are some of the ways I have reached out to my husband when a little distance creeps in… I hope a few of these might be useful to you too.
Five Ways to Build Bridges in Your Marriage.
1. Touch him. Literally, walk across the room, put your arms around his neck and hug him. Get over yourself, and initiate touch. It might feel mechanical at first, but that connection can work wonders between the two of you. Touch his arm as you speak.
And remember flirting? It still works.
2. Compliment him. Did you know that men need to be built up at least as much as we women do? Compliment him physically–our guys need to hear that they are attractive to us. Notice his muscles, his smile, tell him he looks strong. Even if you feel silly doing it, I bet you’ll see him check himself out in the mirror soon after. (and don’t laugh when he does!)
3. Tell him you think about him when he isn’t with you. Let him know that you think about how hard he works, or how you look forward to time together, or maybe something more…personal. Set the tone and he’ll most likely reciprocate. Even if it takes time!
4. PLAN something for the two of you. If he isn’t the romantic type, it’s really OK. What you see in Hollywood is not actually the norm, believe it or not. So: You be the one to plan something! He’ll be happy once you are out , away from kids, and work, and everything. Plan something you’ll both enjoy. Something active, even a walk is a great start. Or take him to an action movie. Do something fun. Lighten it up.
5. Cook something just for him. The stomach will always be the way to a man’s heart. If you’re a mom, you likely cook a lot of meals geared to your kids’ taste, or convenience, or a budget. Maybe it’s time to go back to cooking some of you and your husband’s favorite things. Let him know you were thinking of him when you picked up the steak, or baked his favorite dessert. It really does work, ladies.
Another little tip from my experience: I find that the more I simply focus on who I want to be as a woman…as a person…the more naturally I become a better partner to my husband. Some things I think of:
I do not want to be needy, weak, or insecure. I don’t want to be harsh, or critical, or quick-to-anger.
I want to be feminine, and strong, and wise, and beautiful.
So I ask: How does a woman who is feminine and strong and wise and beautiful respond to whatever situation I am facing.
And then I do it. (Or at least I try!)
You’ll never be able to control another human being, but you can be the very best you possible. And sometimes being the best you includes the wisdom to humbly reach across a distance.
Because strong women build bridges.
Feel free to comment with any thoughts on this topic. And as always, if it has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your friends using the buttons below! Mahalo.
PS Some of my favorite books on marriage:
(I have not read this one but have heard great things.–>)The Love Dare