Divorce is like tooth decay: totally preventable for a woman with the right skills and habits. Unfortunately most women didn’t have good relationship role-models. We are largely the product of single parents, broken homes or marriages that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy — the equivalent of learning oral care from parents with false teeth.
We aren’t born with the skills to foster intimacy, passion and peace anymore than we’re born with a Sonicare and good flossing habits. Fortunately, any woman can learn intimacy skills and use them to create trust, tenderness and connection.
Here are the six proven intimacy skills your mother never taught you that lead to satisfying, lifelong love:
Skill #1: Do at Least Three Things a Day for Your Own Pleasure
There’s a direct correlation between your self-care and your level of tolerance for your husband. Self-care is a profound act for opening the door to intimacy. Relationships require patience and compassion, but if you’re tired, frazzled or undernourished, you give yours little chance of thriving. Self-care — focusing on your own pleasure — takes the pressure off your husband to make you happy (he can’t anyway). Your good mood also signals to him that he can succeed in delighting you, which inspires him to want to do just that. By treating ourselves well, we also teach other people how to treat us. Having fun every day is not only critical for a satisfying romance, it’s part of a life well-lived.
Skill #2: Relinquish Control of People You Can’t Control
“Helpful” in wife language is controlling in husband language. When you correct your man’s driving or what he wears or does at work, you’re saying he’s not competent. That unwitting criticism is an attack and pushes intimacy away no matter how well-meaning your comment. Intimacy needs safety and encouragement to thrive, and vanishes with criticism. Take a step back and trust him to run his own life without any help from you, and watch him take a step forward and start acting like the man you fell in love with.
Skill #3: Receive Gifts, Compliments and Help Graciously
Receiving is the opposite of rejecting. When your husband gives you something that’s not what you had in mind, receive it anyway by saying, “You’re so thoughtful. Thank you.” Deflecting a gift or a compliment is rejecting the giver and the emotional connection you could have had. When your husband offers to bathe the kids, accept his help graciously no matter how imperfectly he does it. Rejecting a gift, compliment or help greatly reduces the quality of your marriage and your life. Receive graciously and watch as more gifts start coming your way almost immediately.
Skill #4: Respect The Man You Chose
Being respectful will resurrect the man you fell in love with. You’re too smart to have married a dumb guy, so if he seems dumb now, it’s because you’re focused on his shortcomings. It’s not that you made a mistake in marrying him, it’s that you’ve been focused on his mistakes since you married him. A man who feels respected by the woman who knows him best also feels self-respect, which is far more attractive than cowering and hostility.
Lack of respect causes more divorces than cheating does because for men, respect is like oxygen. They need it more than sex. Respect means that you don’t dismiss, criticize, contradict or try to teach him anything. Of course he won’t do things the same way you do; for that, you could have just married yourself. But with your respect, he will once again do the things that amazed and delighted you to begin with — so much so that you married him.
Skill #5: Express Gratitude Three Times Daily
Gratitude has magical powers. It turns an ordinary meal into a feast, an average relationship into a lifelong romance and an ordinary husband into your hero.
I used to be reluctant to thank my husband for anything because I thought that I was doing more anyway and it was unfair because he wasn’t thanking me. I was also afraid he would stop doing the things I thanked him for and consider them optional, but I was wrong. Today I thank him for washing dishes, replacing light bulbs and working hard at his business. The more grateful I am for what he does, the more inspired he is to do things I appreciate, which makes me feel cherished and adored. The same will happen for you when you practice expressing gratitude.
Another bonus: You can’t be grateful and resentful at the same time.
Skill #6: Strive to be Vulnerable
Intimacy and vulnerability are directly connected. If you want intimacy, then you’ll need to take the risk of admitting that you’re lonely, embarrassed or hurt. This is not the same as weakness; it actually requires great strength.
When you’re vulnerable you don’t care about being right, you’re just open and trusting enough to say “I miss you” instead of “you never spend time with me.” It means you simply say, “ouch!” when he’s insensitive instead of retaliating. That vulnerability completely changes the way he responds to you.
Vulnerability is not only attractive, it’s the only way to get to that incredible feeling of being loved just the way you are by someone who knows you well. There’s nothing like the joy of intimacy that results from vulnerability. It really is worth dropping the burden of being an efficient, overscheduled superwoman to have it.
If your mother didn’t teach you these six skills, maybe she didn’t know them, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have the same outcome in your relationship. An intimate, passionate, peaceful relationship is not a matter of luck-it’s a matter of skill and good habits, just like maintaining those pearly whites.
For more detailed instructions on how to practice these intimacy skills, get the free 17-page ebook Six Lessons that Lead to Lifelong Love at lauradoyle.org.