Knowing this stuff earlier would have saved me SO much strife.
Last night my husband went to bed, and I stayed up, enjoying the silence of the after-hours. He called me into the room after a couple minutes, inviting some more affection. He's been working a lot lately, and we haven't been spending as much time together as usual.
Then he said half-joking, "Wanna give me a beej?" (Yup, that's what we call 'em.) I absolutely did not. It was way past my clock-out time for those kinds of shenanigans, and I was in my own groove writing in the living room.
It would have been easy to laugh off his ridiculous suggestion and kiss him good night, but I stroked him instead and said, "I was hoping you'd call me in here for this." (Lie.) He was seriously surprised by my willingness.
Listen: we exchange I love you's like 956 times a day. I don't know if he really hears me all the time, or if it's just so expected and automatic. I wanted to tell him in the language he understands best: physical.
I was impressed with myself as I committed to the deed. Not only because I was being an awesome wife but because I've gotten all-around better at wife-ing over the years. Here are 10 things I do that strengthen our relationship and make my husband feel loved.
1. I cook him something special.
Collard greens are his thing, and if it weren't for him I wouldn't make them at all. They stink up the whole house, but all he smells are memories of his grandparents' farm. He loves their taste and the nutrition they offer, as much as he enjoys the sight of his Yankee wife preparing a Southern staple.
2. I choose to be real over being nice.
During our first year of marriage, we also had a baby. It was hard to find our new balance. I often wanted to play Cool Wife, but it made me stew on the inside.
One day, when he was post-exams in medical school, I told him to go to the beach and hang out with his friends. I don't know why I was so self-sacrificial. I felt angry all day and eventually stomped to the beach to tell him to come home.
I acted like a B, which totally took away from my niceness in the first place. I learned to say instead, "I want you to have fun and relax but I want to, too. What can we do?" He has always been cool with that.
3. I'm real, but I push some sh*t under the rug.
In a lifetime of togetherness, there will be plenty to bitch about and squabble over. I no longer care that he likes to get up and walk around as soon as he's done eating, even though I'd prefer he waited for us all to finish. I used to get bent out of shape by his borderline offensive sense of humor.
Now, I trust that he's coming from a good place while rolling my eyes and laughing (not with him, but at him). I choose my battles, rather than fight them all.
4. I ask for what I want.
Why has this been so unnatural for me? Maybe because I assumed that if my husband wanted to help me he would ask what he could do or just jump in. Wrong. I learned that I have to speak aloud what I want to happen. It usually produces great results. I feel loved, he feels valued, and we're both happier.
5. I know hard times are opportunities for growth.
Every relationship has its struggle but I've found that our darkest times have ultimately brought us the most light. When things fall apart, we rebuild together. When we get cracked open, we are exposed and vulnerable, and ultimately end up feeling closer. We fight through the tough times, which is an expression of our love and commitment.
6. I forgive quickly.
I used to be the Cold Shoulder Queen. Over minor things, I'd want him to feel bad. I don't do this anymore because it sucks for both of us. I'd walk around like I had a large stick up my ass for a day, and he'd wonder how long I was going to make life miserable for, and what it was even over.
In a marriage, this gets exhausting. Now, we openly communicate, take time apart if we want it, and break the fight as soon as possible. Usually, the one who was the most assh*le-ish will say, "I forgive you." It's kind of funny for the assh*le to be the one forgiving, so then we both laugh. "I forgive you" is a silly invitation to reconcile. There's not much room for pride in marriage.
7. I give him time to do his hobbies.
In the beginning of our relationship, he told me his passions are surfing, playing guitar and fishing. I wondered when he was going to arrange the list to put me at the top, and took it as a personal challenge to get there. He finally has, so it's only fair I'm cool with him doing the activities that mean so much to him.
He's a solid family guy, so when he gets the chance to surf or fish, I fully encourage it. He thinks I'm the coolest wife for doing this stuff, but he comes home in such a good mood, and I reap the benefits.
8. I trust in his decisions.
When we were first married, I had a lot to learn about asking a man questions about the way he runs his life. For instance, when he was in the basic sciences of med school, and I inquired if he should be studying or not in a way that suggested he should, his feathers would ruffle. Not because he was defensive or hard to approach; simply because he wanted me to trust him, and let him be.
He's a man and doesn't need me to be his mother. I'm actually relieved by this.
9. I look for the good.
You'll never catch my husband folding laundry or sending flowers on an ordinary day. But I catch him sending loving texts and rushing home from work to be with us on the regular. We see what we look for, and I look for the good.
10. I take care of my own happiness.
Smiles and lightheartedness are all he really needs from me to feel loved (aside from the occasional beej). It makes him feel like he's doing everything right. What's worse than a woman who can't be pleased? For this reason, I take it as my wifely duty to live a life that satisfies me and communicate the desires of my heart. Happy wife, happy life, right?
Loving someone is never selfless. All that I give, gets returned.