Mamas, today I want to talk about love–how we can be better at giving it, and how that will help the men we love know how to give it back.
It’s simple, but it’s also not. Sometimes (a lot of times?) it goes against our very natures to make these three shifts in the way we think and speak. It feels scary and unfamiliar. Or maybe it feels unwarranted–like somehow our husbands shouldn’t need us to give them these things. But you know what?
I think it’s hard to be a husband sometimes!
And when we make it easy, and light, and happy, they not only feel our love, but also know better how to give it. So basically, it’s a win-win.
When I sat down to write this, I was thinking about how much I love my husband. How after 9 years of being his wife, I still can’t get over how much I love hearing the sound of his key in the front door. And how deeply I want more marriages to know the sweetness and humor and safety that I feel in ours now, because we’ve worked hard to make it better–even when it went against the grain of what felt easy or what we thought we knew about relationships.
(We might look like babies, but I promise we’ve both hit 30!)
I’m sharing this stuff with you not because I think I’ve got all the answers, but because I think it helps to have new perspectives.
And because I want you to have butterflies about each other sometimes, like you did when you were dating.
And because I want you to get past the scared part that we all have inside us, and get to your real self with the guy you’d do anything for. Because right beyond the scared part? That’s where the really good stuff is. : )
So here you go. Three things your husband wants you to know:
1. He would (honestly and not sarcastically) love to know what you want and need–without the subtext.
Mamas, many of us (myself very much included) thrive on translating the subtext.
It’s like a badge of honor, isn’t it?
You get on the phone with a friend, ask how she is, and immediately pounce on the undercurrent of sadness/discouragement/frustration in her voice when she replies, “Oh, fine.”
You know intuitively that she’s not fine, and you’re more than prepared to find out why and offer a helping hand.
Most guys aren’t like that, mama. To us, communication is a puzzle to be solved, a tapestry to be unraveled. To most men, communication is just communication.
When he asks, “Is it okay if I go play football with my brother on Saturday morning?” he’s most likely not implying that he doesn’t want to be around during Saturday morning house-cleaning, testing to see if you remember that Saturday is his mom’s birthday, or disregarding how tired you’ll be after a week of work/motherhood/etc.
He’s just asking if it works for you for him to go play football with his brother on Saturday.
And guess what? You don’t have to say yes! You don’t have to say that hurt-and-resentful, “Fine.” (You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been guilty of that one, I’m sure.)
He is really, genuinely asking you for your thoughts, and all you have to do is answer honestly and vulnerably.
Vulnerably is the key. Keep your heart open, and assume the best of him. Assume that he loves you, likes being with you, wants the best for you. And then just respond without the subtext. If his Saturday plans are good for you, then great. Give him a thumbs up and move on. If they’re not ideal, just say so! Here are a couple of ways to come at it:
- “I was planning to clean up the kitchen that morning. Do you think you could help me with that before you leave for the game?”
- “I’m worn out from all the tantrums I’ve been dealing with for the last few days–could you take the kids along and wear them out?”
- “I’ve really missed you this week, and I was hoping we could have breakfast together. Could you meet your brother another day?”
From here he might agree with your suggestion, or he might have his own reasons why Saturday morning is the only time he can go–but at least you’ll have opened a dialogue so you can both understand what the other needs.
2. He can’t read your mind, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t totally and completely love you.
How many times have you waited eagerly for your hubs to surprise you with the perfect anniversary dinner or an oh-so-thoughtful birthday gift–and been disappointed?
How many times have you wished he understood how much you need a day off from parenting? How badly you want to visit your sister for a weekend? How much work and stress it is for you to line up babysitters for everything?
I’ve been there, mama. And it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t feeling let down because Steve didn’t want to surprise me, help me, or give me a day off. It was because I wasn’t telling him what I wanted and needed–I was just expecting him to figure it out!
Since I made that seemingly obvious discovery, I have had fantastic birthday, Valentine’s Day, and date night experiences. It turns out, when I ask nicely (You know, like we make our kids do!) for what I really want, he’s more than happy to make it happen.
But he can’t work his magic for me (i.e. offer to take over with the kids for an afternoon so I can walk through Target alone) if I don’t tell him what I need in the first place.
So tell him. You both win, I promise.
Oh! One more thing. Please don’t think that it “doesn’t count” as romantic or thoughtful if you have to ask him to do something for you. It absolutely counts! His inability to read your mind does not mean he doesn’t love and adore you–it just means he is a normal human who can’t read minds.
3. He chose you.
Why do we forget this, mama?
Why do we let our insecurities drag us away from the one we love most?
He could have chosen anyone, but he chose you. And he did it on purpose.
He asked you the question–the biggest question of his life–down on one knee maybe, and gave you the chance to take his heart, or to just say no. To break it, and walk away.
That was brave, huh?
He chose to do that, for you.
So its okay to be vulnerable with him. To be honest. To release the safety of speaking in code. To say, “I’m lonely and I need you,” when he suggests a boy’s night with his friends when you need him most–instead of snapping, “Do whatever you want.” He can’t read your mind, but you can tell him what’s in your heart.
He chose to love you, chose to make his “my life” into an “our life”–with you.
That’s why you can ask him for the things that make you feel loved and valued. Ask him to hold your hand more in public sometimes, or to give you the night off from kid-bedtime-duty once in a while, or just to tell you (again) that everything will be okay when life seems crazy.
Because he chose you.
He loves you.
Let him keep doing it.
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