Good Stuff Penni4Thoughts, I love specific examples! I will put those into practice, although I have to stay well clear of comments about how she looks, that's a big love buster for her.
Besides reading �His Needs, Her Needs� I also *strongly* recommend you get and read Harley�s �Fall In Love, Stay In Love� and �LoveBusters.�
Over a long period of time my wife did come to the realization that her most important EN was in fact admiration � not the same kind as Harley describes (which threw us off) but still admiration.
How did she realize that? To even be thinking about it she must have agreed to work with you on the MB program, right? At what point did it become a joint effort, and how did you get her there?
Yes, there was a honeymoon phase where she read books and filled out questionnaires. But there were also periods where doing so felt unsafe and exhausting for her.
Did she do it anyway, or did she refuse? What was her motivation for going down this path with you? Was there a positive reward that she wanted, or negative consequences she wanted to avoid?
OBJECTIVE 1 � MEET YOUR WIFE�S ENS, AVOID LBS.
Admiration seems like a top contender for your wife�s EN. To fill my wife�s need for admiration we have check-in sessions, every night if needed. We spend a few minutes telling the other person what we�ve appreciated about them that day. Maybe you could just start this. Right before bed, or some other time that seemed right share with her what you appreciated about her that day. Be honest but also try to focus on the things that SHE values most. For example, I�ll tell my wife I appreciated how she looked today, which is nice but that isn�t where the money is at. When I express appreciation for things *she values*, I know it registers more strongly for her. Don�t be effusive. Don�t go overboard. Pick the most high value things � but MEAN IT.
Got it. It's been frustrating for me in the past when I would share these things and be met by silence, but I'll keep in mind that it's a stepping stone on a long journey.
Accuray - here is a crucial key � maybe one of the most important things I can say to you� To truly fulfill your wife�s need for admiration, you need to truly admire her. The only effective way for you to show affirmation and admiration to your wife, the kind of deep, safe and meaningful affirmation she is craving, IS FOR YOU TO FEEL IT, deeply and genuinely. I don�t think there is any other way. You�re wife is KEENLY attuned to your satisfaction with her as your wife � maybe too attuned. No subtle negative judgment will escape her. You have to get to the point where you ACTUALLY feel the satisfaction she wants to see. I don�t mean superficial �admiration� � I mean deeply cherished. And for you to feel this adoration � she needs to effectively meet your needs. Yes, I see the conundrum. I�ll address this later.
Conundrum indeed! "Fake it till you make it" doesn't work in this context.
Now there is another interesting part of these admiration sessions with my wife. During these check-ins we will also take turns sharing what we appreciated about OURSELVES that day. Like �I was proud of how I handled X situation� or �I felt good about getting to the gym.� Or whatever. I never would have thought this up cuz I don�t need admiration. But sharing positive reflections about ourselves is especially impactful for my wife. Interesting.
I will try this as well, I'm guessing I'm going to be alone in this exercise for a while, but I'll figure it out.
(I have some theories on why women like our wives are out of touch with their need for admiration, why they don�t like compliments etc. I decided to leave them out for now, glad to discuss further if you think it would be helpful.)
Please share, I really like to understand the "why's"
I would also consider your wife may need Openness/Honesty and or Affection more (and differently) than you or she realizes. I hear you say that so far these things have made her �uncomfortable� (a common theme) � but I wonder if the problem is the approach, not the target. Maybe in the past �openness and honesty� has not been safe for her � yet it still may be just what she needs � HER version of openness and honesty. To be totally transparent and yet loved all the same. Don�t mistake her discomfort for disinterest. By fleeing openness/honesty she may be trying to protect herself from disappointment in the areas that she actually needs most. Also, openness and honesty is about more than airing your grievances =)
Of course, I feel that openness and honesty is making yourself truly vulnerable, and not worrying about being judged by your spouse, because "it is what it is". I like to live that way. I'm not in favor of withholding information to protect your spouse.
As to affection, do you feel you have adequately separated sex and affection? If the two are tied (even if just in her mind,) you need to sever that tie. I have more thoughts on this if you feel there may be something there. Remember, affection is not just physical.
Yes, this is something I've done very well and very effectively. There is no link in our marriage between general affection and foreplay.
OBJECTIVE 2 � HELP YOUR WIFE MEET YOUR NEEDS
Sooo, I recommend, along with giving better affirmation/admiration for your wife, you pick the one behavior that would make the most difference to you and tell your wife �It would mean a lot to me if you would do X. Is there a way that you could enthusiastically do X?� If the answer is �No,� this is where negotiation starts. Try not to give up until you find a solution that is mutually satisfying. You may need to experiment. You may need to adjust. One or both of you will likely find they are satisfied/comfortable with more/less than they imagined/feared. But focus on this one, high value behavior.
This is difficult for where I am now. Despite your recommendation not to wait, I believe my W perceives me as a dammed up reservoir of needs and expectations, and agreeing to work on just one will be pulling the drainplug on the dam and finding herself awash in follow-on requests. In order for this to work, it needs to be credible that this is truly the only thing I'd like her to work on, and not the first of 50 more requests to come. In addition, she's going to be very skeptical that a negotiated position will be satisfying to me, so once again she'll resist doing anything. (Before anyone starts jumping in here and calling me high maintenance or insatiable, I don't agree with her position, and I don't have 50 follow on requests, just a few that would make a big difference to me)
For example, I'd like her to tell me that she loves me -- today she only says it in response to me saying it. I'd like her to tell me spontaneously once per week. If she can't do that enthusiastically, then how about once every two weeks? How about once a month? I believe in her head, she's going to think I want to hear it morning, noon, and night. Therefore, agreeing to do it once per week will (1) create pressure for her not to forget which she'll fear will make me resentful, and (2) she'll be afraid that doing it once per week will just remind her of all the times during the week that she's not doing it.
That line of argument is where I stand with any unmet EN and why I'm hesitant to ask that they be met in any form until my W is on the same page with me to work on our marriage together. Right now she doesn't share that goal, so asking for the work seems out of place. One of our MC's suggested that W put a reminder in her iPhone to tell me until it had become a learned behavior. She did that 3x and then stopped.
Now realistically, there are probably 3 things I'd like her to work on, so I can't give her assurance that there will be no more, but presenting all three up-front is overwhelming. I will have to spend some time thinking and planning about how to get there.
The secondary msg is help your wife identify and do *less* of what doesn�t matter to you. She (like all of us) has limited resources. She may be doing too much of what doesn�t really matter to you (likely thinking it DOES matter to you.) When you ask her to do something she�s not doing, she understandably may say �I can�t do more.� But if you ask her to do �different� � she may have a more favorable response. I don�t know what low yield effort of hers that could be eliminated is, but I bet you can think of a few.
Actually I can't. There's nothing that she's really doing "for me" explicitly that she wouldn't do anyway either for the kids or because she wants to do it for herself. She doesn't do my laundry, she doesn't cook for me, she doesn't clean up after me, and I don't expect her to do any of those things, nor would I necessarily value them. She doesn't give me gifts, she doesn't perform acts of service, you get the idea.
Whatever different thing you ask her *add* to her to do list, she should take something else of lesser value *off* her to do list.
She likes her job, but feels guilty about the time away from the kids. Therefore, she feels "over capacity" because of the things that she feels she should be doing for the kids that she's not doing. If I pick up anything that she's currently doing for the kids to lighten her load, that compounds the problem because the guilt builds further. I understand what you're saying, it's about freeing up emotional capacity. I'll have to think about what if anything I can do there.
What do you you think? I realize your sitch is �complicated� and she doesn�t �like� to do some of the things you feel you need her to do. But pick one, just one � and come to a happy middle ground. The joy you will both feel as your need for X and her need for approval are met will be a great motivator. �Maybe we can break out of �our dynamic!�
As explained above, this will require some very careful planning and foundation work. Requests for anything different are definitely like poking a sore spot.
Can you tell me more about how your wife gets angry/uncomfortable with compliments?
She tends to look at the flipside of the compliment and view it as a complaint -- whatever it is. Also, the fact that I'm complimenting her "now" must mean that every moment I'm not complimenting her is because I'm dissatisfied. She's also aware that I would like compliments and she doesn't give me any, so it triggers a guilt response. Sometimes she also feels I'm trying to bait her into complimenting me back and she doesn't like that either -- that's never the case at least consciously but that's how she perceives it.
Sometimes I'll work in a compliment that can't be taken out of context, twisted to see the inverse as a complaint, or a baited request for a return compliment. In those scenarios, she'll make up something completely off the wall to get angry about, which makes me think "how did you go there from what I just said?" That's a major LB for me. I've made a lot of progress in not getting upset when that happens.
How about openness/honesty and affection?
W is convinced that "she's not wired that way". Her mother describes her as "cold", which is unfortunate, because I don't think she really is. She's very private and proud, she's afraid of accepting help, she's afraid of making herself vulnerable. Accepting help from anyone makes her feel like a failure, and makes her very angry with herself. The funny mental image I have of that is when we travel. At the airport, she'll carry two huge suitcases, her laptop bag, her purse, and two kids backpacks and a stack of coats, while I walk along wearing a backpack and pulling my own rollaboard. If I offer to take just one thing from her she gets really angry because she shouldn't need help.
Did your wife have problems with affection, honesty/openness, affection or sex during the early parts of your marriage?
I guess it's only a problem if you view it as a problem. The sex was better before kids, which is typical, but she was never very sexual. She was more affectionate before kids too, also typical. She's never been very open, nor has she really pursued intimacy. I took that for what it was, accepted that it was who she was, and learned how to cope with it. Therefore it wasn't really a problem. It was her EA's that made me realize that our marriage was not okay, and the resulting work that I've done has made me realize what "can be", so these "traits" have only morphed into "problems" post-bomb. Does that make sense? Before I didn't expect to have my EN's met, because I wasn't working that hard on hers. I thought we were both okay with that. She wasn't, so I've done the work to address what she needs. As a result, I now expect to have my EN's met too.
What was your wife�s main complaint when she asked for a divorce?
Lack of connection, that I didn't spend enough time talking to her.
What do you think your wife was getting from her EA that was so meaningful and powerful that it was able to threaten her marriage?
All the typical things you get from an affair -- someone telling you you're wonderful, the best person in the world, the thrill of doing something in secret, etc. She has a friend (who is very Catholic ironically) who has serial affairs, and has done so for years. I believe that my wife's EA gave her a bonding opportunity with this woman who she really likes. For a couple years she was just listening to all the thrills this woman was having and had nothing to contribute. When she was in it too the two of them were egging each other on, and I think she liked the camaraderie. The friend was telling her there was nothing wrong with what she was doing and helped with all kinds of crazy rationalizations. I think she regrets that her relationship with that woman has deteriorated since she no longer has things like that to discuss. I also believe that because OM was married he was "safe" because there was a limit on the expectations he would have of W. She felt she could relax with him, because there were really no obligations there -- he really expected very little and she liked that, because he would view anything she did for him as a gift and that's how she likes to operate.
How old were you two when you met? How long did you date? What was her relationship experience before she met you?
I met her when I was 22, we started dating when I was 26, and we got married when I was 28 and she was 30. She had several relationships before she met me. The last one was long term (3+ years). They lived together for a couple years, but he wouldn't really commit to her, he moved out a couple times and moved back in with his parents. She got tired of it and eventually kicked him out. He came back and proposed to her after our second date, but she declined. Prior to that she had a few other long term boyfriends, some short term boyfriends, etc. I believe that she found most of her prior relationships disappointing -- the guys who she felt she knew and trusted would disappoint and surprise her in negative ways. That's a long time ago now, we've been married for 16 years, together for 18.
Thanks again BWS71, lots to think about, and I will definitely begin enacting your suggestions