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This is part two from my earlier post, “Does Your Husband Tune You Out,” where I wrote about three ways for a woman to stop getting ignored by her partner. Here, I’ll address the other side of the coin: Six ways for a man to get more respect from his wife.

I don’t know why I wrote “three ways” for a woman and “six ways” for a man. Scout’s honor honest truth. But if you have a humorous guess or your own homegrown psychoanalysis, I will entertain all comments.

Here we go.

The problem is that a lot of women don’t realize how powerful her words are to her man. Despite the sometimes-couch-potato caricature of us being obtuse when it comes to heart-to-heart listening skills, we do listen. We listen especially to criticism of us.

This is a big part of the problem.

I’m going to address how guys can get more relationship cred from her, even without trying a heck of a lot.

First, I think you should watch this 30 second Klondike Bar tv ad that ran a while ago. For a laugh, it shows couple with a problem you’ve no doubt seen before. If you’re living this, I doubt you will laugh.

Let’s imagine that as you watched this video clip you thought to yourself, “I am that guy.” If you are, then you probably think that your wife talks too much. In fact, you might think she talks way, way too much. Especially when she wants to “talk” while the PGA channel is showing reruns of Caddieshack.

And all you can think about is the nuisance gopher problem.

So you are that guy (or know about guys like these) and your wife has given you this article to read (I mean, you want to make your relationship better, of course).

I’m going to say some things that I promise will make a splash in your marriage bathtub. I have seen this work to the point that where you might need to say “I need a bigger tub.” Metaphorically and otherwise, I am for bigger bathtubs.

If you can demonstrate to your wife that she can depend on you routinely acknowledging her value–out of your own freewill–she won’t have to beg, scream, complain, kvetch, or cry around you nearly as much. Note: She may still want to do all of those things just the same–habits and personalities don’t change overnight–but she won’t need to do those things. There is a huge difference. It could be the difference between staying married and getting a divorce.

If you learn how to show her how much you value her–she’ll have as much respect as Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un did this week. Were you as awestruck at this photo as I was?

The 5 million-dollar question: How do you get more respect from your wife?

1. Make yourself hard to resist: Stop judging her

Do a little experiment. Go into the hardware store, your laundromat, your nephew’s bar mitzvah, or whatever, and starting paying attention to people. Pay attention to the people who are upset. Look at the mother, upset at her son for not walking faster, who prods his katushka and pokes him like a mule. The kid, perhaps feeling like a mule, starts digging in his heels–you guessed it–just like a mule. Look at the hardware store customer, trying to get a refund, who feels the need to raise his voice at the manager. What does he get in return? He gets his money back but won’t get any help next time he’s lost and wandering the aisles looking for scotch tape in the lumber department.

What do these people have in common? Misplaced judgment.

It is not too hard to spot. According to marriage researchers who study contempt and criticism, most people assume that if they are upset someone has done something wrong. Judgment and a condescending attitude leaks out of us when we are upset like acid from an old battery.

Evidence tells us that most of the time this assumption is incorrect. When you automatically assume a judgmental attitude toward someone when you are upset, you invite more resistance, even if you are objectively correct.

Bottom line? If you think you can’t please your partner, stop judging her long enough to make yourself most likely for her to want to notice what you have to offer. Or said another way, if you want more respect you need to act in such a way as to make it most likely you will be respected.

2. Learn to validate when you disagree (tell her she’s not crazy).

You can acknowledge someone without agreeing or giving in to them.

The idea of validating seems completely confusing to a lot of people–a lot of men–but many women as well. I hear a lot of people say, “But I don’t agree and I want her to stop arguing or nagging me.” When you understand where to aim your validation–at her deeper sense of who she is and what she means to you outside of the disagreement–you will like the effect it has.

The clerk that does the dramatic eye-rolling about the refund, and the mom who is prodding her son to listen–each time they get the signal from the other “I’m not giving in,” they just add more amplitude to their strategy of asking you to give in: more drama, more unnecessary criticism, repeating themselves, or getting louder.

You can reduce the drama and volume of criticism by learning that there are many ways to give to a person that require absolutely no skin from you. Validation is one very easy one. There are exceptions to this sometimes and it can be more complex, but often it is not. If you have an acrimonious relationship that needs a serious oil change, chances are you are both starving for validation.

And just like there are ways to threaten someone non-verbally, there are ways to validate someone non-verbally. Guys sometimes discover or rediscover these moves and think they are geniuses. “You mean I don’t have to even talk and she’ll talk less?” Yes. To the woman who has a guy who can validate unconditionally and/or non-verbally 50% of the time, he is a genius. He is one step closer to being less powerless in the relationship and he gets results that are cool for him too.

3. Routinely let her know how much she means to you (show and tell her she’s important).

Validating has this effect of telling her she is important, that she makes sense, but to tell her what she means to you is a separate maneuver. The goal is for you to remember what is really important in life after you remove all the clutter–the things we want but don’t really need–and let your wife see more of those things you value the most, especially if she is one of them.

You might have some real digging to do in order to rediscover what your deepest values are.

Strip mine if you have to.

There is usually a direct correlation to how much anger, resentment, or compulsive behavior we have and the degree to which we are disconnected to our more fragile hopes and dreams inside of us–our ideals. I am willing to bet that if you do yourself the service of digging up and reconnecting to some of your basic values and hopes, you will also remember what the real value of your wife is to you.

It is not easy to dig through our outer layers of defense. Life and work and stress from all of our grown-up responsibilities makes us run around to try to get everything done…”or else!” Or else what? What are we afraid will happen if we step off the treadmill?

I’ll tell you what will happen.

First you’ll feel naked.

Then, you’ll appreciate things and people that are normally just “cardboard cut-outs,” and those otherwise two-dimensional props on the stage of your everyday life will come to life…and so will you.

Like I said earlier, this will make a splash.

4. Unearth the treasure and power buried in the thick underbrush of your compulsions.

Try sitting still for a minute. Stop asserting your right to be right. Your will to live won’t evaporate just because you don’t have something the way you’re used to it. Pass the conch to someone else and trust that if it doesn’t come back to you when it’s your turn, you’ll know how to go get it. You might even enjoy the chase. You might need the exercise.

Why can’t we let go and submit to our values over our anxiety?

Because we can’t tolerate ourselves getting scared. Instead, we compulsively seek to cover any hint of fear or uncertainty.

“Wait a minute, I admit to her all the time when I’m wrong,” he says. Yes, but she doesn't detect this because of how much bandwidth it takes her to absorb and live around your otherwise aggressive instinct to remove doubt and vulnerability from your life.

Our best effort to demonstrate love and compassion toward our partner gets lost in the static of our anxiety because we don’t slow down and actually let the insecurity take us over a little bit. We run like hell from actually letting the feelings do the talking (as in being less coherent, less verbal, less in charge). We have about as hard of a time letting our submissive/hurt side of us show up in our conversations as we do not flinching to protect our balls when our nephew is swinging the baseball bat too close for comfort.

It is a protective instinct.

This is important for women to remember: Your man isn't ignoring you nearly as much as you think. He is trying to duck the kicked-between-the-legs feeling he gets when he doesn't know how to respond to your anxiety about the relationship.

It feels so icky inside from the stress chemical dump that men–especially–get around people expressing strong emotion. If we knew to trust that there is a release that happens from all that expression we wouldn't cut things short before it gets good. But, often our social identity as the strong protector doesn't leave room to break down into softer feelings.

After all, do soft feelings cut the grass? Do soft feelings hold down the “important” job? do soft feelings keep the trains running in our family? To guys, our soft feelings equals lack of identity. “No one will care about me if I whine all the time.” I’d rather be dependable than a “feeler.” There’s no crying in baseball. And there is definitely no crying in fantasy football.

So if there was crying in baseball we would have better marriages? I don’t know.

But for fun, I found the nine instances when it was (sort of) okay for athletes to cry.

To my amusement, there is not one from baseball.

I’m not kidding.

In your marriage, the inner playbook of getting more respect from your wife should not have any pages showing what you do for her. It’s just not about that. It’s about how you feel with her. And feeling–by definition–requires no effort, no thinking, whatsoever.

Do you think Samson lost his legendary strength because Delilah cut his hair or because he let something become so obsessively sacred to him (what he does in life), that he was a psychological mess when his routine was disrupted?

Here’s what should be in your playbook:

Be less sacred and more willing to be scared (exposed, not "in control," not "competing with" around her.

It sounds weird but take down the shrines around your routines and “must-haves” that you think define your manhood. Challenge your comfort zone. Rest on the fact that nothing defines what you bring to the table more than how you feel about yourself, and you don’t have to prove that to anyone. You can prove it, but you won’t have a compulsion to prove it. Again, a huge difference that will save your marriage if you live it.

Trust your “icky” feelings, your feeling uncertain, helpless, or “I’m useless” parts of you. Not because you need to share them with the whole world. There is only one person special enough in your life that gets this sort of backstage pass.

Give her the tour of the parts of you that make you human. There is no goal here except to be more real. When your wife knows you are real, because you know there is no shame in feeling uncertain or down on yourself (she feels it 100 times a day!)–she will quit needing to poke and prod you to keep seeing if you bleed.

5. Remember what is at stake: Losing the most important person in your life

Men especially like to focus on the activity and sometimes forget why we’re doing the activity in the first place.

Where do we most dramatically get reminded of the reason we are doing all the important things we need to do? Funerals. Hospital bedsides when the doctor says, “this is it folks, get your things in order.” We get reminded of the reason we are doing when we open up her closet and everything is gone.

Do whatever it takes to remember what is at stake. Get the tattoo now, brother. Put it on the inside of your forehead because that’s where your brain holds our deepest values.

I don’t mean to minimize how hard it is to challenge our priorities. Change–because it disrupts our routine and our way of keeping the stress chemicals associated with feeling strong negative emotion at bay–feels yuckier to men more often than it does to women.

“If you change the rules of the game I’ve been playing for decades with myself about keeping myself together, what if there is nothing there for me?”

That’s yucky.

Who in their right mind would want to be open to change without controlling all the variables?

The answer is someone who knows that you can’t have a successful, vibrant relationship AND be in total control. Fear of failure and obsession with work has probably kept humans alive for tens of thousands of years. But it will not help your marriage survive one more day.

Many men I talk to don’t realize this until it’s too late.

When Leo Buscaglia and my Dad got together courtesey of PBS back in the 80′s, Leo reminded him of something he learned in 1955, when his mom died suddenly, “You don’t have time! Do it now! Love her today, not when she is gone.”

I’m grateful he learned that lesson and it was part of the air I breathed growing up.

6. Stop trying so hard to please her and trust that just being around her–being yourself–really pleases her

Your wife wants you to pay more attention to her. Welcome to the club. It’s not as hard as you think so don’t over-complicate it by getting rattled by her anxiety. Whether or not you are trying to please her or not isn’t the point. When I talk to the guys in relationships where the female feels alone and anxious, the guy is almost always hunkered down in full defense mode. “I didn’t do it,” he says from his bunker. He doesn’t realize that being in defense mode is also running away.

You can either wait until the criticism stops (it won’t if you keep running) or you can start taking some punches.

Show up.

Here’s the deal about taking some punches. If you take criticism on the chin it will knock you out cold. You’re going to get knocked out and feel like a fool if you can’t accept that failure and vulnerability is a natural human emotion. Like a guitar who’s strings vibrate when plucked, your brain, even your most brilliant intellect and reason, is a fragile emotional instrument. Use your whole instrument.

If you feel fragile, ashamed, shaky, and sad as you come out of your bunker of avoidance, speak it! There is an astonishing vault of pride and freedom that comes from being able to say to oneself, “I am capable of feeling tremendous hurt.” Why? Because hurt and the “unspeakable,” darker feelings are the other side of the same coin of intense joy, pleasure, creativity and vibrancy. Shame, sorrow, and fear cannot get a foothold and remain unchanged in the presence of unconditional acceptance. When there is no agenda to get rid of these feelings they transform. They grow and develop–like little kids who are nurtured–into powerhouses of potential.

Trust your least stable feelings and show up with them around your wife. Use them to wrap your arms around her. It won’t scare her to feel you shaking with naked vulnerability because she will be able to feel you.

Her loneliness and fear will evaporate when it meets yours because of something almost magical that happens when two humans are emotionally attuned….limbic resonance. Let it happen. Ride the wave of oxytocin, the same deep social bonding brain chemical that only otherwise occurs with breastfeeding, hysterical laughter, and orgasm. Notice the quality and don’t get stuck in worrying about a repeat performance. You’ve got it in you without even trying.

It’s you she wants, not your trying, your effort, your routine–as nice as they may be.

Yes, but is it too good to be true?

You tell me.

I want to hear what sounds the most intriguing to you from these ideas. What is the hardest to believe?
How have you tried some of these things? What has worked for you?

Your First Assignment

Was this helpful to you in some way? Here is your first assignment to show more courage, more gratitude, and more feeling in your life and relationship:

Start right now by posting a comment on the Love Good Blog, tweeting this article and post the link to your facebook page.

222 Posts
Excellent advice. I am literally making brain-notes in my skull for ways to improve our relationship and get more respect. I think one of my biggest obstacles has been not talking to her about my day, or me asking her about hers. I need to pay more attention to her, period. She's even alluded to it on several occasions. And me being the knucklehead that I am, I just overlooked it. If it's important to her, so too should it be to me.

Oh, and dat LeBron pic...
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