Fitness + Well-being

Tips for saving your marriage

When I dragged my husband to couples therapy years ago, I didn’t realize that respect is like oxygen for men, and that there was nothing more disrespectful than telling a stranger everything that was wrong with him in front of him.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t there to work on myself. I was there so the counselor could fix him and I could finally be happy. No wonder it didn’t help!

In my desperation to not get divorced I discovered some cheat phrases that have transformed my marriage into the one I dreamed of when I said “I do.”

They’ve worked for thousands of women in 19 languages and 30 countries, including me. Here are some you can experiment with:

1. Express your desires in a way that inspires

I used to complain and expect my husband to fix whatever I was complaining about. I’d say, “John, this kitchen is a disaster,” and wait for him to jump up and start doing the dishes--which never happened.

Now I know that men can’t even hear us when we’re complaining, but you can trigger his “hero gene” by expressing a desire so he knows what it is you want.

When I finally said “I would love a clean kitchen” my husband said, “Okay, I’ll do the dishes.”

That was 17 years ago and he’s been doing them ever since.

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2. Motivate him to take initiative

In our early marriage I was responsible for everything-- car maintenance, cleaning, paying bills--because I liked things done the right way: my way.

I thought I was being efficient, but I was also exhausted and resentful.

The cheat phrase that helped me stop taking over everything and demonstrate that I had faith in his abilities is, “Whatever you think.”

Kathy decided to use this phrase when her husband Doug asked her which cell phone plan she wanted him to sign up for. “Whatever you think,” she said as an experiment. Her husband was surprised and asked her again. She repeated, “Whatever you think. I trust you.”

Doug handled the decision, and that night put his hand on her shoulder and said, “You were so nice today.” Tears welled up in Kathy’s eyes and they slept in the same bed for the first time in six months. That was 16 years ago and she still gets emotional when she talks about how wonderful her marriage is.

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3. Get more gifts, compliments and help

You may think your husband doesn’t give you many gifts, compliments or help, but it could be that he’s at a loss for how to please you.

I was rejecting so many of my husband’s offerings that he gave up on making me happy. The task seemed impossible because I wasn’t pleaseable. You may also be unwittingly turning away the treatment you crave.

Have you argued with him for saying you looked hot when you had bed hair? Or criticized the presents he got you? Have you rejected his help with putting away the leftovers?

Consider making your mantra, “Receive, receive, receive!” Say only “thank you” when your husband offers his help, a compliment or a present. You’ll be surprised how quickly those offers multiply when he sees he can make you happy.

Practicing the Intimacy Skills takes some focus at first, but many women report they feel like they have a new husband in just two weeks.

Even if your marriage seems hopeless, it can’t hurt to experiment with these and other Intimacy Skills to see what happens.

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Laura Doyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Empowered Wife, the star of the Amazon TV series Empowered Wives and the founder of Laura Doyle Connect, an international relationship coaching organization. But the thing she’s most proud of is her playful, passionate 28-year marriage to John Doyle, who has been dressing himself since before she was born.