Obviously, the irresponsible, destructive "solutions" to knotty problems are not difficult to generate. They have always been easier to develop than those which provide a way out of the mire. Admittedly, I don't possess every answer to the problems I have posed. I know of no magical tricks that will turn a cold, unresponsive man into a compassionate, communicative, romantic dream machine. But I can offer some suggestions which I have found to be helpful in my counseling experience.
First, a woman who wants to reignite the romantic fires in her husband must look for ways to teach him about her needs. As I have attempted to explain, men have different emotional needs than women, making it hard for them to comprehend the feelings and longings of their wives. To correct this lack of understanding, women often resort to nagging, pleading, scolding, complaining and accusing. This is how it sounds to an exhausted man who has come home from work moments before: "Won't you just put down that newspaper, George, and give me five minutes of your time? Five minutes--is that too much to ask? You never seem to care about my feelings, anyway. How long has it been since we went out for dinner? Even if we did, you'd probably take the newspaper along with you. I'll tell you, George, sometimes I think you don't care about me and the kids anymore. If just once...just once...you would show a little love and understanding, I would drop dead from sheer shock, etc., etc., etc."
I hope my feminine readers know that this verbal barrage at the end of a work day is not what I mean by teaching. It's like pounding George behind the ear with a two-by-four, and it rarely achieves more than a snarl when he gets up from the floor. Nagging shuts down communication with amazing efficiency. By contrast, teaching is a matter of timing, setting and manner.
Select the moment when your husband is typically more responsive and pleasant; perhaps that opportunity will occur immediately after the evening meal, or when the light goes out at night, or in the freshness of the morning. The worst time of the day is during the first sixty minutes after he arrives home from work, yet this is the usual combat hour. Don't lumber into such a heavy debate without giving it proper planning and forethought, taking advantage of every opportunity for the success of the effort.
The ideal situation is to ask your husband to take you on an overnight or weekend trip to a pleasant area. If financial considerations will cause him to decline, save the money out of household funds or other resources. If it is impossible to get away, the next best alternative is to obtain a babysitter and go out to breakfast or dinner alone. If that too is out of the question, then select a time at home when the children are occupied and the phone can be taken off the hook. Generally speaking, however, the farther you can get him from home, with its cares and problems and stresses, the better will be your chance to achieve genuine communication.
It is extremely important that your husband does not view your conversation as a personal attack. We are all equipped with emotional defenses which rise to our aid when we are being vilified. Don't trigger those defensive mechanisms. Instead, your manner should be as warm, loving, and supportive as possible under the circumstances. Let it be known that you are attempting to interpret your needs and desires, not his inadequacies and shortcomings. Furthermore, you must take his emotional state into consideration, as well. Postpone the conversation if he is under unusual stress from his work, or if he isn't feeling well, or if he has recently been stung by circumstances and events. Then when the timing, setting, and manner converge to produce a moment of opportunity, express your deep feelings as effectively as possible. Use the earlier sections of this book for ammunition, and, like every good boy scout: be prepared.
Of course, one good conversation is rarely sufficient to produce a long-term change in behavior and attitude. The woman who wants to be understood will continually teach her husband about her feelings and desires, while doing her best to meet his unique needs.
Am I suggesting that a woman should crawl on her belly like a subservient puppy, begging her master for a pat on the head? Certainly not! It is of the highest priority to maintain a distinct element of dignity and self-respect throughout the husband-wife relationship. This takes us into a related area that requires the greatest emphasis. I have observed that many (if not most) marriages suffer from a failure to recognize a universal characteristic of human nature. We value that which we are fortunate to get; we discredit that with which we are stuck! We lust for the very thing which is beyond our grasp; we disdain that same item when it becomes a permanent possession. No toy is ever as much fun to play with as it appeared to a wide-eyed child in a store. Seldom does an expensive automobile provide the satisfaction anticipated by the man who dreamed of its ownership. This principle is even more dramatically accurate in romantic affairs, particularly with reference to men. Let's look at the extreme case of a Don Juan, the perpetual lover who romps from one feminine flower to another. His heart throbs and pants after the elusive princess who drops her glass slipper as she flees. Every ounce of energy is focused on her capture. However, the intensity of his desire is dependent on her unavailability. The moment his passionate dreams materialize, he begins to ask himself, "Is this what I really want?" Farther down the line as the relationship progresses toward the routine circumstances of everyday life, he is attracted by new princesses and begins to wonder how he can escape the older model.
By Dr. James Dobson