Maybe your boyfriend has felt a little distant lately. Maybe you and your husband just aren't connecting how you used to. And no matter what you do, nothing seems to work.
He’s like a nut who’s just too tough (and stubborn) to crack. The good thing is situations like this are completely normal. The bad news? They are extremely frustrating and confusing. That's why I’m going to help you view your man through a masculine lens instead of our usual feminine one. And it’s also why I’ve put together a simple list of 10 things you can try today to get you and your man communicating again.
As women, we crave love. It’s something we need to feel from our partner. It makes sense, then, that we’d extend this precious commodity to our men. I need this, so of course he needs it too, we might think, or, I feel so incredibly hurt that I'm not receiving this from my husband. Maybe if I love him the way I'd like to be loved, he’ll start doing the same. It's only natural that we’d come to these conclusions. After all, for us females, most things in life work this way.
Unfortunately, not this. While a relationship without the feeling of being loved might seem like a waking nightmare to women, a relationship without the feeling of being respected is a horror story to men. They may not be able to vocalize this themselves, but it's true. Most men, when posed the question, “Would you rather be loved or respected in a relationship?” will answer, “Respected.” And this is where it gets tricky for us women, because what does that even mean?
Here's an easy way to look at it. On a daily basis, what is it that you're communicating to your husband or boyfriend? What is the message you’re sending? Is his time just as valuable as your own? Do you protect his feelings the same way you expect him to protect yours? You expect him to be a strong masculine presence in your home and while in public, but do you take care to provide your innate feminine qualities to the equation? When he’s speaking, do you interrupt? Or do his opinion and voice matter just as much (if not more, if you’re married) than your own?
Think about these things, and then determine what you can start doing today to communicate more respect to your man.
Learn His Love Language and Speak It
This one is easy for most women, as we are hardwired for communication and creativity. And if you're just hearing about love languages for the first time, know this: Most men fall into the acts of service or physical touch category. Once you have the time, I recommend learning more about them here, and getting the man in your life to take the accompanying quiz so that you can communicate your love and respect to him in the most efficient way possible.
Also, I know I just said that men value respect over love. But let’s be honest here, respecting your husband is the bare minimum of what we should be doing as a wife or girlfriend hoping to move into wifey territory. Men need love too, it's just not (usually) their primary desire.
Which segways us perfectly into the next topic. Men also need to be complimented. But again, they don't need it in the same way or as consistently as we women do. Even if his love language isn't words of affirmation, he still needs to feel like he’s your hero and he needs to feel desired and appreciated for who he is as a human being. Compliments are the most direct and easiest way to accomplish this. Let him know the specific ways he adds value and joy to your life. Compliment unique traits pertaining to his appearance and personality. And finally, fuss over him a little bit. Men eat it up, and it’s really simple to accomplish. All you need to do is express concern for him: Is he getting enough sleep? Eating well? (No matter how he answers, tell him you’ll make him something special, and then do it). How is he doing at work? Is he fulfilled? Let him know that you admire how hard he works, and then ask if there’s anything you can do to help him relax. There is a balance here, obviously. You don’t want to smother him, but you do want him to feel cared for and appreciated.
A little fussing goes a long way with men, and compliments like these are sure to keep him coming back for more.
Get in Touch with Your Femininity
Getting in touch with your feminine side is something that will lure any man out of his shell. That’s because the feminine is intriguing to the masculine. He’s automatically drawn to and pulled by it, just like how the ocean is pulled by the moon. It’s gravitational, and regularly expressing your unique brand of femininity will keep him within your orbit. Simple things you can do to get started are things like wearing dresses more often, being playful, trying out different hairstyles and asking his opinion, being sweet, and playing coy.
Be the Warmth He Craves
Part of traditional femininity is being warm. When a woman makes her house a home, she becomes its beating heart. Men who grew up in loving households received this sort of warmth from their mothers, and so they come to naturally expect this kind of nurturing from their girlfriend or wife.
He expects you to be a safe place for him. A place where he can let his guard down, be himself, and be accepted. As women, when we feel rejected, withdrawing from our man is often one of the first things we do, consciously or not. And unfortunately, this withdrawal of warmth generally causes our man to recoil instead of reach out. This can leave us stuck in a frustratingly endless loop of recoil and withdrawal until everything just feels hopelessly frigid. My advice? Be brave and be the first to stoke the ashes of affection to life again. It won’t feel natural at first, and you may hate every second of it, but if it’s a relationship you’d like to stay in, this is my best solution.
I’m not saying to ignore your needs, but I am saying to help create an environment where healing is possible. Your man will follow suit, I promise.
Make Space for His Masculinity
Simply put, let your man be a man. Give him the time and opportunity to open doors for you. Let him pursue his hobbies, interests, and friendships without guilt. If he wants to do things that don't necessarily make sense to you, but also don't really affect you, let him. I mean, even if it does affect you somewhat, as long as it’s not harmful or destructive, let him pursue his interests and hobbies. Your feminine interests most likely affect or have affected him at some point, so just be reasonable.
Additionally, you’ll get extra points if you look out for the activities that feed your man's soul and protect them for him. From others, and from yourself. A balanced approach to pursuing interests outside of each other will only do your relationship good.
This is part of giving his masculinity some space to breathe. A man can’t fully be a man if he's being smothered. This isn't to say that he now gets to neglect his roles and responsibilities as your partner, but think about it like this: Nagging is a form of control. First of all, would you like to feel controlled and manipulated? Secondly, if you are doing this with your man, are you actually giving him any room to be responsible and attend to his duties? You’re not, and that's called mothering/smothering. It’s not a relationship. Not one that you want anyways.
If you are used to this power struggle, it may be difficult for you to relinquish “control” at first, but my advice to you is this:
You were never “in control” to begin with, even though it may have felt that way.
In terms of his duties, if one of your husband’s duties is to, say, take out the trash, you still get to discuss household expectations with one another. You still get to let him (respectfully) know what your desires are (take out the trash by the end of each day so there is a clean can for the next), but after that, drop it. He’s an adult. He’ll either do it, or he won't, and if he doesn't, then you can (respectfully) bring it up again. “Hey, honey, I took out the trash last night. It was really heavy and pretty difficult for me to do. Would you be able to take it out tonight?” No reason to blame him, no reason to nag or be accusatory, just remind him that you need help and that he's your hero for doing so. He provides a service you value. Remind him of that, and he’ll only be too happy to make sure he gets it right the next time.
Get in Touch With Your Own Emotions
Sometimes during relationship struggles, we can mask our emotions with other emotions (masking sadness or fear with anger) or pin all of our internal emotional discord on our partner. While these are split-second reactions that we may not have control of in the moment they happen, we do have control over all the following moments. Before discussing an issue with my husband, I like to take “emotional inventory” and determine what exactly it is that I’m feeling and why. Many times, instead of being angry with him (even though that's very much how I’m feeling in the moment), in my heart, I’m actually hurt and sad. Other times, during my emotional inventory, I discover places I could have done better in the moments leading up to a disagreement or struggle. In my initial moments of anger, I may feel like it's all his fault. But after my pause, I discover that I’m actually culpable as well. I played a part in my own disappointment.
Take Ownership of Your Mistakes
This is when it's important to take ownership and responsibility for the role we often play in our own problems. We could be talking about 1% or 99% or, most oftentimes, somewhere in between. Either way, it's important to take ownership. Our ability to do this is a major indicator of personal health and growth, and if we want our relationship to thrive, this is a necessity.
Admitting our own shortcomings doesn't take anything away from us. It doesn't invalidate how we were wronged, it's simply the right thing to do. Additionally, our admission creates a safer-feeling environment for our man, and that allows him to then come forward and admit what he did wrong. After that, you both can move forward however you see fit.
A word of caution though: Don’t apologize unless you actually mean it. Don’t say you’re sorry just because you want your man to say he’s sorry, too. Forgiveness and reconciliation don’t work that way. If the only reason you’re saying sorry is to get an “I’m sorry” from your man, then you’re not being honest, you’re being manipulative, and you need to give yourself the time and space to arrive at a no-strings-attached apology.
Don't Be Accusatory
Nothing will cause a male's walls to go up faster than accusations and generalizations. “You always hurt me like this.” “You never take out the trash on time.” In fact, this is one of the surest ways to shut down productive communication and make anyone's walls go up. That's why it's best to start communication with facts, questions, and “I feel” statements.
It's also important that we never imply malice or ill will. It's easy to feel like your husband or boyfriend is intentionally doing something hurtful if it's happened enough times, but when we take a step back, what's more likely? The man we love being a petty, vindictive, narcissistic sociopath? Or just an ordinary man, subject to ordinary weaknesses like the rest of us? Most likely the latter. That's why we need to take “You never call to let me know you’ll be home late! I had a wonderful meal ready for us, thinking you’d be home, and I even put on music and candles. What a waste!” to “Did you get held up at work again? I understand, I really appreciate how hard you work for us, it's so easy to get caught up, and I understand it wasn't at all intentional. I just wish you had called to let me know though. I had dinner ready, but I put yours in the fridge so it'll stay good. I was really excited to eat together, I had lit candles and had some music going too. I feel really silly and sad now.”
This sort of dialogue gives your man every opportunity to apologize and make up for what happened while also allowing you to express your hurt feelings in a productive way instead of weaponizing them. Even though it’ll be a tough reconciliation, it gives you both the best shot at it being a productive one.
So there you have it. Men are…complex creatures, but when we examine their desires and mannerisms through a masculine lens instead of a feminine one, things begin to come into focus and we’re able to attend to them in a more meaningful way.
Soon, you’ll notice your relationship begin to improve as the communication channels between you two start to open up. It’s just about learning to speak the language.
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