December 29, 2015
The Marriage Experiment That Backfired on a Marriage Therapist
Can you imagine how life would be if we became our spouse's ideal partner? I didn't say perfect person, I said ideal partner.
Yeah, I get that there are some limitations. For example: My wife would love it if she had to tip-toe to kiss me. She would also like to run her fingers through my thick, dark hair. I'm 5'10" and she is 5'7" – no tippy toes required. I also have no hair - I'm shaved totally bald.
But what can I be that's ideal for her? She loves it when I play with her hair. Clean up after making cookies. Call her when I'm out of town. Give her long lingering kisses before I go to work. She likes it when I come home from work and listen to her vent about her day and show genuine interest in her.
Truth is, I wasn't always like this. It was the result of an experiment that turned on me. The motivation was mischievous at best. I was feeling a little "ego bruised" for not being treated with more adoration. I felt picked on. I thought to myself that my wife would always find something to be annoyed by, so why try? I decided to conduct a secret experiment where I would systematically sabotage her complaints. I created the mantra "leave no trace." When I made cookies, the mess was cleaned up. When I brushed my teeth, the mirror was cleaned and the tooth brush and toothpaste put away. I then moved on to what I call "stealth affection", which in brevity is lots of physical, non-sexual affection. Long hugs, kisses, scratches on the back, etc., etc.
What I noticed was that her complaints started to decrease. She even treated me better. And better yet, I liked the man I became. What started out as a manipulative move on my part helped me become the man I should have been from the start.
This year, give yourself a gift that keeps on giving by becoming the ideal spouse for your partner. Identify three things you can do differently that would totally make your spouse happy. Don't ask, just do them. Then, when you are totally stumped, ask her what you can do to make her feel like she is number one in your life. When she says, "Hmmm, I can't think of anything," life gets really good!
BONUS! Readers of For Better - Or What? can download a free copy of the author's ebook, You Can Turn Conflict Into Closeness. Just follow this link and use the coupon code "Roses".
Emil F. Harker, MS LMFT, is a licensed marriage therapist and favorite speaker from Farmington, Utah. He is the author of the new communication book, You Can Turn Conflict Into Closeness, endorsed by Dr. John Gottman, and the creator of a unique marriage enhancement program, EmilsMarriageClub.com. A frequent guest on radio and TV, Emil shares real strategies that really work to turn inevitable conflict into closeness.