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Marriage Counseling: What Do Wives Really Want in a Husband? Part Two

In Part One, we looked at what wives really want in a husband and we identified two things in particular. Wives want a soulmate who they feel deeply connected to and they want emotional support and emotional intimacy. This means that they want a husband who will talk about his feelings and who values having an emotional connection.

So what's a husband who has neglected this important area of marriage to do? The first thing is to understand the necessity of emotional intimacy in a happy marriage. The second thing is to take action. The following steps are often presented in marriage counseling sessions and will help in making a beginning:

1. Set a time with your spouse when you can talk and process the day's events. Some days, you might only need ten or fifteen minutes to keep your emotional connection strong. On other days, you may have more to share and reflect on.

During this time with your spouse, make a real effort to share your feelings. When your wife talks, concentrate and listen to her. Listen to the feelings that are beneath the words she is saying. If you're not sure of something, check it out by asking a question.

So that you can give your spouse your full attention, turn off the TV, radio, and CD player during your time together. Take the phone off the hook and try to have uninterrupted time, if possible. Communicate by your words and your actions that you value this special time with your wife, and protect it from intrusions.

2. Push yourself past your comfort zone in making an effort to really share your feelings, problems, and concerns. I have known husbands who didn't share important happenings in their life because they didn't want to worry their wives. They didn't realize how left out and unnecessary their wife was going to feel when she found out later.

A common reaction is for a wife to feel that her husband doesn't really "need" her if he doesn't confide in her. Wives can feel very hurt and rejected when a husband doesn't share his feelings, challenges, hurts, and unresolved problems.

And if you bury your feelings of anger or resentment toward your wife about something that has happened, just because you feel uncomfortable having to express these feelings, you are setting the stage for bigger problems later on. If you're upset, state what you're feeling and why. Talk about the situation, look for a solution that's a win-win one for your marriage, and then let it go.

3. Watch your natural tendency to want to offer solutions prematurely when your wife brings up a decision she is wrestling with. Most men like to solve problems, and they also like to be helpful to their wives. So a husband's first reaction to hearing about a problem his wife is having is to want to offer a solution immediately.

This often irritates the wife, much to the surprise of the husband. His agenda is to solve the problem quickly and get it over with. Her agenda is to discuss the situation and process it with her husband. She doesn't necessarily want him to tell her what to do-she wants his listening ear. When a husband really understands this gender-based difference, he realizes that he doesn't have to feel pressure to solve his wife's problems. He just needs to listen and be supportive as she talks about them.

4. If you're experiencing continuing difficulty with expressing your feelings or handling negative emotions, consider working with a counselor to improve your skills. You might participate in some individual sessions as well as some joint marriage counseling sessions with your wife.

You might also experiment with writing your feelings in a notebook, working on capturing just the emotion you're feeling when situations occur. You could write a letter to your spouse stating your feelings if you're having difficulty expressing them verbally. Writing allows you to take your time and to be sure you're communicating exactly what you want to say in the best possible way.

5. Remember that most change occurs when you make a number of small steps in a new direction. You won't change overnight, but if you consistently keep trying to improve, your actions can have a significant impact on the quality of your marriage. And most wives don't expect their husband to change radically in a short time; they just want to see that he's at least making an effort to meet more of their emotional needs.

I have seen small actions on the part of a husband save a marriage. Wives want to know that their husbands care about them, that they value them, and that they want to be emotionally supportive. And they want to see the actions that accompany this: a real concern for their feelings, a desire to share intimate details of their life, and the motivation to connect daily on an emotional level.

Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of the book Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get ideas and support for improving your marriage.

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