Do you ever do something you feel is loving for your mate, but he or she does not respond in a positive manner? One day, a well-meaning husband ran into this same frustration. The man wanted to do something special for his wife, so he left work early and bought his wife some flowers, candy and a card. When he arrived home, with great pride, he presented the gifts and exclaimed, “Hi honey! I love you so much!”
Immediately his wife started crying. “Everything's gone wrong today,” she explained sobbing. “The baby's grouchy, the dishwasher won't work, and now you come home drunk!”
As illustrated by the wife's reaction, sometimes we can do things for our mate to demonstrate our love, but it's not want they need. Many of us understand what we need to feel loved. However, what we may need isn't necessarily what our mate requires. For example, my wife Erin, likes me to compliment her appearance. On the other hand, if Erin never mentioned my appearance, I wouldn't give it a second thought. Therefore, since I don't need Erin to compliment my appearance to feel loved, I then have a tendency not to notice her appearance. This is a common problem couples face: We have a tendency to demonstrate our love in the same manner that we like to receive it. The problem is that our mate may need something totally different than what we may provide. One important factor in marital satisfaction is discovering the specific things that your mate needs to feel loved. In other words, discovering his or her built-in marriage manual.
One simple way to uncover your mate's marriage manual is by making a list of what he or she needs to feel loved. I encourage you to set aside several hours of uninterrupted time and write down these specific things. As you construct your list, remember not to judge, disagree, or invalidate the things that your mate says. Remember, this is what he or she needs to feel loved. Also, write down things which are observable. In other words, instead of writing down “I want intimacy,” write, “I need you to say you love me at least once a day,” “We will make love twice a week,” and “I need you to ask me about my day.” These behaviorally specific statements can help your mate to translate vague statements into specific behaviors.
After you understand what your mate needs to feel loved, then you need to be held accountable to follow through. Your spouse has given you a tremendous gift by listing what he or she needs to feel loved. You literally now possess your mate's marriage manual. I strongly encourage you not to let this precious information go to waste. One of the best ways to be accountable is by asking a very simple question. On a regular basis, ask “On a scale from zero to ten, with ten being the best, how have I done this week in making you feel loved according to your needs?” As you consistently ask this question, you will be able to love your mate according to her needs and not your own.