Dear Neil: I was wondering if you have a Wife 101 column to go with your Husband 101 column. What are the equivalent rules for women?
Committed Lady in Australia
Dear Australia: Here they are.
Many women adopt a passive attitude toward romance; they tend to think of courtship, romance and seduction as something a man does for them. It's a man's job to woo you and make you feel valued, cherished and beautiful. It's a man's job to bring you flowers, open doors for you, compliment you, wine and dine you and seduce you.
But in truth, romance works best when it is reciprocal. Reciprocal romance means that a woman also needs to woo her man, as well as court him, nurture him, support him and encourage him. She also needs to be a seductress, not just the seduced.
The following are a list of "rules" for women who are committed to being the best wife or girlfriend they can be. If you do your very best in your relationship day in and day out, you'll be a happier woman, you'll reduce the chance that he might cheat, you'll increase the probability of the two of you staying together, you'll be a great role model for your children and you will have achieved something that very few have accomplished. Here are some of the rules for women who are in a committed relationship:
• Make sure that you communicate positive, kind, supportive, friendly, empathetic and compassionate messages to your man far more than critical, negative, angry, judgmental and unfriendly messages.
• Give to your man more than you take. Form the habit of giving, serving, pleasing and nurturing. You cannot take more than you give or you risk drying up the reservoir of good will.
• Be more fun. Find one or two fun things to do every week that the two of you can do together. Kids can join in but not all the time. A couple needs some alone adult time to simply enjoy each other's company.
• Pick your battles. You're not going to win every argument, so choose your battles wisely and fight for those things that matter the most to you.
• During a disagreement, find some truth in what your man is saying - no matter how wrong or misguided you think he might otherwise be. Saying "You're right. I see where you felt hurt (discounted, railroaded, etc.)" will be far more effective than you arguing, defending, explaining or attacking him for how he feels.
• Be physically affectionate every day. Use touch, hugs, kisses, holding hands, caresses, cuddling and comforting. Physical contact will help him feel closer to you because he's male - and that's how men tend to feel close to a woman. Touch is no doubt how the two of you got close in the beginning of your relationship, and touch is what will keep your relationship close, connected and intimate today. Affectionate touch is the aphrodisiac that men crave.
• Express your love sexually. When women use the word "romance," they're usually referring to love. When men use the word "romance," they're often referring to sex. Sex is central to a man's sense of contentment and his image of his own masculinity. A man's self-confidence and feelings of well-being hinge on lovemaking more than you'd ever guess. Adopt the attitude: "With my body, I thee worship." If you can't, in good conscience, do that, figure out how to clear up what's in your way.
• Learn to be a "student wife." Most people behave in a marriage the way they think they should, so they quit listening to feedback, requests, lessons and pleas their partner inevitably offers. In truth, you must learn how to be a good wife, and men don't normally come with a training manual. A "student" wife is a lover in training. She is consistently willing to learn or to take feedback about how she could be better: a better friend, more responsive, more supportive, more romantic. You never "graduate" from this position, by the way, because then you will be more likely to quit trying to be the best wife you can be.
• Listen more, talk less.
• The heart of whether a man feels valued by you is whether you are responsive to what he says matters the most to him. Therefore, if he says something is important to him, make it important to you, also, if you possibly can.
• Let your man know what he does right. Most of us are superb at letting our partners know what they've done wrong.
• Ask your man: "Are you getting your needs met in this relationship? If not, what would you like to be different?"
• Tell him what you like and love about him. What character traits does he have that you respect or admire? Is he reliable? Trustworthy? A good father? Is he considerate? Affectionate? Is he fun? Romantic? Good looking? A great dresser? These are the reasons you chose him. Don't keep it a secret. Tell him, or write it in a love letter and give it to him.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 20th year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website, www.heartrelationships.com, but he is not able to respond individually to queries.