Vail Relationships column: How to nurture your wife or husband |

Vail Relationships column: How to nurture your wife or husband

When thinking about nurturing a child or a dog, most of us understand the basics about what such behaviors ask of us. But when grown men and women complain that their spouses or intimate partners don’t nurture them enough, often their partners say that they don’t know what nurturing behaviors are — or what’s being asked of them.

Let me ask, what does it mean to nurture someone you’re in a committed relationship with? What are nurturing behaviors that an adult would want to receive?

One way to nurture your partner is to listen to him or her when he or she talks, to try to understand him or her when attempting to articulate his or her feelings, to be a sounding board, to be supportive and encouraging and to take a genuine interest in what interests him or her.

You might acknowledge your partner’s efforts, as well as the time and energy he or she has devoted to work, child-rearing or house upkeep, to name a few of the ways people contribute to your comfort and well-being. If you do that, then your spouse will feel acknowledged, loved and cared about by you, because none of us have really given up our desire to be nurtured.

A second form of nurturing behavior involves the use of touch and affection. That may include hugs, kisses and hand-holding, but it might also include comforting your partner in times of anger and pain. It may involve offering a neck or shoulder massage when your partner feels tense and affection may also turn into a sexual invitation, which is another form of nurturing someone you care about.

A third way to express nurturing behavior is to offer acts of service. This may include unexpectedly doing a chore that your spouse normally does (getting her car washed, doing the laundry, cleaning the oven, cooking a meal and so on).

TIPs for relationship health

Ask your partner or spouse what you could do that would demonstrate that you love, value and cherish him or her. After you receive that list, if you possibly can, do whatever your spouse asks for — and continue doing it as time passes. I’m betting that your willingness to offer what your partner says matters will be viewed as especially nurturing and endearing to your partner.

Another type of nurturing involves romance, such as flowers, dinner out, an unexpected call, etc. But romance also consists of going out of your way to please your spouse, treating your partner with respect and kindness, making the relationship your top priority, expressing warmth and tenderness and expressing that you like your partner. That’s very hard to beat.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book “Love, Sex, and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit

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