A responsive spouse—one who not
only listens and understands but also responds with sympathy and compassion.
Who doesn’t want that kind of spouse? I know I do. And really, who doesn’t want
to be that kind of spouse? After all, I love my wife. She deserves a
Responsiveness validates our spouses. It lets them know we care for them. It reduces anxiety and arousal. It increases a sense of security in the relationship. It comforts. Overall, responsiveness is a powerful way to improve your marriage. And, a 2016 study involving 698 married and cohabitating couples suggests responsiveness does something more. It improves sleep quality. Not surprising, right? We sleep better when we feel safe. We sleep better when we feel less anxious. We sleep better when we know someone cares for us and validates us.
There you have it…another benefit
of a responsive spouse: improved sleep quality. Good sleep quality contributes
to a better rested person. A better rested person is happier, healthier, and
more able to respond to their spouse. Not only…. Oh wait. I hear my wife
calling. Sorry. I have to go. After all, a wife responded to is a happy wife
who sleeps well…and loves her responsive husband.
One key factor promotes lasting relationships. What? At first I was surprised then curious…so I read on. They key factor promoting lasting relationships was confirmed by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia. They had analyzed the data on “thousands of couples” involved in two large British surveys and the Gallup World Poll. After accounting the couples’ ages, gender, income, and health conditions, they “found” one key factor promoted lasting happiness marriages and relationships. One key factor! Specifically, happiest couples all said their significant other was their closest friend. In other words, having a deep friendship with your spouse increased happiness and life satisfaction (Read Science says lasting relationships rely on a key factor for more).
Other researchers have confirmed this finding. In particular, Dr. Gottman noted that the “determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship!” That’s right, friendship in marriage even improves sex life! (Read Improve Your Sex Life…BEFORE You Hit the Sheets) Gottman even identifies the building blocks of friendship in marriage: building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another to work as a team. So, if you want your spouse as a best friend and if you want happiness in a lasting marriage…
- Enhance your love maps. A love map contains all the relevant information about our partner’s lives, from birthdays and anniversaries to greatest fears and dreams. It represents what we know about our spouse’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Of course, love maps needs constant updating as the experiences and feelings that make up our maps change as we go through life. So take time to talk with your spouse every day. Find out about their day, their challenges, their joys, their sorrows. Learn about them. If you’re stuck on how to do this, try the “20 question game” in this short article on love maps.
- Sharing fondness and admiration builds friendship as well. Sharing fondness and admiration is a habit of mind in which a person identifies and verbalizes appreciation for their spouse on a daily basis. This may be as simple as saying “thank you” for what your spouse did during the day or as intimate as noting character traits that you admire in your spouse. You can make fondness and admiration a part of your marriage with a simple math equation (Don’t worry, it’s not new math!).
- Turning toward your spouse rather than away involves responding positively to their requests for attention, affirmation, affection, or connection. Of course friendship grows when spouses respond to one another’s bids for connection on a regular basis rather than turning away. Gottman actually found that couples who turned toward one another 86% of the time remained married after a six year period whereas couples who divorced in that time period only turned toward one another 33% of the time. Responding to our spouse’s builds friendship. Turning away because of preoccupation, lack of concern, or just putting our energy elsewhere destroys friendship (Read RSVP for Intimacy in Your Family for more info on turning toward).
The one key factor in a happy, lasting marriage is friendship. If you want a happy, lasting marriage, keep nurturing the friendship you have with your spouse. Build that friendship by enhancing your love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, and turning toward one another every day…starting today!
Kevin Leman published a book entitled Sex Begins in the Kitchen. (Read the review here.) It’s not really a book about sex. But, it does make an important point about sex—if you want to enjoy sexual intimacy with your spouse, start preparing outside the bedroom. I mean way outside the bedroom. In fact, the most enjoyable and satisfying sex life is firmly established on factors that, on first glance, seem totally unrelated to sex and the bedroom. Let me give a few examples.
- A satisfying sex life is premised on responsiveness to your spouse’s needs and requests OUTSIDE the bedroom. This responsiveness will result in you serving your spouse. Taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, running the vacuum, and even cleaning the toilet become ways to respond to your spouse’s need for help and cleanliness. Responsiveness will also lead you to honor your spouse and her need for a break, his need to develop friendships, or her need to go out “with the girls.” You can learn more about the impact of this type of responsiveness on the quality of your intimacy by reading Increase Your Spouse’s Sexual Desire.
- A high quality sex life is built upon communicating admiration and fondness for your spouse on a daily basis. You don’t have to plan some extravagant show of admiration, just simple statements like “you look nice,” “thanks for dinner…you’re a great cook,” “you do a nice job on the yard,” or “thank you, I like working by your side” show fondness and admiration. Simple shows of affection (like a hug, holding hands, or a kiss with no expectation of anything more) are nonverbal ways to show admiration for your spouse. These simple shows of fondness and admiration communicate love. They build trust. They let our spouse know we desire him or her. They create an atmosphere conducive to intimate sharing and abandoned trust.
- An intimate sex life is enjoyed when we learn to accept invitations from our spouse to connect throughout the day. We offer up invitations of connection all the time. Some invitations are explicit; others are implicit. Questions like “Want to go for a walk” or “can we talk” are explicit, direct invitations to connect. But the day is filled with indirect, implicit invitations as well…like, “nice day, isn’t it?” or a gentle touch on the shoulder, a smile, or a sigh. Each of these statements, questions, or actions invite us to connect with our spouse. Each time we respond with genuine interest we stoke the fires of intimacy and open the doors for deeper relationships.
- Take #3 a step further by connecting emotionally to really boost your sex life. We all want to “feel” understood. We want to be known at the deepest level, to be heard in the silence of our hearts. When we acknowledge our spouse’s emotions and let their emotions impact us, we connect more deeply. When we respond to our spouses based on their emotions they feel heard, valued, connected. Sharing emotional connection builds an intimacy outside the bedroom that carries over into the bedroom.
At first glance, these four factors may not seem directly related to our sex life. But, our sex life is built upon and premised on our daily words, actions, and interactions. It is an outgrowth of our intentional responsiveness, communications of admiration, and connections throughout the day.