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11/16/2006

DEAR MARRIED GUY

Dear Married (about to be married) Guy,

There is one simple nugget of wisdom that will dramatically improve your marriage quickly. I want to pass it on. It will transform you and your wife into people who love better and more freely and are easier to love in return.

It's simple: Serve her.

Wake up and think to yourself - What can I do or say to make her life easier or better than it is? It's that simple.

But not really.

You're human, man. And so you, like me, wake and think first, probably, What do I want for breakfast? Or, I've gotta go to the bathroom, take a shower, make some coffee, I have a meeting at 9, lunch downtown and then... And you're off, thinking about you. These aren't bad thoughts. They're even necessary thoughts. But they don't have to be first or top thoughts.

I think that a lot of what we think is a habit. I 'm not even trying to think it. I just do. Change the habit. Wake up and make yourself think about her, and if you have them, your kids. Not how much you want and love her - you do that already - but how you can express that in a way that makes a difference in her day. Do this first. And all day.

There aren't any girls reading this letter. It's just you and me, so let's talk about foreplay. Foreplay is one thing to a man and another to a woman. Be honest. What a man calls foreplay is whatever happens in the few minutes before the few minutes we call sex actually happens. It's the little bit of physical activity and words that show us we're wanted, appreciated, approved of, that turns us on enough to carry on with sex. It doesn't have to last long. We're easily convinced. A short investment of time and we're thinking She loves me, she wants me, good enough, let's move on.

Not so with women.

Foreplay for a woman lasts all day. The stuff that makes her feel wanted and appreciated, begins when her day does. Making breakfast and changing the baby's diaper, emptying the litter box, sharing a meal with her, laughing together, holding her, simply asking what you can do to help, emptying the dishwasher when you'd rather watch TV, keeping every tiny promise (I'll be home at six, for instance), listening, listening, listening - these things are foreplay.

Let me put this in a way you'll be sure to remember and understand. Imagine you come home and greeting you in the kitchen is your wife wearing (or not wearing) whatever she wears in your most erotic fantasy. And she says something like, "Tonight's you're lucky night, big boy. The kids are sleeping at a friends house. It's just you and me. I want you...now." She attacks you, in a good way, and tells you what a great man you are and...well, whatever else you want to imagine here.

Ok, back to reality.

If that actually happened to you, what would you guess she feelt about you? And how would her feeling that way about you make you feel about you? And how would that change how you responded to her?

Thinking about your wife first all day can have the same kind of effect on a woman. It communicates the same thing to a woman that physical and verbal foreplay communicates to a man - you're loved enough for me to give myself to you. Abandonment of self to her, of your plan for hers, of your time for her, of your attention for her, proves to her how you feel about her. (And when you don't do this it also proves to her how you really feel about her.) And how you feel about her affects to some degree how she feels about herself and you. When she tells herself she's lovable it's easier to believe if you're proving it by loving her all day. And when you say I love you it's easier to believe when you've backed that up all day.

What's more, foreplay of either kind makes men and women want to give themselves away, want to respond. When we feel valuable, precious, wanted, we naturally unreluctantly give ourselves away intellectually, emotionally, physically etc. We want to be one in every way with the person who has convinced us were loved unconditionally.

I'm not saying serve your wife so she'll put out. No, no, no! That's not service. That's not a marriage. That's prostitution. What I'm saying is take the way you feel for your wife and express it in a form she needs, wants and understands well. Selflessness can't be faked for long. She knows that. If you love your wife though you can put her first every day. You just have to train yourself to express love differently. She'll believe you when it keeps happening. And a person who believes she's loved is an easier person to love and a more loving person.

One last thing. Confession time. I spent a few years thinking mostly about how not to mess up. Avoiding mistakes, saying something stupid or getting in the way distracted me from better thoughts about how to put her first. Guy, your job today isn't to stay out of her way and not do something wrong. Your job is to actively love her, to get in the messes and help, to reassure her when she needs it, to listen when she speaks, to be a friend and make her life better than it would be without you in it. If I come home from the road and my wife's life is harder - I'm not doing my job. If she looks forward to my return because the weight will be lighter, then I am doing my job.

Best of luck. Women are too complex for us to figure out on our own. Any hassle-sparing advice you want to pass on to me, I'd love to hear. This is just the one thing I've got somewhat figured out about some women - my wife in particular. Hope it helps you and yours.

-Shaun

19 Comments:

Blogger Gaby said...

Thank you for that, you hit the nail right on the head! I needed to read that today and so I'm very grateful you shared this when you did. One note: it would probably help too to have our wives pray for our commitment to this and pray for it daily ourselves. I know I will ask mine to do so :-)

11/16/2006  
Blogger supersimbo said...

shaun man you know im gettimng married next march and i greatly appreciate this post..............i will perhaps ask for some advice when we get hitched so hope your ready for that!!!

11/16/2006  
Anonymous jonathan said...

After seven years of marriage, I couldn't agree with you more, every thing you wrote. That is my wife's language of love. It is my wish that I could speak that langauge even more fluently in seven years than I speak it today. Thanks for sharing, Shaun. I need to go clean up the kitchen :-)

11/16/2006  
Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

Excellent advice, Shaun. It really is.

If you don't mind, I'd like to recommend a book that has helped me (and my wife) a lot in this endeavor -- it's called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Basically, it takes exactly what you're advising here, and gives you more specific ways of knowing and understanding exactly what it is that your spouse needs in order to receive the love that you are giving.

I'm not a big fan of pop psychology, self-help books, or "X number of steps to a better marriage" type stuff, and that's sort of what I was expecting before I read this book. But I was very surprised, and can honestly say that for us, this book was a real eye-opener. It gives practical advice on exactly what it is that I can do that best conveys my love to my wife in a way that she truly understands and appreciates, and vice-versa.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Gaby said...

I second what Chaotic Hammer said: that book is a great help for any marriage. In fact, it's a great wedding gift, too.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

Sounds like some points made in our book discussions lately. Our couples group is reading His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley, Jr. and discussing a chapter each week. (marriagebuilders.com suppplements the book and has questionnaires you can fill out, etc.)

Ken and I have had some tender and eye-opening discussions over the last several weeks. I'm enjoying this time were investing in our marriage. We're reading the love language book next.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

Oops, sorry, I wasn't supposed to read that letter, was I?

11/16/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Cristy, we had to read that book for our premarital counseling sessions. Interesting, but man, I had some real issues with some of what they say a man's needs are and the lengths to which we should bend/change/sacrifice to meet the other person's needs. Has that come up at all.

For instance, they say a man "needs" an attractive spouse. Alright, I admit I want a wife who's attractive to me. But bodies change and my wants have changed and so what I find myself caring more about now that I'm older is that she cares about being healthy: eating good foods, getting regular exercise. I find a healthy person who cares about her body to be very attractive. And a person who smiles and laughs and wants me in return. Campolo once said that love is subjective. It came make us attracted to things we'd never be attracted to as a youth - we shift our emphasis.

But the book defines attractiveness like a sixteen year-ols ball hormones would. It talks about attractiveness in physical terms only. And it's written from a psychologist perspective which seems to say to me that a woman, because attractiveness is her husband's "need", should go so far as to get plastic surgery to meet that need.

What the??

Any of this chap your hide as a woman?

I just want Becky to care for herself and let everything droop and wrinkle where it may.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Dave Haupert said...

Great advice Shaun. In the past years, we've read almost every one of the aforementioned books, and then some. Other good ones are LoveBusters and For Men Only.

I will say from my own tattered experience, the average guy (myself included) does seek to try this upon hearing it. The wife will staunchly agree that this is what they need and desire. But sometimes what happens is that when we try it, we expect it to be noticed and expect to see the promised appreciation and love back in return (not just talking sex here either). And when it is not noticed, we not only figure it doesn't work in our situation, but we are angry for having become vulnerable enough to try it.

LoveBusters was one book that taught that sometimes there is just not enough 'credit' deposited into her 'love bank' to make up for the account being in the negative. And I believe it- there were many times I'd try this and find no response, and say this is just wishful thinking.

But what I found is that it takes some real time and patience before it takes to any degree. And even then it is not foolproof, at least in my case! And when it doesn't work, the viscious cycle of reeling back and thinking, I'll look out for myself since I'm being taken advantage of here, begins abruptly. And this of course spirals, until we address it and pick things up and try again.

Just my experience, YMMV of course. Hope it works the first day you try it and this is a non-issue! ;)

11/16/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

It did come up, actually. I struggle with weight. I have a thyroid condition and since I've met my husband, I've gained somewhere around, honestly, 50lbs. He said he doesn't mind that because I prepare healthy meals most nights, I exercise regularly, and I try to be healthy. He wants me to be around for a long time, that's what is attractive to him. Do I use my thyroid condition as an excuse? Maybe, well...honestly, probably. Could I shed some of these pounds if I tried a little harder. Yes. Since our discussions have been so honest (and tough), I was afraid of the discussion on this chapter as I was reading it. Last Sunday was the week for this chapter. I found out that what he wants is for me to be healthy. That surprised me because Ken is very physically fit, and I thought our discussions would be tough. Did he love the way I looked when he met me? Yes. Would he mind if I shed some of these pounds? No. Honestly, I think I'm more bothered by it than he is though, because I'm the one that researched and found a YMCA (we are already members) 3 miles from my work so that I can get some cardio in during my lunch this week, and a few days a week from here on. And I feel better, and that makes me more attractive to him, too.

I felt like the best chapter was the one on affection. He just didn't realize that I needed more affection and isn't a handholding, snuggling kind of guy. Once he realized it though, he took it to heart and the next chapter got pretty easy. You know the one. ; )

The recreation chapter was a big discussion for us, too because I pretty much do whatever everyone else likes to do, to the point that I've forgotten what I like to do. (Except go to concerts, they know I like to do that.) So we did the survey and found out that we do like to do some of the same things, bikeriding for example, but we've never done them together. Neither of us even own a bike right now. That will change this spring.

I'm loving this book because not only are we reading it together, we're talking about what we're reading and learning so many things about each other. While I don't agree (and neither does Ken) with everything in the book, it has opened up honest conversation for us and that's made a huge difference. We don't necessarily agree with what Dr. Harley thinks is most important, but we do agree that the discussions we've had while reading this book together have made our marriage better in a very short period of time.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Sorry, if I seemed to be poo-pooing the whole book. Not the case. I remember what an epiphany the security chapter was for me. Oh, so that's why it bugged her that time I didn't lock the front door before heading to bed. Yea, the book's a great conversation starter at the least, making us talk about what we feel we need.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Cristy said...

No apology needed, I didn't get the impression you were poo-pooing the whole book.

I liked the chapter on an attractive spouse even though neither of us list it as "most" important, we found out alot about each others preferences. We discovered that attractive didn't only mean body size and shape, too. I got my hair cut a couple of years ago (13 inches for Locks of Love) and he barely looked at me for weeks! I thought he was mad at me. Turns out, attractive to him was me with long hair. And I like his goatee better than his clean-shaven face. He likes me with little makeup (more natural) as opposed to the amount I wore when we met. So it was good to talk about all those things.

I would recommend that couples read this book together because it opens up conversation that wouldn't otherwise take place, unless it was done in anger or out of hurt. And that's never a good thing.

11/16/2006  
Blogger Brody Harper said...

Does your wife call you "big boy"?

Just wondering...

Good stuff on this.... it makes total sense... and I would be lying if I said you weren't right.

11/16/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a great post - I wish my former spouse had read it. All of these things are true. For those of you married or getting married - God bless!

11/16/2006  
Blogger CHEZ BEZ said...

Printed and pocketed.

Thanks for that.

11/16/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Great stuff even if I wasn't supossed to read it (Yes, I'm stubborn and strong-willed!).

You hit the nail right on the head. I've been married for 19 years and around year 5 or so, things got very rocky for us for awhile. We sought Christian counselling and it talked about a lot of the same things here. We still have our struggles, dealing with each others' faults mostly. Neither of us wanting to admit that we are frustrated over our ability to change our spouse for what WE think would be the better. I HATE to clean, and most things more than 1 week away are too early for me to think about for too long. My "other half" is a long term planner and has already "built" our dream house 5 times already on paper. He's constantly showing me plans and asking for ideas on something that's not going to happen for another 7-10 years. I can't figure out what I'm eating the next meal! He's not a neat freak, but his standards are definitely higher than mine. I have ADD and he doesn't. Sometime we just don't "get" each other, but we always LOVE each other. I wouldn't trade him for anything and he wouldn't either (well, maybe a completely restored 1938 Ford truck).

Beth

11/16/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brody.

Sadly.

No.

11/17/2006  
Blogger Anthony said...

I like what Gary Smalley said. When speaking on how to treat your wife he pulled out one of the rarest violins in the world. He told the story of the stratavarius and said it was worth tens of thousands of dollars.

He then handed it to a man in the front row of the confrence and the mans jaw dropped. He handled it with more care than anything he had ever handled before. He then said "That is how you treat your wife." Treat her with awe, with care, and with respect.

I wish I would have done that. Things would be alot different now.

Great blog Shawn! Keep writing, thinking, and feeling. Those three things are done too little anymore.

Anthony

11/19/2006  
Anonymous sista smiff said...

Do men REALLY do stuff like what you've described here? You're just yankin' our chains, right?

No, really...do men do that? I've sure never had any of that happen in my many moons of marriage. I'd probably die of shock if mine even made coffee for me.

11/21/2006  

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