“When I am doing everything right, as a wife and a mother, I feel like a clean window.”
This is the sentiment that a friend recently shared with me. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, so I probed a little further and found out that being a clean window isn’t exactly a good thing. It meant that she felt invisible. It was only when things got a little messy or when she wasn’t around that people noticed all of the things she did. They have taken her for granted.
I wish this is the only story like this I have ever heard, but unfortunately it is very common. Being in the unique position that I am as Mr. Army Wife, I talk to a lot of women about relationships and, for some reason, they have come to trust me with their secrets and have come to trust the advice or the words I have to respond with. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to listen and counsel. But I often wonder why life is like this.
How do we get to a point in our lives that those closest to us become invisible when they are staring straight into our faces? How do we go from wanting nothing more to hold this marvelous person in our arms forever, to barely noticing when they walk into the room? How can we shower someone with sweet nothings, and then forget to give them a simple compliment for months at a time?
Let me say that I am pretty sure this is not a problem limited to how husbands treat wives. I am sure that there are men out there that feel invisible for the things they do. But, I don’t hear about a lot of men who want to be told how handsome they are, or how appreciated they need to feel. These are things I hear from wives and mothers, who just want to be told they are beautiful. They are tired of being taken for granted.
I could write about the problem for pages and pages, but what good does that do. I could come up with theory after theory as to why this stuff happens, but they are just theories. I could tell the gals that they need to be more communicative and tell us what they want us to do. But, let’s face it, no women wants to be told they are beautiful only because they have told us that they want to be told they are beautiful. We don’t need to examine why the problem exist. We need to figure out how to fix the problem, and from where I sit, there is only one solution.
MEN…we have to STEP IT UP!
There is no two ways about it. When it has come to a point in our marriage when can no longer see the beauty in our wives because we are too busy with the burdens in our lives, we have to step it up. When it comes to a point where we replace compliments with complaints, we have to step it up. When there comes a time when glances of care and concern become glares of condescension, we have to step it up. We seem to have forgotten that the dance we used to get the girl is the same one we need to continue as we grow together. After all practice makes perfect.
So what can we do? How can we, as men, put it into our minds that we have to pay attention to our wives just a little bit more? How can we STEP IT UP? I think it’s easy. I think we have to remember the steps to the dance and really remember to do them over and over and over again. What do I mean? Well…
First, we have to take a step forward. When I was in the military, I remember hearing that we “always need to move forward.” There is no retreat. I know that in my marriage, I don’t want to give up or surrender. That is why the first dance step is always forward. With a forward step we instill confidence in our partner that we know where we leading them. We let them know that we are ready to travel with them on a journey. We remind that that we are in this for life, and there will be no quit.
Some practical ways to do this are to plan a night out, or write a complimentary letter to your significant other thanking her for all the things she does.
The next step we have to remember is a step backward. I know I just said we should never retreat, but after taking a step forward in a relationship it is important to take a step back as a reminder to your wife that this is a partnership. Neither of you is in charge of the other. A simple step back to let your partner know that your value and trust their decision making process and their opinions will go a long way to securing the relationship. It is also important to know when your wife will be able to take the lead better than you can.
Practical ideas for stepping back: Share confidence in your wife for one of her big decisions. Go along with something she planned even if you have doubts.
The third important dance step that is key to every relationship is the release. You know that moment when a dance couple that had done every step hand in hand is now dancing separate movements on different areas of the stage. These moments are important in a marriage as well, and the only way to get there is through the release. There are times in our marriages when we have to let our partners go in order to dance separate steps. Perhaps they want to have a career, or they want to go back to school. By releasing them and trusting them to do whatever they do, you are actually strengthening your relationship.
Practical ideas for releasing: Allowing your wife to pursue a career, school, hobby or other activity without the need to share every single detail with you. If she wants to that is great, but she doesn’t, that’s ok too. Not every step has to be in sync.
After each release comes the fourth dance step, the catch. I love watching the female partner fly through the air only to be caught inches from the ground by the male partner. (There are times when this is reversed, but I am a dance traditionalist I suppose.) The catch is so important because it is a reminder of the hero quality our wives need to see in us. No matter what happens, our wives need to know that we are going to catch them. Whether it is in support of their accomplishments, or in comforting their tragedies, we are responsible for making sure they can land on their feet ready for the next step.
Practical ideas for catching: Just be there. Sometimes you may not want to be, but you have to be. Be there when they need you.
The final dance step is really two steps. They are the exciting steps. They are the ones that keep your marriage interesting. I am referring to the dip and the twirl. Have you ever watched an old movie? Those are the two steps that make every dance look romantic. They are the ones we long to see because we know that the couples performing those steps are in love and have a constant connection. When we and the twirls and dips into our marriages we are guaranteeing that stagnant times will never become an issue. We are preventing staleness from entering. We are showing our wife that we want to dance not the boring back and forth steps of life, but the full Paso Doble of love.
Practical ideas for twirls and dips: Surprise your wife by cooking her a romantic dinner, or taking her on a surprise trip. Find a baby sitter and take her to a movie or just to a coffee shop for some adult conversation. Maybe you could even take her to a beginners dance class. Who knows you might find a new hobby!
Like the country song says, “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go.” Nothing could be truer. During that dance you are going to have some missteps. You are going to step on some toes. You might not make every catch, or follow every turn. But as long as you keep on dancing and making the effort to keep the music playing I promise that your wife won’t feel neglected. At least I hope mine doesn’t. Now get out there and dance the dance.