Assume Love (TM): How to have a happier marriage without waiting for your spouse to change (daisy logo)

July 1, 2015

How to Get Your Husband to Do Something

Most of us go about this the wrong way, especially early in our marriages. Let's say you want your husband to take the trash out before the pickup time, wash the dishes after you cook a meal, or spend more time teaching your kids baseball skills. Here's what works best with most husbands.

1. Ask, Don't Tell

When you tell your husband what to do, you sound more like a mother than a wife. Hang onto that wife relationship. Telling him what to do comes across as a lack of respect for him, his autonomy, and his good judgment about house odors, fairness, and children. In other words, it's like washing the foundation out from under his love for you. He's biologically inclined to show love only to someone with respect for who he is.

2. Don't Lose Your Perspective If the Answer's No

Don't nag. Ask once. Maybe ask a second time if you think he's simply forgotten you asked. After this, start solving your problem instead of his. It's not as if sulking, separation, or divorce will get you more of what you want. Unless you're being punished for refusing to do something he's asked for, it's quite likely he disagrees on priorities, what's fair, or what he's capable of.

But treat your requests as important, too. Find another way to get what you need. Take the trash out and, if this feels unfair, leave something else undone. Or buy another outdoor trash can so it's less important to be ready for pickup day.

Get your fairness fix: switch to paper plates when it's your turn to cook. Leave the dishes for him to clean when it's his turn to cook. Task the kids with washing dishes. Or ask everyone to take his or her own dishes and utensils to the dishwasher.

Enroll your kids in baseball camp and watch to see what your husband actually enjoys doing with them. If it's weeding, leave the weeds for them. If it's reading, ask the kids to select a book to read with Dad when you take them to the library. If it's kayaking and you're terrified of the water, spend some time investigating the best life jackets and kayaks for kids so you can enjoy your lakeside quiet time.

When you're okay with "no," most husbands are okay with more requests. And when your husband acts on a request he's selected, he's likely to feel respected and loving, not put-upon.

June 30, 2015

More Interesting News about Oxytocin

Every week seems to bring more findings about oxytocin. Most of the research uses an oxytocin nasal spray, but our bodies release the stuff during orgasm and when we experience the emotion of love, those brief sessions of our brains getting in sync as we share some other positive emotion together.

Oxytocin improves communication and increases trust in those who are not lying to us.

Now we learn that it has differential effects depending on our attachment style. If you're not sure what your attachment style is, you can take a quiz at What this quiz labels Secure, Preoccupied, Dismissing, and Fearful-Avoidant are labeled Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Preoccupied by other researchers, including those who did this latest Oxytocin research.

Preoccupied or Anxious people are those who worry a good deal more than others do about being abandoned or rejected by their partners, often because they were abandoned or rejected in childhood. Dismissing or Avoidant people are those who worry a good deal more than others do about losing too much of their autonomy and freedom (gaining a "ball and chain") in a relationship, often because they had very little autonomy or freedom in childhood. Secure people are about average on both concerns. Fearful-Avoidant/Preoccupied people score high on both concerns and tend to avoid relationships.

So, let's get back to oxytocin. Jennifer Bartz et al., in this study of 40 men, found its effect, on average, was to make them feel a bit warmer, kinder, more gentle. However, for those categorized as Avoidantly attached, its effect was greater. Men who have trouble with "togetherness" have less trouble with it when they are getting an oxytocin boost. If you're one of them or married to one of them, you might want to work toward releasing it frequently.

However, for those categorized as Anxiously attached, the slight boost in how warm, kind, and gentle they feel was accompanied by a decrease in how self-confident and independent they feel. It did not have this effect on the Securely or Avoidantly attached men.

Keep in mind, though, that this was in the context of taking nasal oxytocin and answering questionnaires. What we don't know yet is how it works when both partners get more oxytocin at the same time (what Anxiously attached person wouldn't feel more comfortable with more kind, gentle warmth from their partner?) and when it comes from the emotion of love, in which the vagus nerve is also stimulated, improving its tone, which in turn appears to improve the regulation of negative emotions. We also don't know if women respond the same.

So, as usual, further research is required. And you can do some of it on your own if you're married to someone who is Anxiously attached. Try combining an increase in oxytocin (through shared positive emotions as well as orgasm) with more Active-Constructive feedback whenever your partner reports taking a successful independent step.

June 27, 2015

How to Stay in Love when You Ache

Do you take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) when you have a headache, muscle ache, or the flu? If so, you might want to know about a couple of recent research studies.

In Over-the-Counter Relief From Pains and Pleasures Alike: Acetaminophen Blunts Evaluation Sensitivity to Both Negative and Positive Stimuli, Geoffrey R. O. Durso, Andrew Luttrell, and Baldwin M. Way, all from Ohio State University's Department of Psychology, discovered something of interest to us married folks.

Our emotional response to images known to provoke emotional responses is blunted while taking acetaminophen (aka paracetamol outside the U.S.). It works both ways: we have less of a negative emotional response or less of a positive emotional response. It's this second one that got my ears twitching.

If you want to avoid that deadening "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" state, research reported by Barbara Frederickson in the book Love 2.0 says you need to share multiple synchronous positive emotions with your spouse every day. The emotion of love is created by sharing some other positive emotion with your spouse, simultaneously feeling the same good feelings.

So, when you or your spouse takes acetaminophen, it's going to take more to get that first positive emotion going. On those days, you might want to go out of your way to share something beautiful, reflect on things you're both grateful for, savor any small victories, offer loving touches, look for things to laugh about together, and do things that make you both happy.

Love is all about commitment and sacrifice and wanting the best for your partner; you can do it from a distance or while living parallel lives. "In love" requires multiple daily shared instances of pleasure, joy, laughter, awe, admiration, gratitude, respect, relief, and inspiration, preferably while looking into each other's eyes.

When medication reduces the response to the things that trigger these emotions, one way to make sure we get our daily diet of the emotion of love is to seek out or create more positive stimuli: a tender kiss instead of a goodbye peck, stroking a cheek while looking into her eyes in place of a quick touch of the shoulder, watching the sun rise together in awe instead of picking a few flowers from the garden, or sending your mate off to any sort of competition or difficult day with praise instead of a simple "Good luck!" (Barbara Sher says, "Praise makes us brave.")

I won't hold my breath for researchers to test whether couples feel more in love if they do this while one of them is taking Tylenol. But you can test it for yourself. Please share your findings here. And may you stay in love for a very long time.

June 18, 2015

A Great Interview on How to Love Like You Don't Share a Bathroom

I was recently interviewed by Pace and Kyeli Smith for Pace's Wild Crazy Meaningful Life podcast series. You can listen to it here:

They asked some great questions. Here are some of the high points we hit, in the order they come up in the podcast:

  • Assume Love

  • Miller's Law

  • Pace, why do you put your empty coffee cup next to the sink?

  • Kyeli, how could you have bought me the shampoo that I asked you to get for me?

  • Patty got stuck in the bathtub.

  • You can Assume Love and still take care of your own protection.

  • Look for the Third Alternative.

  • Compromise = "I'm willing to take some pain as long as the person I love the most gets the same amount of pain."

  • "Expect to be loved, and expect that all the ways you thought you would be loved are wrong."

  • "Every expectation is a premeditated resentment."

  • "We don't trust that we've chosen someone wonderful enough that what they will give us is even better than what we expected to receive."

  • "I love you" vs. "I'm in love with you"

  • This also applies to good friendships and relationships with your children.

  • And to sales: assume your customers want to buy what you're selling if it will help them.

  • The question to identify a harmful relationship (it's not "Do I feel unloved"): "Would my partner protect me if anyone else tried to do to me what my partner is doing to me?"

We decided to give this podcast the working title of the book I'm currently writing: Love Like You Don't Share a Bathroom, because we covered a lot of the topics in the book.

I hope you'll listen to it -- and to some of Pace's other recent podcasts:
Permission to Rest with Mara Glatzel
Your Insurance Claim Adjustor Is Not Your Friend
Losing Your Way with Gemma Stone

Good stuff!

May 26, 2015

How a Great Husband or Wife Becomes a Rotten Roommate

"We're nothing more than roommates anymore."

"I don't have any feelings left for you; you feel like nothing more than a roommate now."

It's a dreadful place to get to. So empty. So full of regrets. And it happens to a lot of couples, so let's talk about how it happens, how to avoid it, and how to recover from it.

Here, in a nutshell, is how to avoid it: Expect Love. I have said this in many blog posts, about many topics, but it fits this one like a glove. When you Expect Love, you let go of expecting things that once looked like signposts of love. You recognize that the way a movie director signals two people love each other is not the way real people show love, which is always far more personal.

I believe the way many couples end up nothing more than roommates is by expecting a good roommate. A good roommate is considerate. A good roommate avoids annoying you, often by creating emotional and physical distance between you. And if you lecture or scold your roommate, a good one will often go find a better roommate.

A spouse loves you. A spouse is your equal, not someone you lecture or scold. A spouse has vowed to stay even when you're not well enough to do your share of the housework or when you're too poor to chip in for expenses. And though it's often not easy, a spouse wants to remain physically and emotionally close, even if it means being a rotten roommate.

Expect a good roommate, get just a roommate. Expect Love and find Third Alternatives to deal with your differences of opinion on what makes a good roommate and you'll get a long-lasting, fulfilling marriage.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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