By Kristin Koch
So your Prince Charming isn't always so…charming? Maybe you wish your partner were a little more romantic or helped out around the house. Just because the yelling, nagging and bribing hasn't gotten you anywhere doesn't mean you can't get him to change his ways. Here's how to get your guy to put down the toilet seat, bring you flowers and do the dishes-without having to ask him 10 times.
Fantasy: Casanova-or at least a man who surprises you with flowers once in a while and doesn't think a vacuum cleaner is an acceptable Valentine's Day gift.
Reality: Your husband wouldn't know romance if it hit him in the face.
"One of the biggest mistakes that women make is holding on to the belief that if Mr. Right was truly able to live up to his name, he would know exactly what makes you happy," says Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women. "But in order to get what you want out of the relationship, you have to ask for it." Don't just assume that your partner should know what you want; chances are you both have very different ways you express your love and appreciation, according to Jenn Oikle, PhD, a relationship psychologist and founder of MySoulmateSolution.com. To get him to channel his inner Don Juan, ask for what you need and then offer positive reinforcement when he gets it right (or close enough). "Over time, the constant 'oohing' and 'aahing' and praise will make him want to do more romantic gestures," says Dr. Haltzman. "Soon enough, the flowers and romantic dinners will come naturally." But men aren't the only ones responsible for keeping the romance alive. "If you start acting more romantically yourself, he will respond in kind," says Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. "So pick your partner up from work one Friday and whisk him away for the weekend, or treat him to a romantic dinner one night." Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: George Clooney's toned physique.
Reality: A big ol' beer belly, thanks to your husband's penchant for brewskies and burgers (and aversion to the gym).
He may seem all big and tough on the outside, but don't assume it's OK to tease him about his gut or call him lazy (unless you don't mind if he jokes about your wobbly bits). Instead, focus on how you can get in shape together. "Ask him to be your teammate in a diet or exercise program," recommends Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love. Sign up for workout classes together or split a few sessions with a personal trainer. If he hates the gym, take up a new sport together (like surfing or tennis) or go for a bike ride together on weekends. Apply the same philosophy to your diet, and take healthy cooking classes together or do the grocery shopping together so you can stock up on healthy foods you'll both eat. "The extra time spent together will bring you closer as a couple while you both get more fit," says Dr. Oikle. Just resist the urge to become the diet police-unless you want that beer belly to become a permanent fixture. Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: A man who does the dishes, takes out the trash and does his share of the housework-without making you feel like a nag.
Reality: Not only does your partner not notice a sink full of dishes or overflowing garbage can, you feel bad asking him to do his share.
It's easy enough to get him to do stuff around the house-just ask. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tend to grossly underestimate how likely others are to agree to their requests for assistance. Being passive-aggressive or not asking him to do something and then getting angry when he doesn't do anything will only provoke fights-not change. And don't try to blame or shame your partner into helping out more-that strategy rarely works. "Instead, clearly state exactly what you want him to do," says Dr. Kirschner. "But do it in a sweet and affectionate manner ('Honey, I would love it if you took out the trash for me before your show starts')." To avoid nagging and squabbles, sit down with a list of the things that need to get done around the house and decide together who wants to do what and when the tasks should be done by. "And avoid the urge to micromanage," warns Dr. Oikle. "Let him do things his way, rather than correcting everything he does because it's not exactly how you would have done it." Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: A man who is as comfortable opening up about his feelings as you are sharing your own.
Reality: When something is upsetting him, he completely shuts down. You want to help, but when you ask him what's wrong, he insists, "I'm fine."
"Many men just aren't good at talking about feelings, especially face-to-face," explains Dr. Oikle. "They're better at opening up when they don't feel pressured and when you're doing something else." If you can tell he's stressed out, plan an activity for you to do together-whether it's hiking, bowling or just going for a drive. Then casually ask him about work (or whatever you think might be bugging him), and let him know you're there to listen if he feels like getting anything off his chest. "Some men don't share because they don't want to upset or burden you with their troubles," says Dr. Oikle. "Let your partner know that you appreciate when he's the rock you can count on, and you want to be able to return the favor." But don't push if he doesn't pour his heart out to you right away. "If you put stress on him to open up, it becomes counterproductive," Dr. Orbuch says. "He may need to think and analyze the situation before he shares with you." Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: Well, you'd love a mother-in-law who doesn't criticize everything you do. But if you're stuck with what you've got, you'd at least like a husband who will defend you.
Reality: He just ignores his mother when she "suggests" a better way to raise the kids or clean your house. You've told your husband it bugs you, but he insists "She's just trying to help."
It's important to feel like your husband is on your side, so when he tries to explain or justify his mother's behavior, it may feel like he's ignoring your feelings or even betraying you. But remember, he's in a tough position too, so he's just trying to maintain the peace. "Instead of getting angry at him, ask him for his advice," Dr. Orbuch recommends. After all, he knows what makes her tick better than you do. Explain how his mother's actions make you feel, while being careful not to blame him or criticize her. "Asking him for help will make him want to fix the situation," adds Dr. Orbuch. But don't expect your husband to transform your relationship with your mother-in-law-that responsibility is all yours. "Take charge. You don't need to be mean or defensive, but set boundaries as to what she can (and cannot) say to you," says Dr. Orbuch. "Acknowledge that the two of you may have differences and that you appreciate that she feels a certain way, but that you disagree with her advice and/or the way she treats you." Photo: ThinkstockFind out 10 things your mother-in-law wants to say to you.
Fantasy: A real teammate when it comes to parenting: You make all major decisions together, and you always back each other up.
Reality: You're the "bad guy" and he's the "cool one." You make sure the homework gets done, the teeth are brushed and they don't kill each other. Meanwhile, your husband gets to do all the fun stuff and doesn't see the harm in letting the kids stay up past their bedtimes or have ice cream right before dinner.
"You have to set limits with your husband and insist that you parent as a team," says Dr. Kirchner. "But don't correct him in front of the children." Talk to your husband when the kids are not around and calmly insist that you parent as a team for the sake of the children. Then set some ground rules, so it's clear where you both stand on the main issues that lead to conflict: bedtimes, eating habits, social activities, TV time, chores, etc. Decide which rules can be bent on occasion and which things require both Mom's and Dad's approval. Coming to an understanding ahead of time will help you avoid the good cop/bad cop scenario that many parents face. Plus, with both parents on the same page, your kids will have a clearer understanding of the rules and expectations, so they won't constantly test you both to see what they can get away with. Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: A partner who listens to your rants and understands why you get so worked up about your friend who always flakes on you or the coworker who never does her share of the work.
Reality: He zones out midway through the conversation, or interrupts you after a few minutes to say he doesn't understand why you're so upset.
"In our society, men have been trained-and rewarded-to fix problems," says Dr. Oikle. "They aren't trained to be excellent listeners." So you may need to change your expectations, because he won't naturally know how to respond the way your girlfriend would. Whether you want his advice or you just want to vent, be specific about what you need from him. "Sometimes men get stressed out when they listen but don't know how to solve your problems, so they shut down because they feel ineffective," says Dr. Oikle. "Just letting him know you only need someone to listen can take the pressure off him and help him to meet your needs." To ensure you have his undivided attention, pick a time when he's relaxed and not in the middle of something (so not during the game) to discuss what's on your mind. Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: A partner who's spontaneous and adventurous-always up for trying out new restaurants or planning exotic vacations.
Reality: He's a creature of habit and as predictable as the plot of a soap opera.
"You're the one who has to take the initiative," says Dr. Haltzman. Lead by example, and sign up for tango lessons, book a vacation somewhere you've never been or make a reservation at a new restaurant. "But take the approach that this is something you want to do or that will make you happy (even if you know it's really good for him too)," says Dr. Haltzman. Then be sure to give him plenty of positive feedback, so he'll be more eager to try something new again. Need help getting the creative juices flowing? Set aside designated date nights and alternate who plans them. The only rule: It has to be something you've never done before but you'd both enjoy. "This helps you both break out of the rut and access your creative, spontaneous, fun sides," explains Dr. Oikle. Photo: Thinkstock
Fantasy: A partner who's invested in his career but still makes it home for dinner every night, never misses a school play and has time for romantic dates with his wife.
Reality: You married a workaholic, who practically lives at the office. You're convinced he loves his job more than you and the kids, but he insists he's just trying to provide for your future.
Don't just assume that your partner's work schedule is indicative of his feelings, or that he's spending all his time at the office to avoid his family. "Typically men dig themselves into work because of anxiety about financial security," explains Dr. Haltzman. Rather than adding to your husband's stress by fighting with him over the fact that he's never home, Dr. Haltzman suggests attacking the root of the problem. Discuss ways you can scale back or share more of the financial burden, so he can feel better about spending less time at work and more time at home. And be sure to tell your husband that he's missed and you would love to spend more time with him, both as a couple and as a family, adds Dr. Haltzman. Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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