Marriage: Awareness Counts

When living with our spouse day in and day out, we tend to take our spouse for granted. As a result, our spouse feels ignored and devalued. What are we doing that’s so harmful? How do we show our spouse he or she is important to us and we care about and for him or her?

Some of you may remember when we did the juggling sticks in one of our workshops. The learning in that exercise was about empowerment. We can’t empower the other person, but we can make a place where the other person feels empowered. That is, we can help the other person empower himself or herself. A key point in that exercise is: to feel empowered is to believe you matter. In your marriage, as in the workplace, any person wants to know he or she matters—who she is matters, what he does matters, what she believes matters, his contribution matters, her difficulties matter.

In marriage, your spouse wants to matter most to you. Try saying to your spouse, “You matter to me.” (Remember from the workshop that attitude is more important than skill. Make sure he or she does matter to you as you say words like those. Your facial expression, body language, and tone of voice will give you away—especially to a woman, who senses such things. To support a helpful attitude, consciously think of several specific times or ways your spouse pleases you and is important to you.)

Most women, much of the time, focus on connection—a feeling of being connected to another person. In marriage, feeling connected to her husband is most important. Also, women tend to be more broadly observant, while men tend to be more focused, or goal-oriented. Here’s an example of what this difference looks like. The wife returns from work, shopping, the yard, the basement, or wherever. The husband is focused on the computer, TV, newspaper, or whatever. His wife walks in; the husband doesn’t seem to notice. This lack of notice is interpreted as not caring. His wife feels she isn’t important enough to her husband for him even to look up, let alone say something as recognition that she’s there. She thinks her husband isn’t aware of her existence.

Consider this thought: “I’m there; I’m aware; I care.” If your spouse believes that thought, he or she feels connected, loved, and empowered. Your job is to communicate that thought. “I’m there for you. I’m aware of you. I care about you. I care for you.”

When I drag home at the end of a hard day loaded down with my laptop computer case, brief case, and often more, and I see through the window in the door my wife responding to the key in the door and getting up to greet me, I feel like I matter. I suspect she has to be thoughtful to do that for me.

I try to do the same thing for my wife. I’ve been known to turn off the Redskins in the middle of a play to look up and get up when she returns from outside the house.

We each want to know somebody is aware of our existence, our joys, our sorrows, and our needs. Awareness counts.