Pay more attention to your spouse

Marriages can lose their spark if either spouse doesn’t realize how important it is to show that one cares for the other person on a regular basis.

A couple (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
A couple
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
During my years of clinical psychotherapy practice, I have seen many couples who are ready to walk out on their marriage – because they feel their partner no longer fulfills their needs.
There are many variations on this general complaint.
One husband complained that his wife was more ambitious than he was, and her career came first. She spent long hours every night preparing for her next day of work; they rarely went out together, and this was even before having children.
One wife complained that her husband was addicted to computer games and enjoyed this interaction more than paying attention to her. She started to get migraines but had no awareness that her head was hurting so much, because she felt alone and abandoned by her inattentive husband.
In a third case, the couple had two young children; both kids were hyperactive and it was difficult putting them to sleep every night. The wife received very little support from her husband when it came to dealing with parenting tasks or household chores; exhausted, she resorted to binge eating as a way of coping with her stress. The husband would stay up late, and long after his tired wife fell asleep, would surf porn sites. He later told me he did this because his wife had lost all interest in sex.
So how does it happen that so many of these “loving couples” end up in my office five, 10 or 20 years later, reporting boredom and alienation in their relationships? Could all or most of them have been wrong in the first place? Did each of them commit some perceptual self-deception and marry the wrong person? Maybe, in some of the cases, a bad choice was indeed made. However, my belief is that for many of these couples something went wrong along the path of their marriage.
The field of marital therapy has generated many studies that come to one general conclusion: Many marriages lose their spark because spouses either forget or just don’t realize how important it is to show on a regular basis that you care for him/ her. The need to be reminded of this is a constant factor.
In point of fact, people need to see and feel their partners really do care about them. Behaviors that demonstrate this have been positively correlated with marital satisfaction.
It’s important to mention that a spouse who wants to initiate a caring gesture may be afraid to do so in light of perceived rejections of previous attempts, or a failure of any reciprocation when tried. Don’t let this be a reason to give up. Have a talk with your spouse and let him/her know that you are afraid of his/her rejection when wanting to try to show caring.
If this doesn’t help, get some marital counseling and work on the issue together.
• Wear his/her favorite outfit
• Wear his favorite perfume or her favorite scent
• Flirt big time with him/her
• Send a text message saying you are thinking about him/her
• Do his or her dirty dishes
• Wake him/her up with a kiss
• Be aware of his/her physical state and respond (offer to carry things if they’re struggling, offer your jacket if they’re cold)
• Check out a book from the library or buy a book you know he/she will enjoy
• Plan a whole day or weekend that is all about things he/she likes, and make it a surprise
• Skip a social event last-minute to get away together and enjoy being alone
• Massage his/her feet
• Give a backrub
• Give a card or buy a small present for no particular reason
• Make his/her favorite meal
• Give a hug for no reason
• Run a bath and light candles
• Pack a picnic lunch
• Take care of the kids so he/she can spend some time alone
• Offer to do his/her least-favorite chore
• Clean the house
• Call him/her at work just to say hi and “I care about you”
• Plan a surprise outing he/she will like
• Write love notes back and forth
• Think of an anniversary of some thing seemingly insignificant (like the first time you made dinner to gether), and celebrate it
• Compliment him/her
• Have a calendar made for him/her with various pictures of you together
• Take a day off work or leave work early to be together
• Show an interest and talk about each other’s work/hobbies
• Support whatever his/her newest interest is (exercising, painting)
• Break plans with someone else just to be with him/her
• Do things without being asked – try to be one step ahead of what you might be asked to do
• Get him/her a gift card for his/her favorite store
• Send him/her a loving email once a day “just because”
• Plan a weekend getaway
• Order takeout on a night you know he/she doesn’t want to cook
• Offer to sign him/her up for a class on a hobby he/she’s always wanted to start (such as pottery, woodworking)
• Carry the groceries in from the car and put them away
• Ask him/her to dance to a slow song with you
• Give random kisses at random times of day
• Gaze at him/her from across the room with a loving smile
• If you smoke, quit
• Fulfill a sexual fantasy
• Run a bubble bath for two
• Leave little love notes that just say “Hi” or “You look good today,” for them to find when they get home
• Listen attentively to how his/her day went
Remember, marriage is not a free ride. Don’t take your partner’s feelings for granted. Pay attention!
The writer is a marital, child and adult psychotherapist, with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana; he also provides online videoconferencing psychotherapy. Drmikegropper@,