Sunday, July 23, 2017

Say What?

Why Did I Say Yes?

Challenge You desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one.
Solution Saying no is not just a surface issue. It’s deeply rooted and needs to be explored further.
Hey Guys-
Have you ever heard yourself say, "Whatever possessed me to say yes to this in the first place? Why didn't I just say no?" Or, after negotiating a deal, have you ever though, "Why didn't I ask for ___? I could kick myself!" If you have, that is pretty normal or at least common. However, if it happens often, it is also a problem. It reveals that sometimes you and your words are not on the same page.

You desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one.

Do you catch yourself responding to requests with, "I don't think I can _______" instead of saying, "No, I cannot do that" leaving the door open for them to push back? 

As I said to a CEO recently who met with a key executive to terminate the relationship and then ended up extending the contract, "What happened? You went in to break up and came back engaged!"

When I say you have a relationship to words, that may be an idea you have never thought about. But what we find is that in the depths of people's souls - where true behavior and its resulting success or chaos originates - there is a relationship with certain words. The nature of that relationship dictates a lot of what happens in people's lives. If the relationship is good and they get along well with words, they use them to create and maintain a healthy structure and boundaries. But if they do not get along well with words, them structure and boundaries are compromised and their lives become fragmented as a result. 

So, we are going to look at the word that have to do with why you find yourself in certain situations more than you might think. We are going to examine your relationship to some key words, including how you feel about them and how free you are to sue them, or not. Before we dive into looking at specific words and phrases, it's important to understand how certain words become embedded, or internalized, in our lives.

One would think that when you say yes or no to something, your answer is based on the merits of what you want to choose. When you want to grant a request, buy a product, agree to a price, take an assignment, or go to lunch with someone, you say yes. If not, you say no. But in reality, that is not what always happens. Sometimes you may be on autopilot and have less choice in your response than you may think.

Think about people you know or even yourself. Have you noticed that there are people who routinely find themselves in some situation they do not want to be in? Inevitably, they land in some activity, relationship, scheduling conflict, or problem they do not want. The reason in not that they failed to just say no once or twice. They basically never say no. Their choices are rarely about their relationship with the word "no" itself. They are conflicted about the word at a very deep level. They reach down there in hopes of finding "no," but it eludes them.

Or, think of the person on your team who know you cannot send to do that negotiation. When you need someone who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and expect to get it, this is the last person you'd call on. They just are the kind of people who never ask for what they want. For some reason, they can't pull the trigger. As a result, they rarely get out of life what they desire, and oftentimes they don't even get what they need. They get only what comes their way and nothing more. Then you know other people who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and get it. You exclaim, "How did you get them to agree to that?" And they answer, "I just asked for it, and they said fine."

The difference is not that one person wants or needs the outcome any more or less than the other. In fact, often the person who needs something the most is the one who finds it more difficult to ask. The real difference is that some people have a longstanding relationship with certain words that renders saying them virtually impossible. The result of not saying those words when we need to, or saying them when we don't, is that our lives become fragmented and scattered - a far cry from the integrated life we all want. Then we are truly out of control.

Cheers,
Henry

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Married to a secret agent....

By Dr. David Clarke, 2009
Communication presents a critical problem in most marriages. Why? Because Talking Spouse marries Secret Agent Spouse.

Every event of Talking Spouse's day has special meaning and is shared with more than one person. This morning she was flossing her teeth, and the floss shredded. The pieces of floss reminded her of the time she was water skiing at age 13 and her ski rope broke. Even though that was a bummer, that time at the lake with her dad and Aunt Betty was great. At four in the afternoon that day, she and Aunt Betty had a real heart-to-heart about boys. Aunt Betty was wearing a bright green strapless swimsuit, and there were little bits of corn stuck in her teeth from the corn on the cob she was eating.

All this from shredded dental floss! And she's going to find her husband and tell this story, including every excruciating detail, because that's what she does.

Unfortunately, Talking Spouse marries Secret Agent Spouse. Secret Agent Spouse rarely has anything to say. He has thoughts and feelings, but no one knows what they are because ... he's Secret Agent Spouse. Every event of his day, no matter how big, means nothing and is not shared with anyone.

This morning, while in a hotel on business, he was flossing his teeth, and the floss shredded. His left hand shot into the mirror, shattering the glass and cutting his hand badly. As he recoiled from the mirror impact, his right foot slipped into the toilet and got stuck. Luckily, he was able to call for help. The paramedics came, bandaged his hand and got his foot out of the toilet. It turned out that one of the paramedics was his best friend back in high school. Is he going to tell his wife what happened? Are you kidding? He's forgotten the whole incident by lunchtime.

Back home, Talking Spouse asks him about his bandaged hand and limp. He responds with, "Oh, it's nothing. Just a little accident."

Emotionally Stunted


Your Secret Agent isn't a bad guy. He hasn't killed anyone. He's not having an affair. He's a moral, decent, and upright person who works hard at his job. You know he loves you.

The one problem with him — and it is a big one — is that he doesn't show you love in the way you need to be shown love. He doesn't meet your deepest and most important need as a wife: to be emotionally connected to him. He doesn't open up and share himself with you.

Your Secret Agent is intimacy-challenged. He hides his true self behind his wall. He might be a pretty expressive guy, one with a great sense of humor. He may have no trouble talking, at least about superficial things: generalities about his day, financial matters, his job, home maintenance, the kids, vacation plans. But he closes down when it comes to any personal, below-the-surface conversation.

The Secret Agent Spouse could be the husband or the wife. The Talking Spouse knows how to express feelings and share on a deeper level. This spouse is ready, willing, and usually desperate to punch through the wall and experience emotional intimacy. The Secret Agent Spouse, however, stays behind the wall and refuses to allow any deeper level conversations to occur.

Breaking Through 


The key to breaking through your Secret Agent's wall and becoming emotionally connected is the process of spiritual bonding. There are many avenues to intimacy, but the spiritual is the most important one. To illustrate, here's a dialogue that I've had in my therapy office with hundreds of spouses married to Secret Agents:
Spouse: "Dr. Clarke, I've tried everything to get my spouse to open up and talk on a personal level. It's going to take an act of God to change my spouse and get us emotionally connected."

Me: "You're more right than you know. Let me ask you some questions. First, what kind of spiritual bonding do you do as a couple?"

Spouse: "Spiritual bonding?"

Me: "Do you have regular spiritual conversations in which each of you shares how you're doing in your relationship with God?"

Spouse: "No, we don't."

Me: "Do you pray together regularly? And I don't mean just at mealtimes."

Spouse: "No."

Me: "Do you discuss how you're applying biblical principals to your lives?"

Spouse: "No."

Me: "Don't feel too bad. Very few married couples spiritually bond. This is for three main reasons: Your parents didn't model it for you. No one ever taught you how. Not many churches provide specific teaching about spiritually bonding as a couple. But the secret to breaking through your Secret Agent's wall and becoming emotionally connected is the process of spiritual bonding."

Spouse: "This all sounds very personal. Shouldn't we get emotional intimacy first, and then branch out to the spiritual?"

Me: "Now is always the best time to include God in your relationship. Real, deep emotional intimacy in a marriage never happens without God's presence. It requires faith to step forward toward spiritually bonding when you feel vulnerable and aren't ready to be personal with your partner. It is unknown territory, and it will seem awkward and uncomfortable at first. But if you step out and do it, God will reward you lavishly."

This article first appeared in May 2010 on Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine website.... 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

21 Ways to Love the Person You Married

By Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottJune 7, 2017

“Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.” – Tom Mullen
It’s easy to fall in love and to marry the person you’ve fallen for; it’s a much bigger endeavor to nurture that love for a lifetime. The good news is, it can definitely be done! We’ve created a list of 21 ways to love the one you married. Put even a few of these into motion, and you’ll see your relationship continue to blossom and thrive over the years together. Let’s jump in!

1. OFFER YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.

Nothing is more validating than giving your spouse your undivided attention when they are speaking to you. When you intentionally make time to put distractions aside and focus on your spouse, they’ll feel loved, heard, and seen.

2. ASK TO SEE THEIR CREATIONS.

If your spouse is a creative person, show an interest in his or her paintings, writing, woodworking, drawings, music, poetry, etc. Engage with your spouse about what they’ve made or built, ask about their creative process, and show an interest in the materials they used to pull it all together. Praise their work and encourage them to continue creating.

3. LISTEN TO THEIR DREAMS.

Your spouse’s innermost dreams are precious; when they reveal dreams, goals, or ambitions to you, treat them as such. Even if a dream he or she shares doesn’t resonate with you at first, keep in mind that this is very personal for your spouse, and be willing to be receptive to it.

4. LAUGH AT THEIR JOKES.

Does your spouse have a funny bone–and enjoy tickling yours? Laugh at their jokes! It can be easy to let the stressors of life get to you, and stress can kill your sense of humor like nothing else. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying your spouse’s wit.

5. ALLOW THEM TO FULLY BE THEMSELVES.

You fell in love with your spouse because of the unique combination of features that makes them who they are–right? There may be times when some of your spouse’s qualities aren’t as attractive to you as they used to be…but allow them to be themselves, anyway. Your spouse will recognize and appreciate the freedom you give them to be who they truly are at heart.

6. MARVEL AT THEIR TALENTS.

You can never give your spouse too many “wows.” Is your husband great with kids? Let him know he amazes you! Is your wife a fantastic dancer? Tell her how great she is. Talents and gifts are God-given, and it’s our job as husbands and wives to recognize our spouse’s talents and revel in them.

7. BE A SAFE SPACE FOR VULNERABILITY.

You can love your spouse well by allowing them the safety to be fully vulnerable with you. Let them share their fears and weaknesses with you, in addition to their triumphs. Be generous in your willingness to be there for your spouse, and be a judgment-free zone for them.

8. SHOW UP FOR THEIR IMPORTANT MOMENTS.

Being present for your spouse’s victories–and being their biggest cheerleader–is critical to loving them well. Is your husband or wife being presented with an award, receiving a promotion, or giving a performance? Be there. If you can’t be present at the event itself, head up the celebration!

9. PUT THEIR NEEDS BEFORE YOUR OWN.

Selflessness is the key to a successful, happy marriage. Consider what your spouse may need or want before you plow ahead with your own decisions and plans. Give them the courtesy of making them a priority; sometimes, they’ll take you up on the offer, and sometimes they’ll defer to your needs and preferences.

10. BE A GOOD LISTENER.

Too often, it’s easy to tune out your spouse’s words as you wrack your brain for your own response. When you communicate–especially when you’re attempting to resolve a conflict–listen carefully to what your spouse is saying, and echo back what you hear.

11. LET THEM HAVE A “POOR BABY” DAY ONCE IN AWHILE.

We don’t always get the luxury of wallowing in whatever has upset us; once in awhile, give your spouse the gift of a “poor baby” day when they’ve had a difficult day at work, school, or home. Give them a hug, a break from any obligations you’re able to relieve them from, and just let them know you’re there for them.

12. TELL THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

Sometimes your spouse needs to hear honesty from you that may not be pleasant to receive. In these cases, communicate with as much gentleness and understanding as possible. While you may believe that being “brutally honest” or “telling the hard truth” will be most effective in getting your point across, in reality, what your spouse needs is the truth spoken in love.

13. GIVE WITHOUT EXPECTATION.

Showing generosity to your spouse without expecting them to reciprocate every time is a great way to demonstrate your love for them. If you see things that need to be done, take care of them without spectacle. If your spouse needs help with something, help them without asking for anything in return.

14. RESPECT THEIR LIMITATIONS.

Loving your spouse entails knowing what their limitations are. Avoid placing unrealistic expectations on them that they won’t be able to fulfill, and be cognizant of the limitations their individual personality traits may put on their ability to perform in certain situations.

15. HAVE EYES ONLY FOR THEM.

One of the best ways to love the person you married is to only have eyes for him or her. Don’t let your eyes, mind, or heart wander to anyone other than your spouse. Even during difficult times in your marriage, train yourself to focus your attentions on your spouse–because hard times eventually pass, and you’ll be so glad you stayed true to your husband or wife.

16. COMPLIMENT THEM.

Offering positive affirmations to your spouse at every opportunity is a great way to nurture your marriage. Compliment their appearance or tell them why you love them. Saying, “I love you because, _____,” is a great exercise in demonstrating how you feel.

17. STAY ON THE SAME TEAM.

Remember, you two aren’t enemies! While there may be some tough times in your marriage, it’s always worth it to stay on your spouse’s team. When you come out on the other side of the hard times, your relationship will be stronger and more resilient than before.

18. FALL IN LOVE WITH THEM ALL OVER AGAIN.

Time changes people. When you commit to a lifetime together, you’re committing to love a growing, changing person for the rest of your lives. Embrace the changes and let yourself fall in love with your spouse time and time again.

19. MAKE NEW MEMORIES TOGETHER.

While reminiscing about your past is a great way to stay connected, continually making new memories together is also a powerful way to love your one and only. Do fun and special things together that you’ll remember for years to come.

20. LEARN TO SPEAK THEIR LOVE LANGUAGES.

Everyone speaks in a different love language (sometimes, more than one!). You can take this quiz to learn what your love languages are, then adjust the ways you approach one another to fit the ways that you each receive love best.

21. TREAT THEM LIKE YOU WANT TO BE TREATED.

What better way to love your spouse than by applying the Golden Rule? If you find yourself at a loss when it comes to showing love to the person you married, carefully consider how you’d like for them to care for you, then do the same for them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

10 Things to Know Before You Remarry

Challenges every single parent should consider before deciding to remarry.

By Ron L. Deal, FamilyLife 2014

Specializing in stepfamily therapy and education has taught me one thing: Couples should be highly educated about remarriage and the process of becoming a stepfamily before they ever walk down the aisle.  Remarriage—particularly when children are involved—is much more challenging than dating seems to imply. Be sure to open your eyes well before a decision to marry has been made.
The following list represents key challenges every single parent (or those dating a single parent) should know before deciding to remarry. Open your eyes wide now and you—and your children—will be grateful later.
1. Wait two to three years following a divorce or the death of your spouse before seriously dating. No, I’m not kidding. Most people need a few years to fully heal from the ending of a previous relationship. Moving into a new relationship short-circuits the healing process, so do yourself a favor and grieve the pain, don’t run from it. In addition, your children will need at least this much time to heal and find stability in their visitation schedule. Slow down.
2. Date two years before deciding to marry; then date your future spouse's children before the wedding. Dating two years gives you time to really get to know one another. Too many relationships are formed on the rebound when both people lack godly discernment about their fit with a new person. Give yourself plenty of time to get to know each other thoroughly. Keep in mind—and this is very important—that dating is inconsistent with remarried life.
Even if everything feels right, dramatic psychological and emotional shifts often take place for children, parents, and stepparents right after the wedding. What seems like smooth sailing can become a rocky storm in a hurry. Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t experience difficulties. As one parent said, "Falling in love is not enough when it comes to remarriage; there’s just more required than that."
When you do become serious about marriage, date with the intention of deepening the stepparent/stepchild relationships. Young children can attach themselves to a future stepparent rather quickly, so make sure you’re serious before spending lots of time together. Older children will need more time (research suggests that the best time to remarry is before a child’s tenth birthday or after his/her sixteenth; couples who marry between those years collide with the teen's developmental needs).
3. Know how to "cook" a stepfamily. Most people think the way to cook a stepfamily is with a blender, microwave, pressure cooker, or food processor. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of these "cooking styles" attempt to combine the family ingredients in a rapid fashion. Unfortunately, resentment and frustration are the only results.
The way to cook a stepfamily is with a crockpot. Once thrown into the pot, it will take time and low heat to bring ingredients together, requiring that adults step into a new marriage with determination and patience. The average stepfamily takes five to seven years to combine; some take longer. There are no quick recipes.  (Read more about how to cook a stepfamily here.)
4. Realize that the "honeymoon" comes at the end of the journey for remarried couples, not the beginning. Ingredients thrown into a crockpot that have not had sufficient time to cook don’t taste good—and might make you sick. Couples need to understand that the rewards of stepfamily life (security, family identity, and gratitude for one another) come at the end of the journey. Just as the Israelites traveled a long time before entering the Promise Land, so will it be for your stepfamily.
5. Think about the kids. Children experience numerous losses before entering a stepfamily. In fact, your remarriage is another. It sabotages their fantasy that Mom and Dad can reconcile, or that a deceased parent will always hold his or her place in the home. Seriously consider your children’s losses before deciding to remarry. If waiting till your children leave home before you remarry is not an option, work to be sensitive to your children’s loss issues. Don’t rush them and don’t take their grief away.
6. Manage and be sensitive to loyalties. Even in the best of circumstances, children feel torn between their biological parents and likely feel that enjoying your dating partner will please you but betray the other parent. Don’t force children to make choices, and examine the binds they feel. Give them your permission to love and respect new people in the other home and let them warm up to your new spouse in their own time.
7. Don’t expect your new spouse to feel the same about your children as you do. It’s a good fantasy, but stepparents won’t care for your children to the same degree that you do. This is not to say that stepparents and stepchildren can’t have close bonds; they can. But it won’t be the same. When looking at your daughter, you will see a 16-year-old who brought you mud pies when she was 4 and showered you with hugs each night after work. Your spouse will see a self-centered brat who won’t abide by the house rules. Expect to have different opinions and to disagree on parenting decisions.
8. Realize that remarriage has unique barriers. Are you more committed to your children or your marriage? If you aren’t willing to risk losing your child to the other home, for example, don’t make the commitment of marriage. Making a covenant does not mean neglecting your kids, but it does mean that they are taught which relationship is your ultimate priority. A marriage that is not the priority will be mediocre at best.
Another unique barrier involves the "ghost of marriage past." Individuals can be haunted by the negative experiences of previous relationships and not even recognize how it is impacting the new marriage. Work to not interpret the present in light of the past, or you might be destined to repeat it.
9. Parent as a team; get your plan ready. No single challenge is more predictive of stepfamily success than the ability of the couple to parent as a team. Stepparents must find their role, know their limits in authority, and borrow power from the biological parent in order to contribute to parental leadership. Biological parents must keep alive their role as primary disciplinarian and nurturer while supporting the stepparent’s developing role (read this series of articles for more on stepparenting). Managing these roles will not be easy; get a plan and stick together.
10. Know what to tell the kids. Tell them:
  • It’s okay to be confused about the new people in your life.
  • It’s okay to be sad about our divorce (or parent’s death).
  • You need to find someone safe to talk to about all this.
  • You don’t have to love my new spouse, but you do need to treat him or her with the same respect you would give a coach or teacher at school.
  • You don’t have to take sides. When you feel caught in the middle between our home and your other home, please tell me and we’ll stop.
  • You belong to two homes with different rules, routines, and relationships. Find your place and contribute good things in each.
  • The stress of our new home will reduce—eventually.
  • I love you and will always have enough room in my heart for you. I know it’s hard sharing me with someone else. I love you.
Work smarter, not harder
For stepfamilies, accidentally finding their way through the wilderness to the promised land is a rarity. Successful navigation requires a map. You’ve got to work smarter, not harder. Before you remarry, be sure to educate yourself on the options and challenges that lie ahead.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

teamwork....

By Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottMay 10, 2017



The beauty of a strong marriage is in the details. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the most successful marriage relationships have something major in common: in the big adventures as well as the day-to-day grind, the happiest, healthiest couples do life together as a team.
We love this quote about how the best marriages have teamwork as their foundation:
“The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace.” – Fawn Weaver
Today we’re going to dig into the three major components of teamwork outlined in the above quote: respect, admiration, and grace. These are all critical ingredients to any winning team, so let’s break them down!

1. RESPECT

Respect is an essential ingredient to any team’s success, whether on the sports field or in a marriage. Merriam-Webster Online defines respect as “an act of giving particular attention; a high or special regard.”
When a team’s players respect one another, they:
  • Value each other
  • Support one another
  • Cheer each other on
  • Are considerate of one another
  • Treat each other with kindness and patience
A team built on respect has a much higher chance of winning the game because they’re not tearing one another down. Instead, each member appreciates his or her teammates for their strengths, and lifts their teammates up in moments of weakness. Team members share an end game: win, and keep winning until the very end.
In a marriage, it’s important to work together toward your end game. Root for your spouse. Support them in times of weakness. Help them keep running the race until you reach the finish line together. It’s a lifelong journey, but a worthwhile one when you stick together.

2. ADMIRATION

Admiration builds on respect and takes it to a whole new level. Merriam-Webster defines admiration as “a feeling of respect and approval; an object of esteem.” In other words, without respect, you can’t have admiration.
To admire another is to hold them in very high regard, or to find them compelling, fascinating, or amazing. The best teams are made up of players who are constantly “wowed” by their teammates’ abilities, instead of players who are in competition with one another or striving to the the star of the team.
In marriage, the concept is the same. Husbands and wives should cultivate that same “wow” factor with one another. And to take that a step farther, be vocal with each other–and with the outside world–about the characteristics and talents you admire. Let your spouse know what it is about him or her that fascinates you.

3. GRACE

When teammates have a healthy dose of grace for one another, the unit as a whole can continue moving toward their collective goal with little hindrance. But if a team falls apart over a player’s mistake, a bad play, or a lost game, it’s going to be that much harder to pick up the pieces and continue pressing forward as a unit. Feelings will be hurt, respect and admiration may be damaged, and morale will be crushed.
Every great team understands that sometimes, things won’t go as planned. Sometimes, you’ll lose a game. One of you might make a mistake or face failure. That impacts the team in the short term, but it doesn’t have to destroy what you’ve built together.
In the same way, husbands and wives must have plenty of grace for one another. There are going to be times in life that get you down: failures, disappointments, missteps, tragic events, illness, and more. Some of these things might be direct results of actions that either you or your spouse takes. And when that happens, it’s important to always have a healthy dose of grace ready.
One effective way to cultivate grace is to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Creating a sense of empathy within yourself will help you extend grace to your spouse when it’s due. And if you’re willing to do that for your spouse, they’ll be more willing to offer the same to you.
Stay in the game! No matter what happens, remember you’re on the same team.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage

By Shaunti Feldhahn, 4/23/2017
A few small actions carry surprising power in building a lasting relationship.

Not long ago, the marriage of some close friends—I'll call them Daniel and Jessica—suddenly imploded. We did everything we could to stand with them in their crisis to speak hope for their future together. Unfortunately, their marriage didn't survive.
I'll never forget a conversation I had with Jessica one day. Through her sobs, she said, "He worked so hard for a year to take us on that amazing vacation to Hawaii. But all I really wanted was for him to put his arm around me at church!"
Huh? Do you think in the midst of all her pain that she was thinking clearly? Actually, I do.
I could fill in lots of other details, but ultimately the pattern is a sadly common one. You may have seen it too. Daniel was a godly, well-intentioned husband who showed his love in several ways, including working long hours to provide for his family and to do nice things for them. You see, for him, providing is love.
Unfortunately, he didn't realize that what he was working so hard for wasn't what Jessica most needed—and in some ways was actually robbing her of the closeness she needed the most. (And of course there were ways she didn't know she was hurting him.) What she needed most, more than all the expensive vacations in the world, were a few simple, specific day-to-day actions.
But as simple as loving gestures in public? you wonder.
Yes! My research on happy couples showed that an extraordinarily high percentage of them were (often without realizing it!) doing a few little specific actions that were making their spouses feel deeply cared for. Jessica, as it turns out, is like nearly all other men and women in her deep rooted desire for these surprisingly meaningful gestures.
Day-to-day actions
Clearly, a few small actions won't fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don't. There's just enormous power in that!
For nearly every man or woman, the same few small, gender-specific actions not only matter but have a huge impact on a couple’s level of happiness. But these little actions take on even more power when accompanied by those that matter to your spouse individually.
Let’s begin with the few small actions that the surveys indicate matter a lot to almost every man or woman—what we might call the Fantastic Five.
When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.
In other words, you are very likely to make your spouse feel deeply cared for if you make a habit of doing the same five things consistently.
The Fantastic Five for him
A wife will have a big impact on her husband’s happiness when she does the following:
1. Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. (For example, she says, “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside.” Or, “Thanks for playing with the kids, even when you were so tired from work.”) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.
2. Says “You did a great job at __________.” This deeply pleases 69 percent of all men.
3. Mentions in front of others something he did well. This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.
4. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. This deeply pleases 85 percent of all men.
5. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. (For example, she expresses appreciation for something he did for her with a smile, words, a big hug, etc.) This deeply pleases 88 percent of all men.
The Fantastic Five for her
On his side, a husband will have a big impact on his wife when he does the following:
1. Takes her hand. (For example, when walking through a parking lot or sitting together at the movies.) This deeply pleases 82 percent of all women.
2. Leaves her a message by voice mail, e-mail, or text during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. This deeply pleases 75 percent of all women.
3. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public (at church, at a restaurant with friends, etc.). This deeply pleases 74 percent of all women.
4. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.
5. Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something, instead of withdrawing. (This doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or need space; it means he tries to pull himself out of it.) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all women.
Keys that unlock any door
Did you notice that all these happiness-inducing actions are simple, learnable, and doable by any wife or any husband? If you put each of the five biggest little things to work every day, I’m betting your marriage will improve—in some cases, radically.
And here’s more great news: All these small but powerful actions matter regardless of what the person’s love language is. For example, most wives (82 percent) are affected when her husband reaches out and takes her hand, regardless of whether physical touch is her thing.
There’s no looking back for our friends Jessica and Daniel. But I’m so thankful that God is good. He is always at work to redeem our broken hearts—and I know He’ll do it for our friends. Still, a corner of my heart mourns the heartbreak that might have been prevented if they had truly understood the power of doing these best little things.
We all know that small, thoughtful acts are not a magic cure-all for every marriage problem. But having talked to so many who nurtured much happiness with simple but powerful actions, I know all of us can build that all-important foundation that helps us believe that our mate notices and cares.
Because as it turns out, believing that the other person cares is far more important to building a happy marriage than most of us ever realized.
Adapted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn, copyright © 2013.  http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/communication/5-biggest-little-ways-to-improve-your-marriage/