By all accounts, Aimee White’s husband is a great catch. He’s a good provider, a faithful husband and a fun dad -- but Mr. Romantic, he's not. “I have hinted that I would love to have flowers delivered to my office on my birthday, yet he never does it,” says White, of San Francisco. After nine years of marriage, White has learned to bury her disappointment. But really, she should just speak up.
Remaining silent can be corrosive to a relationship, warns James V. Cordova, Ph.D., author of The Marriage Checkup and chair of the psychology department at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “One of the challenges of being in a long-term intimate relationship is making sure that each of you continues to feel valued and loved,” he says. The problem is that women often long for romance while men are more practical. So if you want to avoid disappointment, you need to learn to communicate clearly – or ask for what you want.
On special occasions
Tell him what he does that you appreciate or love -- like the fact that his pet name for you is “beautiful.” Next, let him know what you want in a way that doesn’t criticize or fault him. Try something like this: “I really love getting flowers from you. It always brightens my day. It would make me happy if you sent flowers on my birthday.” End the conversation with something positive like a happy memory you both shared. “Your guy is less likely to get defensive if you sandwich your suggestion between messages of love and appreciation,” says Cordova.
In the bedroom
Talk to your partner if you have ideas for spicing things up -- just not when you’re about to do the deed. “The bedroom should be a place of positive energy and emotion,” says Cordova. Unless you’re talking about your derrière (or his), keep the word “but” out of the conversation (it can sound negative) and work in “and” instead. For starters, you might say: “I love it when you kiss my neck and what would be even more amazing for me would be if you also did…”
Around the house
No two people load the dishwasher the exact same way and yet the world keeps turning. If your guy seems clueless about housework or how to care for the kids, show (don’t tell) him what you need done. Yes, he still may do things differently, but if the task gets done, let it go. Most importantly, let him know that you appreciate his efforts. He might eventually clue in to the fact that you also deserve to be acknowledged for all that you do, too.
Remember, he can’t read your mind. “Men aren’t encouraged to express tender feelings,” notes Cordova. Even if your partner wooed you with romance when you first started dating, he may not realize that he needs to keep it up, even if it's in smaller ways. That’s why it’s so important to never stop telling him what you want and how you feel.