The Empowered Wife

The Empowered Wife

Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting Your Husband’s Time, Attention, and Affection

New York Times Best Selling Author
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CHAPTER 3:

The Empowered Wife – Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting Your Husband’s Time, Attention, and Affection
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“This upbeat, contemporary iteration of the author’s matrimony model (first seen in her 2001 bestseller The Surrendered Wife) may help women achieve higher levels of intimacy and stronger partnerships.”

-Publishers Weekly

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You Are Not a Smaller, Less-Hairy Man

Marriage counselors tend to treat husbands and wives as if they want the same things and bring the same gifts to the relationship. Instead of celebrating the differences between the two genders and addressing them individually, in marriage counseling there’s often no difference between men and women.
Intimacy skills help you honor the unique gifts that you as a woman bring to the world and to your marriage. Start by focusing on your own pleasure at least three times every day. Tap directly into your feminine gifts in this way and you will rock your relationship—and the world.

“I spent my young adult years postponing many of the small things that I knew would make me happy. I was fortunate enough to realize that I would never have the time unless I made the time. And then the rest of my life began.”

—Dr. Chris Peterson, Author, Professor, and Cofounder of Positive Psychology

Your Birthright as a Woman

My whole life, I was taught that men and women are the same. Sure, there are some obvious physical differences, but I believed those were superficial. I pretended that biology didn’t affect my mind and spirit. I also denied that I had any special gifts as a woman—as if the world and I would be just fine without acknowledging those gifts.

To me, it was vital that men and women be the same, because I thought that was how it had to be for us to have equal opportunity in the world. I was also angry when anyone said I was different than a man. How dare they!

That’s pretty embarrassing to think about, because I couldn’t have been more wrong. That sort of thinking seems so old-fashioned to me now! I’ve relegated it to the “Gee, it seemed like a good idea at the time” column, along with preparing for a nuclear attack by hiding under a desk.

Fortunately, the idea that men and women are the same is not the prevailing wisdom anymore. There are books on how to market to women (because their buying habits are different from men’s and they do most of the spending), how women manage employees differently than men, how having women’s input affects investment portfolios (better returns than portfolios with only men’s input), and how female brains are hardwired differently than male brains.

It turns out that sameness isn’t important in the workplace anyway. Women have demonstrated that we’re capable and professional, but we bring different strengths and a different culture with us to work. Of course we do—we’re not smaller, less-hairy men; we’re an entirely dif- ferent gender. And admitting that doesn’t mean we lose; my experience has been just the opposite. Tuning in to and exercising my feminine gifts has been exciting and gratifying and has provided a sense of ease and relief that I was missing before I discovered the skills and applied them in my relationship and at work.

The Gifts of the Feminine

We’re all a unique mix of feminine and masculine characteristics to varying degrees, of course. But there are some big advantages to being a woman that have been downplayed over the past fifty years. Here are some things that I sort of knew but didn’t fully understand or embrace about my power as a woman:

1. Magnetism

We are the sexier sex, which means we get to enjoy the power of feeling desired and pursued.

2. Emotional Brilliance

We’re better at identifying and expressing our emotions, which is vital for creating long-term commitment.

3. Receptivity

We deserve special treatment, and men like to give it to us—if we let them.

4. Pleasure

We have the only organ on the human body created expressly for pleasure. Which tells me that female pleasure is pretty important—and I don’t mean just sexual pleasure, although that’s important too.

5. Desire

Because men want us to be happy and our pleasure is very impor- tant, our desires are a powerful force in the world and often serve as the North Star by which a couple navigates.

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The Power of a Woman’s Pleasure

I’m always encouraging every woman to “tend to her own pleasure,” which means focusing time and effort on activities (or non-activities, in some cases) that make you feel good. I’m not talking about things you feel you should do, but things you are drawn to just for the fun of it. Only you know what that means for you, so your self-care list will be unique.

I know that yoga is good for me. It helps with flexibility and strength, and people who practice it have beautiful bodies. But I don’t like doing yoga. I find it tedious and boring, and no one keeps score, so where’s the fun in that? I might decide to do yoga (rarely), but it wouldn’t count as tending to my pleasure. Sure, doing it means caring for my body, but I’m not drawn to that activity the way a child is drawn to a swing or a ball.

This is the difference: Doing something pleasurable means it feels good in the moment you’re doing it, not afterward. Some activities may be both. For me, volleyball on the beach is both super fun while I’m doing it and makes me feel healthy and strong after I’ve stopped sweating and breathing heavily. I happen to get health advantages from that particular pleasure, but many things on my list have no such fringe benefits and are only beneficial because they make me happy in the moment. Talking to my sisters on the phone, for instance, or singing in harmony, getting a facial, listening to my favorite radio show, lazing on the couch and watching a movie, or having coffee with a girlfriend. None of those things improve my aerobic capacity, help prevent diabe- tes, reduce greenhouse emissions, or declutter my house. They simply give me pleasure, which puts me in a good mood. That’s reason enough for me to make sure that I spend time doing those things—three of them, at least—every day.

In my early days as a relationship coach, I used to say that an activity counted as self-care as long as it made you feel good afterward, but I’ve changed my position on that—now it has to feel good in the moment. The reason for my reversal was my client Marni.

When I suggested to Marni that she make a list of things that bring her pleasure and plan to do at least three a day, she agreed to try it. But when I checked in with her the following week and asked her what she had done for self-care that day, she said, “I folded a basket of laundry, which made me feel good because it was bugging me.”

There’s no way folding laundry should qualify as self-care.

Yes, checking things off your to-do list makes you feel good and accomplished, but let’s face it: the laundry was going to get done eventu- ally anyway. It was a stretch to say that it brought her pleasure or delight.

In reality, Marni didn’t think it did either, but it was taking a lot of focus for her to switch from always taking care of everyone else to really focusing on her own pleasure. She felt she didn’t really have the time, given all her other responsibilities, to get out the art supplies and paint, or have lunch with a girlfriend instead of at her desk. So when I asked her about it, she punted and said she folded laundry. Nice try, Marni. But no dice.

Housework is not and never will be self-care. Not like singing and dancing, or going to a party, or getting a massage, or sneaking off to read, or having a piece of chocolate and coffee—whatever it is that gives you that happy lift.

Self-Care Expands Your Time

After a few weeks, Marni was doing a lot better at finding time to do pleasurable things, and a funny thing happened. She told me her time had expanded.

“What do you mean ‘expanded’?” I asked her.

“I mean that I have enough time to get everything done and enough time for self-care too,” she said, “which seemed impossible to me before when every second was taken up. The only explanation is that my time has somehow expanded.”

Marni isn’t the only one who has had that experience. Many of my clients report the same phenomena, and I’ve noticed it myself too. It may sound a little nutty, but isn’t it true that when you start work relaxed and happy, you get more done? Whereas when you’re frazzled and stressed, you get next to nothing done because you’re so depleted already.

Have you ever had the experience of being so slammed that you feel hopeless before you even start? Me too. But a fresh pedicure, or a quick walk around the block, or even laughing at a cat video for a minute can go a long way toward restoring my can-do point of view. When my energy and attitude are positive, I get more done. Or, as Marni put it, my time expands.

Therefore, to have more time, be able to do what you enjoy, and be a responsible person who gets her work done, start by taking a bubble bath. Unless you don’t find that enjoyable, in which case you can go mountain-biking, or gab with your mom on the phone, or knit a scarf.

Or do yoga if you like it. I understand some people do.

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Plan Pleasure First

Does that seem impractical or unrealistic to you? That’s what I thought too. I’m actually a big fan of practical, and it turns out that pleasure planning is a very practical thing for a woman to do. The indispensable first step to having a great relationship is to make yourself happy by practicing self-care.

This may sound pretty obvious when I say it that way, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I was newly married to John. I thought it was his job to make me happy. Don’t ask me where I got that idea, but I was convinced of it. So instead of thinking, “I’m not very happy, what should I do about it?” I thought, “I’m not happy and it’s because he’s not mak- ing me happy.” I imagined that I would be happy if he would just do what I wanted him to—or if I had gotten married to somebody else.

It turns out my happiness doesn’t depend on my husband, and I wouldn’t have been any happier with the next guy. Here’s what I’ve learned: If I make myself happy, if I’m smiling and relaxed and enjoy- ing myself, John responds to me by looking for ways to make me even happier.

I also see this with my clients every day. Marilyn’s experience is one of the more entertaining examples. She began practicing the Six Intimacy Skills, starting with self-care, in order to save her marriage. Shortly thereafter, she received flowers at work from her husband, who hadn’t sent her flowers in years. They came with a card that said: WIFE POINTS BONUS ALLOCATION.

He also sent her the following text:

Congratulations on your reward from your wife points bonus scheme. We’d like to update you on why we feel you deserve this reward:

  • Lovely wife-like behavior
  • No bipolar mood swings
  • Distinct lack of shoutyness
  • General kind, friendly attitude toward husband.

Well done once again and thank you for your dedication to the loyalty scheme.

Marilyn emailed me a screenshot of the text and added: “P.S.: You saved my marriage. Thank you!”

That’s just one example of the many I hear from women who put their own pleasure first. It’s hard to argue with the results, and why would you want to?

I practice self-care pretty religiously. Sometimes I disappear in the afternoon for a catnap. Nobody looks for me Saturday morning because everybody knows I’ll be playing volleyball on the beach with a smear of sand on my cheek and a gleam in my eye.

I put substantial time and energy into self-care, which used to make me feel guilty and uncomfortable. I notice many of my clients face the same challenge. One woman asked me to clarify whether it’s still self-care if she dropped off a letter at the post office while she was on her walk, even though it was the endorphins and the change of scenery she was after. Another asked if playing games on her phone still counts as self-care even though she only spent ten minutes doing it.

There’s just one measure of whether you’re getting enough self-care: your state of mind. If you’re grumpy, you haven’t had enough. If you’re feeling good, you’re doing a great job. Only you know what’s right for you, but whenever you’re finding fault with your husband, consider checking to see if you’ve gotten some self-care in. Nothing is going to look right—including your marriage—until you do.

One more benefit to self-care—in addition to giving you the reserves you need to have a good relationship, signaling to your husband that you’re pleaseable, and spending more time doing things you love—is that it teaches other people how to treat you. A woman who takes good care of herself sends out a signal that she enjoys being treated well. That’s bound to give you more self-confidence as people begin to see you as a woman who is well taken care of.

Why We Man Up at Work

When I talk about feminine gifts, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about manipulation or taking advantage of anyone. Those are not quali- ties that anyone wants in a partner. I’m talking about simply relaxing into your femininity so that you naturally receive the pleasant things your man wants to give you.

In our efforts to be successful at work, we sometimes forget what it’s like to be feminine, because part of success at work involves show- ing that you need no special treatment. At work, you want to show that you can pull your own weight.

I think of this managerial aspect of myself as my masculine side, and I’m grateful to have it, because it serves me well in business. But for a long time, I was so well-versed in and reliant on my masculine side that it obscured my feminine gifts, which are very powerful too. I found it difficult to switch out of that familiar work mode even once I did know about the gifts of the feminine. But I couldn’t get all that I wanted in my relationship until I did, so I made a concerted effort. Today I’m more feminine both during and after work. In fact, all of the Six Intimacy Skills have contributed to making me more effective and successful professionally, as has the inner strength I get from having a great marriage.

But my goals at work are very different from my goals in my mar- riage. At work, I want to satisfy my clients, produce results, and improve the bottom line. With my husband, I want to snuggle, laugh, and share my hopes and dreams. I want his face to light up when I walk into the room, and I want to feel desired. Those are completely different goals, and they require a completely different skill-set to attain.

If you’re in a job where you’re mostly wearing a suit of armor for forty hours a week and you find you have difficulty taking it off to become your softer self when the workday’s done, you’re not alone. Welcome to the modern woman’s challenge! But you don’t have to be stuck in that suit of armor. There are some practical ways to peel it off and feel your own lightness and tenderness beneath.

Self-care is a great place to start. Right after work, consider a transi- tion time that includes a few minutes of solitude, for instance. Maybe you sit in the car for a while and write in your journal, read, or just zone out and listen to the radio.

The point is to remind yourself of who you are and all that you want and deserve in your relationship. Showing up as the Goddess of Fun and Light that you are will also remind your husband how good it feels to be the man who gets to desire, cherish, and adore the woman he loves.

 

CHAPTER 4

The More You Know What You Want, the Better

Marriage counseling typically focuses on the other person: what he’s not doing or what he does that you don’t like. It may include conversations focused on what he is thinking or what he wants, instead of learning to look inward for answers. This distracts you into fixating on what your husband is doing rather than working to change the only person you can: yourself.

Intimacy skills focus strictly on you. They empower you to transform your relationship by focusing on what you want and expressing it without complaining or blaming. Your desires become a map for where the relationship is going. Once you know what you want and are not afraid to say it—watch out! Feminine desire is a powerful force in the world.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

—lucille Ball, Actress, Comedian, and Film Studio Executive

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