In a relationship, it's not only women who like to hear that they look nice, or that they're wanted. Whether it's a simple compliment to kick off his day or something deeper, these affirmations will strengthen your bond.
"I know that it might seem old-fashioned, but men and women are different," explains , a licensed marriage and family therapist featured on Bravo's LA Shrinks. "We don't think the same, talk the same, or respond the same to similar situations. Women want to feel loved, cherished and safe. Men want respect." Since men often withdraw when they don't feel that respect, it's worth giving him the positivity he craves. "A man wants to know that you are focusing solely on him and that he is your priority. When you do focus on him, you will get so much in return."
It may sound obvious, but men enjoy a good ego-stroking, especially when they're not trying to impress. "Whenever my fiancé groggily tells me I look nice in the morning, before I head out the door for work, it makes me feel unstoppable for the rest of the day," says New Yorker Charles C., 30. "It's one thing to hear it if we're going out to a nice place, but when she tells me I look dapper when I'm on my way to the office, it gives me a renewed confidence."
It's easy to overlook the small gestures, like when he swaps out his toothbrush head for yours or straightens up the apartment even if you're not having friends over. Instead of issuing a passive aggressive, "it's about time!" thank him. "Catch him doing something right every day," says says , life transitions coach and author of What If They Knew: Secrets of an Impressive Woman. "Whether it's that he made your coffee just the way you like it, or holds the door for you, tell him how much you appreciate his efforts and, above all, be specific about what he did and how it made you feel. That way, he'll know exactly what he's done well, and he'll do it more often."
You've probably got this one covered, but communicating it is all in the timing. "The best time to share your feelings with your guy is just before or during sex," says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, relationship expert and author of . "At that time, levels of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances feelings of trust, love and intimacy, are elevated, making it the very best moment to love talk with your partner. It's also the ideal time to let him know what you want from him in the relationship, as he will be the most receptive and open."
"Find a way to let your partner know, on a daily basis, that you're in his corner," says Dr. Shannon Kolakowski, psychologist and author of the forthcoming book, . "You might show your loyalty by standing up for your guy when he feels the world is against him. Let him know you support what he's passionate about. Show him that you value what he values. This adds a sense of teamwork, security, and intimacy to your relationship."
Men communicate differently than women, tending toward reticence when they're upset. When this happens, don't badger him, but do let him know that you're there for him, and when he does begin to talk through his issues, don't interrupt him or offer any unsolicited opinions. Let him feel safe and unjudged. According to , couples that really hear each other are happier in their relationships, and experience lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Perhaps you shouldn't use that quote verbatim, but let him know that if he wants to be intimate with you, he needs to set the stage in the morning. According to Sharyn Wolf, LCSW, marriage counselor and author of , you've got to "stroke the mind before you stroke the behind." If you want to have sex that night, foreplay begins that morning, so send him suggestive texts throughout the day. He'll get the idea.
My fiancé and I are fortunate enough that we don't fight (too) often, and when we do‚ it's usually hunger-induced. However, when I am driven to the point of crazy and my low blood sugar turns into an assassination of his character, I need to remember to leave the room, take a few deep breaths — or sips of wine — and apologize. When an irrational fight arises out of a silly situation, the best thing to do is to apologize before it escalates into something bigger, and a lot meaner. He's not always the enemy. Sometimes hormones, or even lack of calories are the culprits.
There are nights you'd much prefer to stay home with a Say Yes to the Dress marathon than endure hours of beer-guzzling with his former frat brothers, but these guys are a part of his past and it's important to let him know that you love every aspect of him — even if you're glad he's grown up a bit since his keg-stand days. "Going to his social events or family functions makes you see your boyfriend through other people's eyes and remember why you started dating him," says Lucie V., 29, of San Francisco, CA.
He's finally started to make good on his New Year's resolution to hit the gym — six months later, but who's counting? — and has traded in his morning bagel for a protein shake. He may not look like an Adonis yet, but a little encouragement will make continue to try. A bicep squeeze followed by, "you feel so strong," will fortify him in the beginning when he's most tempted to give up. Remember, he's partially bettering himself for you, so supporting him is key. Joining him on his health-kick is also a great way to show you care. Plus, all of those exercise-induced endorphins won't hurt your sex life.
He loves you and will do anything for you, so when you find yourself trapped in a routine and feeling somewhat spark-less, the biggest compliment you can give him is a reminder that he's improved your life. Remember this morsel from talk show host and Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man author Steve Harvey: "We men will do anything humanly possible to impress you. You're the driving force behind why we wake up every day. We drive fancy cars because of women. We dress nice, put on cologne, get haircuts and try to look all shiny and new for you. We do all of this because the more our game is stepped up, the more of you we get."
Men have a primordial need to provide for their women. While their intentions are typically good, their culinary skills might be lacking. Reward him for his efforts nonetheless. If you lambast him for dry chicken, he'll feel insecure, and won't want to try again. Sometimes it truly is the thought that counts — especially when Chinese take-out is just a phone call away.
It might sound like something your mom told you, but it's true: If you want to be in a fulfilling relationship, you must first be happy with who you are. You can't put pressure on your partner to be the sole source of your bliss. "If you are who you are fully and completely with no armor, you will magnetize and attract the perfect person for you because light attracts the light," says , a happiness expert and author of How Happy Is Your Marriage?
"Men are very sensitive to performance issues," says Dr. Sue Johnson, author of . "They worry about disappointing you. Telling him that he's the best, most loving man has a megawatt positive impact. Men need reassurance that they are doing a good job. Most times when you ask a withdrawn man why he started to shut down, he says, 'I just didn't know what to do. I couldn't seem to get it right, so I just gave up.' Reassurance and validation is like an inoculation against this."
"My fiancé gets weirdly excited when I tell him he has a nice singing voice," says New Yorker Lauren F., 32. "He pretends every time that he's never heard me say it before. I love watching his adorable reaction." Even if singing, dancing, or playing air guitar isn't exactly his forte, applauding him for having fun. Not taking himself too seriously makes for a much more joyous partnership.
A little white lie like this is harmless. Even if he's about as far away from being cast in a Magic Mike sequel as you are from being Kate Upton's body double, making him feel attractive will bolster his confidence and his mood. Bonus: Now that he's not threatened by stud-ly stars, you can drag him to more chick-flicks.
"Being able to make my boyfriend laugh is the most gratifying feeling," says Brendan M., 30, of Boston, MA. According to an Oxford University study, laughter triggers the release of protective endorphins which manage pain and promote feelings of well-being. Even if he's no stand-up comedian, a good-natured giggle will make you both happier.
We all have bad days, and it's easy to take out the anger you feel towards your boss on your husband. Although you may know deep down that it's not actually your man you're upset with, he still might take your mean words to heart. Instead, level with him about why you're cranky. He'll be your best advocate.