“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a brave sentiment for children.
But the reality is that we can be devastated … or built up and inspired to do great things … by the words of others. Like people, a marriage can be undone or strengthened by the words we use.
Since harsh words destroy relationships, it is important to use words that affirm your spouse and your relationship. But it's also important that your actions are consistent with your words.
Both men and women need to hear the words “I love you,” but women typically need to hear them more often than men. In “He Said, She Said,” authors Jay and Laura Laffoon add that there is one way men can act out their love in a way that's often ignored. They call it: “Five Sensing” your wife.
Women tend to be more sensitive than men. Literally. Typically, they are more sensitive to touch, have more sensitive taste buds, have better low-light vision and can hear sounds men can't. Women, particularly of reproductive age, are also far better at identifying odors than men.
“Five Sensing” your wife uses her greater physical sensitivity to say “I love you” to her on a regular basis.
•Say “I love you” with what she sees. You may enjoy lounging around in worn-out T shirts and sweats, but your wife may prefer something nicer. The Laffoons explain that “the way you keep yourself — your hair, beard, fingernails, and clothes — is an important way you can actively communicate 'I love you' to your wife.”
•Say you love her with what she smells. Laura Laffoon advises, “Men, take a shower before you go to bed. Every night!” She says men should forget the excuses: A shower may wake you up in the morning, but so will coffee and “cold water splashed in the face.” If your skin is too dry when you shower twice in a day, use lotion. If you shave at night and have a five o'clock shadow the next day, ask who you want kissing you: your wife or your co-workers.
•Touch her in loving ways. Women want to be hugged, not bear hugged. Gently cuddling your wife or holding her hand can be a powerful message of love.
•What she hears is also important. As Jay Laffoon notes, a man's bodily noises communicate something to women that's very different than what they mean to men. Simply put, they “really gross her out.” Practicing restraint communicates your love to her.
•Women are also remarkably sensitive to tone of voice. She hears sarcasm and anger as more threatening to her and your marriage than you may understand. This is true even if you are venting your anger on someone else.
•What your wife tastes also sends a message. If you want her to want to kiss you, make your mouth something she wants to taste. Jay Laffoon explains that “bitter coffee, stale beer, overpowering garlic and smoker's ashtray breath are all quick ways to turn 'I love you' into 'yuck.'”
But taste is highly individualized. A few women like the smell of stale beer; most don't. A few women like leftover garlic; most don't. When you are “Five Sensing” your wife, try to be aware of what your kisses taste like and pay attention to your wife's preferences.
Husbands who frequently tell their wives “I love you,” act in loving ways, and also do their best to “Five Sense” their wives send a powerful message of love that will strengthen their marriage and their wife's love for them.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.