Like a lot of the things I share with you, these are not my unique ideas but rather represent a distillation of things I've observed, experienced, read and heard from others over the years.
I think of this as personal branding for marriage because it involves knowing your customer, so to speak. To be attractive means to present yourself in a way that is appealing. Obviously, at the same time, being attractive and partnered is worthless if you don't retain your integrity and move forward as a self-contained individual.
Yes, this is about heterosexual marriage. I am in favor of gay marriage, so there's no implied messaging that one way is better than another. Also, I am a huge feminist, but you can read the tips and be the judge of that for yourself.
If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would put it like this:
Make it a pleasure to be around you.
I. Consider the Commitment Carefully
- Don't force a bad relationship forward. Some people are just not meant for each other, and they find out only after spending time with each other. If that happens, have enough respect for yourself and the other person to part ways. Don't look back and blame yourself for being a "failure."
- Let yourself truly feel the joy of being together. You know that feeling when you're "in the flow," and all is good, you're flying and you never want to touch ground again? That's what togetherness feels like. Let yourself feel it - don't let the fear of (insert problem) ruin it.
- Get over your own fear of making a real commitment. We've all experienced lousy things in our homes of origin. These things can be bad enough that you don't ever want to go through them again. The result can be that you enter a relationship but are afraid of committing fully to it, or you make the commitment outwardly but on the inside there's this terrified child constantly holding back a bit. It is very scary, but there is a definite connection between the amount you hold yourself in reserve, and the quality of the intimacy you experience in marriage.
II. Do The Work
- Build up the three pillars simultaneously. Marriage is based on shared values, physical attraction, and the practical ability to survive - which most of us think of as money. If you are attracted to someone who has terrible values and no interest in earning an income (for example), you will get burned.
- Understand the sacrifice. One reason marriage is deeply rewarding because you can count on your partner to be there when the chips are down - if you get sick, G-d forbid, lose your job, and so on. But marriage asks a lot of you, too, because you have to do the same for your partner.
- Think logically, not emotionally. It is often true that you should "follow your heart" and that some kinds of attraction work, even though they don't seem to make any sense. But most of the time, you must employ your logical faculties in order to make your relationship work. When you allow your feelings to make decisions for you without getting your brain into the conversation, you are guaranteed to make a serious mistake.
III. Understand How Men Think
- Give them a lot of room. Men have a lot of stuff they need to do outside your relationship. They need to be creative, they need to eat, they may have kids from another relationship to take care of, or parents who need their attention. They may have a job that's fairly demanding. They definitely want the ability to appreciate other women. Don't be a suffocating nag.
- Get a life for yourself, too. Why are you thinking about your relationship all the time? It doesn't help you move anything forward in any sphere of your life and it's also the surest way to drive your man away. Think of a freezer - it works best when it's mostly full. Fill yours up to the 70% level with work, school or informal learning, friends and family, hobbies, community service, exercise, and so on. Remember - men don't want to be responsible for your regrets. That is a huge turnoff.
- Let the man be the man. At work there is no gender. At home there is gender. A man needs to feel like he is in charge. Let him have that feeling.
- Set your boundaries and don't waffle. Men prefer communication that is unambiguous, clear, upfront, honest and direct. If you keep changing your mind, it harms your credibility with them and makes it annoying to be around you as well.
- Don't share every single thought that's in your head. Women communicate differently than men. We tend to talk, a lot. We tend to share what we're thinking, as we're thinking it, following a stream of consciousness that may zigzag off in places and that may or may not bring us back to where we started. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your man ever, ever in his lifetime wants this. He does not want this. He will run to Timbuktu if you start doing this. It is more than annoying, to a man it is like having a flea scratching the inside of his brain. Stop.
- Strive for calm. Do you need a manicure to make you calm? A walk around the block with very loud music in your ear? A day at Barnes & Noble, just to read and relax? To get drunk with your friends and/or watch a Melissa McCarthy movie? Do it. Whatever you have to do, do not come home and start yelling at your man. Don't call him yelling. Don't yell at him, ever. Very, very calm, cool and collected. Consider that men fear women's "craziness." Whereas your friends and/or your mother will tell you to "let it all out" your man will think you have lost your mind, even if your yelling is totally justified.
Do you think all this is regressive, politically correct, antifeminist garbage? Or does any of it resonate for you? Share your experiences in the comments.
All opinions my own. Photo by Angie Chung (via Flickr, Creative Commons).