As a child I remember playing this imaginary game with my friends, “If you had three wishes what would they be?” If you were clever you would make your final wish to be: “I want 100 more wishes”. Often relationships are comprised of fulfilled and unfulfilled wishes. We have a secret hope that our partner will find ways to surprise us and care for our needs. The following exercise is a great way to create your modern day “wish list” for your marriage. It is the blueprint that will guide your partner in meeting your needs for love, respect, affirmations and support.
Richard Stuart developed the technique “caring days.” In his book, “Helping Couples Change”, Stuart recommends listing at least 18 small, positive behaviors the partner could perform to demonstrate caring. The assignment is to create “18 things that make you feel cared about”. This will help take out the guess work of what your partner really wants. Stuart then asks the partner to implement some of these behaviors each day. We often make the mistake of giving the kind of love we want instead of really knowing what makes our partner loved. Here is how to begin to create your list:
1. Be specific:
- “I feel cared about when you tell me I am beautiful”
- “I feel cared about when you hold my hand”
- “I feel cared about when you plan a special night out”
- “I feel cared about when you cook me dinner”
- “I feel cared about when you buy me my favorite flowers”
- “I feel cared about when you request time for us to pray together”
- “I feel cared about when you ask me about my day”
- “I feel cared about when you clean the bathroom”
- “I feel cared about when you tell me you like me”
- “I feel cared about when you ask me to take a walk after dinner”
2. Be positive with your requests: “I would feel cared about if you maintained eye contact with me when we talk.” rather than, “Stay off your e-mail when we are talking”.
3. Do not relate requests to any recent conflict
4. Make most requests small enough to do on a daily basis such as, “Text me at work to ask me how am I doing”.
5. Exchange the list with your partner. Place the list in a prominent place like on your refrigerator or keep it in your smart phone.
6. Don’t get discouraged if your partner is not as persistent as you, but be patient and keep going.
After a few weeks have gone by, check in with each other to see how this exercise is changing your relationship. Speaking each other’s love language is known to strengthen relationships. Have fun with this exercise and keep your list updated as it can change over time.
As a counselor and a married person I can say this exercise is very powerful to create positive change in your relationship. One person told me that a recent disagreement they had with their husband only lasted 20 minutes versus 2 days. She attributed the change to the fact he was doing things on her care list.
To learn more about Peggy Burns, LMFT, please visit her website at: www.peggyburnsmft.com.