Excerpt from Connect to Love
Among the women in my study, faithful wives who were unhappy in their marriages gave equal weight to sexual and emotional dissatisfaction as their primary issues. Likewise, with cheaters, the number one response when asked what issues factored into their infidelity was "Both emotional dissatisfaction and an unsatisfying sexual relationship figured about the same in my decision." Forty-four percent responded this way, almost double the number of women who answered that emotional issues were the driving force (26 percent). Similar to my study of men, only 7 percent said that it was largely sexual dissatisfaction that led them into the arms of another.
So women are not exclusively emotional beings but actively need both emotional and sexual intimacy. Clearly, sexuality is far more important to women than most people think. Both unhappy women and cheating women reported that their number one sexual issue was infrequency with unsatisfying sex coming in at a close second. I'll explore female sexuality and what my study uncovered in this area in Chapter 7.
What You Can Learn from Women Who Stray
The issues that factored into infidelity can best be summed up as:
Both emotional and sexual dissatisfaction in the marriage figured about the same: 44%
Emotional dissatisfaction in the marriage was the primary factor: 26%
Sexual dissatisfaction in the marriage was the primary factor: 7%
I worked hard during my marriage until I started having children. I made decent money, but my husband and I decided I would stay at home to take care of the children. It worked okay until we decided to sell the large house we lived in when the housing market was still a little strong and move our three children into a tiny temporary rental apartment until the housing market dropped enough for us to get the best deal on a new house. The rental was a very frustrating place to live because it was so small and I had a new baby and two other little ones.
I wanted so much to be a homemaker but found it impossible when we were only staying for a few months. We ended up renting much longer than anticipated because my husband refused to commit to buying a new home. We had the money, but the market was still dropping and he wanted to wait for the best deal. When he got home from work, I had to get out from the crying children and the home I hated. And since we weren't having sex, though I'm still not sure why, I would go out and play golf or bowl in a mixed league while my husband stayed home and watched television and surfed the Internet.
After spending so much time together with another man in these leagues, trouble just happened. We connected and he made me feel so desirable, beautiful, and sexy. I didn't leave my husband for another man, and I didn't have sex with the other man until later. I left my husband because another man made me feel something that was so lacking in my marriage that I couldn't bear the thought of going back to it and never feeling that way again. I would rather be alone and have the chance to feel that way than be trapped in a marriage to a person I know I'm never going to feel passionate about. I still see this man, but have dated other men as well.
Jane's story, like most I heard, spoke to the fact that women who have remained faithful or have cheated are quite dissatisfied in both their emotional and sexual lives at home. Many suffer quietly, feeling stuck and unable to make things better. There is a collective desperation to their tone, but this desperation can be resolved quickly with the information this book is about to explore.
Women Want More Time with Their Men
For the women who participated in my research, the number one emotional issue was not having enough time with their husbands, but feeling underappreciated followed closely behind. Lisa’s and Tom’s stories are similar to many stories I heard during my study: Simply not spending time with your spouse will often have a severely negative impact.
Lisa's Story: Time May Not Be on My Side
When our kids were small and I complained to my husband that we never spent time alone together, he'd always say that we'd have plenty of time for that when our kids were grown and out of the house. It was as though I was the bad one for even asking that we go out alone or take a vacation without the kids. Naturally, I didn't want to get away from my kids. I was a good mom. But his mom lived down the street and was more than willing to help us out. He just never wanted it.
That was my life for years. We both worked and came home and it was all about the kids. We had some sex just because we needed it, but that was something else we'd be able to do plenty when the kids were gone. It was like I was expected to wait about 25 years for time with my husband. I became like a sister to the nanny, to the point that I even took some trips with her and left my husband home with the kids and his mother. I probably would have just continued, but God showed me a different plan. At 41, I was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. Suddenly, waiting for a future time seemed stupid and I was mad at my husband. He probably got more anger than he deserved, but I promised myself that if I got through it, I wouldn't beg my husband for his time anymore.
By chance I ran into an old college friend, and when we had dinner, I was astounded at how good it felt to actually be having time and attention from a man. We were practically strangers, so I was astonished that he was giving me a lot more in one meeting than my husband had for 20 years. It wasn't long before I just told him everything and he was there for me. We got sexually involved within a few months. I couldn't believe he could find me interesting and attractive with everything I was going through. My husband doesn't know, and frankly, my life is too complicated to change anything. At least through this horrible experience, I'm receiving some love I sorely miss, and I'm holding on to it until I'm stronger.
My husband did not spend enough time with me: 20%
I felt underappreciated: 19%
When I shared my feelings and thoughts, my husband did not understand or address my concerns: 17%
Other aspects of my husband's life were more important to him than our relationship: 11%
My husband often lost his temper and was frequently moody or angry: 7%
We were no longer interested in the same things: 7%
Tom's Story: No Time for My Wife
Looking back, I was a real arrogant SOB. I don't have a good reason for it. I just thought that marriage was like that. I was at the top of my firm, lecturing nationwide, and was just really good at focusing on myself. I was good-looking and so was my wife. When she first got pregnant, I just shot out of there and found every reason to stay away. I had plenty of legitimate excuses to work late, and I enjoyed being a workaholic. But I also went out late to some clubs, strip joints,
whatever I wanted at the moment. I never cheated, at least nothing more than some mindless close drunk dancing and kissing.
I laughed at friends who were henpecked. I had it all. A beautiful wife who respected my job, the money I brought in, the freedom I needed. She even agreed to bring another woman into our sexual play to satisfy my curiosity. She figured better that than have me stray. Then we stopped having sex for a while and I went to Hong Kong on business for about three months. When I returned, everything was different. My wife had seen a therapist, and for a long time I blamed the therapist for turning my wife against me.
I still did nothing, and then she told me she had seen a lawyer and was serving me with papers the next day. I went crazy. I was completely taken aback. I just stood there and began to cry, really cry. How crazy that it wasn't until that moment that I really wanted to save my marriage. My wife didn't get it. She assumed I knew it was coming and had already begun to play financial games to cheat her out of money. I don't know where I was. I just thought this was marriage. We go along until we don't, but I never thought she'd be the reason it stopped. I began to beg for another chance and agreed to go to the counselor, where I learned for the first time how much I had hurt my wife. She really felt like she wasn’t attractive anymore or that I really didn't like her. It took her decision to divorce me to turn my head around and realize what a horrible husband I had been.
As I went through therapy, I made lots of changes and was able to become much more of a husband to her. She was skeptical every step of the way, but I was determined to spend the rest of my life with her, and now I was really spending it with her and not everyone and everything but her.
Obviously a time investment is necessary to start a relationship. What we do with our time once we're in the relationship may change, but nothing happens without spending a proper amount of time. And here is perhaps the biggest difference between men and women as it relates to marital satisfaction. Men seem to be content with less time with their wives. What time means to a loving relationship for a man is miles apart from what it means for a woman. One woman summed it up best when she wrote to me, "When my husband spends time with me, that tells me he finds me attractive and lovable."
Women seek time with their husbands to connect with them and to feel they are an important part of their husbands' lives, whereas men do not even look at time with their wives; it's not really on their radar. Men are also looking for a way to connect with the women they love, but they factor time into that only as a practical tool. For example, for a man, sex is connecting, as is an appreciative comment, a hug, a thoughtful gesture—but time doesn't weigh into that. If the dinner, sex and appreciative comment are all completed in 35 minutes total, he's good to go.
Women desire their partners' time in order to develop their relationships. They feel that no matter how many tasks have been completed, partners still need to spend time together regularly in order to feel close. On this topic, women are absolutely right, and not spending enough time is one of the most unfortunate mistakes men make. Men forget that life is not only about tasks. Love relationships involve much more than just completing tasks.
Children are a prime example. A man can make great money so his wife can stay at home and take care of the children. He can send his children to the best schools, give them the best camp and travel experiences, and yet be the most emotionally distant dad on the block. He can accomplish so much, but having a close relationship with his children will never be about anything other than putting in consistent time. He may be a really loving guy, but his children will not feel comfortable enough with him to share their truest feelings unless Dad is there for them consistently. A son may know Dad loves him and would do anything for him, but he still doesn't come to Dad with his emotional highs and lows, because Dad can't possibly get him. True understanding about what makes a child tick—what his dreams are, his fears and his sense of purpose—cannot happen without time. Dad can't walk into his child's room and say, "Okay, we've got six minutes. Tell me about your dreams and aspirations." A child only reveals these deep thoughts when sitting around spending time with someone on a regular basis.
Men do not see the correlation between spending time and creating a great marriage. They have difficulty readily seeing how having dinner together or reading side by side, discussing news events and laughing, is going to directly affect their lives. On the other hand, every hour a man spends working gives him a concrete sense of how useful that time was. After that time spent, he'll have fewer calls to make, will have finished the email, will be closer to sending in the report, will have made more money working overtime. This allows him to measure his use of time in a way that he can't when spending it with his wife. Yes, men could measure the time they spent with their wives last night by whether they had sex. Again, a clear accomplishment—and an attitude that drives women mad because it looks like the reason he spent the time was to accomplish that objective. Most men are being nice not only for sex. Rather, they're always looking for a concrete measurement of success, and having sex is a pretty good one.
Men need to learn from all of the women in my study that the true measure of a relationship is the good feelings of being loved and loving another. It's not something anyone can just make happen with a single gesture. If a man buys his wife a beautiful present, he shouldn't be surprised that she's complaining just a few days later that he's not paying her enough attention (yet many men seem shocked if this happens). One big gesture isn't going to do it. He wants her to understand how many hours it took him to work in order to make the money for that present. She wants him to understand that she'd rather have him to herself for all of that time he spent working to make the money for the present. That would be her most precious present.
How Women and Men View Time Differently
• Women view time as a message in itself that they are valued.
• Men view time largely as a vehicle to accomplish tasks.
• Women prefer ongoing time spent with their husbands to big presents.
• Men use presents as a way of giving time, showing they've spent time by working to afford the present.
Women often tell me they are disappointed when they suggest spending quiet time with their husbands, and their husbands act like it's some sort of big sacrifice. Men need to understand that your need for time is good for the relationship. Both of you are entitled to time together. Don't see your request for time as a pathetic bargaining chip that you must use to get your husband's attention. You don't have to feel belittled, or as if you're begging him to spend time with you. Ask him outright and explain to him why it's important to the two of you. "I'd like to spend more time together this week. I just want us to have some quiet time to chat and catch up, so we're feeling close. When is a good time for you to plan just 30 minutes or so a few times this week to spend pleasant time, have a drink and relax together?"
But you need to understand that men see time as a vehicle to get things done. They don???t value it as something to use to get closer to you. When you respect that men???s minds work differently, you will find that understanding will help you to not take his behavior so personally; in turn it will be easier to discuss and manage it.
Keep in mind that your partner wanting time with you is a wonderful compliment. If she didn't like you, she'd be more than happy to see you go. Unfortunately, there are many marriages that exist in that paradigm. Remember how wonderful it felt when you fell in love. It was empowering and it made life different. That came from focusing time on your girlfriend, and yes, you accomplished something concrete: You got her to become your wife. But do not allow marriage to end your desire to be in love. Consider how great you feel when you wake up in the morning after a lovely night of fun and love with your wife, compared to waking up after a night full of fighting and acrimony.
Stop seeing time as a vehicle to accomplish a task. Time is necessary for your love relationship to be successful. When you spend time with your wife, it sends the message to her that you want to be connected to her and that you find her special because you'd rather be spending time with her than doing anything else. Be with her when you spend time. Get rid of distractions like the BlackBerry or the cell phone. Use the time to ask her questions about her day and share some of the more entertaining parts of yours. Set aside a certain block of time to be with her, with the understanding that you will accomplish being closer to her through this time spent. And do not keep asking her what time it is.
I've consulted with Fortune 500 companies, and one thing that every top manager knows is that if someone is going through a divorce or other intense stress at home, his work output is kaput. Immediately, managers begin to rely less on that person and reduce his workload, and they aren't surprised when deadlines are missed. Love, or lack of it, affects every part of a man's life. Being in love may not feel as concrete to you as completing an email, but make no mistake that it lies at the root of everything you do. Although Albert Einstein proved that time is not absolute—leave it to a man—time is absolutely necessary when "accomplishing" the "task" of love.
I cheated on my husband, Ben, a great guy whom I still love. It sounds horrible, and I'm writing this because I'm trying to figure it all out. From the beginning, my husband was so loving and warm. He was all over me. He couldn't keep his hands off me and always complimented me. We played volleyball three nights a week on a local team and I couldn't believe how great everything was going. I was the proudest wife in the neighborhood. My friends were jealous. But a few years after we married he left his job to start his own business with his best friend. I think his friend really took advantage of him because it was my husband who was doing all the traveling and all the worrying.
At some point, I don't know exactly when, I just felt so lonely. I just missed Ben so much, and I hadn't had sex in forever. He took trips that lasted a few weeks, and then he'd stop off at home and a week later, he was gone. I started working, even though I had a toddler, just to keep myself busy, and I cheated with my boss. He wasn't nearly as good-looking or as nice as my husband, and I knew it. But it was like I needed to be loved so badly.
My husband caught us when he surprised me by coming home a few days early. He was devastated and I understood. He was working so hard and I was doing this behind his back in his home. He couldn’t forgive me, and frankly, I can't forgive myself. But I guess when I really let myself go there, I just say that as wrong as I was, I didn't get married to be alone most of my life. It's not like I told him he had to make a ton of money, so start your own business. He needed to do that to feel good himself, and I went along with it. Maybe I shouldn't have. I just think it's our own little tragedy because we really were so good for each other and we have this absolutely wonderful little girl who has two fantastic, loving parents who didn't make their relationship work.
How Much Time Women Spend with Their Men
I asked women on average how much time they spend daily with their husbands alone talking. The number one answer for dissatisfied women was under 30 minutes per day. The significant news is that the number one answer for happy, faithful wives was over 30 minutes a day. More than twice the number of happy women reported spending more time with their husbands as compared to unhappy wives. Plus, 22 percent of the satisfied (faithful) women said they spend on average over 60 minutes per day talking or spending time alone with their husbands. Compare this to the dissatisfied women—just 5 percent reported spending this amount of time with their husbands. On the other side of the scale, about 23 percent of dissatisfied women reported spending less than five minutes daily with their husbands.
Creating time alone together with your partner is the most important thing you can do to make yourself happier and feel more in love. It's worth bringing it up to him and getting exact times that will work for both of you. Remind him that you miss him, you love the time you spend together and you feel you two have to get back to being in love, and that the first step is just finding the time. Ask for 30 minute blocks of time a minimum of four times a week to start. Use the time to relax together, do fun things together (surf the Web, play Scrabble or other board games), and make it about pleasant conversation for both of you. Agree to put cell phones away during your time together.
If you want a happier mate, start by spending more time alone with her daily. Carving out this time is your best bet to create a better marriage. Go to your partner and suggest to her that you spend more time together. Make a plan for just 30-minute blocks of time in the evening or whenever the two of you can be alone together. Name the nights you'll spend together each week, a minimum of four to start, and if you use a weekly calendar, refer to it to make sure nothing will conflict with this alone time. Now, consider how excited you are when you watch a sporting event, car commercial, fishing or financial show on television and compare that to how you feel when you spend time with your wife. Begin to see that you may be reserving all your enthusiasm for interests other than your wife, and that leads to a failed relationship. Consider how to make the time you spend with her loving and exciting.
Prioritizing Your Time
Later, we'll discuss how couples can really connect on an emotionally intimate level and stay actively in love. But first, it's crucial for a couple to decide to prioritize time together. I know that many men will read this and say, "Now I have to spend more time with my wife? As if I need another job!" And I don't mean to say men dislike their wives and would rather do anything else than spend time with them. If a man finds spending time with his wife a struggle, the next chapter will speak to changing that. But everyone has to realize some cold, hard facts. If you are working a typical 40-hour workweek for 50 weeks a year, you're up to 2,000 hours each year. If you spend 30 minutes per day together as a couple for 50 weeks a year, you're up to a measly 175 hours a year (350 hours if you get in a full hour a day). Keep in mind that many couples will spend more time together on the weekend rather than each weekday, so that figure of 30 to 60 minutes per day is based on a weekly average.
I find that women are quite clear that they do not expect their husbands to spend a ridiculous amount of time with them. Many men, though, do not understand how truly little time they are spending with their wives. An hour a day may sound like a lot, but when you think about everything else you do that you want to be a success at, it probably pales in comparison. If a man watches just two football games a week, that's almost eight hours, already more than the one hour of daily time that I've suggested he spend with his wife. And let's not forget the Saturday college games, Monday Night Football, the added Sunday Night Football, and, yes, thanks for NFL Thursday nights as well. And consider the amount of energy and excitement you expend doing that, compared to when you are with your wife. It starts to make sense that women are feeling less and less valued by their husbands' time commitment.
Remember, creating time for each other is considered a gift, an act of love for your partner. You'd feel pretty crummy if you were always chasing after your wife trying to spend time with her, while she was finding many other "more important" things to do, especially if some of those things were watching a TV show or surfing the Web aimlessly. Women don't want to feel that they are always the ones talking about spending time. They don't want to be the only ones responsible for creating loving time together.
Consider honest change and understanding in this area. No one is expected to give up his day job. But nobody wants to feel that she is begging for attention either. Do you want a spouse who is a partner or not? If you want your love to truly share life with you, then be a partner in creating time, as well as sharing the pressures of your collective lives.
Substituting Time Instead of Creating It
You do not need to find a 25-hour day to be with your partner. You probably need to reduce the time you spend doing other things that, when push comes to shove, are not necessary and not nearly as important as your love life. I am referring to hobby time, Internet time, favorite television shows and work, which comes home more easily today in the form of emails and BlackBerrys than ever before. The Internet and television absorb enormous amounts of the average person's time, and these are the first places to review when wanting to find time to be with your partner.
Perhaps you do not enjoy the time you spend with your partner. Or worse yet, you find it uncomfortable. Perhaps you are confronted or criticized whenever you spend time together. This could likely be because you spend so little time together that there's an urge to confront everything you've been holding on to when you finally have the opportunity to sit quietly for a moment. If you both take the concrete step to spend time together daily, you'll see an immediate change. Perhaps the beginning will be awkward, stilted or even uncomfortable, but that will quickly improve with your renewed focus.
Put aside your differences at the start. Fight the urge to make the time all about what has been going wrong. There will be plenty of time for that if your commitment to spending time together continues. Sometimes, when a woman wants to tell her husband about something he's done that upset her, she feels there's never a good time, so she will choose the worst time to express it, such as the first time they're finally spending some quiet time together. It's understandable. She feels that in order to enjoy her time with her husband, she needs to get this off her chest, have him understand what's upsetting her. For those women who feel this way, however, consider, "Will my goal be accomplished?" When you really think about it, you might realize that starting out with a criticism will not serve your purpose. The time you'll spend with your husband will be uncomfortable as each of you airs your grievances, causing you to have less time together in the near future and to be even more upset at each other. If you do want to bring up something critical, make it fast and be done with it. This moment of pleasant, relaxed time is hardly the setting to have a full-blown discussion about some pain that your husband caused.
Another problem is that many men, and women as well, can't stop talking about work. They're more than happy to fill the air about job-related issues. When the bulk of time is taken up with a monologue about work, it does not create a mood of friendly relaxation. A woman once told me that her husband cheats with fruits: his Apple and BlackBerry. Men, this BlackBerry addiction has got to stop. Put it away during your time with your wife. For many of us, the urge to touch that buzzing, ringing thing is just too strong. Spending time means having each other's undivided
Scott, my husband, couldn't talk about anything except his work. It was like he was obsessed, taken over by some alien being. When I married him, he was a pothead. We were fresh out of college, so it was okay and we had a lot of fun. I always knew he was hyper and that's why I was okay with his using some drinking or other things to calm himself. But when his father brought him into his business and Scott opened a new office where we lived, everything became about the business. If we went out to eat at a restaurant, it was to see if it was a good place to take clients. If we vacationed, it was to check out the hotel for a conference. He has endless energy to talk about work and how we're building our nest egg. Our portfolio can get me hours of talk if I want. He's sliced and diced our bills over and over and down to the penny, we've been over our family "plan." But it's really just his plan to do nothing else but focus on money and work. I know those things are important, and I'm glad he's working, but I need more.
Since we had difficulty having kids, we figured we'd take a few years off from worrying about it and I started working in his office. He really wanted me there, and I figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I thought at least I'd be a part of the office gossip and issues, and it would bring Scott and me closer. It did give us even more to talk about, but the focus on the business never ended. Everything else in our life is second to work, and it takes up every part of our lives together. He doesn't think about sex anymore. He'll do it with me if I initiate, and it's pretty nice, but I know that if we could just talk about business instead, he'd be just as happy.
I've become very close to a man who's a consultant in our firm. He's older and has been the only one to understand Scott's obsessive personality. He's even spoken to Scott about it. But Scott told me how disgusted he was that this consultant would turn to Scott's personal life. I don't know what to do. Recently, this guy and I started some kissing and it's gotten a little heavier. I told Scott I wanted to quit the business and focus on having kids. Scott got so angry, insisting that now isn't the time. I don't have the heart to tell him that staying in that office isn't going to be good for us. Scott is a really good guy underneath it all. All of his focus on money is just to secure good things for me and our eventual family. I'm holding on to myself, but I don't know what comes next.
• Make appreciative comments about your spouse spending this time with you, even if you feel he or she should be doing it.
• Resist the urge to use time together to express pain or anger that you feel your partner caused you.
• Start by talking about something you think your partner will be interested in.
• Use your old "dating" techniques for making pleasant conversation.
• When you expect to spend time together, you'll naturally start thinking about the things that happen during your day to share later on.
• Remember that the better this time feels for both of you, the more motivation you will have to spend more time together.
When a couple decides to start spending time together daily, that is a gift of kindness and love. You want to be with your partner more than you want to do other things, and that means you love and value each other and find each other interesting and attractive. The only way to make the time together engaging and fun is to spend more and more time on making it so. If you just sit there and expect your partner to entertain you, I hope he or she has got a lot of material prepared. If you want to enjoy your time together, consider what will make it enjoyable for you. I'm not suggesting you sit at a table for an hour a night and expect to have so much fun or so much to talk about after the first few times. Consider what you bring to the table. When you were dating and getting this person to love you, I'll bet you had some ideas prepared for making your time together pleasant. I'll bet you spend some time on thinking about how to manage work or the kids. Your relationship deserves no less. Your partner might be more than happy to spend some of the time engaged in an activity that you enjoy, as long as it engages both of you.
Talk about what both of you like to do, and see what works for you. Perhaps you want to have a drink together and chat about your days, play backgammon as a backdrop for conversation, read to each other from that day's paper or a book you're currently enjoying. And naturally, there is nothing wrong with cuddling and offering a massage or something enjoyable to your mate with no agenda other than connecting emotionally.
Sadly, when couples don't spend time, they don't even think about what to tell each other from their day, which lends itself to gross detachment and a sense of independent living. Knowing that you're spending time together most nights, you'll begin to tag stuff in your head that you want to remember to share later, whether it's a fascinating news column, a funny event, a child-related issue or troubling news at work. Now, not only are you spending time reconnecting at night, but you are also far less detached by day because you are stopping yourself to grab moments to share with your spouse. This is the attachment that successful couples develop, which is constantly building. The more we spend time, the more we remember stuff to share. The more we share, the more we understand about our spouse. The more we understand about our spouse, the richer our experiences sharing with our spouse become. It just gets better and better. And it all begins with the commitment to finding regular time.