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Getting What You Want in Your Marriage Part 1: Break the Downward Spiral

Women, can we talk? I have a message for you that I think is going to make you and your husbands/boyfriends very happy.

A few weeks ago, the performance of our school play was coming up and two of my students--I'll call them Camille and Rachel--were talking about opening night. During the conversation, Camille mentioned that she really wanted Wade, the boy she likes, to give her pale, pink roses on opening night.

They brainstormed and tried to figure out how they could get Wade to give Camille the flowers. Finally, they hit on a plan: The next day, they would make sure to walk to English right behind Wade. Rachel would say, loudly, "Guess what? On opening night of my last play, my mom and dad bought me really pretty flowers. They were pale pink. I loved them."

Then Camille would say, "Oh, I love flowers. Especially pale pink flowers."

Whereupon Wade (who was not part of the conversation, remember--just walking ahead of them) would perk up and think, "Ah! I think I'll buy pale pink flowers for Camille!"

When I heard this, I burst out in laughter. This idea, while lovely, was nothing more than a fantasy. In fact, Edward Cullen with a testimony is far more realistic than this beautiful girlish daydream.

So, I said, "Girls, listen to me. I've been married for 18 years now and I've learned a little bit about relationships. No boy, or man, for that matter, is going to respond to a hint like that. If you insist on doing it, here's what will happen. Camille will not get flowers--pale pink or any other color. She'll be disappointed and possibly a little annoyed with Wade. Wade will be confused about why she's annoyed and disappointed. That will probably annoy him as well. So, everyone will be unhappy."

They were shocked--SHOCKED--that he would not pick up on this blatantly obvious hint, but I finally convinced them.

"So what should we do?" they asked.

"Tell him straight out what you want," I replied. They were aghast. However, after some discussion, they decided that Rachel would discretely talk to Wade and tell him that she knew Camille would love to get pale pink roses. That conversation was a bit awkward. However, on opening night, I ran into Camille. She was beaming. In her hand was a bouquet of pale pink roses.

She was happy. And, I'm pretty sure Wade was happy from her reaction to his gift--a big hug and lots of fuss being made over him.

It was so simple and everyone was happy.

I laughed at my student's plan--but I can't count the number of times where adults I have known dropped the sort of roundabout hints the girls were considering, and then ended up a bit miffed when the hint was not received and acted upon as hoped for.

Men have their own flaws, but I think that for the most part, this kind of hinting is done more by women than man (yes, it's a generality, feel free to adapt to your circumstances as needed). Most women, I think, want their husband/significant other to surprise them by anticipating what they'd like.

And that would be great. Sadly, that's not generally realistic, at least not at first. And so, a lot of people live with this downward spiral. They don't get what they want, so they are disappointed, which makes them upset, which then upsets their partner who feels picked on for being held to an unfair standard, which leads to more disappointment and so on.

So, on behalf of husbands everywhere, let me drop a hint. Chances are, your husband/fiance/boyfriend loves you. He probably wants to make you happy and would love to do special things for you. However, he's not programmed the same as you. Women often assume men think like they do (men do it, too), or at least that they ought to. In fact, neither is true. But that doesn't mean you need resign yourself to a history of disappointing birthdays and Christmases.

This year, just tell him: "On Mother's Day, I want breakfast-in-bed and a colored rose for every hour I've stayed home with our children." He'll probably get you what you want. You'll be happy and he'll be happy. Here's the cool thing. If you get what you want and react positively, he'll probably remember. Over time, he'll get to know what you like and then he can become spontaneous. But try helping him know exactly what you want. This will break the downward spiral.

If he or she does, then make sure you make a huge fuss and show appreciation--and that is the subject of my next post--how to start an upward spiral of love and affection.

Photo Credit:
Image: nuttakit /

Braden Bell is a teacher, director, writer, husband, and father. He is the author of The Road Show and blogs at

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