Hey, husbands: If you want to improve your love life, try taking out the garbage from time to time.
That's what author and relationship guru Sherri Mills recommends. A hairdresser for more than 45 years, the 71-year-old Helper resident has listened to her share of marital gripes and gushing while working. She's parlayed that wisdom into two self-help relationship books published by Plain Sight Publishing, an imprint of Springville-based Cedar Fort. The first one, "I Almost Divorced my Husband but I Went on Strike Instead" (2001, $12.95), is written for women. Her newest work is "Marriage 101 for Men: Why Taking out the Trash is a Turn On" (May 2013, $12.95). Here, Mills gives five suggestions for both genders on being a better spouse.
1. Stop trying to change your mate: Accept imperfection in your spouse, knowing it means you don't have to be perfect, either. And if you think someone in your marriage needs to change, take a good look in the mirror. Trying to make your spouse into someone he or she isn't will only lead to frustration and heartache, says Mills. So focus on what you can control: improving yourself. "Miraculously, usually when you change yourself, the change you want from a spouse comes automatically," she says.
2. Stop comparing your spouse to someone else's: Your golf buddy's wife is constantly complimenting him. Your best friend's husband gives her lavish gifts. And if Facebook is to be believed, all your friends have found their soulmates who weekly send gorgeous flowers and take them to tropical islands "just because." At the same time, your husband dared to leave his dishes in the sink. Again. So often, people compare the bad qualities in their spouse to the good ones in others, says Mills. Concentrate on what your mate is doing right, and stop worrying about what's going on behind someone else's closed door.
3. Focus on the positive. Remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Mills recommends keeping a note card listing all of your honey's good qualities, even ones that seem small or insignificant, to refer to frequently. "This will be a perfect tool to help you through the rough spots," says Mills. You can take this a step further by acknowledging your spouse's good qualities and complimenting him or her on them.
4. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. "It really helps in a disagreement if you understand where the other person is coming from before making judgments," says Mills. This requires careful listening, as well as empathy for your spouse's feelings. And speaking of arguments, realize you can fight without giving up. "When you are married and have children, keep in mind that you will be hooked to the other person for the rest of your life," says Mills. "So it might as well be under the same roof."
5. Share the housework. Even when women work full time outside of the home, they typically still end up doing the majority of the housework, says Mills. "We are all hardwired to believe that household responsibilities belong to women," she says. But women who are overburdened with chores can be angry and resentful, said Mills. The key is communication and respect. Men may not automatically know what to do around the home, so wives need to be clear about their expectations and allow men to pick their tasks and do them their own way. And men need to view cleaning and childcare as a shared responsibility. Doing so may improve marital intimacy, says Mills, because a tired and over-worked wife will suddenly have time and energy for other things. "When a man becomes permanently involved with household tasks, the amazing result is that a cold fish can miraculously become a vixen," she says.