How Can I Better Nurture My Wife or Husband?

If you think about nurturing a child or a dog, most of us understand the basics about what such behaviors ask of us. But when grown men and women complain that their spouses or intimate partners don’t nurture them enough, often their partners say that they don’t know what nurturing behaviors are—or what’s being asked of them. So permit me to inquire: What does it mean to nurture someone you’re in a committed relationship with? What are nurturing behaviors that an adult would want to receive?

One way of nurturing someone includes listening to her when she talks, trying to understand him when he is attempting to articulate his feelings, being his/her sounding board, being supportive and encouraging, and taking a genuine interest in what he or she is interested in. You might acknowledge your partner’s efforts, as well as the time and energy s/he has devoted to work, or child-rearing, or house upkeep, to name a few of the ways he or she contributes to your comfort and well-being. If you do that, your spouse will feel acknowledged, loved and cared about by you, because none of us have really given up our desire to be nurtured.

A second form of nurturing behavior involves the use of touch and affection. That may include hugs, kisses and hand-holding, but might also include comforting your partner when s/he is hurt, upset or angry. It may involve offering a neck/shoulder massage when s/he feels tense, or out of sorts, and of course affection may also turn into a sexual invitation, which is another form of nurturing someone you care about.

A third way of expressing nurturance is to offer acts of service. This may include unexpectedly doing a chore that your spouse normally does (getting her car washed, cleaning the oven, cooking a meal and so on). So here’s a hint: ask your partner or spouse what you could do that would demonstrate that you love, value and cherish him or her. After you receive that list, if you possibly can, do whatever your spouse asks for—and continue doing it over time. I’m betting that your willingness to offer what s/he says matters will be viewed as especially nurturing and endearing to your partner.

Another type of nurturing involves romance, such as flowers, dinner out, an unexpected call, etc. But romance also consists of going out of your way to please your spouse, treating him/her with respect and kindness, making the relationship your top priority, expressing warmth and tenderness, and expressing that you like your partner. That’s very hard to beat.

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