20 Things

While we didn’t have sex during our 2 1/2 week vacation, we did have a decent session the night we got home. After the kids were in bed, she started a load of laundry and was lingering around the kitchen. I thought she was coming to bed but she made no such move. So I went in and asked her if she was coming to bed.

“No, I want to get this load of laundry done, so I’m waiting for it to finish washing so I can put it in the dryer.”

“What are you doing while you wait for the clothes to wash?”

“Oh, I thought I’d do my pictures.”

“How about doing your husband?”

She picked up on my subtle hint immediately and we went for it. I was tired, but we both made the best of it.

During our last counseling session before leaving on vacation, the counselor gave us an assignment plus gave us some handouts. I can’t find the handouts and only vaguely remember the assignment. The reading gave some background and asked us to list 20 things. I can’t remember if we were to list 20 things our partner did for us or 20 things they didn’t do for us that we wish they did. So I’ve been working on both, as well as a list of things she does that I wish she didn’t do. The eventual objective of this is to classify those 20 things according to Chapman’s love languages.



More pop psychology.

Still, any sort of introspection isn’t a total loss even if it is a tool for a lame theory. I’ll go along with it it, even if I don’t agree totally with the premise. First off, the list that was easiest was the one of things she didn’t do for me that I wish she did. As you can see, only one list has more than 20 things:

20 things she does for me

1. Watches the boys

2. let’s me sleep in

3. keeps the house clean

4. kisses me sometimes

5. has sex with me sometimes

6. keeps track of health insurance info

7. Helps the boys with their homework

8. Teaches the boys about the Bible

9. Talks about the Bible and Biblical things

10. Participates in counseling

11. Does the laundry

12. Feeds the fish

13. Has good Christian values; reads the Bible and is charitable towards others -preschool

14. Is quiet; doesn’t yell or get too loud

15. Converse on religious/political/social issues and has similar or compatible views

I’m a bit short here.

20 Things she don’t do that I wish she would

1. let me touch and caress her sexually (breasts, vulva)

2. Kiss me deeply open mouthed with tongue play – long, slow, desirous and lingering

3. Oral sex – both ways

4. wear sexy lingerie sometimes

5. Talk about sex without it seeming dirty or shameful or embarrassing

6. initiate sex with me

7. Touch me sexually

8. Invest time in learning about my sexuality

9. Read the Rosenau book and discuss it with me

10. Be more of a home economist: find more ways to save and stretch our money

11. Cook and eat more nutritious food

12. Use the elliptical trainer I bought her for Christmas.

13. Have less stuff and more easily part with stuff she has.

14. Have a sense of fairness that involves sharing pain and pleasure equitably.

15. Snuggle with me when it is cold (apart from sex)

16. Sleep with me in bed “normally”

17. Experiment more sexually…variety, passion and fun

18. More pro actively support my efforts to quit smoking; verbal praise, more affection.

19. Come out and say what you want instead of expecting me to read your mind or pick up little hints.

20. Show genuine attraction to me by flirting, touching or generally being interested in me.

21. Share with me: she’s been in a sexual abuse recovery group for 2 years and has never shared with me her story.

22. Button the top button on my shirts when she hangs them up.

23. Take a bath with me sometimes

24. Shower together 1x a week


20 things she does that I wish she didn’t

1.Throws too much food away

2. Spend thrift

3. criticize me as a father

4. Go ballistic over ants

5. Pokes or kicks me when I snore

6. sleeps with her head at the other end of tbe bed on top of the covers.

7. Tries to get me into her church

8. “Feel better?”

9. Bat my hands away or cringe when she is caressed

10. Treat sex as a huge mess and bother

11. Better manage space, stuff and clutter

Sexual issues make up a huge part of my lists. There are other things less sexually oriented in the list, but let’s face it: sexual dysfunction (on either or both our parts) was the primary reason I sought counseling in the first place. Other issues mostly deal with intimacy of one sort or another.

It’s a safe bet…no, a foregone conclusion… that my love language rests in the realm of physical affection. It’s not quite to the exclusion of the other 4, but pretty close. One of the things I remember being mentioned in the handout, is concerning someone who had an affair. They were to list the 20 things that they got out of the affair that they didn’t get from the marriage. Based on that, much of what I listed were inspired by things that would possibly lure me into an affair. Certainly a sexy, flirty attitude wins over a repressed, prudish one. Someone who treats me like I’m irresistible and attractive wins over someone who treats me like a walking wallet. One good French kiss would probably do it as it’s been so long since anyone has done that for me.

I’m suddenly thinking of Monica Lewinski’s appeal. Whatever you might think about anything either she or Bill did, it’s not hard to imagine how this type of relationship could happen at least from Bill’s POV. No matter how much affirmation a body gets from his job, there is no substitute for sincere personal interest and attraction.

My intent here is not to fantasize so much as get those issues out in the open in order to better affair-proof my marriage. Knowing where the weak spots are will help deal with them, hopefully.

So any ideas of how to complete the lists? Basically, I used my infamous Top Ten list to complete most of the second list, which made it all too easy. I used all the lists to compliment one another and help brainstorm. Often something she wasn’t doing helped highlight something she was doing that I either liked or disliked. I feel kind of bad that the first list is so much shorter than the second list. I feel like I had to really stretch and reach in order to find things Arwyn does for me. She does tons for the kids, but not a lot for me. Or a least that’s what I’m feeling here.

Arwyn will probably have just as much trouble coming up with a comparable list of 20 things I do for her. To be sure, I think I need to work on doing more for her than I currently do


8 Responses to 20 Things

  1. C-Marie says:

    It would have to be said, that no matter where this instruction comes from, the list being used as a tool to better “read” each other would seem to be a good idea. I remember having done something similar with JM a few years ago – the list being my own creation – and it was to list 10 things about the other person that you liked and then 10 things that you didn’t like. That list was not to include things of the sexual or intimate realm. That would be a later list….

    Needless to say, he never engaged in this playful little game and he probably never looked at it again after the small introduction I gave about it.

  2. Desmond Jones says:

    “How about doing your husband?”

    Subtle, Digger. . . Reeeeaalll subtle 😉

    It would probably be worth you while to invest the mental energy to fill your list all the way out to the full 20. ‘Cuz, even if they’re small and seemingly trivial, those things that she does for you exist, and there’s no such thing as being too grateful to/for your wife. . .

    And, just for the sake of saying so, ‘affair-proofing’ your marriage is a very good thing. A few times over the course of our married life, a friendship that I’ve had with another woman has gotten to the point of appearing on my internal radar as a ‘be very careful’ item. Never remotely close to having an actual affair, and it’s likely the women in question never knew what was going on with me. But just having in the back of my mind that, if I wasn’t careful, the relationship could go to an inappropriate place, was a very salutary realization for me to have. . .

  3. therese says:

    This seems like a very helpful exercise. I hope Arwyn does it as well.

    Re: #7. Tries to get me into her Church

    You know, in her mind, this might belong on the first list too. It might be an act of love on her part, feeling you might get something out of it. She might think she’s doing you a favor.

    What does “Feel better?” refer to?

  4. FTN says:

    Funny, I guess I’m alone with my impression that this is an AWFUL idea.

    I could easily make a list of things my wife doesn’t do, that I wish she would. Or things she does that I wish she didn’t. But I’d be scared to. First of all, I’d honestly be scared of what I might write, and how much I’d write. And secondly, there would be no value to it. Sure, there is value to writing out and remembering things I LOVE about my wife. But writing out things that I DON’T care for very much?

    In my case, if I was utterly and completely honest in the list… nothing good would come of it. I’d have two options:

    1) Show it to my wife, and make her angry. After years of me trying to “back down,” she’d once again feel as though I’m pressuring her, and I’m being mean, and I don’t love her for who she is, etc etc etc. Result: It adds a bigger wedge between us in our intimacy.

    2) Don’t show it to my wife, and make myself angry. I’ve just spent a good deal of mental work thinking about what I wished I could have that I don’t have. It would depress me and probably make me slightly bitter. Result: It adds a bigger wedge between us in our intimacy.

    In some cases, with what we DON’T have, I find it sometimes better to be “out of sight, out of mind.” Besides, doesn’t everyone usually harp about “loving her as she is”?

    Your case, however, might be different. Sexually, at least, your situation is a good deal more extreme than mine.

  5. Cat says:

    It’s weird I was thinking the same thing as FTN. Of course you are in therapy to air it all so I guess it’s kind of the point to write out lists like this. But to me it does feel like a can of worms and I do wonder what good could come from it. As I was looking at the list of things you appreciate and saw “watches the boys”, “let’s me sleep in”, and “keeps the house clean” it was hard not to think well Gee thanks…And wonder if she will think that too. You mentioned so many sexual things you need from her but out of 20 things you appreciate about her, how she looks, smells, smiles…any of the things that are part of her sexual self made the list. Lord knows I don’t really relate to Arwyn so I can’t begin to 2nd guess how she will respond to the list of virtues. But I know if it were me not mentioning my appearance, listening skills, smile something would make me feel like I am just a good maid and nanny to you. And then I would wonder so why are you so hot to have sex with me anyway?

  6. Desmond Jones says:

    Oops! The list I was talking about filling out was the ‘What She Does For Me’ list – the one that would actually drive gratitude for the things you appreciate about her. I agree with FTN about the other two lists.

    Heck, as crazy as I am about Molly, I would have no trouble populating a list of things about her that I wish were different. But what would be the point of that?

  7. diggerjones says:

    Prior to counseling, Arwyn would have been just like JM, Marie. In fact we tried the ENQ last year and she never started it. And she hasn’t started this list either, but I’m hopeful.

    I know my subtlety is amazing, Desmond., Fortunately my wife’s intuition is equally amazing that she caught on so quickly. Something to add to the list! And I recognize the value of contending for my own headspace and staying clear of anything that could get me in trouble. Not easy sometimes. And if you struggle…sheesh! what chance do I have?!?

    Therese, in her mind it may very well belong on the first list but it’s MY list! It comes off as a bit manipulating. I’m not trying to pull her back into my church, and pulling me into hers would seem unfair. I do go sometimes, but have just never cared for it. It’s not the people, it’s just the whole setup. I’d likely feel more comfortable in YOUR church! As for “Feel better” that will have to be a post of its own. Thanks for asking!

    FTN, it’s not quite as easy as you think. The first 10 come pretty effortlessly but then you find yourself reaching. The goal, other than to learn your love language, is also to improve yourselves. Seeing Arwyn’s list might help me improve what I do. It also highlights areas of relative strength. You know, you’re sounding more and more like an avoider!

    Coming to the Dark Side are you?

    Cat, you win the “insightful comment of the day” award, and it was tough competition. But you said pretty much what my therapist was driving at me yesterday but it wasn’t until reading your comment that the light bulb went off. Aha! Basically, I don’t compliment those erotic/sexual things that I do see enough. Lack of positive reinforcement–how stupid of me! Some behaviorist I am! And figuring out why I want sex with her is a good, fundamental place to start. I need to get out of the lizard mode and think more like a real human.

    Arwyn’s birthday is this weekend; perfect opportunity ot gush some mush.

    The point, Desmond, is to be aware of areas where YOU are feeling short changed or vulnerable. Part of affair proofing, I think. But you’re right, that first list needs some work and now I’ve gotten some good ideas of where I need to go with it.

    Thanks guys!

  8. […] what it was that I appreciated about Arwyn.  He basically seemed to be driving at what Cat was commenting on.  Why the heck am I so hung up on getting physical with her?  I needed to re-frame my list in a […]

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