Home Dear Linda,

Dear Linda,

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I’ve tried everything–sent flowers, brought home chocolates, even left a note on her pillow when I left for a business trip–but I’m out of ideas for how to bring some spark back to my marriage. A friend told me about the Ask Linda column, so I figured I’d see what you have to say.
Bradley M. – Mid City

Dear Bradley,
I’m so proud you wrote in! Your wife will be pleased that you’re pursuing ways to improve the relationship. But first let’s start with you: What are you feeling guilty about!? Although your thoughtful gestures are probably appreciated, in all likelihood they’re being interpreted as random apologetic gestures. Do you feel bad that you played that extra round of golf or stayed for the last hand at poker? You shouldn’t: Healthy relationships strive to support each other’s interests instead of resenting them. You need to take some time to think specifically about what you’re looking for. Ask yourself what is missing and what has changed between the two of you. Lastly, envision what your expectations are, and picture your lives together once those sparks have reignited. Now tell her you need to talk, but don’t rattle off all the wonderful gifts you’ve given her (if they didn’t work then, they won’t work now). Let her know what you’d like your relationship to be like and that you want to spend time figuring out what you can do to make it get better. Hearing yourself talk about your feelings will be enlightening for you both, and you’ll begin to understand yourself even better in the process. Answer her questions as best as you can, and reassure her that you don’t have all the answers, but that you’re searching and need her help. Then listen. Give her time to think about it all. And then send her flowers with a note thanking her for listening to you and telling her how much you love her!

And be sure to vacation with your wife–soon! A great book to take along with you to initiate new understandings of each other is Kokology: The Game of Self-Discovery by Tadahiko Nagao and Isamu Saito (Fireside Books, 2003). The book has more than 50 questions on seemingly innocent topics. Using the study of kokoro (“mind” or “spirit” in Japanese), the answers reveal how you really feel about work, sex, relationships and family. It’s a fun way to learn more about each other. Enjoy the journey of making your relationship better.