Like chivalry, the word “hero” gets a little complicated in the post-feminist world. We’ve been told over and over that we don’t need one. We're told it is more satisfying to be our own heroines, owning our own story, taking on the world all on our own.
The problem with this thinking is that we’re not all on our own. Life is pretty lonely without our relationships, and when it comes to the romantic sort, if you’re “all on your own” you’re basically dysfunctional. Even Wonder Woman gets this! More importantly, according to Laura Doyle, best-selling author of The Empowered Wife, most men are deeply motivated by making their women happy. She calls this the “Hero Gene.”
On the brink of divorce, Doyle was an unhappy wife, desperate to save her failing marriage. In one last attempt to make it work, she feverishly interviewed women in flourishing, long-term marriages. She discovered they had fundamentally different habits than she did—not just as married couples, but as individual women. Through their own individuality they inspired their man's inner hero by perfecting the way they communicated their desires and needs. Essentially, they were setting their husbands up for success.
Doyle explains that igniting the hero gene begins by knowing your desires, prioritizing self-care, knowing how to communicate your needs to your man, and making time for friends. Here's how these skills come together to inspire your man.
01. Identify the things you desire.
This might sound easy (and maybe it is for you!), but according to Doyle, so many women struggle with identifying their desires. They're too caught up in pleasing others or busying themselves in the day-to-day, that they lose track on what they really want out of life. They simply forget, or they just don't even know what makes them happy anymore. Consequently, many married women either consciously or subconsciously toss that "happy" responsibility onto their husband (i.e., "Well, making me happy is his job.")
Men want to make the woman they love happy—in fact, according to Doyle, most good men are pretty much wired that way—but they're not very good mind-readers. They usually have no clue what we want, unless we communicate it directly. The problem is, we can't articulate it unless we actually know what we desire. Thus, she believes women need to pause and reflect on what we want. "Just entertaining the idea of the things I desire is fun, and it puts me in a better mood than dismissing them does," she writes.
So go crazy, write down that one day you want a beach house. Or that you want to travel the moon. Get used to accepting your wants, regardless of the reality, and regardless of any plan to obtain them. By getting into this exercise, other more attainable wants will make themselves known, allowing you to be able to convey your desires and improve communication in your marriage.
02. Take pleasure in taking care of yourself.
After talking to happily married women, Doyle discovered that the most fundamental aspect of communicating your desires well, is to master how to "replenish your spirit." She found that the women who were happy in their marriages took pleasure in small things—like baths, yoga, bits of chocolate, or making time for tea—and their joy spilled over to their marriage. Moreover, they made these self-care pleasures a priority.
Doyle explains that one of the feminine gifts we have is the propensity to take big pleasure in just taking care of ourselves. (And no, folding laundry or cleaning the house does not count as taking care of yourself.)
She realized that when women made taking care of their physical and mental health a priority, not an indulgence—a shift happened. They were less stressed at work, more focused at home, and felt far more centered—and strangely, less consumed by miserable busyness. By doing this they are in a better place to know what they want (see #1), keeping their husband tuned-in and emboldened by their positive spirit.
03. Learn how to articulate your desires in a way that inspires your guy.
Now we get to the external part. According to Doyle, how to communicate your wants and needs to your man is actually one of the biggest points of contention in marriage because, even if a woman actually has a list of clear desires in her head, she often communicates these ideas indirectly or even passively. Maybe she's too subtle, or maybe she phrases it as a command or a strong suggestion—or maybe she's just so frustrated, it takes the form of a straight-up complaint!
For instance, how many times do women in long-term relationships, desperately wanting to connect say instead: "Ugh, we never go on dates anymore."
Automatically, this puts him on the defense. By saying this he has no opportunity to save the day, or be your hero. Instead, Doyle suggests, "Just say what you would love to happen," and “let go of the result.” So, in this example, she would suggest saying: "I would love to go on a date this weekend!" By phrasing your desires this way, you give your guy clear direction, and the emotional freedom to respond to your needs while setting him up for success. Plus, this is "more empowering, more fun," making you, "more pleasant to be around, and much likelier to get the result you want." Overtime, this can have a profound effect.
04. Realize that your husband can't be your only friend.
Finally, another mind-blowing concept that Doyle realized was that women in happy marriages had strong social connections outside their husbands. After all, a guy cannot meet all of a woman's emotional and social needs on his own. He's just one man. Sure, he's definitely the most important man in your life, but he shouldn't be your only support, nor your only outlet for socializing! "Plus my girlfriends and sisters bring something to the table that my husband simply can't: the perspective and shared the experience of being a woman," Doyle explains. Ultimately making time for other women in your life is a critical part of self-care. They're your village, your people. They keep you grounded and laughing.
Plus, having women around is an excellent opportunity to get in the practice of talking positively about your own husband (when relevant). After all, that's how you ultimately identify a woman who is in a happy marriage, as Doyle explains. "She speaks highly of her husband."
And as word gets around, this will make him feel like Superman.
These aren't all the "keys to intimacy" that Doyle writes in her book on how to ignite his "hero gene." If you want to read more details about this skill, or learn others, definitely check out her book here, or her new TV show free with Amazon Prime.