ERP 368: How To Express Yourself In Ways That Inspire Love & Connection — An Interview Laura Doyle

By Posted in - Podcast April 18th, 2023 0 Comments

Communication is the foundation of any healthy and fulfilling relationship, but expressing yourself in a way that fosters love and connection can be difficult, especially when conflicts arise.

In this interview, Dr. Jessica Higgins and Laura Doyle, a relationship coach, discuss six essential skills for building intimacy and connection with your partner. From taking care of yourself to relinquishing control, showing respect, receiving graciously, embracing vulnerability, and using positive affirmations, Laura offers practical tools that can transform your relationship, even in seemingly hopeless situations.If you’re looking to deepen your connection and create a more fulfilling relationship, listen to this episode to discover expert advice on how to express yourself in ways that inspire love and connection.

New York Times bestselling author Laura Doyle was the perfect wife…until she actually got married. She is the founder of the international relationship coach training school Laura Doyle Connect, the star of Empowered Wives on Amazon Prime, the Creator of The Ridiculously Happy Wife program, the host of The Empowered Wife Podcast. She has helped over 15,000 women fix their relationships–even the hopeless ones– without their husband’s effort.

In this Episode

6:19 Laura shares how her personal experience led her to develop a coaching model and framework that supports women in heterosexual relationships.

10:24 How a women’s support group turned into a movement to end divorce.

19:49 Two “cheat phrases” that can help improve communication in a relationship.

25:43 The power of intimacy skills, receptivity, and manifesting desires.

41:09 Take charge of your own happiness: The power of self-care and positive cycles in relationships.

44:54 Building positive relationships through fundamental cues and intimacy skills: Insights from “The Empowered Wife”

51:36 Laura reveals the 6 intimacy skills that can improve your marriage, even in seemingly hopeless situations.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Identify your needs and communicate them clearly to your partner. Use “I” statements and avoid blaming or accusing language.
  • Practice active listening when your partner expresses their needs. Focus on understanding their perspective without interrupting or becoming defensive.
  • Develop a daily self-care practice that replenishes your spirits and boosts your sense of self-worth. This can include activities like exercise, meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature.
  • Let go of inappropriate control by allowing your partner to make their own decisions and respecting their autonomy. Avoid micromanaging or trying to change them to fit your ideal.
  • Show respect towards your partner by valuing their opinions, feelings, and boundaries. Avoid criticism or dismissiveness, even in times of conflict.
  • Learn to receive graciously by accepting compliments, gifts, and help from your partner without feeling guilty or obligated to reciprocate immediately.
  • Practice vulnerability by opening up to your partner about your feelings, fears, and hopes. This can create a deeper level of intimacy and trust in your relationship.
  • Use positive affirmations and spouse-fulfilling prophecy to reinforce your belief in your partner’s abilities and potential. This can create a more supportive and encouraging dynamic in your relationship.


The Empowered Wife, Updated and Expanded Edition: Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting Your Husband’s Time, Attention, and Affection (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

The Empowered Wife Podcast with Laura Doyle

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Laura Doyle







Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Laura, thank you for joining us here today.

It is a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me, Jessica.

Yeah. I feel privileged when people who have done a level of work are able to speak about their journey with a level of humility, which it sounds like you are very much willing to show some of the maybe areas that have been embarrassing or not pretty, and just also what you’ve been able to cultivate in your journey and your transformation. We’re going to be talking about empowered relating. I know you have a whole brand Empowered Wives, so I know you’re speaking from that perspective. But these principles, it sounds like you’re saying, translate to any person and relationship looking to deepen and navigate the lasting terrain of long-lasting intimacy. Is that right?

Well, yeah, I totally hear you. You want me to tell my embarrassing stories, which I’m happy to do. No problem. For Me, it all started out, just sharing my experience in marriage. That’s what I continue to do. I continue to rely on, like, I don’t really have any advice for anybody. But I do have this experience, and it turns out other women have found it valuable to hear some of these embarrassing stories and apply that in their own relationships. Then, men certainly respond to that, too. I think almost everybody on the planet wants to be loved and seen and heard and understood. I certainly wanted that so badly, that’s why I got married. But unfortunately, just not very long into marriage, I was noticing my husband didn’t really want to spend any time with me. He was watching lots of TV. He seemed like he was more interested in watching reruns than he was in talking to me, or even making love to me. So it really was very lonely. It was heartbreaking actually. 

I remember, just after getting married, thinking, “I’m going to help improve my husband. I’m just going to show him a few things, just how to be more ambitious and a little more romantic, and definitely tidier.” I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. But I knew what to do. I knew that if your marriage was in the situation where you couldn’t even have a conversation without having a fight. Or sometimes we’d have cold wars, where there was no talking for days. I knew that meant you should go to marriage counseling. So I convinced him that we had to go, I remember dragging him to marriage counseling. We went for over a year, and we spent $9,000 on marriage counseling. It’s a long time ago, so $9,000 would be a lot more now. I remember sitting on the marriage counselor’s gray couch and realizing, “This is hopeless, he’s never going to change.” I was there really wanting her to change him, so that I could finally have a happy marriage that I wanted so bad. But we were too far apart, and I just felt like my options were really clear: I was either going to get divorced, or spend the rest of my life in a loveless marriage. I wasn’t willing to do that. So I decided to get divorced. There was just one big problem with that, and that was, I was too embarrassed to get divorced. Because people have been to the wedding, maybe six or seven years before that. I thought I didn’t really want that. I felt like there was going to be a loss of status. 

So in my desperation, I decided to ask women who had happy marriages and had been married for an eternity, which was 15 years, what was their secret to happy marriage? I mean, I’ve been reading marriage books, and I’ve been doing this marriage counseling, and I knew a lot about relationships, what you’re supposed to do. But these women said things that were just cuckoo, they made no sense to me. I remember thinking like, that’s not what you’re supposed to do. But I was so desperate that I was going to try these cuckoo things, I had nothing to lose. I remember I had been doing that for not even that long, and I came through the door to our home, and my husband saw me and his face lit up. Just happy to see me again. That had been gone. So I thought, maybe who knew that the women with actual happy marriages would know the things that would work. So I was so excited, I thought now I’m going to be able to have the kind of marriage that I’ve always wanted to have. Because I knew what to do. We wouldn’t be having those big fights in the car, and it’d be peaceful, and we could be playful. So it was very exciting. 

Then not that long after that, we were in the car, and we had that big blowup, where he was saying horrible things, and I was saying horrible things right back, basically. I knew I was going to regret those horrible things that I was saying. I was really deflated, because I thought: “Oh, I know what to do, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.” The new stuff wasn’t that hard, it was just new. So I had this idea that if I could get my girlfriends to do it with me, that we had a little support group, that maybe I could get myself to employ the new things that I needed to do. That worked. There was five of us, we’d meet in my living room; they were complaining about their marriages too. We were seeing miracles! One woman said my husband won the sales contest at work, he took them on the most romantic getaway of their lives. Then another woman said, “Well, you’re not going to think this is such a big deal, but we’ve been fighting for months about him painting the family room, and do you know, he got up and painted the family room, and he did it with a smile.” She’s like, this is a miracle! And we are all like, “Yeah, I get it. Because sometimes it can feel impossible to get your husband to do the thing you’re wanting him to do.” 

So one of the women in that support group said, can you write down what we’re doing for my cousin in Florida? We’re in California. I was like, sure, I will write it down. That became my first book, which debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list, and was published in 19 languages in 30 countries. It was the number one book on all of Amazon, and Dateline did an investigative report, and then we just really saw tremendous interest. The women started emailing me saying, “This is great, but I need support,” like me. They were like, “This is great information. But now how do I keep it alive in my marriage?” So that led to me starting a coaching organization. I’ve trained coaches, around 30 coaches now who teach. So there’s kind of a worldwide movement of women who practice the six intimacy skills, which is what I distilled from the wisdom from these happily married women.

Can I ask you? Thank you for sharing. When you talk about the story where your husband lit up, was there something you were starting to implement that he was responding to? I didn’t hear what that was.

Well, I know. So that is where the six intimacy skills come into play. I’m on a mission to end world divorce now. My parents are divorced, so I was following a failed recipe, and I was about to get the same results as Mom did basically, in my marriage. So it wasn’t until I learned these skills, and began to feel empowered in my marriage instead of a victim in my marriage, that everything changed. 

Free Two Women Lying In Bed Stock Photo

“In looking back, I was suffering needlessly, because there were skills. It’s sort of like if I learned to drive a car by just jumping in the car and just taking a little tool around town and crashing into things, that wasn’t necessary.”

So I want every woman to be able to get her hands on the six intimacy skills. So I’d like to share as much of that as I possibly can, in our time together. I will tell you, it’s not going to be enough time in my experience. It’s sort of like the way the word water doesn’t quench your thirst. Like, if I just list the six intimacy skills, it’ll be like: Oh, okay. But I would love, there’s one particular piece, the second intimacy skill, that I feel like every woman needs to know, and it’s pretty easy to grasp onto. I want to just share that formula; it’s called “Expressing your desires in a way that inspires.” 

There’s another embarrassing story, which is, when my husband took us to a romantic getaway to Hawaii, very early in our relationship, I was so excited. Because on the first day, I thought: “We are going to go to the beach, I cannot wait, that’ll be so fun.” But instead of saying what I wanted to do, I said, what did you want to do today? He said, well, let’s go see a volcano. I was like, “Uh, a volcano? Okay, I’m going to just suck it up and go see his volcano. I’m not going to mention the beach.” Because I didn’t want to have a conflict, I wanted to be close. So we get in the rental car, and we’re driving around, and you don’t see a volcano for a long time. There’s just these little molten rocks on the side of the road, and I started just to really feel disappointed and upset. He was like, is everything okay, is something wrong? I was like, “Did you think it was going to be fun to look at these stupid things? You didn’t even ask me what I wanted to do, I wanted to go to the beach. [indistinct 17:30]” So he saw a volcano alright, not the kind that he was intending to see. Do you know, after that, even though I behaved so badly, he turned the car around and we went to the beach, because he just wanted me to be happy. 

But I feel so sad for that younger version of myself, who just had no concept of how to say what I wanted. Of course, if you can’t say what you want, you’re never going to get what you want. This carried into our marriage. I remember I would say, and I thought I was saying what I wanted, I’d say, “John, this kitchen is a disaster area.” I thought he was just going to jump off the couch and start cleaning the kitchen. That never happened, Jessica, as you already know. I think he probably heard, “John, blah, blah, blah.” He probably couldn’t even hear what I was saying. I don’t think people can hear you when you’re complaining. So finally, I learned to express my desires in a way that inspires. I’m going to give out that formula in a second. But what I said was, “I would love a clean kitchen.” He said, “Okay, I’ll clean it.” And he did. That was over 20 years ago, he’s been cleaning the kitchen ever since every day. I never do the dishes, because he knows it makes his wife happy. As part of my research, I’ve asked thousands of men, how important it is that their wife is happy, or even their girlfriend is happy. Do you know, they all said the same thing? They say something like, “Oh, it’s everything, or it’s the most important thing.” Or in the UK, they say, it’s imperative! So it seems to be this universal thing, husbands want their wives to be happy. 

Now, I didn’t think my husband wanted me to be happy. I thought he doesn’t care about that. He just wants to watch TV. But when I learned to rephrase my desires, instead of complaining, to actually express my desires, I saw that I was able to trigger his hero gene, and he just wanted me to be happy. 

So I just want to give everyone that formula, which is, “I would love,” and then it’s just the final outcome. So you don’t want to get into how it’s done. Like, I used to say things like, “I want a new dress for my birthday. I want this blue one. It’s at Macy’s, it’s in the window. It’s the three-quarter sleeves. But wait till it goes on sale next week, and get me a size eight.” Nobody is inspired by that, that’s just control. Then I also don’t recommend this phrase if you want affection or attention or his time, because it just doesn’t feel good to have to ask for those things. You want him to want to hold your hand, or to make love to you, or spend time together. But for everything else that you want, and if you’re like me and most of the women I talk to, you want a lot of things, this is the magical phrase. Just “I would love,” and then the final outcome.

Agreed, that’s really making visible. Again, as you mentioned, the desire to make one’s partner happy and to feel that win. Also, conversely, not have to push away from what sounds like criticism or complaint, and have to feel not good enough, inadequate, all the things that that usually ingenerates. So I agree, it’s been very helpful for me to use that languaging, for sure.

Right, it’s pretty magical. Because you go from feeling like he doesn’t care about my happiness at all, to seeing, like: Oh, my gosh! I had one student who was sitting on the couch reading my book, reading the Empowered Wife, and she just looked up from the book. She just had read that. She said, “I would love a glass of wine.” Her husband’s like, “Oh, we don’t have any. She’s like, “Oh, I know. I was just wanting some, no expectation.” The next thing she knows, he’s coming down the stairs with his keys in his hand, and the kid is behind him going, “Dad, can I go to the store with you?” She’s like, where are you going? He goes, “Oh, I’m going to go get you some wine.” She’s like, “All right, thank you.” So it feels nice to feel so cherished.

Yes, yes, yes, lovely! Well, are you wanting to say more about this?

Yeah. I mean, I’m happy to share as much as I can about all of them. So another one, another cheat phrase, that is in the third skill actually, and I’ve got a great story about this. The cheat phrase is one that I used when I realized I was a little controlling, you probably heard that in my story where I was going to help improve him. Improve meaning tell him what to do, which is the same as being controlling. I was a little too helpful. So I learned to use this phrase, because I had trained my husband to check with me before he made important decisions, like making an investment or starting a business or getting dressed. I wanted him to check with me first. So the phrase I came up with was, just to kind of refer him back to his own thinking, which is, “It’s whatever you think. Whatever you think.” 

So I had a student who had also just read my book, and she was reading about all the intimacy skills. Her husband came up to her and said, “Oh, you need to tell me what you want me to do about the cellphone plan? Because we need a new plan.” So she decided she was going to experiment with this phrase. They had been sleeping in separate beds for six months, and it was her second marriage. They had a blended family. She’d been going to marriage counseling every Saturday, for almost a year actually, and he wouldn’t go. So she was just going and complaining about her husband for an hour a week. That doesn’t work, by the way. Nobody ever got happier by complaining for an hour a week. It always seems like it’s going to work, but it just doesn’t work. 

So she just decided she had nothing to lose by experimenting. So she said about the cellphone plan, she said, “Oh, whatever you think, Doug. Doug was like, “No, I really need you to tell me what you want me to do.” Because he didn’t want to get in trouble later for doing it wrong. His wife was the CFO of a large private school. He knew that she didn’t really think that he would be able to handle it correctly. But she just stuck to her guns. She said, “Whatever you think, Doug.” Then she added, “I trust you.” So Doug went away and figured out the cellphone plan. She was worried he was going to mess it up, but he did fine. He was okay. 

That night, he went up to her and put his hand on her shoulder, and said, “You were so nice today!” Tears just rolled down her cheeks, and they slept in their same bed that very night. The next day, she fired her marriage counselor and she came to train with me. Divorce was off the table at that point, she was able to springboard off of that one cheat phrase to save her marriage. It’s been 20 years since she did that. She still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about how tragic it would have been to throw away the marriage with this man who turns out to be the love of her life, now that she knows how to communicate, how to show up as her best self in her marriage.

Well, I’m hearing you speak in my vantage point as a clinician, and really touching in on some deep needs and attachment longings of feeling that. In this case, as you’re referring to the husband and the wife, that the husband feels that she’s safe with him, that she trusts him, and that he is also helping her feel happy, which in turn has this positive cycle of helping him feel this sense of agency and feeling also empowered. That it really allows for this generative way of relating, that calls into. You mentioned the hero or the king, there’s different archetypes to refer to here. I do think these are really important underlying motivations.

Yeah. You said that so well, that is beautifully said. That’s exactly right. These are speaking to three basic human needs that we all show up to our relationships with, that we want to feel seen, and known, and appreciated, and understood. Certainly, in Kathy and Doug’s story, he really wanted to be her hero, her king, I guess is another way to say it, for sure. We see this so commonly, it’s like yin and yang, in a way. 

Free Female Couple Sweet Moments Together Stock Photo

“I love the idea that every object has yin and yang. Like, my coffee cup, this ceramic polka dot part here is the yang; it’s got the handle, it’s the structure. Then the yin is the part that can receive the coffee. If you imagine a coffee cup that can’t receive coffee, that’s the end. It has no purpose.”

In the yang position in a relationship, you want to feel purposeful, and maybe that’s where you see men go get the car when it’s raining, or give up their jacket because she’s cold, or move across the country to be near her family, or take the longer commute to work to provide a better living for that family. I think the longer I do this work, the more I so appreciate that yang energy. It’s just so really self-sacrificing, in a way, but also feels loved when they feel respected, and that they’re contributing.

And received, and then also their efforts to make a difference; there’s an impact that they get to see a result of. If it doesn’t land, or it’s being rejected, or a person isn’t really happy with it.

That is intimacy skill number four, it’s receiving graciously. The slogan is: receive, receive, receive. I know for me, my husband used to buy me flowers, and I’d say: Oh, this is kind of expensive. I don’t know if we can afford this. They just die anyway.” So I was rejecting, I wasn’t receiving those. Or we’d wake up in the morning and he’d say, “You’re so beautiful! I was like, “No, I just woke up like, don’t look at me.” I’d just reject that compliment. I just felt like there was a lot of pressure to be independent and carry my own weight. So I was constantly rejecting compliments, gifts, help, apologies, special treatment, all the ways that he wanted to cherish me. 

So it’s funny. There’s the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance? The host is Cat Deeley. She got up on stage there one time, and she looked absolutely gorgeous, like she always does. The coaches said to her, “Cat, you look gorgeous!” She just beamed. She just stood there in the white hot spotlight of that compliment, and said, “Thank you!” I just thought, oh, she’s so beautiful, she’s so confident. Then they said to her, “And Cat, congratulations on your Emmy Awards.” She did it again. She just stood there in the white hot spotlight, like, “Thank you.” Now, those coaches had also been nominated for an Emmy. She could have easily said, “Oh, thank you, and congratulations to you too on your Emmy nominations.” But she didn’t. She just received that attention, and just delighted in it. I see her as just my role model for receiving, she’s so confident and so beautiful in this receptivity. That is the essence of femininity. No wonder we all think she’s so gorgeous and she’s such a great host on this show, because we enjoy that confidence that we see in her. 

So I see this with my students again and again. I had a student who was separated in her own home, and her husband had said it’s over, he was leaving. They were definitely getting divorced, and they were living like awkward roommates; there was no speaking, there was no touching, no interacting at all, really tense at her house. She has been on my program, and she was using all the intimacy skills to try to fix her marriage, even though she didn’t really think that that was going to work. She gets to the part where she decided she was going to try to express her desires in a way that inspires. She went into the living room, and he was sitting there watching TV, and she said, “I would love a leg massage.” Now here’s the critical piece. She didn’t say, “Oh, my legs hurt.” Because then he would not have known what to do. So then he said, “Oh, would you like it now?” Her heart was just racing like crazy. She’s like, “Oh my God, I think he’s going to massage my legs!” And he did. He’s like, okay, sit over here, and he gave her a leg massage. That was the beginning of their reconciliation, to where she’s now a coach with me too. He then cleared off the patio and built a fire pit for them to sit and hold hands at night by the fire. So their marriage was saved from her doing this. But imagine if when he had said, “Oh, do you want it now,” is she hadn’t received that leg massage. So that was key that he saw a way that he could delight her and make her happy. 

Free Man Kissing Woman Stock Photo

“That is part of how we see that men fill up, when they kill that scary spider or carry heavy things for you. So the receptivity, being receptive makes you 10 times more attractive than rejecting those gifts, compliments, help, special treatment, and apologies.”

Well, you’ve spoken to three skills. I’m also hearing you talk about the learning curve around this is not always easy to access; our heart might be racing. It might be like, I need my sisters to support me, if we’re in the feminine and identifying as a woman. Like, having collaboration and knowing that one has got other people that are also in practice, and holding accountable and capable. 

Would you like to say anything about how one starts to re-pattern some of these brushing away compliments, not receiving? I don’t think the intention is ever to not receive, necessarily consciously. But it’s these learned ways of being self-sufficient, or I don’t want to be a burden, or I don’t want to be too needy or demanding, or I don’t want to be too selfish or seemingly better than. There’s all these reasons why people get stuck around accessing these. So would you like to speak a little bit more about how people can start to be in the practice of this more? 

Yeah. I mean, we all have to overcome that training we got in junior high where it’s like, don’t act like you’re hot stuff. That’s part of it, kind of a false modesty I guess you’d say, or maybe not false. For me, this was one of the best self-improvement programs I ever undertook was the wisdom of no escape in my marriage. Because as I decided to take on these practices of becoming a better receiver, and not being too helpful, and expressing my desires in a way that inspires all the other intimacy skills. For me, with the receiving thing, what came in was just an awareness that I didn’t feel deserving, or just that I wanted to be polite. I thought it was selfish, and I had been trained not to be too selfish. Of course, my mama trained me right! But really, part of me just felt nervous. 

I remember being at a live event with a bunch of my coaches, and we had a dance party; we had an 80s dance party, super fun. I was hanging out with this other coach, who’s a great dancer. Like, she really studied her dance moves in the 80s. So we were just having a blast. The next morning, another coach came up to the two of us and said, “You guys are such good dancers.” And I had this moment of like, “She’s a good dancer, I was just standing next to her.” I almost rejected that compliment. But instead I thought, “Oh my gosh, I teach this stuff, I’m trying to not be a total hypocrite here.” So I just smiled and said, “Oh, thank you.” I’m just going to receive. Like, she has this good impression of me, why am I going to argue with that? 

So a lot of times it comes up when I’m wanting to reject a compliment, or a gift. It’s been an amazing journey of just stretching into feeling worth that gift or compliment or help, and maybe feeling a little vulnerable, or more than a little vulnerable; maybe my heart’s racing when that’s happening. But don’t we all want to receive all the things that are around us, all the time, that people want to give us? I mean, other people want to feel purposeful too. Then you kind of start to find it everywhere. Like, oh my gosh, that contractor went above and beyond, or the customer service person got me that refund or whatever. Just as you begin to bring that receptivity, it’s endearing also, it’s attractive. It is vulnerable, and that inspires people.

Agreed. I think you said it was the third skill, the first one we talked about today. So I’m not sure if I’m tracking them correctly.

I’m sorry, I didn’t go in order.

No, it’s totally good. But it’s something that I reference a lot, and we use different language, for sure. But that it is really vulnerable to lead with the request and to be able to say, here’s what I would love. Or whatever it is that one is really making visible. So that is way more vulnerable than the criticism or the complaint. So I appreciate you acknowledging that.

Yeah. That just reminded me of a great example, this happened recently. For years, for decades, I’ve always wanted a swimming pool, I’ve never had one. It seemed a little indulgent, just to want a swimming pool. We don’t have kids. So it’s like, I just want a swimming pool for me. I remember thinking, like, “If I only had kids, I could say I want it for the kids.” But I couldn’t. So I had to just really own that I wanted it. But no, not practical, maybe kind of expensive, maybe a maintenance hassle ongoing. So I finally decided to stop holding that desire at arm’s length, and I just really stepped into it. I just said, “Gosh, I would love a pool.” Do you know, we just went through old backyard remodel. I have like a backyard resort now, it’s fantastic. But I could really see just my own environment responding to me being willing to honor myself. Before, I wasn’t willing, so there wasn’t a swimming pool, and now today, happily there is, and I love it. I’m thrilled to have it, and I’m also thrilled to be able to honor myself in that way.

Yeah. It sounds like it really harkens back to the worthiness, and to even be able to give yourself the expression and even access your creative energy. I think there’s a lot that brings value for anyone in contact, that gets to also experience something you created, or your vision or your desire, essentially, was vocalized. 

The other thing, I wonder if you would agree with this, that even as I’m hearing you speak to it and how I try it on for myself, it’s giving space and permission to say, here’s what I would love, and to be in the vision and expression of it. It’s not so pointed that like the subtext is, I would love you to do this for me.

Yeah, that would be control. 

Or even the subtext, if it’s not said, but if the energy of it is like, “Hey, I’m on pins and needles, what are you going to do?” So it’s not gamifying it, it’s more of just being in the authentic. Like, here’s what I would love, and the mystery of the I don’t know, but I’m going to be in reception and be in the visioning of this and the creative energy of this, and how fun is that. That is potentially attractive. That then, one’s partner is like, “Oh, I’m interested in that. I want to play, I want to help.” Then that also gives an opportunity to feel, so if I imagine the heterosexual couple, and the man in this relationship is like, “Oh, I want to help,” and wants to feel like contributing, and that masculine of being of service, and then getting the accolades for that. Not that, again, it’s gamified, but that it’s giving him an experience of feeling really valued and feeling that purpose, that confidence of like, “Look at what I just did! Look at how I created this and helped my partner be happy.”

Yeah, it’s so true. My husband was so proud and happy, he dealt with those contractors and he got me that pool. I’m still thanking him. I’m still in gratitude about that. So it’s really amazing the sparks that fly. Because that desire became his north star. “Okay, this is how we’re navigating, we’re getting the pool. We’re going that way!” It’s really fun. We talk a lot on our campus about being the girl of fun in life that you were when you first fell in love. I’m well over 12 and I’m still calling myself girl of fun in life, because I think every woman has that inner ‘just want to have fun’ girl in her. Like Cyndi Lauper’s profound anthem about it that still always have that. Sometimes she gets left behind in the seriousness of work, child-rearing, chores, mortgages; a lot of things can come up and suck that out. 

Another one of the skills, this is actually the very first thing we ask women to do when they arrive on the campus, the first skill, is to make a list of 20 things that bring you joy, just frivolous fun; not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or to improve cardio fitness, or whatever. I mean, maybe that’ll happen as part of it. One of mine is I love to play volleyball, I love to play poker and Wordle, and I love to listen to a podcast and go for a walk. So I have these lists of things that are just to put a smile on my face or make me laugh, make me dance in the kitchen or whatever it is. If you make that list of 20 things, and you do three things a day off of that list every day, well, this is taking responsibility for your own happiness, making yourself happy. 

What we see, and this was true about me too. Like, I am so miserable in my marriage, I’m not going to be smiling. “Oh, no, if I smile, he’s going to think this is okay, what he’s doing.” I am being dour over here on purpose, so he knows he’s doing everything wrong. Because it’s totally his fault, all the marriage problems I was having. Then the problem with that is, so I’m unpleasable, and I’m not receiving, you cannot make me happy, and I’m unhappy all the time. Like, who’s winning in that situation? No one. This is not teaching him to behave differently necessarily, because he’s like, I can’t win. It’s teaching him to give up and maybe keep his distance from his porcupine wife. So it seemed really hard to start paying attention to my own happiness. But when I did that, it was interesting, that had to do with that smile on his face, his face lighting up. When I came in the door, I was coming in feeling good. I was happy. I was fine. So instead of scowling at him, like he’s seeing me come through the door, his face is happy back. Like: Oh, you’re happy. 

So we talk about even having a smile campaign with your husband, or just smiling at everyone you see. How would it be to just smile at everyone? I remember one student, Gabby, she was really having a hard time with this. Because she said, they had five children, 20 years of marriage, had been unhappy for like 19 of those 20 years. He was flirting with co-workers, being deceptive, and he told her he wished they never had kids, and that she was a terrible mom. She said she felt like she just wanted to die. So for me to say, how about making yourself happy? She’s like, that seemed like a big stretch to her. But she was in one of my programs, and that’s what all the cool kids were doing in that program. We were all sharing, like, “I got my nails painted, or I went kayaking, or whatever, all the joy. I was playing with my pets, or I decorated for Halloween, or whatever it was.” So she started doing these things for her self-care, for her delight. She’s like, “You know what, I am already winning. Because even if this doesn’t fix my marriage, I’m feeling better.” Instead of waiting just like a statue for him to make plans, she started planning her own thing. So she was going here and going there. 

Then so one day, she was listening to a podcast she loved while she was folding laundry, and her husband came over to talk to her, and she had her headset in. She was even thinking like, I’m listening to my headset right now. Then she was like: “Oh, I’ve always wanted him to do this, so now here he is coming over to talk.” So they had this nice conversation. Then she said she overheard him talking to their oldest son, and they were talking like friends, she said, and it just melted her. Then she started hearing him talk to all five of the kids this way. So she realized, something has changed. He was seeking out her company coming home from work early, and instead of feeling like I’m older now and less attractive, she said: “I started to feel gorgeous, because he wanted to be with me.” He was leaving work early, like, hey, what are you up to, and the flirtation was back on. All from her making herself happy. 

It was a big epiphany for me too. It’s like, only happy people have happy relationships. Mic drop! Here I was being miserable thinking that was going to help.

Well, I appreciate, there’s just some very fundamental things you’re describing that are no-brainers. I think the average person can lose sight of this. But as far as the accessibility of it and how powerful they are, and how fundamental and elemental, that we are constantly looking at one another through neuroception, which is reading the facial expressions of non-verbals, and these welcoming cues that bring people close versus pushing people away. I think it’s incredibly powerful. 

Now, there is a part of me too, as a psychologist that’s listening, that’s like: Oh well, it could be helpful for them to talk about their dynamics and the way that they interact, and previous maybe painful injuries, and have some repair around that. But what you’re speaking to really gets the couple into a positive cycle. So it makes much more available to do this work, rather than it being so threatening, and that that togetherness and cohesion is so fractured that it’s hard to even feel hopeful, or like what’s the point? So the juice, I don’t know, I see you nodding.

Yeah, it is so true. Just that inspiration, that motivation, that reminder, that little spark. There’s this old ad that I loved, a magazine ad, and it said, “We flirt not because he looks good, but because you do.” It’s like, when you’re walking around the house feeling like, “Ooh, I’m hot, or I’m feeling good, because I did my hair, or whatever it is. I have endorphins in me because I just went for a brisk walk, or whatever it is, all of it.” That is something that you can take to the bank for your relationship, because it is going to create immediacy in terms of the focus here is like, wow. I didn’t really get to touch on one of the skills, and we still can if there’s time, but the best aphrodisiac on the planet for men is skill number two, or maybe number three.

I might have you read them all or list them all, just so we have some organization.

Yeah, because we just have little pieces of a few of them here. There’s so much more. That’s why I just invite everybody to get your hands on all the six intimacy skills, they’re all inside the Empowered Wife. Or I have something else that’s kind of fun, you can get for free. But the book, The Empowered Wife really lays out all the skills, ideally. 

So the best aphrodisiac on the planet for men, and if you’re anything like me, you’re like, what, there’s an aphrodisiac for men? Yeah, and It’s fast, it’s free, it works quick. But no one ever told me. Even if they had, I would not have known what they were talking about, because I thought I did know. So the aphrodisiac is respect. It’s respect. I think for me, I grew up knowing that you should be respectful to your husband. I was like, I am, except for the way he dresses and the way he drives, and I don’t think he tells me that he’s a little drunk. So I’m like, I’m respectful. But really not. I had no awareness of what that really meant. 

Free Beloved African American couple cuddling and smiling on couch Stock Photo

“I also thought I was being respectful when I was being considerate. I’m like, I reheated this dinner, or I tell him where I was going to be, or I didn’t leave a mess. It’s none of that. None of that.”

So it’s just been interesting to learn what respect really looks like. I have this cheat phrase, that as a well-educated feminist, I thought I’m never going to say those words, that’s ridiculous. But now I love them. They felt like sawdust in my mouth at first, but now, turns out I actually want to show up respectfully, it feels more dignified. Not too long ago, my husband and I were out to dinner on a Saturday night at a swanky, the bomb kind of restaurants. Saturday night, it’s like flying waiters, and the bar is laughing, and the music is playing, and we’re just having this really nice time. He’s telling me something about work, and I say something about one of his clients. The subtext of what I said was really like, this is what you should do at work basically. All of a sudden, my husband got this look on his face, like, ah! Then the music stopped, the waiter stopped, the laughter at the bar, everything shuts down, and our good time is gone. Because now we’re having a tense conversation instead of that fun one, and I’m not really excited to be accountable at this time. So I’m just sitting there like, what just went wrong? Then I say, what I said, was that disrespectful? I asked it like a question, like I didn’t know. He’s like, yeah! I was like, oh! 

Then I said, and this is the cheat phrase, “I apologize for being disrespectful, when I tried to tell you what to do at work.” All of a sudden, the music came back, the waiters are back, the people are laughing at the bar, and my husband says, thank you! Our good time is back, the evening is saved, we are now just enjoying each other; we’re holding hands, just having a great time. 

So it’s a phrase. I thought respect was for parents or teachers or bosses, people in authority over you. But now I realize, it’s really just seeing the best in my husband, and treating him like he’s competent and capable. Like, he can handle the cell phone plan, he can make decisions when he’s running his company. He doesn’t need me to tell him how to do that, he’s been running this company for decades, and what do I even know about his company? But it’s my own hubris, really thinking that I know what’s best. I’m really coming out of a place of fear. I’m afraid he’s going to make a mistake at work, and I’m going to save him from making that mistake. 

Free Happy black homosexual couple cuddling on street Stock Photo

“So what I’ve seen is, when I am bringing that respect, the passion skyrockets in the bedroom. Then when it goes missing, when I am disrespectful, it has a very chilling effect on the physical intimacy in my house.”

I see this again and again, with thousands of women, who have used the six intimacy skills to make their marriages not only last, but thrive, even when they seemed hopeless, that respect is key.

Well, thank you for making sure that you spoke to that really, really important intimacy skill. Would you like to just list them all so we can organize them with you? I hear you as far as the examples and the stories, and to really understand this at a deeper level to be able to access it and be in practice of, it would be helpful to get the book. I’ll make sure to have the link on today’s show notes.

Yeah. Then even once you get the book, you might want support on implementing them. They’re literally counter to a lot of pop psychology or whatever. But let’s go through them, for sure. 

So the first one is about replenishing your spirits, so you’re making yourself ridiculously happy every day. What I love is that all the intimacy skill sets are super practical; you can know if you did them or not. It’s not just like, love yourself, which I didn’t know if I should hug myself or what that meant. But anyway, three things a day for your own, to replenish your spirit. Then there’s relinquishing inappropriate control, which is being too helpful. Instead of making helpful suggestions, we talk about staying on your own paper, which is where all your decisions are. Like, he’s got his paper, and you’ve got your paper. So how are you feeling, what are you doing over here? Then respect is the third one, we just got to talk a little bit about that one, we just scratched the surface on that one. Then we’ve got the receiving graciously: receive, receive, receive. We talked about gifts, compliments, help, apologies, and special treatment. Then we’ve got, we didn’t get to touch at all, unfortunately, on the skill of vulnerability, skill number five. But we did talk about how expressing desires can make you feel vulnerable, and it sure does. Then we didn’t get to talk about skill number six, which actually is probably the most powerful intimacy skill of all, which is the spouse fulfilling prophecy. 

Anyway, I invite you to come to, you can get the free Adored Wife roadmap. It gives a high level overview of all the intimacy skills, and talks about the three mistakes that women make trying to get their husbands’ time, attention, and affection, and what to do instead. It’s really fun to get that Adored Wife roadmap. Or to get the Empowered Wife book wherever books are sold, and that’s going to lay out all six intimacy skills in great detail.

Thank you, and thank you for giving voice to the feminine, and really helping give some clear guidance and practical tools to be able to implement this, and helping people have a book or a roadmap to be able to utilize. You also have a website and a podcast. Is there anything else you want to say about what people can connect with to get more in contact with you and what you’re up to? 

Well, yeah, the podcast. Every week, I interview a woman who has fixed what seemed like a hopelessly dysfunctional marriage. We’re talking husbands with affairs, active affairs, he’s moved out, he’s with the other woman. We’re talking alcoholics and addicts. I have coaches who had physical abuse. Physical abuse, Jessica! I mean, it blows my mind, because I used to say, “If you have that stuff going on, then I don’t know. Maybe the intimacy skills work, I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.” But so many women have come on long and proven me wrong, that the intimacy skills can really transform a situation that maybe conventional wisdom says, actually, you should get a divorce. 

Free Couple Sitting on Sofa Talking Stock Photo

“So we like to say that you can transform your marriage without your husband’s conscious effort, and no matter how hopeless it seems, so that you can feel desired and taken care of and cherished.”

Okay. Well, I will make sure to have all of these links on today’s show notes. Thank you so much for being with us here today on the Empowered Relationship Podcast, and sharing all these stories and tips with us here.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me on.

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching