Love: what do women want?
July 17, 2008 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Can somebody (especially women) point me to images in film, text, or other media of the kind of lover that women would think of as loving, appreciative, and understanding, as well as manly and attractive, or comment on my situation in ways that would help me understand how to be a better lover to my beloved wife?

At the age of 65, in a faithful 22 year marriage, I am starting to feel my age. I have always been physically and sexually active, and have felt pride and a sense of manly self-worth in my ability to love, build, create, remodel, and provide financial and emotional support, which I often accomplished creatively but while stubbornly clinging to risk-taking ways. (read:"doing it my own way") In my mind, this has demonstrated a manly disregard for my comfort and safety, which I have always regarded as brave and heroic, and has made me feel more powerful and attractive to women. Unfortunately, my bold tendencies combined with getting less strong and well-coordinated as I get older, have resulted in my having 4 construction-related accidents needing surgical repair under general anesthesia within the last year. Three of the four involved falls: two from ladders, and the last, a nearly-fatal narrow miss, a skull-cracking fall from a ledge.

I have been listening to my wife lately and may finally be getting a little bit smarter. She tells me that my feeling myself to be more heroic and attractive to women (read:"her") based on my risk-taking accomplishments (read:"denying that I am getting older") is self-absorbed, testosterone-poisoned, male stereotypical thinking based on popular culture, thumbing my nose at my over-controlling and deceased parents, and too many James Bond movies and other "Guy" media. She says she would feel like I was really capable of loving her if I was more loving, appreciative, and understanding of her. This would necessitate curtailing my risky habits, which she now finds terrifying. Like many men I have known, I am nearly totally clueless to relate to what she is saying.

I was raised in a family that was pretty strange, and have had few models and little experience that challenged my ways of thinking about how men act to become self-respecting. attractive lovers to women. Can somebody (especially women) please point me to images in film, text, or other media of the kind of lover that women would think of as loving, appreciative, and understanding, as well as manly and attractive? Or comment in ways that would help me understand how to be a better lover to my beloved wife?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

My wife gushes at the attitude and behavior of John Corbett's character in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"
posted by jbickers at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

See Jack Nicholson's character Melvin in As Good As It Gets.
posted by netbros at 9:29 AM on July 17, 2008

I think you're probably doing a great job of loving your wife and being a great guy.

What you should do is hire somebody to do your handyman work. That is really attractive to me. Sure, it's pretty cool that my husband knows how to lay tile or make a bookshelf, but it's not attractive when he wants to do a repair he knows nothing about just to prove he can do it. Mostly my husband does his own repairs because he is cheap (and handy) but often the go undone because he is cheap. It would be a turn-on if he hired somebody.

I'm assuming your wife would love it more if you didn't risk your safety. Hire somebody so she doesn't have to take you to the hospital again.

That being said. I love manly, strong guys, such as The Rock and Daniel Craig. As far as romantic and loving I would have to choose Mark Darcy or Jim from The Office.

I think if you're more receptive to your wife's concerns and wishes (don't climb up that damn ladder) you can still be your manly, attractive, loving self.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:32 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have a woman like that, and you want images from film, text, or other media?
Listen to your wife. You are so lucky; you have a gem.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:39 AM on July 17, 2008

It's not who you are that's the problem, it's the behavior. I'll bet that she loves that you're a stubborn, independent guy. She just doesn't want to be the widow of a stubborn, independent guy who stubbornly ignored common sense in favor of pride.

Perhaps you can think about how to channel these aspects of your personality into less physically risky activities? Come up with the great plan, and manage and direct it, training younger guys to do the parts that favor being a brash yet nimble 25 don't have to be the one who is literally on the ladder every single time to be a good leader.

Examples in film/tv are okay as a discussion-opener, I guess. It seems like kind of a minefield to me, since these characters are limited portrayals by definition. (How would this guy act in this exact situation, with convenient gaps where the mundane business goes?) But the basic premise is that The Hero is capable of managing the rush of manly adrenaline enough to maintain empathy for The Woman in frequent intervals.
posted by desuetude at 9:42 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you want a literal image, check out this clip of the relationship between Eric and Tami on the tv version of Friday Night Lights. I don't think I've ever watched it without welling up. (Only available to screen in the US.)
posted by meerkatty at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Read right through Robert B. Parker's Spenser books, which are nominally mysteries but are, increasingly as the character ages, ruminations on masculinity, honor, chivalry, love, and commitment. Also, terrifically well-written and fun.
posted by nicwolff at 9:45 AM on July 17, 2008

Ooh, and seconding Friday Night Lights.
posted by nicwolff at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2008

Firstly, congratulations on your 22 year marriage - a wonderful achievement.

I suggest you turn away from Books, Films and other media. After a 22 year (faithful) marriage - you don't need them; you did it - a lot of people will envy what you've already created together. I guess your wife might be finding your risky behaviour hard to deal with because she doesn't want to lose YOU. You, for how you are - warts and all.

Rather than creating another model to work to in your head, find out what your wife would like from you and, of course, what you would like from your wife.

Talk. Talk. Talk. A tough-one, I know. Perhaps, if you let your wife know your anxieties about this, she will be able to let you know what she wants - it seems from what you wrote, that she has already started. I bet you all the tea in China, that it's kindness, consideration, openness and a willingness to share with her how you feel as a man and how you would like to understand how she feels as a woman.

Take time, specific allotted time, for you both - do nice things together, stuff that makes you both laugh, have fun, be carefree and abandon your inner sense of "age" to being together and sharing what that means for you both. Do something you've never done together before.

My boyfriend and I find massage a great way of getting to know each other - we take a day - lock the doors, turn off the phones - get naked and touch and rub in a non-sexual way (at first), we find it relaxing and we're able to communicate (because we are so relaxed) in a way that perhaps we don't in the hustle and bustle of our every day lives. We eat our favourite foods - often feeding each other, light candles, slow dance to our favourite music and well, just generally enjoy each other. We also find this heightens our desire and we usually end up having lovely, loving, playful sex.

Best of luck.
posted by Blacksun at 9:48 AM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have been listening to my wife lately and may finally be getting a little bit smarter.

Keep doing that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2008 [5 favorites]

I agree with LoriFla. This part of your question:
"This would necessitate curtailing my risky habits, which she now finds terrifying."
says to me that your wife has been pretty damn clear about what she wants, which is not to have to get any older without you because you thought you could bounce back from reckless behavior as easily in your sixties as you did in your twenties.

I don't think the media is going to help you.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2008

I racked my brain and all I could come up with was the CBS series 'Swingers'. Oh boy.

I don't know if TV or Movies are the best place to go looking for role models for a stable, loving, long-term marriage. It's because the important parts, the parts between the sex and drama, aren't always the most compelling things to watch. The idea compromising, thinking about the other person, and being generous with oneself is difficult to capture of film.

However, it's the kind of thing that is easier found in nature. I know you say that you don't have many role models, but is it possible for you to try to make friends with other married people? Would you be interested in hanging out with people from church, or joining a bowling league or a bridge club. Learning this stuff from real people is your best chance to get it right.
posted by Alison at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2008

I am your exact opposite as a dude, more or less. Outside of the kitchen, I am not all that handy, although I can do simple repairs and open pickle jars for the ladies. Also, I am fairly young (early 30s) and close to getting married to my girlfriend but not engaged yet. So maybe this answer is totally useless. :)

Personally, I do not think you should look to movies as a guide to how to behave as a loving man. People on film look romantic and charming because they don't generally have to deal with the humdrum that is normal life. A lot of men that appear charming on film are often goofy, sarcastic, self-deprecating. This works in the confines of a 30 minute show or 90 minute film, but it doesn't translate well to reality.

I have been listening to my wife lately and may finally be getting a little bit smarter.

This is the most important thing you could possibly be doing. You don't need to be dashing and daring to be a good "lover". She's been with you for 22 years, odds are she's seen you at your most powerful and at your most vulnerable, and she loves you as you are. By listening to her and taking what she says seriously (as in...stop doing dangerous repairs) you are being a loving husband.

One way to show that you are loving and appreciative of her is to spend time with her doing things together that you both can do. She probably couldn't climb the roof and shingle it, so even though it might be "impressive" that you can do it, it's time that you could spend doing things together. For example: as you get older, balance gets more and more important. For your health and your wife's, perhaps you could both get into a Tai Chi or wushu class? You mentioned you are getting "less coordinated"...Tai Chi has been shown to improve balance and coordination. If you do this together, you show her that you are interested in her health and taking care of and "protecting" her, while also including her in the process. But if she's not interested in the class, don't push it. Find out things she enjoys doing and do them with her.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:55 AM on July 17, 2008

Eric on Friday Night Lights is pretty much the perfect man. He's got a lot of your same issues, but knows how to handle them in a way that is both respectful of his wife's wishes and also smoking hot. I suggest getting the entire series on DVD.
posted by HotToddy at 10:00 AM on July 17, 2008

The very first thing that came to mind is Jamie in the Outlander Series. Ahhhh..... he's the ideal man. Every woman I have ever met that have read this book is in desperate live with him. :)

She says she would feel like I was really capable of loving her if I was more loving, appreciative, and understanding of her.

Thats kind of hard to know what she expects or wants from that. Every woman seems to have a different definition of what those things are. For me, getting a hug from behind when I'm doing the dishes, or having him tell me I look beautiful when I wake up in the morning (and the look on his face shows me he really means it), and having him remember what my favourite treat item is (ie. Popsicles... I love them) and have them surprise me with them when he knows I've had a bad dad is how my boyfriend shows me these things.
posted by gwenlister at 10:02 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't need to be dashing and daring to be a good "lover".

Or, to put a finer point on it, think about re-defining dashing and daring to include activities with more value to your wife than leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
posted by desuetude at 10:03 AM on July 17, 2008

It's the little things that make women feel loved and valued - there's no need to model yourself after some fictional character. Like gwenlister said above, a hug when you least expect it, telling her she's beautiful, little treats, a foot rub (those are awesome!), and above all, respecting her opinions and loving her enough to stop risking your neck for some macho ideal should do the trick.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:13 AM on July 17, 2008

I can't help but notice that you keep on describing certain traits as "manly" or "masculine." You don't just refer to your self-worth, you refer to your "MANLY self-worth."

It makes me wonder exactly how much of what you're trying to do isn't about trying to still be you, but rather how much of it is trying to live up to a particular image of chest-pounding "me big strong man!"

Your wife fell in love with a PERSON, not a STEREOTYPE. For you to be asking about how to switch one stereotype for another seems to be a mis-step.

Ask yourself: what is the REAL reason you like taking risks? Is it because you think "I'm the man, I'm supposed to" or is it because you geniuinely, as a person, like the challenge? What is the REAL reason you keep trying to take care of things, is it because "but I'm the man, I'm supposed to be doing this" or is it because of something you GENUINELY feel? If God came and made you completely gender-neutral, where you were neither gender and so you didn't have to be manly, would you feel the same way?

You're knocking yourself out still trying to take care of things. But the way you keep referring to "manliness" makes it sound like you're still trying to live up to a particular stereotype makes me think that this isn't about you feeling past your prime, it sounds like you've been trying to live up to a gender identity rather than just relaxing into being the individual you are. Because at the end of the day, who CARES how James Bond, Agent Fox Mulder, or Colin Firth do things, because you aren't James Bond, Agent Fox Mulder, or Colin Firth. You are a unique individual from all of them, different things make you tick, and that's just that. And your wife didn't fall in love with James bond, Fox Mulder, or Colin firth, she fell in love with you.

Just concentrate on "being you," and discovering for yourself what that means. This doesn't mean don't try to take risks, just be honest with yourself about why you are so driven to and what your limits are. If you start to suspect that maybe you DON'T quite like climbing 40-foot ladders any more -- well, just don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:16 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this previous question about books and movies portraying healthy, normal marriages.

I think the main thing you can do to improve your situation right now is try to learn to relax and slow down, at least for a few hours a day. It sounds like you feel like you always need to be doing something, and this probably means that when you're trying to listen to her, part of your mind is usually somewhere else.
posted by tomcooke at 10:31 AM on July 17, 2008

1. Who cares what they want? It might not be what they expect when they get it.
2. Being risky is stupid. Stop. It isn't good for your health or you or your wife.
3. Go to the gym and drink your protein shake. There is no reason that your body should be getting weaker. You gotta exercise and eat right.
posted by ewkpates at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2008

keep listening to your wife. she will tell you what she needs from you. movies and books don't make great models in real life, i don't think.

here's what you do: watch your wife for a week. take notes. what does she do? what does she do that you could do for her? does she always pick up cups and plates that you leave around? does she always initiate doing the laundry? does she always make the grocery list? pick a time of day, say, 5pm, when you do a "sweep" of the house. pick up any dishes that need washing, put dirty things in the laundry, clear up any trash. does she like a certain kind of ice cream? make sure there's always some in the fridge. cook dinner for her once a week.

the thing is, although you think you are being heroic, you are really just gratifying your own sense of who you wish you were. in other words, you're playacting. the point is to be yourself, not what you think you should be.

in the meantime, i would second the suggestion to go to the gym (and get a trainer!) so you can work on your balance and retaining strength, two things that can slip a bit as aging takes hold. in fact, maybe you can go with your wife, so you guys can grow old healthfully together.

i don't want to discount your sense of losing your physical manhood (no, not that, although you are maybe the age where that might start happening more, too). it's an important part of who you are. or were. whatever.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:49 AM on July 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

I will admit that, despite a long and happy marriage, I sometimes find women inscrutable and obscure in their expression. I have worked long and hard at listening more carefully so that I will be slightly less clueless, but much remains murky about my lovely wife's thoughts. However, even in my somewhat hopelessly befuddled brain, the primary message from your wife shines through bright and clear. She would prefer to experience at least 22 more years of marriage to you, which you are jeopardizing by foolhardy risk-taking. If you were to abstain from such potentially fatal behavior and better ensure that you were in the picture for a good long time to come, I think you will have done far more to increase her happiness than you could do in a lifetime of studying iconic male images in film and popular culture.

For bonus points, you could continue that crazy "listening to my wife lately and may finally be getting a little bit smarter" bit. I suspect that she can provide more suggestions once she feels confident you have taken her first request to heart. One can fairly confidently assume that you do not need a major transformation to appeal to her, since you seem to have done alright for the last two decades in that department.
posted by Lame_username at 11:14 AM on July 17, 2008

The husband in last year's film P. S. I Love You is pretty over-the-top in terms of the lengths he goes to in order to express his love, but you might pick up a few tips. The women I know all went totally nuts for him, even though he's just a fictional character in a movie. So, I think he qualifies as a sort of ideal, though probably not a realistic one.
posted by kindall at 11:16 AM on July 17, 2008

My wife gushes at the attitude and behavior of John Corbett's character in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

Really? John Corbett? That may be my least favorite character ever in any movie. He's the epitome of an ass-kissing spineless loser. If Nia Vardalos had asked him to castrate himself he would have done it with a smile.

Not unlike his turn on Sex and City in which he gives needy, clingy desperate men a bad name ( I remember one episode where Carrie comes home and Corbett is all "Where'd you go, Who'd you see, What did you do.") Carrie cringed. I cringed. My wife cringed. Even our female dog cringed.

Thanks for letting me rant.

On topic: It sounds like your wife is just asking you to knock off the risk taking so you can enjoy your golden years with her without you being incapacitated or even worse. So I'd suggest hiring a handyman. You can show your manliness by supervising.

And, as noted before, listening to her and respecting her opinions are always helpful.

And, please do NOT use TV or film as your guideposts. You've had 22+ years with this woman. I suspect you know alot more about her than you think.
posted by cjets at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2008

I agree with those above who say listening to your wife is good, and keep doing that.

I've heard some folks say that the Five Languages of Love idea is really helpful - that different people sense appreciation and love in different ways (for some women, helping with the housework would be the best way to show your love and appreciation; for others, a big long hug and a long look in the eyes would be better). Perhaps you could ask your wife which of those approaches she finds really makes her feel how much you love her - and indeed, you could share with her what works best for you.

Also, remember that you don't have to turn into Mr. Perfect Appreciator overnight. Make a point of saying "I love you" here and there throughout the day; look for a ways to be helpful without falling off the roof; and as you start doing these things more, she'll respond, and the feedback loop will let you know when you're acting in ways that she sees as loving and appreciative.

Finally, I'd like to really echo the others who've said you don't need to become someone different - you're great the way you are. Changing a few habits, though, can help anyone's life and relationship.

As for your actual question - I am drawing a complete blank on images in film, TV, or books that really exemplify a loving, appreciative, thoughtful man.
posted by kristi at 11:45 AM on July 17, 2008

have felt pride and a sense of manly self-worth in my ability to love, build, create, remodel, and provide financial and emotional support

All those manly "providing for my wife" things go out the window if you manage to kill yourself in an accident. Though I'm having trouble thinking of any specific examples at the moment, I've always found the most romantic moments in movies and literature to be when the man makes it SO. VERY. CLEAR. that he is going to be there for the woman he loves, regardless of what else happens in this crazy world. Maybe that says more about my psychology than anything, but I doubt I'm alone in this. The most romantic thing you can do is honor your wedding commitment to be there for your wife, which requires that you stop risking your health and safety in an effort to "provide." The risks you take actually show a blatant disregard for wanting to provide for her, so you're sending the opposite message that you intend.

As others have said, if you want to make your wife happy, start by listening to what she's asking for and then follow through on it. The advanced level comes in anticipating her needs and providing for them - not by random guessing at what her needs might be, but by observing her and talking with her and knowing her as a person (not as a female stereotype), knowing her better than anybody else in the world does. That is your privilege and your responsibility as her husband, and since you seem to want so much to make her happy, I have no doubt that you're up to the task!
posted by vytae at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2008

Bruce Springsteen comes to my mind for some reason. I would never question his masculinity, and he seems full of integrity and lyrical sensitivity. But maybe that's just my type. :P

Don't try too hard to be manly or masculine. As a woman, I can see right through this and it is often hilarious.

Just be yourself and don't feel the need to prove anything to anyone.

Can you handcraft something out of wood for her? Like some sort of chest or piece of furniture made from beautiful woods? That to me would seem very manly yet sensitive and not very dangerous.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 11:58 AM on July 17, 2008

Be more like Marcello Mastroianni. Wear sunglasses and linen shirts... Never wear shorts. Walk slowly and talk softly. My grandmother really liked him.

Here's a really great clip from way back when with Sophia Loren...
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2008

Go to the gym and drink your protein shake. There is no reason that your body should be getting weaker. You gotta exercise and eat right.

Age does affect balance and agility - If anyone figures out how to maintain the physical capabilities of a man in his 20s throughout his entire life, they will win a Nobel prize.

I just wanted to point out that there is something incredibly attractive about people who age with good grace. Accepting the changes that occur (for good and for bad) and not clinging to the past allows you to be the person you are NOW, not who you were 30 years ago. A lot of young men need to be able to jump like billy goats - they just don't have the experience and wisdom to do anything else very well (sorry guys...) - you have a lot of things that these guys don't have - accentuate the positive!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:06 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

The advice is great, so I just want to answer the question - Bruce Springsteen, absolutely. Respectful of his wife and his marriage, good father, hardworking, reflective, principled, well connected to others, sense of humor, impulse toward constant growth, humble, and strong in self-knowledge.

I often think our culture does men a real disservice in not defining manliness as something more on the order of those qualities and something less on the order of "inarticulate gorilla handyman."
posted by Miko at 1:08 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

[actually, it says a lot that I have a much easier time thinking of real people, particularly ones I personally know, who are great male role models than I do thinking of fictional characters. That alone says a lot about the myths of masculinity.]
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2008

I really think your wife is just saying "Hey, it's great that you want to be a Good Provider and so on-- just stop almost getting killed doing it." This is not about your manhood, it's about your ability to continue respirating, circulating blood, and having cognitive function.

I'm 32, Mr. F is 36. I would completely lose my shit if Mr. F fell off a ledge and suffered a skull fracture that required emergency surgery. Disregard for your own safety is only hot on a greenscreen with a lot of CGI and a stunt team propping you up-- in person, it's actually kind of terrifying, as it connotes a certain disregard for the emotions of those who care about you.

Film and TV production has a bunch of safeguards for the people doing that kind of stuff, which folks like me then carefully edit out of the resultant footage so that those guys look like total hard cases. Daniel Craig didn't go haring off across a crane in Casino Royale without every single safety precaution, spotter, and wire they could put on him (he's even said that he did fall a few times, but under those conditions, he only fell six or seven feet each time). You are not him, and trimming the hedges or cleaning the gutters isn't a Hollywood moment-- get a lawn and gutter service, and spend that time with your wife.

Relax. It's not about your prowess as a lover, it's about continued peaceful existence and the reduction of risk. You don't want a traumatic brain injury, and she doesn't want to see you endure that.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:40 PM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Based on what women have told me over the years, the only thing more attractive to older women than being risk-taking is being a risk-taking type who listens to his wife's concerns and stops taking risks -- and does so in a confident, "I'm not less of a man" way by saying things like "I'm going to have such-and-such company come out and do this; I don't feel like falling off a ladder today, and you don't have time to take me to the hospital" with a wink and a squeeze.
posted by davejay at 1:55 PM on July 17, 2008

I came in to suggest that you not try to imitate Jack Nicholson's character from "As Good as It Gets." Does he not have some sort of mental issue or obsessive compulsion? I just remember watching that movie and thinking that the main thing he really had to offer Helen Hunt was money and stability, and not real human warmth. Perhaps my opinion is warped by time, in which case I apologize to netbros.

I think the advice here is really good. If you really want film or tv characters, I humbly offer Kevin Kline's relationship, though here it was mostly with his son, in Life As a House, a really underrated movie. The important thing is that you be present with your wife emotionally, not that you clean out the gutters. You can pay a kid to clean out the gutters, or you can even have a poorly draining roof for a bit, it won't kill you. Your wife is telling you she loves you and she doesn't want to have to live without you. She means it. Good luck to you!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:58 PM on July 17, 2008

Oh, Norm and Marge Gunderson, from Fargo, as mentioned in this thread (which has other good examples), might also be a helpful comparison for you.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:02 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you enjoy physical, masculine pursuits with an element of risk. And your wife really doesn't like the risk-element, but is not bothered about the other two aspects. And even if your wife doesn't find physical, masculine pursuits attractive per se, you find they make you "feel like a man" and feed your self-esteem. And confidence and self-assuredness are sexy--so in a roundabout way, she does. So you need one or more new pursuits that are physical and traditionally manly, but don't carry the risk of serious injury. There are a number of things that fit this description.

Hunting. Clay-pigeon shooting. Buy a classic car in need of restoration and do it yourself. Build a boat (like Gibbs in NCIS) and go fishing. Fencing. Take your wife on little vacations and go hiking and canoeing.

If you don't like kids, skip this bit--but men who dig kids are pretty sexy. If you've played a sport, consider volunteering to coach a football/baseball/soccer team. Or just be a ref if that's the level of your free time and interest. If you were a Boy Scout in your youth, look into being an asst. Scoutmaster. Or if you can't commit to that much time, an instructor at a BSA summer camp. If you don't actually like hanging around with kids but live in a suburban neighborhood you could build backyard playhouses and swingsets. Of course if you have grandchildren then getting them outdoors for some quality time away from the videogames is pretty sexy too.
posted by Martin E. at 2:18 PM on July 17, 2008

She says she would feel like I was really capable of loving her if I was more loving, appreciative, and understanding of her.

Your wife will find it very loving, appreciative, and understanding of you if you stop doing things that land you in the hospital.

Your wife has probably reached the age at which she sees that which used to be ¨brave and heroic¨ as something that would leave her a widow or doing a daily ¨colon routine¨ on a paralyzed husband in her old age.

I think your wife would find it to be extremely loving and appreciative if next time you see something that needs to be repaired/constructed, you would say ¨That needs to be fixed, I think I´ll get out the phone book and call someone else to do it¨, and then do just that. I think she would be even more excited and probably even show her appreciation in an ¨excited¨ way if you got rid of all ladders, scaffolding, etc. that you own, as well as whatever you hurt yourself on in the 4th accident.

If you want to be romantic about it you could sell them when she isn´t home, and take a picture of you shaking hands with the guy who bought them in front of his truck after they are loaded, then take her out to a nice dinner, and tell her you have a special present for her when you hand her this picture in an envelope. i guarantee you that she will be overjoyed at this. Seriously, right now this will make her happier than anything else you could do for her or buy her.
posted by yohko at 2:24 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

--Give her oral sex if she likes it, cheerfully!

--Do her chores with her, stand with her and help her do the dishes or laundry and talk about your lives

--Surprise her with hugs and kisses on the neck and cheek

--Ask her about her friends and listen to what she tells you about them, and ask her how they're doing

--Let her pick what TV show to watch and watch it with her, don't wander off (unless it's really bad)

--Every so often, when you feel a lot of love for her, embrace her, look into her eyes and tell her that you are the luckiest man in the world
posted by sondrialiac at 2:27 PM on July 17, 2008

The best advice that anybody can give you is just to listen to her. I dont mean do everything she says but just listen to her.

BE yourself. Don't try to do things to impress her just be yourself.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:51 PM on July 17, 2008

Can somebody (especially women) please point me to images in film, text, or other media of the kind of lover that women would think of as loving, appreciative, and understanding, as well as manly and attractive?

This is necessarily going to be subjective, and I don't claim to speak for all women. That said, I personally find the character of Atticus Finch as portrayed by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird to be loving and understanding as well as manly and attractive. The particular virtue embodied by Atticus (and the virtue that other characters in the story need to learn) is the habit of thinking about other people's perspectives and feelings. This may be what your wife would like more of. You will have to talk to her to find out. You cannot read her mind, and it would be unfair of her to expect you to read her mind, but you can get in the habit of at least showing curiosity about what she is thinking, feeling, and experiencing.
posted by Orinda at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2008

Here's another angle on the situation.

Everybody has different things that make them feel loved. Some people feel loved if you buy them gifts. Some people only know you love them when you tell them so all the time. Some people know it when you look after them and protect them. But everybody is different, and if you are hammering away showing your love in one particular way, you may well be surprised and baffled when the other person doesn't get it at all. So the key is: What really makes your wife feel loved? We can guess for you, but ultimately you will have to work it out for yourself.

For me, people who try to do all the work round the house for me just make me feel patronised. Cook me dinner, on the other hand....
posted by emilyw at 3:55 PM on July 17, 2008

She just wants you to stop doing really risky stuff, which is totally understandable. Your personality isn't a problem. When she says that she would feel like you were really capable of loving her if you were more loving, appreciative, and understanding of her, she doesn't mean that she feels unloved right now, she means that you don't have to fall off ladders to show her that you love her, since you seem to be acting macho to be a good lover.
posted by Xianny at 4:52 PM on July 17, 2008

Patrick Stewart. Period. Bald, old, educated, Earl Tea drinking, well-spoken, intuitive, hunk.

You don't have to be James Bond (or some sort of do-it-yourself daredevil) to be attentive, sensitive, and still retain a bit of masculine swagger.
posted by availablelight at 5:38 PM on July 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

All the advice that's been given is good, but to answer the question directly asked--Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). He starts out as an arrogant jerk, but by the end of the book has figured out how to become sensitive, giving, and loving. (You could rent a movie version and watch it with your wife, too! There's a good chance she would like that. But the movie versions I've seen gloss over the emotional transformation that Darcy undergoes in the book; it takes awhile.)
posted by min at 6:00 PM on July 17, 2008

I don't think you need movies. Cook her dinner more than once a week, have a conversation with her during the meal and clean the bathroom once in awhile (more often than 2 times per year), including the toilet. If my husband did that it would definitely be considered loving, appreciated and understanding, but that just may be our relationship.
posted by pokeedog at 7:12 PM on July 17, 2008

Get involved in community service as a male role model to wayward youth; boxing coach at a boy's club, that sort of thing. You're at an age when it's time to be passing on what you've learned, and doing so is an attractive quality.
posted by Abiezer at 8:48 PM on July 17, 2008

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days does a good job presenting a caricature of the best boyfriend ever and the worst girlfriend ever. Being a good boyfriend isn't quite the same as being a good husband, but I think it still might add some insight.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:42 AM on July 18, 2008

Oh and showing her that you posted this and are trying to figure this out for her will probably win points.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:43 AM on July 18, 2008

Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). He starts out as an arrogant jerk, but by the end of the book has figured out how to become sensitive, giving, and loving. (You could rent a movie version and watch it with your wife, too!

Like many responders, I'm still not truly behind this "using a movie as an example" idea, but I must admit that the version of Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy might give you some insight regarding a portrayal of a man that makes a significant portion of the female population swoon.
posted by desuetude at 6:27 AM on July 18, 2008

I recommend David Deida's The Way of the Superior Man.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:40 PM on July 19, 2008

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