Taken for Granted

couple embracing outdoors
Photo: Getty
Feel like your mate isn't giving you the attention you deserve? We have a cure for this common couple ailment -- t.f.g. syndrome.

Once, your relationship was brand new and every hug, glance, kind word, and kiss was anticipated and recognized. But now that you're married, does your spouse even notice when you give her hand a squeeze? Does he think new bottles of soda magically appear in the fridge, or that garbage walks itself out the door? Sometimes it feels like you are being taken for granted in every respect. Or maybe even you are guilty of not noticing that your mate is magnificent (or at least making an effort to be). We all want to be appreciated and to feel important. Unfortunately, it's a gesture that tends to get put on a high shelf and forgotten about like the hideous Limoges clown figurine you got as a wedding gift. Well, it's time to bring appreciation back into the light. But before that happens, you'll have to prioritize three major areas within your relationship first.

When it comes to matters of the heart
Small gestures are an important part of marriage -- a pat on the tush here, a wink there. Okay, we're kidding (sort of), but it's really important to show your mate that you think he or she is the best. Part of marriage is doing things for each other, like bringing your mate a glass of water even though she's closer to the kitchen. These mini-moments seem like implied acts of kindness, but they really do deserve to be rewarded. Aside from saying, “I love you," here are five nice things you can do for your spouse right now:

*Give her an out-of-the-ordinary compliment, like “you're such an efficient organizer," or brag about him in front of others. Telling his family how well he took care of you when you were sick -- even made you chicken soup (from a can, but he added fresh noodles) -- means more than a private expression of gratitude.

*Make sure to always kiss each other goodbye in the morning -- even if you're rushed and chomping a bagel during the smooch -- and give a repeat performance at night when you greet each other after a long day at work. Run to the door and give him a bear hug if you're so inclined. Too much? No problem -- the perfect peck can go a long way to soothe end-of-day jitters.

*Call fill-in-the-blank-annoying-person who is important to your significant other and say hello. Sure you don't want to -- we know we wouldn't want to. Just take a deep breath, fake being pleasant for five minutes, and you're done until next month.

*Morning sex. No explanation needed.

*Declare next Saturday “David Decision Day" (or Rob, Jackie, Stu, whatever your spouse is named) and state that you will abide by all choices your mate makes. That is, within reason (you can't be asked to act as a servant, just a partner in crime). It's a no-guilt way for him or her to get you to join in on favorite activities and outings. Clam digging makes you dry heave? Well, try to keep your gagging under wraps this time. You must happily accompany your partner to the mall, watch Scarface, serve high tea or attend an auto show. Next weekend: Your turn!

When it comes to sex
Does your nighttime routine involve asking your wife to pop the occasional pimple? It's useful, but not sexy. Neither is disheveled hair, ratty sweatpants, or calling out: “Hon, where's the nose hair clipper?" After a while, hot sex can fizzle out and the instinct to throw each other down on the bed does not kick in as naturally (or other things just take precedence, like watching Law & Order).

Chances are, one of you has a greater sex drive and might feel neglected in the bedroom. We now speak to the one of you who'd rather watch paint dry than make love: You need to have sex tonight! Why? Because if you're not going to get down, then you might as well be living with your old college roommate. It's a big part of what makes you married and not just friends. We bet once you get busy you'll think: “Why don't we do this more often?"

*Okay, so don't have sex, but at least cuddle or initiate a form of meaningful contact (massaging his feet, stroking her hair). People long to be touched -- it's comforting and loving. Start slow. Throw your leg over your husband's lap while sitting on the couch. Place your hand on your wife's shoulder while you walk to the front door and see where it leads.

*Spiff yourself up once in a while! It's a great feeling to know that your hubby loves you even in flannels and face cream, but this look won't turn his head. Men: Brush your teeth. Ladies: Get a bikini wax. When you feel hot, your spouse will take note and you'll both be more inclined to cut your dinner date short and head home.

*Try something new. There's nothing wrong with ordering a spicy pay-per-view or trying out a new position. While it may be easier to go with the perfunctory routine, a little effort -- and adventure -- goes a long way.

When it comes to chores
It's not statistically proven, but we married girls at The Nest tend to think women do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to taking care of the house. Socio-anthropological study, The First Sex, The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World, by Helen Fisher, Ph.D, backs us up. That said, if you buy the Mars and Venus stuff and stop to analyze what each of you does, you might be surprised by how much your partner actually pitches in.

Updating spyware removal software on the computer, picking out the perfect electronics, and moving heavy boxes are time-consuming tasks. While cleaning the bathroom is way grosser, if you evaluate your mate's task list, you might be pleasantly surprised by all the things he does. But let's say you're not pulling equal weights? In this case, you'll need to divide and conquer the chores with a systematic approach.

You shouldn't be doing anything begrudgingly -- you'll only get angry at yourself and your spouse, not to mention the toilet bowl. That “honeydo" might feel less irritating if you felt that there was an equal distribution of labor. We promise.