On July 18, I rode a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam.

Early in the 3.5-hour trip I met a businesswoman from Israel on her way to Amsterdam.

Our conversation in the lounge car took an interesting turn after I asked whether being a woman was a barrier to her success in the international business world. She told me that she struggled to be taken seriously at times.

"We were recently in Italy, and the men there were not shy about expressing their feelings," she said. "And even though nearly all of the time it was harmless attention, it still made me feel awkward."

I then asked if she could envision a time, perhaps later in life, when she would welcome that same attention from men. Is what is awkward in our 20s and 30s more welcome in our 50s and 60s?

"Yes," she replied.

A few days ago, I asked a female friend the same question, and she too replied affirmatively.

While their responses are no basis for a conclusion on the state of male-female relationships, they should serve as a reminder to men about managing relationships with their wives.

My friend and the woman on the train are no different than the wives of many married man. They do not mind being a partner in life and performing whatever daily tasks are required to raise children, maintain a home or hold down a job.

But like the woman on the train, they long to be taken seriously for their contributions, not just for their appearances. For at-home moms, it is even more important to take their contributions seriously because they feel the weight of perceptions that they have an easy life.

For some men, the confusing part is that the same woman who wants to be taken seriously also wants to be romanced. She wants to be made to feel pretty and feminine and desirable long after the wedding vows have been exchanged. And she'll want her man to make her feel that way at every age.

For many men, romancing their wives after years of marriage is difficult. Those men, who started out on their best behavior during the courting days, have forgotten how to do the little things that say, "I still care." They have forgotten how much those small gestures are treasured by their spouse.

If they knew how much their wives craved the little acts, such as the hello or goodbye kiss, the hug or just holding her hand during a walk or a movie — the acts that improve closeness and connections — I am convinced that the nation's divorce rate would dive.

Instead, couples shut down.

In his best-selling book, "The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work," John Gottman cites a study conducted by the Divorce Mediation Project, which revealed, among other things, that, "80% of divorced men and women said their marriage broke up because they gradually grew apart and lost a sense of closeness, or because they did not feel loved and appreciated."

For many men, those small, simple reminders may be all it takes to let a spouse know that despite busy schedules, the demands of work, family and even the occasional disagreement, they love their wives and are happy they are married to them.

And guys, it's OK to steal a look at your wife every now and then.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.