One question I keep getting from readers is, how can I be a better husband to my wife? What can I do to step up my game, to be the best husband I possibly can?
I’m always excited to see men trying to improve themselves through hard work and introspection, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not married, so I decided to turn to the experts instead.
How can I be a good husband?
Below you’ll find a collection of advice I received from trusted sources on how to be a better husband to your wife. Having said that, many of these suggestions apply to all kinds of relationships, including the one you have with your kids, your friends, and even your annoying neighbors.
Elizabeth and I were married in 1967, separated in 1996 and divorced in 1999. We remarried in 2010. This advice is from me to other married men and I submit it for your consideration.
The nine years we lived apart and especially the six before our reconnection began to evolve were so desolate that with each passing day I became more and more aware of the value of what I had lost. The most important aspect of my new connection with this wondrous woman is appreciation.
Let me cite small, seemingly inconsequential examples: I have learned not only how important a well made bed is to my beloved but also how to do it. Furthermore, in the past making the bed was a chore. Now it is a joy. I know, it’s a very small thing but those very small things – and the love with which they are accomplished – add up. And the sum of those very small things is a very big number. Acting as her sous-chef every night; peeling and slicing cucumbers, chopping tomatoes and scooping the avocado for the salad. I didn’t always do that stuff before. Now I wouldn’t think of sitting and watching the news while she makes the salad. Acting as the full time dishwasher and pot scrubber… little things. I used to watch football games from my leather chair on autumn Sundays while she made her wonderful pea soup. Now I watch football from the table while I cube ham, peel and dice carrots.
It’s important to tell you that none of these activities were dictated or even requested by Elizabeth, they are absolutely voluntary. I don’t mean to be tooting my own horn here. I’m just telling you how much more I appreciate Elizabeth and how I demonstrate that appreciation through action. I’ve become a raging metrosexual.
Becky and I have been married 34 years (coming up on 35 in August), and I’m still always looking for good advice, so I look forward to reading your article.
The most helpful advice I’ve seen was to always honor my wife and strive to understand her. Anyone can say “I love you,” but to really show honor, to make her feel special even she’s having a bad day—that makes you a better husband. The times I’ve remembered this tip have gone so much better than the times I forgot!
And striving to understand her goes along with that. Physics genius Stephen Hawking is known for unlocking the secrets of the universe, but he said that women “are a complete mystery.”
But seriously, listening to her and focusing on her needs, her goals and desires, her strengths and weaknesses, gives you ever-increasing understanding of what makes her tick. This may include some trial and error, but it helps you know how to respond to her.
Understanding her helps you honor her, and that naturally results in honor and understanding flowing back to you.
So where did I hear this advice? It was part of our wedding ceremony nearly 35 years ago, and it is actually 2,000-year-old wisdom from the apostle Peter, who said, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife” (1 Peter 3:7).
I don’t know much about Peter’s wife, but from what the Gospel of Luke says, it seems he got along with his mother-in-law, so he must have had some kind of relationship skills! And I can attest that he gave good advice. Honor and understanding are essential elements of a loving, lasting marriage.
I have been married for 5 years. It’s not a long time, but I’ve received a lot of advice that has helped keep our marriage strong, even though some long deployments.
I’m happy to provide a response to your query. The three most useful advice I’ve received are:
Be mindful of your energy you bring home
Stress is part of life. We can’t control it. But we can control the energy we bring home. Having positive energy is essential for staying present with your spouse. You can avoid negativity in your home by choosing the energy you want to bring home before you walk through the door. When you do this, you can be in control of your intentions, your mood, and your behaviors. All it takes is for you to make a thoughtful choice each day.
When expressing gratitude, be specific
When your wife does something for you, it’s not enough to say, “thanks.” Showing genuine gratitude requires you to be specific. The next time your spouse gives you a gift or a kind act, don’t just thank them. Say something along the lines of “You are such a good listener because you know what I need,” or “You are so thoughtful the way you are at work and without children.” It’s about being deliberate in your gratitude by specifying her acts or actions in your appreciation. By doing so enables you to focus and recognize her strengths and not just the gift she gave you or the benefit it has to you.
Couples can easily find themselves falling into ruts after a few years of marriage. If the days and weeks start to feel like the ones before, then it’s time to shake things up. You don’t have to book an elaborate trip. Merely looking for opportunities to do something new together that both of you will enjoy can do the trick. Putting the two of you in unique situations is a great way to get back those feelings you had when the two of you first fell in love.
I’m Adam, a cofounder with my wife Kate of pleasurebetter.com – a site aimed at helping people embrace and enjoy their sexuality.
The best advice I’ve received to help me be a better husband is to learn to argue for connection rather than arguing to win. This means learning the art of arguing over longer periods of time. When my now wife and I started dating our arguments usually ended after the first discussion. This was because we were arguing to win. My main goal was to get her to understand me and hers was similar.
When it became clear neither of us was ever going to win the argument would end. And it wouldn’t come up again (at least until a similar situation brought all the emotions right back to the surface). Arguing this way left neither of us feeling understood. We began to realize it’s incredibly difficult for anyone to attempt to understand another person the first time you argue about something. The first time is almost always purely trying to get the other to understand your perspective (which they won’t because they’re trying equally hard to do the same – very little energy is going into trying to understand).
Now our arguments usually take place several times over several days. The argument is not dropped after the first failed attempt. We find that in the later efforts when emotion is more removed, we’re able to empathize with the other’s perspective much more easily! This helps us to feel connected to the other person again. And this is the goal. When we are connected, then we’re able to communicate the most freely and empathize with the other most freely to move through and actually resolve the issue.
I recently had a friend raise the idea of trying to be a perfect father, husband, and employee. His suggestion is that you might do two of them perfectly, but not all three. This really struck me, as I do in fact try to be perfect at all three. This really made me think a lot recently about how these three areas interact with each other.
One of the things I have already done is to cut out almost everything else. There is no free time anymore now that I have a wife and a baby boy. For example, I have a bar full of whiskey bottles, but only have a drink once a month or so.. So, I don’t think of myself as a teetotaler, but I have ultimately become one. Most of my hobbies, such as the martial art of Jiu Jitsu, have also gone away. Just work and family for me.
Now, I must admit, my baby boy is the first priority in my life. Much like everyone else, before I had kids I always wondered why parents posted so many pictures of their children. Now I know, and I must admit… my kid is the cutest! Not subjectively, but objectively. But I digress. All this is to ask, how does being a husband fit in.
For my efforts at being a good husband, that means trying to back off work a little bit, and also shifting some work to later in the evening when everyone is asleep. I pitch in as much as I can with our baby boy before and after work, and also make sure to be home for dinner every day. By backing off work a little bit and being more present, I hope that I can be a little bit better of a husband every day.
The concept of cognitive load is one of the most underestimated concepts that are key to a good marriage. Especially when there are kids around, there are huge gender inequalities of who in the relationship has to deal with small tasks (often housework, but also carework – thinking about vaccinations, doctor appointments for the kids, or scheduling of playdates – or planning social events etc). These tasks build up an are frequently done by women. Good husbands (in heterosexual couples) are those who equalize cognitive load (not “helping” with housework, but being an equal partner).
My name is Steve, a husband and father-of-two. I’m a shoe expert and have loads of knowledge on footwear that I share over at www.bootmoodfoot.com.
Let’s jump to your question, though. Relationships are challenging, to put it lightly! Before I had children, I have to admit that I didn’t put much thought into ways I could improve as a husband. At that time, my wife and I had a pretty calm, tension-free relationship.
When we had kids, though, things changed. Everything became more difficult to balance and my marriage took a hit. Thankfully, my wife was patient and loving as always and we worked through it.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard was on listening. We as men tend to always want to fix things, find solutions.. It can stand in the way. Instead, I learned that when my wife was sharing a desire or need or issue with me, I needed to fully listen first and hear what she was feeling, without jumping in to save the day. Some people refer to this as “holding space.” It took me a lot of time to adjust to this, but once I did, our communication saw a dramatic improvement.
It took me a while to realize that when my wife is complaining about something that she doesn’t want me to fix her problem. She just needs a vent.
I’ve learned that sympathetic ear and emotional support is what is needed. I just have to listen, help her feel better, and do not try to fix the problem unless she asks me to.
I hope someone will find this useful.
Good leaders use a technique called ‘active listening.’ To be an active listener, you stop what you are doing, make eye contact with whomever is speaking, and when appropriate, in the form of a question, paraphrase what you believe to be the concern. For example, “So, I think what you are saying is (fill in the blank). Am I correct?” This approach demonstrates active listening and indicates that you have honestly heard the other person’s concern.
In your relationship, you should also be an active listener. Stop what you are doing, use eye contact, and truly listen. Repeat back for clarification.
Throughout our book, we emphasize the importance of communication in your relationship. Remember, the goal is not just talking to each other, the goal isquality communication. Genuinely listening is critical, because relationships are a two-way street. Be receptive to what your partner is telling you. Learn what her dreams and desires are, pay close attention to likes and dislikes, and be a listening, caring person when your partner is hurting. Be their light, and be in the moment. Sometimes a caring, sympathetic ear is all someone needs.
Dreams and desires, likes and dislikes, can, and do, change and evolve. Be receptive to new desires, visions, or concerns by actively listening daily. Share in your partner’s vision and acknowledge their concerns. In other words, be a friend.
The best advice I’ve ever received about becoming a better husband actually seemed counterintuitive at first. You see, I was under the impression as a young lad that to be a great husband was to make my partner the center of my entire world. I attempted this over several “practice” relationships in my teens and early twenties, always finding that there was something or things I wasn’t doing effectively to please my partner.
As a man in my mid-20’s, I was told that to be the best husband I could be, I was to identify my unique passion and purpose in life and pursue it unrelentingly. Once I identified this passion, I was to make it the single most important objective in my life: above my marriage, my family, and anything else that could perceivably garner my attention. I thought I must have misunderstood the message or heard it backwards. How could I be a great husband by devoting my time and energy to something outside of my marriage? But, the more I leaned into this idea, the more I saw that pursuing that which completely filled me up as a man allowed me to bring my full self to my marriage.
In my previous relationships, I was a lap dog and servant to my partners’ happiness. I put all my efforts towards making my partners “happy”, instead of becoming the man I was always meant to be. Living my life according to my mission and purpose doesn’t always lead to a happy wife. There are times where she is down-right pissed off that I’m prioritizing my mission and providing for our family over her wants and desires. But, while she may not always “like” my choices, she respects them. And, she feels safe knowing she has a man whose sense of commitment is as strong as his word.
In exchange for the times I’m away and consumed with my work, my wife gets a more complete me when we have date nights and family trips. She gets to witness me fulfilled in my mission. She gets to feel worshipped and edified for how she supports me on my path. And, most of all, she gets to feel the full heat of the fire inside me that she fell in love with initially.
Perhaps, I will never be the husband who comes home from work and spends all of his time connecting with his wife. I’ll never be the man who chooses lazy days with the family over chasing my vision. But, I can say without hesitation that my wife gets a man who makes her feel safe, supported, and significant for the way she helps me to hold my vision.
Being in a relationship with an “other” means being able to differentiate and realize that my reality is not the only way and that I do not always need to be right. This becomes particularly challenging when there is a disagreement about what appears to be fact, yet the truth is that in the world of emotions, truth is subjective. It’s about understanding the other’s perspective, giving her space, and having compassion. This is has made me a better husband. No longer do I need to defend myself or argue. My goal is to be present and show support, regardless of whether my reality is different. When I do this, the tension evaporates and our connection is strengthened.