If you have a good marriage, everything else seems perfect. But if your marriage is struggling, then it doesn’t really matter what else is good; a tension-filled home can easily spoil a six-figure income—or anything else. Many husbands think that their spouse could be doing something differently. The truth is, however, that you can’t really get someone else to change. You can only change yourself. To that end, here are eight tips for becoming a better husband right now.
#1: Pick five things about your spouse that you’re grateful for
When you first met your spouse, the two of you probably wore rose-colored glasses whenever you looked at each other. When we’re infatuated, it’s easy to overlook the things about someone else we find annoying or difficult. But after the years go by, stressors such as work, life, personal finances, and health take their toll on us individuals and couples—and it can be harder to overlook certain behaviors or traits in your wife that you view as negative. In this regard, turn your power of perception into a proverbial cup. Pour in positivity and gratitude, and let the negativity spill out.
Make a list of five things you’re grateful for regarding your spouse every day. If they’re not coming to mind quickly, do a little mental work and introspection to find something. Nothing is too small to notice. Try doing this every day and you’ll see an incredible shift in the way you view your spouse. Even better, share those gratitudes with them via email, text, phone call, or hand-written surprise. When it comes to gratitude, there is no such thing as too much…so start expressing it as often as you can to your spouse and watch the magic unfold.
#2: Take on one of your spouse’s responsibilities
Most relationships—especially at work—are quid pro quo. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work for marriage. Relationships built on the premise of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” are lacking the component of love, a feeling that finds its fullest expression in the act of giving. Some men are chivalrous and helpful when they first meet the love of their life. Over time, as their infatuation fades and routine sets in, they start to have expectations. And if they’re asked to help out, they’ll expect something in return.
Our advice to you is to stop looking for that quid quo pro. Be magnanimous; look for responsibilities your spouse typically takes on and shoulder them yourself. The easier you make things for your spouse, the easier life will be for you. Try it out…it really works. Pick up the kids from school so they can take a me-day and relax in the afternoon. Wash the dishes so they can watch their favorite TV show or read a book. Call the utility company to straighten out that mistake on the bill so they don’t have to. In addition to the fact that these helpful behaviors will make your spouse really happy, you’ll also start to notice something else happening. You’ll be further occupying the role of a giver and a provider, and feeling good about it.
#3: Schedule a weekly date
As mentioned before, the early days of a relationship are filled with infatuation. Text messages fly back and forth. Dates are looked forward to all week. Couples can’t get enough of each other. But after a few years, life becomes routine. And even more so, the routine of life keeps us so busy that we barely have time for romance. But you’ll need to make it happen, no matter what.
Put a weekly date on the calendar and stick to it religiously. Make the date involving something that your spouse likes to do, and make sure that it will contain the opportunity for some conversation, like dinner or coffee. Aside from your weekly date, buy your spouse little gifts here and there to show them that they’re always on your mind. It doesn’t have to be something large. Even a simple pen or a chocolate bar on the way home from work will endear them to you, especially if it’s something that lets them know you care and listen.
#4: Work on yourself
Your partner wants to feel that their man is taking care of himself. Your partner does not want to be your babysitter. It’s not attractive to be lazy and to lack the drive to do anything. Even worse, people who don’t grow and change will often find themselves trapped in the same circumstances and arguments again and again. Take moments that trigger you and analyze them carefully. Do some deep work through introspection, therapy, or spiritual pursuits to find out what bothered you and why—then use that realization as a starting point for self-improvement. For example, perhaps a comment your spouse makes about your work situation drives you to get angry. Consider that you might have a self-esteem issue. Head down to the bookstore or library and find books on building self esteem. Every man has a different trait to work on. You don’t need to fix it entirely in order to make your partner happy; you just need to be making an honest attempt to grow and improve. You’ll find that life gets easier, your relationship improves, and they will respect you more.
#5: Don’t criticize your partner
This can be a really hard tip to implement, and one that requires constant vigilance—but the rewards are great. Avoid saying anything negative about your partner…and we mean anything. Even if they do something annoying or seemingly wrong, hold your tongue. Find a supportive person with a good marriage who can field your complaints, and avoid sharing them with buddies who will egg you on. In fact, if you implement our first tip, you’ll probably be seeing fewer things to complain about anyway. Being a critic is one of the quickest ways to sabotage your marriage. While most men understand that, they also don’t realize that any negative comment can be viewed as criticism…even the ones that seem innocuous, such as these green beans could use more salt. The rule of thumb that you’ll want to keep in mind is that your spouse really does want to be perfect in your eyes, and any comment you make that detracts from that perfection is deeply insulting and hurtful. Instead, look for things to praise and compliment. The more you compliment your partner, the more happy they’ll be.
#6: Listen to their problems, don’t just try to solve them
When your partner is sharing their thoughts with you, 99% of the time they are not interested in getting help. Providing help, in fact, might come across as criticism, because you’re implying that you agree they are doing something wrong. Instead, try acting with empathy. Instead of coming up with solutions, repeat back to your partner a rephrased version of what they are telling you, and acknowledge their feelings.
Part of this tip is making time to sit with your partner every day and talk. This time could be after dinner over a cup of tea, or in the morning over a cup of coffee. This conversational time will really help your spouse know that you care about them. Use this time to genuinely try and get to know your partner…their thoughts, feelings, preferences, and personal history. Put aside your own opinions and judgement, and take this opportunity to learn more about them—because learning more about your spouse can lead to greater levels of intimacy, safety, and trust.
#7: Throw money out the window (not literally)
Avoid over-sharing or taking out money stress on your partner. Imagine if the President came on air and announced that the government had literally run out of money. All services would henceforth be suspended, even if civil anarchy breaks out. Imagine the panic that would spread!
The same thing is true at home. A man is supposed to be a rock of dependability for his partner. Complaining about money or oversharing financial troubles will not help your marriage; it will just make your spouse upset. Moreover, many husbands usually have a double standard when it comes to spending. If their partner goes shopping or asks for something expensive, they get upset…but they’ll have no problem splurging for playoff tickets.
Treat your spouse as your primary investment; it’s one you’ll see the greatest returns on. Though it flies in the face of popular sentiment, try to get them the gifts they want the most. If you genuinely can’t afford it, tell them so but let them know that you hope you’ll be able to soon. Most people will be accommodating, and even letting them know that you’re putting in the effort to make things work will go a long way.
#8: Throw your partner a party for two—show them that they’re number one
The biggest thing you can do to improve as a husband, and the behavior that encapsulates all other tips, is shifting your perspective and focus in life. Most men do care about their spouse, but just as one of the many other things they care about, such as work, golf, the local sports team, and whatever else. Put effort into genuinely making your partner the #1 thing you care about.
Before you get home from work today, stop at the grocery store and buy a small cake and a candle shaped like the number one. Bring it home, and tell your partner you have a surprise for them. Take out the cake, light the candle, and tell them they’ve always been the number one most important thing in your life, and always will be. Then, make an honest internal commitment to make that the truth—you’ll find that all these tips become easy to implement, and your marriage will improve drastically.
Becoming a better husband will make you feel better about yourself and your life, as you step into a masculine role of caring, giving, and loving. Your marriage will improve, and you’ll find that your partner is a lifetime best-friend, supporter, and number one fan. Don’t wait to implement these tips until tomorrow. As we mentioned in our last tip, you should start using them today.