Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

What Men Wish Their Wives Would Do Differently

May 28, 2001

Women, has the spark gone out of your marriage? Is your husband disappointed or frustrated with you? Here are seven areas of concern men often express when it comes to their marriages.

1. Be less critical. Men often feel they are often on the defensive and "wrong" just for voicing an opinion that does not match their wives' expectations and standards. They want a feeling of teamwork, cooperation, partnership and a more legitimate discussion of issues in their marriage.

Accept him for what he is - imperfect. He needs to be accepted as he is with his own legitimate interests and hobbies. Take advantage of his strengths and good points. Reinforce and reward the things you appreciate him doing. Don't make every issue between you a fight to the death. Some quirks and differences you can live with. Trying to change him adds to his and your frustration and resentment.

The home should be a refuge, not a place where he faces a barrage of criticism and conflict. How strongly and frequently you are judgmental of him may shut him down or trigger an emotional response that exacerbates the problem.

2. Forget the past. Husbands feel that some past hurts and blunders in the marriage aren’t left alone. They feel matters they think are resolved are brought up unfairly in fights. "Let the dead stay buried." Forgive mistakes. Don't bear grudges. Don't bring up the past unless it pertains to a current problem.

3. Be supportive of work and leisure activities. Men want their wives to understand that work obligations occasionally take precedence over family needs. Some of their priorities are out of their control. "A man's got to do what a man's got to do."

Men would like understanding and appreciation for the work pressures and responsibilities they face. A man's work accomplishments and struggles need to be recognized and supported.

They also want acceptance for their occasional need to be alone or to pursue their personal interests.

4. Be nurturing. Giving emotional support, respect, admiration, attention, soothing, and meeting his needs makes coming home special. Family meals together give more than bodily nourishment. In homes where there is confusion, disorganization, anger, or emotional distance, men don't do well. The family doesn't do well.

When women reject or struggle with the homemaking role, there may be a basic discontent that eats away at the marital relationship. These traditionally female responsibilities are important despite everything else that is going on in life.

This isn't a rehashing of stone age advice on how to please a husband - "shut up and wait on them." Mutual roles need to be clarified, understood and negotiated. If you are working outside of the home, this is a 2-way street. He has a supportive role to play also.

But the nurturing and caring still needs to take place. What we are talking about is caring, not caretaking. In the era of women's greater involvement outside of the home, the baby shouldn't be thrown out with the bathwater.

4. Verbalize needs. Men don’t like being judged or criticized for not doing something they "should have known." There are times when they just "don't get it." They want their wives' expectations spelled out - the more detail, the better.

Don't expect him to read your mind. Be clear and spell out exactly what you want and expect from him.

5. Be a friend. Men want a safe haven, a best friend where they can unburden themselves and be accepted for who they are. They want to be able to share emotions and know their thoughts and feelings will be kept confidential. Companionship, affection and romance are important. They want a friend who can take their side and is supportive of their struggles.

Men have a much smaller network of friendships and support. There is much more dependence on their wives to be a sounding board and confidante.

6. Men like physical affection. Duh! Men make the romantic connection between feeling loved and physical intimacy. Women often feel that what happens in the bedroom is an extension of what is happening in the relationship. With men, what is happening in the relationship is an extension of what is happening in the bedroom. It is the same thing, only the emphasis is different.

If you really want to please him, occasionally take the initiative in lovemaking. The fact that you spontaneously show interest in him is more meaningful and arousing than most anything you can do. His sensuality is heightened when be feels that he is pleasing you.

The quality and frequency of their sexual relationships may be quite satisfactory, but, from the male perspective, something is missing. A man doesn't have the feeling that he is wanted or desired for himself if it is always his idea.

7. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t expect your husband to solve all your problems. If you depend on him to make you happy, and always do the thoughtful, loving or right thing, you will be disappointed.

If you are insecure or unhappy with yourself, you'll have a tendency to put strong and unrealistic demands on the marriage. Over time, unhealthy dependency breeds hostility and resentment.

What do you think of this list? Check it out with your husband and see what he says.