By Sharon O’Brien
Some guys might not realize this, but when most women get married they usually imagine cozy evenings by a fire, sharing their hopes and dreams with the men they love. Our Prince Charmings, however, sometimes turn into The Grinches Who Stole Romance, lying on the couch with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other. You may have noticed our displeasure about this on occasion.
However, in the interest of your willingness to cater to our needs (see “10 Ways to Be a Better Husband”), here’s a list for the women out there. Ladies, instead of trying to fix your flawed but lovable husband, why not start by looking in the mirror? These 10 steps will help you re-energize your marriage and renew your appreciation for the former Mr. Perfect.
1) Take care of yourself
Turns out that the best thing you can do for your husband is also good for you. Eat healthy foods, maintain good grooming, and exercise regularly. You’ll look and feel better, and you’ll continue to be the vibrant and attractive woman he fell in love with, no matter your age.
2) Say thank you, often
When researchers ask men what they want from their wives, appreciation always makes the list. Everyone likes to be appreciated, so remember to notice the things your husband does—for you, for the kids, for the house—and thank him. You’ll put a smile on his face and a little joy in his heart.
3) Keep the romance alive
When was the last time you planned a romantic interlude with your husband? If you can’t remember, you’re way overdue. Be affectionate, write love notes, give him a backrub, plan a date, and initiate sexual play. Remind him that you still find him attractive.
4) Let him have “guy time”
Everyone needs time for themselves—to relax, enjoy a hobby, or socialize with friends. If your husband loves football and you don’t, don’t bug him about it. Encourage him to cultivate friendships with other men. He’ll enjoy the companionship. Studies show that people with friends tend to live longer, healthier lives.
5) Make your husband a priority
With the everyday stresses of work, home, and kids, it’s easy to take your husband for granted. Make time for the two of you to reconnect on a regular basis. Take an interest in his work and hobbies. Let him know he’s important to you.
6) Don’t try to change him
Are you outgoing, but your husband is shy? Do you like a clean house, but he leaves towels on the floor? Behavioral experts say you can’t change others, you can only change yourself and how you react—so look for ways other than nagging to handle these situations. Compromise on social activities by making them shorter, or go by yourself. Place a laundry basket in the bathroom. And when he attends a party or puts dirty towels in their proper place, thank him. Positive reinforcement beats nagging every time.
7) Don’t make him guess—tell him what you want
It’s easy to assume that the person who lives with you every day also knows you well enough to know what you want. Not true. Most of us view the world through our own needs and desires, so don’t be surprised if your husband thinks that what you want is what he would want. If you want something specific—advice, a hug, or a red sweater for your birthday—let him know.
8) Cultivate friends and interests outside your marriage
Once you’re married, it’s easy to shrink your social network to revolve around your husband. But no one person can meet all your needs, and it’s too much to expect your husband to be your partner, your lover, AND your best girlfriend. Make time for friendships outside your marriage. You’ll have more fun and bring new energy to your relationship.
9) Let free time be free
Just as you need time to relax and unwind, so does your husband. He may not define it the way you do, though; while your idea of relaxing after work may be talking over a glass of wine [Maybe not wine. How about tea, coffee, Kool-aid, Vimto or something else] he may enjoy being quiet for awhile, reading the newspaper, or watching TV. Find a compromise so both your needs are met. And give him time to recharge by not over-scheduling weekends with home projects and shopping.
10) Believe in your husband, and let him know it
Men can display a lot of bravado, but like us they sometimes struggle with low self-confidence and feelings of failure. And because men approach the world as competitors, they sometimes end up feeling like losers. When he comes home, your husband needs to know that the person he values most in the world believes in him—especially when he doesn’t believe in himself.
Sharon O’Brien is a licensed psychotherapist in Portland, Ore., who writes nationally about relationship and lifestyle issues.