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Seventeen rules for being a good husband and keeping your wife happy
There are lots of amusing articles out there about men, women and the gulfs between them. Both genders cast their eyes upwards and perhaps grin ruefully when they contemplate the mysteries and foolishness of the opposite sex. Sure, we're different and it does no harm to make light of this. But what about writing something more practical? Dating has been done to death, so how about that less fashionable thing: marriage. I can speak with some authority on this, having been happily married for several decades.
So, in no particular order, here are some rules for husbands, or how to keep your wife by keeping her happy year after year. I can't say I always use them or they always work, but I can say I do try and we're still very happily married.
1. Treat her like a lady
It may seem old fashioned, but unless she's a determined feminist, she'll like it when you do things like opening doors for her, helping her on with her coat, and pretty much always putting her first.
Women like to feel special. They want to know you respect them and would never hurt them. Being a gentleman is a good way to show this.
2. Surprise her
Randomly buy flowers, take her to a swanky restaurant, buy her a random present or otherwise treat her to something nice. It needn't be expensive, though an occasional splash will go a long way.
Surprise changes minds. It delights. It shows that the flame of romance is still burning. Surprise is, by definition, unexpected, so keep mixing it up and being creative.
3. Push the boat out
Now and again, do something expensive together. Push the boat out. Go to an expensive restaurant. Go on holiday to some exotic location. Buy her an expensive anniversary present.
Yes, you always need to manage the money, so save up for occasional such splurges. These can be done as surprises but often are fun to plan together. Initiate the process, then give her options and let her choose.
4. Make her laugh
Laughter comes from incongruous surprise. Tell jokes. Be funny. Clown around. When she thinks of you, she should smile inside. Playing the fool also says you trust her not to take advantage of your idiocy.
Fun may exists on the edge of acceptability, so be careful not to tread into dangerous waters (for example with gender jokes). It may mean taking risks so learn where her boundaries are and respect them.
5. Defend her
Women like to feel safe, and as the weaker sex easily feel more vulnerable than men. If somebody attacks her, verbally or otherwise, stand up for her. If necessary, put yourself at risk. She'll love you for your courage. If you seem willing to put yourself in harm's way for her, you must surely love her above all else.
This does not mean attacking every man who looks at her or jumping in with both feet when you hear part of a comment. Find out what's going on before sticking your neck out. Conversational interruptions can embarrass her. Aggression, even to others, can scare her. Listening then subtly defusing the situation can sometimes be best. Always remember your goal is her comfort, not to massage your own manliness.
6. Help out
If things need doing around the house, do them. If dishes need washing, wash them. If there are bits on the floor, pick them up. If a tap is dripping, fix it. In particular, watch for when she looks tired and offer to help out. Suggest that you cook, clean or just make a cup of coffee. Be tidy. Put things away rather than down.
Certainly, you may each take on different roles where you each attend to different chores, and do respect her preferences (some women, for example, like cooking and consider the kitchen their domain). Do not take helping to extreme. It is important to share the work and she may resent you if you do too much (or may just take you for granted). You goal is that she appreciates you, not wonders what you are up to.
7. Touch her
Maintain regular, affectionate physical contact. Touch her lightly on the shoulder as you go past. Come up behind her and hug her around the waist. Especial when she has been away, even for the day, welcome her back with a smile and a big hug.
Be careful in this to keep contact appropriate. If she sometimes seems not to want to be touched, back off. Sometimes women don't want physical contact or not in certain ways. Respect this. Your touch should make her feel good, not pawed.
8. Tell her you love her
Declare your love for her. Tell her this on cards and gifts or just in words, at random time of the day. Always remember Valentine's Day, your wedding anniversary and any other special dates.
9. Say she looks good
Stop mid-tracks now and again, look at her and say something like 'Gosh, you look great'. Smile appreciatively when you look at her. Notice when she's dressed up and say that she looks great. Also say she looks good when she isn't spruced up. If she denies this, say something like 'You can't help always looking good.'
When she tries on a dress and asks your opinion, if you don't like it don't say she looks awful -- say you prefer another dress today or the shade isn't quite right. Beware of painting yourself into a corner by saying things like 'You look nice now' that imply she doesn't at other times.
10. Show your appreciation
Find other ways to show you appreciate her. An easy way is to smile and thank her when she does things for you. Say what a great wife she is. Tell her the best decision of your life was to marry her. Tell others she's brilliant (it will likely get back to her). Never criticize her to other people.
When she shows she appreciates you, show that you like this by saying things like 'That's very kind of you'. When you are both showing appreciation for the other on a regular basis, it a make a lot of difference all round.
11. Take her seriously
The most common indicator of impending divorce is contempt. The opposite is respect. Show her respect by listening to her concerns and treating these as being important, even if they they don't seem that big a deal to you. Don't just nod and hope she'll finish soon. Read between the lines and look for underlying concerns. Sometimes listening and appreciating is all she needs. At other times she wants help. When this is obvious, just do it. If you are not sure, ask.
This can be difficult when she is critical of you. Don't just react angrily or defensively. Stay open to the possibility that things you do aren't as effective as they could be. In many ways she is your customer. Think carefully and objectively about what is going on. Discuss alternatives and, if needed, change. She'll know this is a big deal for you (if not, explain how you feel) and will be very appreciative.
12. Be the calm one
Be the calm one, but not the cold one. When she gets upset, neither go up in the air with her, nor be clinical. Empathize with her emotion. Listen to her explanation, no matter how illogical it is. Then decide what to do. Often, all she needs is comfort.
Sometimes it helps to tell her everything will turn out ok. At other times some helpful suggestions work (though at other times they do not). Another approach is to take charge and sort out the problem yourself, though you may want to ask if she wants this. Finally cool logic can work, though it is often best left until she feels a bit calmer.
13. Criticize carefully
When you interact with her, you gain and spend points. When you criticize, for no matter how small an issue, you spend points, and probably more than you think. If she does something that you thing wrong, be openly curious rather than coldly critical. Say something like 'How interesting. What makes you think that?' Then accept her logic rather than using the answer as proof of her stupidity. People see things in different ways. One way forward is to ask 'Can I offer a challenge?' If she sounds unhappy (even if she says yes) then don't make a big deal of it. Maybe start your challenge with 'I was wondering...' and then don't press your argument too hard. Even if you don't take things further, she will likely have got the message. Giving her a respectable way out is often a good thing.
When you say and do nice things, you gain points. It is important to understand the economics of this system and always to stay in credit. A simple rule of thumb is that one small complaint is worth five to ten nice comments.
Choose which hills you'll die on. Some issues will be very important to you, so much so you are ready to argue long and strongly about them. Make sure these are few.
14. Moan minimally
While nowhere near as significant as criticism, moaning also costs you points which need to be repaid. The price of a moan is based on how emotionally draining your whinges are, not how big a deal they are for you. You can help yourself here by playing down the importance to you of issues like the problems that idiot at work is causing you.
It is important for each to share their troubles, but you don't have to make a song and dance over it, even if she does. There are exceptions to this in human upsets like death in the family, but a good rule of thumb for everyday ills is restraint.
15. Forgive her
There'll be a ton of stuff she does that bugs you. She'll leave doors open, not put bottle tops on properly, drive erratically and all sorts of things that will frustrate the socks off you.
You can tell, ask or plead with her a hundred times and she may still do them. So in the end you have to decide if any of this is worth the worry, anger or general stress. Very largely, it isn't. Much easier is to accept that this is how she is, forgive her her foibles and quietly close the doors, put things away and so on. It may be she does the same for you.
Do your best to avoid blame. Blame assumes the person is bad and deserve punishment. It makes you judge, jury and executioner. It invites them to blame you in return. It leads to resentment, revenge and other bad stuff, and before long you have a long feud. It's better assume human mistakes, forgetfulness or other good reason you don't yet understand. You get what you give. Give good stuff, it's better for everyone.
16. Never take her for granted
It is so easy to start taking things for granted when you get married. With pressures of work and cultural expectations, it is easy to mentally put her in the position of 'wife', which can also imply 'housekeeper', ' possession', 'mother', and so on.
Treat her like she's a girlfriend or even a prospective one. Be the romantic, smitten suitor. When you look at her, remember when you first felt like this and bring that feeling back. Go on dates. Catch her eye and smile, deeply. Hold her hand on walks. Make her feel special, always.
17. Do authentic experiments
Be authentic. Mean what you say and do. If her experience so far hasn't been
great for her, be patient. Build steadily rather than smothering her.
All of the above practices work for me and I still assiduously use them (and mean them). Many are likely to work for you, though perhaps in different quantities. When you do something, watch how she reacts. Does she seem pleased? Does she freak out? Find out why and adjust accordingly. Add and subtract things. Change the details. Try new stuff.
If you can't remember or aren't sure about some of these points, do remember two critical things that most women want, which is strength and kindness. Show strength in making her feel safe and secure. Show kindness in attention, appreciation and care.
Marriage is a partnership which has to work for both of you, though this can easily mean you each feel you are doing more than your fair share. One's own effort often seems more significant than that of others -- after all, only you feel the effort involved. If you still think things are unbalanced, discuss this with her and find a way forward. Talk is the gateway to understanding and resolution.
If you aren't married, then you may also find these points useful. If you get married, keep them always in mind. It is so easy for things to slip once you feel the relationship is permanent and cannot change.
Remember: Your goal is her happiness and appreciation. Find what works and keep it up.
And the big