Want to be a better husband? The first step is to try to be a better husband. We ‘re not joking about that. The best marriages are those in which both partners play active roles, not only acknowledging their weaknesses (i.e. “I invalidate your feelings too much;” “I still carry home work stress”), but also seeking ways to correct them.
By trying to get to know yourself better— your strengths, your weaknesses, your sometimes-good-sometimes-bad-habits — you will become not only a good husband but an evolving one. In other words: make an effort, do the work, and you will be rewarded. Want to start?
Well, there are a number of small, simple things that all of us can focus on making husbands and partners happier, more present and more attentive. Like the nine items right here.
Do Your Share of the ‘Emotional Labor’
Many women bear the weight not only of handling their everyday duties but also of their personal feelings and those of their partners in order to accomplish everything. This is often referred to as “emotional labor” or invisible work needed to run a household. Constant monitoring of the needs of their families will take a significant toll. And if this pressure goes unrecognized, it could have a very negative impact on your family.
One of the best ways to do your share of emotional work is to think about it and get to a plan. It can just be a strategy about what both partners want to get out of their relationship and what matters to both of them. If the goals of both partners are clearly described, it can be extremely difficult for things to fall by the wayside.
“As far as lessening emotional labor on a wife,” says Phillip Young, who founded Better Together Breakthroughs with his wife, Brittney, “a husband can always refer back to this — hopefully in a weekly family meeting — to check in with his wife on how they are living this shared creation.”
Put Down Your Damn Phone
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that phone snubbing or “phubbing” actually produces almost subconscious relationship discontent by creating emotional distances between romantic partners.
This is yet another study in a growing body of research that illustrates how our phones distract us from genuine human interaction— and there are very important, very profound implications. The simplest solution for this is also the most difficult one: just put your phone down and concentrate on your partner. Have an open conversation. Be human.
Be Mindful of the Energy You Bring Home
Life is full of stress. We can’t control it. All we can do is decide what energy we bring home — which is vital in having a healthy relationship with your partner. “Choosing the energy we wish to bring into our home is so important before walking in,” Rose Lawrence, a psychotherapist and the owner of Mind Balance, Inc., told Fatherly. “When we do this, we have more control over our intentions, our mood, and our behaviors. It involves a thoughtful choice each day, each hour.”
Express Appreciation More Often
According to Jonathan Robinson, a couple therapist and author of the new book More Love, Less Conflict: A Communication Playbook for Couples, one of the most important elements of a relationship is that “people want to be understood and they want to feel that their emotions are being valued. ”
One of the easiest ways to do this is clearly to tell your partner that you value and appreciate them. A simple note, text message, or compliment can go a long way in a relationship, Robinson says. Only letting your partner know that he or she is respected and that their actions are not ignored will make them feel valued and appreciated. “The number one correlation with happiness in couples is the number of appreciations they give to each other,” he says.
Learn to Press the ‘Pause’ Button
It’s easy to react negatively in any relationship when you’re being questioned or criticized. One of the best things you can do is to realize that you need a minute. If your partner comes to you with a question, don’t be defensive right away. Take a second to hear what they’re thinking and understand it before you respond.
We’re wired to retaliate when attacked,” says Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a relationship therapist in Manhattan. “By taking a breath, you give yourself time to shift your focus inward and to find a more constructive way to respond.”
Prioritize the Positive
Positive feelings flow with regularity at the beginning of a relationship. Excitement, enthusiasm, and passion are right at your fingertips. However, as the relationship continues, as you both get more comfortable with each other, some people expect these positive feelings to happen without any effort. Not so, says Suzann Pileggi, who, along with her husband, James Pawelski, Director of Education at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, wrote Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts.
“The research shows that the happiest couples with the most sustainable marriages are the ones who actively cultivate them all the time and prioritize them as opposed to waiting around for them to happen,” she says. “Because, like with anything, the newness of something, those heightened positive emotions, the level and the frequency just naturally don’t occur as much as in the beginning of a relationship, the falling-in-love stage.”
What does this mean for people in long-term relationships? It’s a matter of asking themselves what they can do every day, what activities or actions they can do to keep positive emotions flowing in a marriage.
Be Specific When Expressing Gratitude
It’s not enough to say “thank you” to your partner. True appreciation lies in the details. Consider this: if your partner gives you a gift or does anything good to you, don’t just thank them— say something like, “You really know what I need, and you’re such a good listener,” or “You’re so thoughtful, and I can see how thoughtful you are with our children and the way you are at work.”
It’s about being thoughtful and precise about how you express gratitude. “Express your thanks and express it well,” says Pileggi. “Which means focusing on your partner and her actions and her strengths rather than solely on the gift and the benefit to you.” In fact, according to Pileggi, couples who did this greatly improved their marital satisfaction.
Flirt More Often
“For whatever reason, when we’re married we don’t think we have to or need to do the things we did when we were dating,” says Fran Greene, a couple’s counselor and author of The Flirting Bible. “Somehow when the commitment is there we feel like we can say, ‘Thank God, I don’t have to do that anymore.’ But it’s the opposite.” The happiest relationships are those in which people constantly remind each other that they are cherished, valued, and having fun. Flirting is therefore an important skill.
Use ‘I’ Statements During Arguments
Arguments happen in marriage all the time; they don’t have to be so dramatic. If you’re fighting with your partner, seek to change your attention by not casting blame to say, “You did this” or “You need to fix this” instead of using “I” statements.
“When you use ‘you’ statements, they feel blamed and their ears turn off,” says Robinson. “So, when you use ‘I’ statements, you avoid that. You can take responsibility by using a statement like, ‘One way I see I contributed to this upset is…’ What you’re trying to do is not have your partner become defensive and an ‘I’ statement, or taking some responsibility, helps with that.”