Okay, I realize I run the risk of sounding like I think I know everything about being a husband and father. I wrote just a few weeks ago about how to be a great dad, and now I have the nerve to tell everyone how I’ve mastered the husband game too??? Well, as I said in that last article, I am FAR from having this all figured out. I probably wouldn’t have even tried to write this article, except my wife kept insisting that I should (apparently, she seems to think I’m a fairly decent husband…which means my brainwashing strategy is working perfectly).
Now, before we get to listing stuff, a couple disclaimers…I realize that a whole bunch of you reading are not married. You’re either formerly married, or maybe hope to be some day…some of you are probably in the “I don’t ever plan to get married” camp, and I’m glad you’re here. These three things will easily apply to any man who is trying to love any woman the best that he can. (Granted, my obvious bias is that one of the best ways to love a woman well is to commit to her for the rest of your life in marriage and stick to it…but that’s a post for a different time) So, wherever you find yourself on the relationship spectrum, here are the three ways that I try to show love to my wife every single day. (That try got the italic treatment because I’ll be the first to admit that I fail on a lot of days!)
Make her laugh every day.
I realize that not everyone places the extreme level of value on humor that I do (it’s probably a deep-seated coping mechanism that I should have a therapist look at). However, laughter has been a key component to our relationship from day one. In fact, my wife tells me stories of when we first started dating and her dad would ask what she saw in me, she just kept telling him how funny I was. He would of course say, “yeah, but what else do you like about him?” To my knowledge, she didn’t really have a satisfactory answer for him…but for some reason he let me marry her anyway.
There have been plenty of studies done on the benefits of laughter for your physical and emotional health already, so I don’t think I need to convince you that laughing is good (so is air and water, by the way) But, I think there are few better ways to keep your marriage enjoyable than by laughing together. Fellas, we all want to hear our wives laugh at our jokes…there’s a childish level of pride that wells up when we’re able to make her spit-take at the dinner table with some little comment at just the right moment. And ladies, what is always near the top of the list of qualities you say you’re looking for in a man? A sense of humor! Men, you don’t have to be a professional comedian or stress out looking for chances to drop-in a joke…just play to who you are naturally (you know, the man she fell in love with) and find ways to bring fun out of that. You know her better than anyone, so find whatever will make her chuckle (bad pun, cheesy dad joke, awkward dance move, etc.), and make it a point of getting her to laugh a little bit every day. (Side note: it can also be a great way to diffuse a tense situation when you’ve dropped the ball on something…it’s my #1 strategy)
Serve her whenever you can.
I imagine our household runs pretty similar to most typical families when it comes to the division of labor. My jobs are: garbage, fixing whatever breaks, all the exterior maintenance of the house/yard, and checking out all strange sounds in the night (even the imagined ones). Sarah’s jobs tend to revolve around dishes, cooking, laundry, etc. We’re not trying to live out some 1950’s fantasy, I’m not barking out orders or saying “this is woman’s work” like some deranged caveman…that’s just how things have shaken out in our house, and it works for us. Now, I’m particularly fond of this setup because I would rather be doing yard work in the 110-degree Phoenix heat than doing dishes ANY time…I just hate them! But, nothing puts that grateful smile on my wife’s face like when I look over at a sink of dirty dishes next to a full but clean dishwasher, and - without a word - walk over there and do the dishes.
This principle can take shape in 1,000 different ways, but the idea is to take something that’s usually on your wife’s plate and just take care of it for her. Granted, that can backfire if it’s something she particularly enjoys or if she has a very intricate system that you’re going to mess up. But, if it’s something simple like doing dishes, leaving work early to pick up the kids from school, or spending three hours trying to match all the loose socks from the mystery-sock pile…those will bless your wife to no end. Yes, all the things on your usual honey-do list are ways of serving her as well, but it’s those little above-and-beyond things you do that I’ve found make the biggest impact. Find some way to serve your wife every day, and you’ll be married to a happy (and generally more relaxed) woman.
Okay, here we go…the feelings stuff. Listen, I know that for an article like this, I’m forced to paint with a broad brush and speak in generalities. I know happy couples where the husband is the chatter-box (ahem, I mean, “verbal processor”) and the wife is generally more reserved. But, I think for most couples out there, the wife likes to connect through words way more than the guy. It’s the standard end-of-day conversation: wife downloads every detail from her day for 20 minutes without a breath, finally asks her husband how his day was, he responds with “fine”…end of conversation. That’s no way to make your wife feel happy, secure, and connected to you.
Sarah and I fit this mold perfectly, and it’s taken years for me to try and break the silence habit. You see, for most guys out there, it’s not that we’re trying to withhold information from our wives…we just can’t see how any of the mundane details of our day would actually be of interest to them. No way she wants to hear about my TPS reports, or the dumb thing Gary said in the break room, or the new sandwich I tried at lunch…why would I ever waste her time with that? Answer: because she’s not looking for information - she’s looking for connection. You guys have been apart all day living these separate experiences, and the daily download is her attempt to get you both back on the same page. In other words, when your wife dumps a barrage of details about her day and then asks about yours, she is trying to say, “we’ve lived separate lives for the last 8-ish hours, so here’s everything I experienced, then you tell me what you experienced, and then we’ll be caught up and living life together again.” It’s about sharing your life…even the parts that happen apart from each other.
Now, I’m not saying you have to suddenly become a chatter-box or walk her through a boring play-by-play of everything that happened at work (remember, she’s not actually looking for information). I’ve found that simply by sharing 2-3 little details about my day - even if they’re things I think should never interest anyone - it scratches that connection itch for my wife. Something that happened in a meeting, a big task I finally completed, a joke that was shared on a coffee break…just a couple little things that happened, and she feels like we’re back on the same page again. Replace that cursory “fine” with a couple little details, and your wife will feel so much more connected to you, and - consequently - so much more secure in your relationship.
Keep working at it.
As we close, let me say again that I screw this stuff up on what seems like a daily basis. It’s a constant journey, and if we graphed out my performance on it, it would look an awful lot like the jagged mountains I love to hunt so much. The point is to avoid complacency - avoid throwing your hands up in surrender and saying, “this is just how it is and it’s never gonna change or get better!” Nothing could be further from the truth. Each of these ideas are small and simple - they could be applied in a matter of minutes with relatively minimal effort. All it takes is a little intentionality and commitment on your part.
So, whether your marriage is absolutely crushing it right now or if you feel more like it’s crushing you, don’t throw in the towel. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and are thinking about giving up, maybe commit to trying each of these three steps for the next 30 days. Even if she doesn’t know it, even if she never recognizes it, just do them and see how things feel a month from now…you may just be surprised how much a few simple actions can change things in a big way.