If you’re married to a take-charge, get-‘er-done, tell-it-like-it-is woman, here are 5 rules to remember

Dear Husband,

You may or many not know that the majority of my time is spent helping women be successful in love. That’s because I firmly believe women are the relationship navigators and thus have the ability to steer the marriage ship in the direction they want it to go. Once they embrace their femininity, love becomes smooth sailing—and it’s my job to help them do that.

But I hear often from men like you whose wives don’t get this and who don’t appear open to change. They can’t stop telling their husbands what to do and appear chronically unhappy to boot — and the husbands can’t figure out why, since they’re convinced they do everything right. If you’re one of those husbands, this post is for you.

Let me first say that you are not responsible for your wife’s happiness. That’s her job. However, there are definitely things you can do to bring your best self to the table.

Here are 5 “rules” for husbands that apply across the board but are particularly useful if you’re married to a Type A woman:

  1. Be bold, decisive and purposeful. If you married a ‘can-do’ woman, she will only respect a ‘can-do’ man. She will not identify with “I’ll get to it later” or “That won’t work” or anything that smacks of indecisiveness or equivocation. Your wife needs you to be strong and capable. She needs you to know what you want and not ask her what she wants instead. If you’re not bold, decisive and purposeful in your actions, she will feel unmoored—and that’s what causes her to lash out. Bottom line: If you married a strong woman, you’ll need to be stronger.
  2. Tell the truth. (Don’t tell your wife one thing and then do another.) You need to get comfortable telling your wife the truth at all times, as opposed to telling her what she wants to hear. Confident men are proud of who they are and what they think. And no, telling your wife that Yes, she looks fat in that dress is not what I mean—that will never end well! But if your wife wants to know what you think about anything unrelated to her body, don’t tell her what she wants to hear in order to keep the peace. It may feel good in the moment, but it will come back to bite you in the ass. Not only will you become resentful for holding in the truth about how you really feel, she’ll have less respect for you when she realizes you lied. It’s not her fault if you don’t tell her what you think and feel; that’s on you. Will the truth upset her? Sometimes. You’ll have to get comfortable with that.
  3. Don’t get defensive. The single worst thing you can do in an argument with your wife is to become defensive. When you defend yourself, you appear weak—and that makes her feel unsafe, which is what causes her to lash out even more. As GS Youngblood wrote in The Masculine in Relationship, men need to respond, not react, to women. A man who reacts “gets defensive and frantically tries to correct the facts in the other person’s mind because he cannot tolerate being judged as bad or wrong. He interrupts the other person and desperately tries to make his case so the other person won’t be angry anymore.” THIS IS THE WRONG APPROACH. A man who responds “does not need to explain or defend. He holds space for the other’s intense emotion and waits for them to finish before speaking. He acknowledges their feelings, may or may not choose to calmly correct a few facts, and apologizes if needed.”
  4. Give your wife your undivided attention. This is a biggie, and it’s one I’m convinced every couple (my husband and I included) struggles with due to the way in which technology, especially our phones, have changed our lives. It takes serious discipline to put down one’s phone or to turn off the screen and live the way couples did back in the day, before screens took over our lives. But you have to do it, and I say you because men have the most trouble doing this. Men are visual by nature and have a tendency to ‘tune out’ with screens more than women do. But this is harmful to your marriage. Your wife craves your undivided attention for, at the very least, 10 minutes each day. Ideally 30. And honestly, it isn’t much to ask. Back in the days before television, couples had all the quiet they needed to address whatever needed addressing. All they did at night when the kids were in bed was sit and read or listen to the radio or hang out on their front porches to listen to tree frogs. When was the last time you did something like this? Do. It. It fosters the kind of time and attention all couples need, women in particular, in order to stay close. Your wife will be kinder toward you if she knows she has your undivided attention at some point every single day.
  5. Never put your family of origin ahead of your wife and kids. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but after working with so many couples I realize I do. Never put any one or any thing ahead of your marriage. For some men, this means their job or even their own mother. Your wife and kids should never come second to either one. That does not mean you shouldn’t spend time with your family and friends when you want to. It just means, for example, that if your family of origin needs help of some sort—financial, let’s say, or maybe physical care due to an injury or even aging—you only offer your assistance after you’ve been a husband and father first. If your wife feels she comes second to your job or to your mother, it’s time to re-prioritize.

Best of luck with everything. If you need help, I’m here.

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Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, columnist and relationship coach committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.

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