The first step to becoming a better husband is to, well, try to be a better husband. It’s as simple as that. Marriages thrive when partners play active roles in the relationship, paying mind to everything from the daily maintenance of the marriage to personal care in hopes of understanding yourself better for the other. In other words: It’s all about making an effort. Do the work, and you’ll be rewarded. Want to start? Well, there are a number of small, nice things that all of us can focus on to be happier, more present, and more attentive husbands and partners.
Talk about your feelings honestly. When she asks you how your day is, tell her about something that made you upset or annoyed. Don’t just say your day was “okay,” and leave it at that.
Take over for the evening. Don’t announce it or plan it ahead. Once the kids are bathed, brushed, dressed, read to, and in bed, tell your spouse they’re ready for a good night kiss.
Ask your wife about her day. Have at least one follow-up question. Then, tell her about yours. And answer her questions with more words “fine” and “eh.” Make this a habit.
Make a constructed effort to interrupt her less when she’s talking. If she seems like she’s in between two thoughts, give her five seconds. If she doesn’t say anything, then speak.
Clean that thing you know she hates cleaning. You don’t even need to tell her you did it. She’ll notice.
(Photo by Christian Gonzalez)
Do the dishes when it’s “not your turn.”
Stay in good shape. Part of the gig is trying to remain attractive.
Go to the doctor. Part of the gig is not dying.
Be nice to her friends because they’re her friends and for no other reason.
Be honest even when it’s hard. Confrontation is not always bad. It’s critical to moving forward.
Explain why you’re excited about the things that excite you. Don’t keep her on the outside of the things you like.
If someone is rude to her in a social situation, ask for permission to be rude back. If granted, go to fucking town.
Oral Sex. We’re all adults here.
If she seems like she wants to be left alone, don’t take it as a referendum on anything. Just leave her alone.
Listen to and empathize with her problems. Say: “That sucks. I’m sorry.” Don’t try to fix the problems unless she asks for your advice.
Does she like SMPDA — that is, social media public displays of affection? Then post about her earnestly on social media every so often. Even if it’s a photo of her with the heart-eyed emoji, it may not be your thing, but because it’s not it will mean more.
Don’t hold back small seemingly insignificant compliments. If she really impressed you by parallel parking, her lunch order, or how she de-escalated a toddler tantrum, tell her.
Be the keeper of your love story. Get nostalgic about your relationship, from time to time. Reminisce about how you met. Bring it up with friends.
Journal about the things you’re upset about before vocalizing them to your spouse. It might help you see some of the things bothering you are not worth complaining about.
Your wife is not your therapist. If you are struggling, and she’s the only person you lean on, think about going to therapy. Therapy rules.
Leave nice notes. They don’t have to be long or saccharine, they just have to be original.
(Photo by John Jones)
Make a decision when she doesn’t want to. Let her make a decision when she does. Know the difference.
Be kind. The world is mean, your marriage shouldn’t be.
When you introduce her to your friends or coworkers, mention one of her accomplishments.
Make an effort to look presentable. Shave or clean up your beard regularly. Dress nice. Don’t be a schlub. No one wants to be married to a schlub 24/7.
If you make yourself something — tea, a sandwich, a stiff cocktail — offer to make her one, too.
Take her side in family squabbles whenever possible. If you sense a family squabble might happen, discuss it beforehand to get on the same page. Then, talk about how you’ll mount your defense together.
Keep your promises.
Talk to her about what she likes in bed. Don’t assume that you know. Do that thing.
Give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s allowed to be in bad moods for no reason.
Take some tasteful nudes.
When you become impatient with her, take a few deep breaths. Walk away if you need to. Remember you love her even when you don’t like her.
Get rid of your unreasonable expectations about who you think she should be.
Call just to say hi.
When she asks you to go on a run with her, go, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it. She’ll know you did it just because you love her.
When your wife talks about a sexist thing that happened to her that day, don’t give the man in the story the benefit of the doubt. Talk shit about him with your wife.
Be enthusiastic about her favorite TV shows, even if it’s bad reality TV. Get into it. Make fun of the contestants. Ask her who her favorite person on the show is. Root for someone.
When your wife asks you how she looks in something, and if she doesn’t look great, tell her about another dress you like. Provide an alternative. Tell her you love her in it.
When you get in a fight, use “I” statements. Don’t put your anger on her. Make sure she knows it’s about how you’re feeling.
If you don’t know where something is in your house, actually look for it before you ask. You are not a clueless intern. You are her partner.
Tell her — and demonstrate — that you love her.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.