If you are looking to improve your marriage and be a better husband, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will discuss 25 tips and actions you can take that can improve your marriage.
Some are geared more specifically toward you, the husband, while some really could be applied by both.
Even if you are doing the effort alone, applying these tips and actions can make a difference in your marriage.
1. Listen to understand and support – not give advice or judge
Women tend to define intimacy in terms of verbal communication.
Sometimes, when your wife is talking to you, all she wants you to do is listen. She doesn’t want you to fix her problem, she just wants to be heard.
As guys, we often want to “fix” things. If our wives come to us with a problem, we want to help her solve it.
But that is not always what she wants.
Instead, just listen. Don’t give advice unless asked. Paraphrase what she says to make sure you understand what she is saying (and so she knows you understand).
Then, if you are unsure if she wants advice or just for you to listen, ask “Is this a time you want me to listen or would you like me to give advice?”
Your wife will appreciate it.
2. Listen to your wife the right way
Not only should you not be quick to give advice, but you need to give importance to your wife when listening. Give her your full attention and focus.
Remember, women generally tend to define intimacy in terms of verbal communication.
When she is talking to you, turn off the tv, put down the newspaper, and give her your full attention (in fact, that’s a good idea to do with your kids – or really anyone- when they are wanting to talk to you).
If you have a lot on your mind from work or something else and need a few minutes to clear your head, just let her know.
“Honey, I really want to talk to you, but I’m still stressed from work/have a lot on my mind. I need about 15 minutes to clear my mind so I can give you my full attention and not be distracted.”
Also, watch your filters.
We are likely to respond negatively if we are in a bad mood. Or it can be easy to assume what the other person means.
If you’ve had a bad day, let your wife know.
“Honey, today was a really rough day. If I come across short, it’s not you. Just let me know if I come across in a way I don’t mean to.”
Also, remember to listen to your wife’s input and validate your wife and her opinions.
Some men act like they know everything and ignore any input their wife may have (and of course, some women can do the same).
Not only are you hurting your chance of being a better person or making better decisions, but you are hurting the relationship (a lot), and when your wife feels invalidated and unheard, she may start withdrawing from the relationship in ways, and it can also lead her toward depression.
Instead, listen to your wife. Value her input. Validate her opinions, even if you don’t agree, and it will go a long way toward your marriage.
3. Make it safe for your wife to talk and connect with you – avoid negative communication
When people feel safe, they will say anything.
Unfortunately, we can easily damage that safety by the words we say and the tones we use.
Don’t invalidate, bellittle, or show contempt
Don’t belittle or put down your wife, her ideas, or her opinions. Don’t show contempt toward her or her ideas. Don’t come at her with a sense of arrogance or superiority.
In fact, Dr. John Gottman in the Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg in Fighting for your Marriage, and Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in Love & Respect all emphasized the danger of contempt in marriage.
When it comes to invalidation, Markman and the others said that “Our research shows that invalidation is one of the very best predictors of future problems and divorce.”
Watch the criticism
Criticism is also dangerous. Gottman says there is a difference between a complaint and criticism. A complaint is stating how you feel about a very specific situation and stating what you need or want to happen differently.
“I feel frustrated when you leave the towels on the floor because I trip over them at night. Could you please put them in the hamper when you are done?’
A criticism is “global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other’s character or personality.”
“You are so messy.”
“You never clean up after yourself.”
“You are always late.”
Criticisms attack the person and often exaggerate and lay generalities with words such as “never” and “always”.
Defensiveness is also dangerous. Instead of listening to what your wife is saying, you defend your actions, which often puts the blame back on your spouse. Or it makes you the innocent victim.
Either way, it doesn’t help.
Stop the Escalation
Escalation occurs when each of you keeps upping the ante during an argument.
One person says something mean, so the other says something worse. She attacks your cleanliness, you attack her inability to be on time.
Each attack keeps getting worse and worse.
The goal goes from solving the issue to “winning”, which really is losing.
So what should you do instead?
Always treat your wife with kindness and respect. Listen even if you disagree.
Listening and validating her opinions is not the same as agreeing with them.
Never belittle, show contempt or try to hurt your wife. Remember to keep your goal in mind – to solve the issue and better the relationship.
Don’t lose sight of that goal.
If it’s a conversation bringing strong emotion or arguments, take turn talking. Have each person share their viewpoint with the other person only paraphrasing to make sure he or she understands, and that’s it.
Validate, treat each other with respect, listen well, and not only will your conversations go much better, but your wife will feel much safer sharing her heart with you as she knows you will not belittle, condemn, or act in a way to hurt her.
4. Learn when to take a time out, a pause, or make a “repair attempt”
When a conversation starts to go south, or you feel yourself getting angry and likely to respond poorly, call a time out.
Say something like “Time out. I’m starting to get upset. Let’s take a break before continuing this conversation.”
You can also say or do something to keep yourselves from escalating an argument. Dr. Gottman calls it a “repair attempt”.
It could be something simple as “Pause. Let’s start over.”
It could be something funny like sticking out your tongue at each other.
Dr. Gottman mentioned one couple who used that well. When things started getting heated, one of them would stick out their tongue, they would life, then calm down and continue the conversation.
Markman and the others mentioned a couple who used the word “hamburger”. They would use that word to let them both know they are getting hot and to calm down and start back – and it caused laughs at times, too.
Talk to your wife and discuss what words or technique you want to use to keep a conversation from going to far negative.
Dr. Gottman said that those who cannot use repair attempt or similar well have a higher chance for divorce.
5. Think as a team, not “you vs. me”
One problem many couples face is that they start seeing their spouse as the enemy or as the problem.
The situations they face become a “you vs me” instead of “we vs the issue”.
Always have the perspective of working together as a team. Think of your wife as your teammate, not your competition.
When problems and trials come your way, don’t see your wife as the problem, see yourselves working together to solve the problem, as a team.
This one mentality shift could make world of change in your marriage.
In fact, Markman and the others said that the research “shows that couples who are thriving in their marriages have a strong sense of ‘us’”.
6. Attack the problem, not the person
In the same vein, when are facing an issue, don’t attack your wife, attack the problem.
Remember it’s “we vs the issue”.
Don’t attack your wife or blame her. Instead, focus together, as a team, on the problem and solve it together.
Attacking and blaming each other just makes the situation worse
7. Be quick to apologize and forgive
Both you and your wife are going to mess up and make mistakes. Your both going to blow it.
When you mess up, be quick to apologize. Don’t cast blame on your wife or someone or something else. Own up to it, apologize, and work on doing it better next time.
In fact, even if you don’t think you did something wrong, but it affected your wife negatively, apologize anyway. It will go a long way toward your marriage.
And, if it’s your wife who messed up, show her grace. Be quick to forgive.
If you hold on to something your wife did and don’t forgive, bitterness will build up, and it will cause a lot of harm in your marriage.
In fact, Markman and the others said that “when you hang on to resnent ment and bitterness, you put yourself at risk for psychological and physical problems, such as depression, ulcers, high blood pressure, and rage – not to mention divorce.”
8. Let the past stay in the past
Once an issue is dealt with, never bring it up again. Don’t keep throwing dirt in your wife’s face when that dirt has been settled.
That is very deadly for communication and for the relationship.
9. Put the relationship first and make it a priority
One reason a marriage falls apart over time is that you stopped making it a priority.
Life happens. Kids happens. Jobs happen.
And suddenly, you don’t have time for the marriage anymore.
You don’t do things for fun or as friends together, you don’t do romantic things together, and when you talk, it’s more business than fun and friendship.
Don’t let that be you.
If you want your marriage to be healthy and happy, make your marriage a priority.
Do the things you used to do.
Friendship, fun, and romance are all key important aspects that you NEED to have in your marriage. Make time for them.
Make time to be friends, talk as friends, and hang out as friends, one on one.
Make time for fun. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but do it, and get out of the house.
Make time for romance.
Too often the sensuality disappears, and it’s just sex. Take the time to be sensual with one another, to romance one another.
When it becomes about performance and just sex, you hurt yourself, your sex life, and your relationship.
Make it a priority in your life.
One of Dr. Gottman’s 7 principles is to “enhance your love maps”, which basically means, get to really know one another intimately.
So do it.
Also, during the times of fun, friendship, and romance, make it off limits to talk about issues. That will only destroy the time and make it less likely to happen again.
If something comes up, call a time out and save it for later.
10. Help with the household chores
Besides the fact that things need to be done and you are taking part in it, there are other benefits to helping with household chores.
Gottman says that:
“women find a man’s willingness to do housework extremely erotic. When the husband does his share to maintain the home, both he and his wife report a more satisfying sex life than in marriages where the wife believes her husband is not doing his share… In these relationships, the women also have significantly lower heart rates during marital arguments, which means they are less likely to begin a discussion harshly and so avoid triggering the whole downward spiral of conflict involving the four horsemen and flooding that leads to divorce.”
That says a lot.But don’t stop there, do extra.
Markman and the others said that “when a man does something he doesn not typically do to help his spouse out, this really counts in terms of his wife’s happiness.”
11. Deal with issues, don’t run from them
When it comes to withdraw/pursue relationships, it’s usually the man (though not always) who withdraws and avoids talking about issues.
The wife brings up an issue, and instead of dealing with it, the husband may stay silent, change the subject, or find other ways to avoid talking about it.
So the first question is, why do we as men often do that? Is it because we don’t care about the relationship?
Usually, that’s not that reason.
The reason we often avoid talking about issues is because we care about the relationship. We avoid the conversation because we don’t want to get into another fight or argument with our wife.
However, this is negative for a few reasons:
First, it creates a cycle: the wife brings up an issue, the husband avoids. The wife keeps bringing it up and starts nagging, the husband avoids it even more.
Second, when we avoid the issue, it’s never dealt with. And that just makes the issue worse.
We have to deal with the issues.
So what can we do instead of withdrawing?
For one, you can setup a weekly marriage meeting. This will be a time set aside to discuss issues (among other items). This can give the wife the freedom to know that the issue will be discussed at some point and you the relief knowing issues won’t be thrown at you.
Also, talk with your wife and together set some rules for issue talk. Discuss when and how issues will be brought up and discussed.
If there are certain times that are bad, discuss and agree together when and when not to bring up issues.
You can also have each other bring up issues by first asking “Is this a good time?”
If it’s not, have the one who’s not ready to discuss it set up a time to discuss it in the next day or two. Don’t use this to avoid talking about the issue completely.
Remember, too, that just as your tendency may be to withdraw to avoid conflict, usually the reason your wife is bringing up an issue (and even when she nags) is that she cares about the relationship and wants to make it better.
12. Show appreciation to your wife
Frequently show acts of appreciation to your wife. It can be as simple as saying “thank you” or leaving her a handwritten note.
It doesn’t need to be for anything big or unusual either. Thank her for the little things she does, things that can be easily taken for granted. Let her know that you notice and that you appreciate it.
13. Never put down your wife in front of other people (instead, compliment!)
Don’t put down your wife in front of other people. Don’t insult or make fun of her.
All that will do is drive a wedge between you two.
Instead, only speak positive things about her around other people. Compliment her to those around you. She will appreciate it and it will draw you two closer.
14. Love her with her love language
Gary Chapman in his book The 5 Love Langauges, says that we all have one primary love language – touch, service, words of affirmation, gifts, and quality time.
One fact he mentions is that your love language and your wife’s love language are probably different, so it’s easy to show your wife love in your language instead of hers.
Discover what her love language is, and then do things to show her love in that language.
You both can take a test here to discover your love language.
You can also ask her, what do I (can I) do that makes you feel loved (will make you feel more loved)?
15. Show loyalty and commitment to your wife
It’s very important to show loyalty and commitment to your wife. If your wife is uncertain that you are there for the long-run, it will affect her and your relationship negatively.
Dream together. Make long-term plans together. Reassure her that you are with her through think and thin, that you are together “no matter what”.
Never threaten the relationship in an argument. Never threaten with divorce or leaving. Let those possibilities be off the table.
Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled said:
“Couples can not resolve in any healthy way the universal issues of marriage: dependency and independence, dominance and submission, freedom and fidelity, for example, without the security of knowing that the act of struggling over these issues will not destroy the relationship.”
Markman and the others said:
“The kind and depth of your commitment have a lot to do with not only your chances of staying together but also your chances of being happy over man years together.”
Loyalty and committment is important. Make sure to show it.
And mean it.
16. Don’t play the “what if” game
The “what if” game is where you look at another woman and wonder “what if I had married her instead?” “What if I wasn’t married to my wife?”
That is a very dangerous road to take. That can lead to a lot of damage in your marriage or even divorce.
Don’t play it.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and that’s usually over the septic line.
Focus on tending your own yard, not looking at others.
17. Assume the best and give the benefit of the doubt
Too often we can be mind readers – we “know” what our wife is saying, or we “know” her intentions of saying it.
Truth is, we don’t. Mind reading is a dangerous game when we assume the negative. It’s a great way to have conversations and marriage start spiraling downward.
Instead, assume the best. Assume the positive. Assume good intentions.
You could ask “Why would a normal, rational, loving woman like my wife be saying this?”
Sometimes even you come across in a way you don’t mean to. You may be offering advice, and it may come across as being judgemental.
Has your wife ever misinterpreted you?
Also note, even when your wife may be nagging you about an issue or complaining, even though it may come across as negative, often it’s because she cares and wants to make the relationship better.
18. Focus on the positive, not the negative
It can be easy to focus on what we don’t like about our relationship, what we find annoying about our wife, and the negative interactions we had.
Unfortunately, if that is our focus, that is generally what we are going to keep getting.
If you focus on what makes you mad, guess what? You are likely to stay mad.
Instead, focus on the good parts of your marriage. Focus on what makes you happy.
Think about even the little things that your wife does that make you appreciate or that make you happy.
When you are away from your wife, think about what you like about your wife, think fondly of her. Don’t focus on the negatives.
If you do this, you will likely start seeing a difference in yourself and your attitude and possibly even in your wife.
19. Look for the issue behind the issue
Sometimes when your wife comes across negatively, she’s not really trying to be negative.
Women are more likely to bring up issues because they love you and they want the relationship to be good. They want to make sure everything is okay.
When you ignore or stonewall what she is saying, it makes her try harder. You may think the issue is no big deal and want to drop it, but by you dropping it, to her, it may seem that the issue is even bigger or that you don’t care about the relationship.
And so she pushes.
Look at what your wife is saying. Think about why she’s saying it. Is there a message behind it?
If she complains about you working so much, is she really saying she wants to spend more time with you?
Or maybe if she keeps getting onto you for cleanliness, could it possibly be that she is interpreting your uncleanliness as you not caring about the relationship?
Those are just some examples that may or may not apply to you, but do take the time and think about what your wife is saying, that her message may not be exactly the words she is saying, and that often, when she is “nagging”, it’s really because she cares.
20. Remember her birthday and anniversary
They are important to her.
Make sure to remember them.
If you have to, put it on your Google calendar or whichever you use.
And don’t just “remember” it, do something special for it. To your wife, it’s often the effort behind what you do or give more than the cost of what you give her.
Do something special and make her feel special.
21. Remember the power of little, thoughtful acts
Do things that aren’t expected. Do things to help out beyond what you normally do.
Give little gifts and show appreciation in ways she doesn’t expect.
Little thoughtful acts throughout the year can go a long way toward the happiness in your marriage.
22. Ask your wife how you can be more supportive and helpful
This is a great way to show care for the relationship and your wife.
However, if you ask this, be ready for the answer she might give, and be ready to do the helpful and supportive acts that she requests (or some of them at least).
For some of you, asking this might blow her mind and could do wonders for your relationship.
23. Make sure your wife knows you are always there for her
It’s important that your wife knows that you are there to support her whenever she needs it, whether she just needs you to be there, to listen, to touch, an encouragement, or to help out somehow.
If your wife is going through a hard time, be there to support her.
In fact, as important as the act of support itself is, Markman and the others said reseachers have found that “believing support is available to you is even more important than the support you actually use.”
Make sure your wife knows that you are always there.
24. Have a high expectation for your marriage
Have you ever heard the phrase “you get what you expect”?
Well, it can apply to your marriage as well. If you have a low expectation for your marriage, that is likely what you will get.
If you have a high expectation for your marriage and move toward it, you are much more likely to achieve it.
In fact, Gottman mentioned how Donald Baucom of the University of North Carolina has found that people with the highest quality marriages are the ones with the greatest expectations for their marriage.
Gottman also says that “this suggests that by holding your relationship to high standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of marriage you want than you are by looking the other way and letting things slide.”
25. Show love to your wife without condition
This last one can be tough, but it’s worth it.
Even if your wife isn’t trying, isn’t respecting you like you would like, and isn’t the person that you want her to be, love her anyway.
Be the best you can be for your relationship, even if she’s not.
Don’t keep score, don’t compare what each other does for the relationship. Love her unconditionally.
Eggerichs in Love & Respect talks about the crazy cycle that we too often can get on.
She doesn’t show you respect, so you respond unlovingly, so she responds disrespectfully, and downward it goes.
Put a stop to it. Love her anyways.
Do this, and over time, the chances are great that you will see positive change in your marriage.
If you keep the crazy cycle going, you are heading to a hurtful relationship or worse.
I hope this list helps you become a better husband and improve your marriage.
Remember that it takes time and hard work. Don’t expect instant results. Don’t expect to do it perfectly.
But over time, if you keep trying to put these principles in practice, the chances of you seeing a difference in your marriage is great.
Now to you: Do you have any other helpful tips on how to be a better husband?