Relationships Q&A: Inside a Husband's Head
Open Eyes, Open Minds
Q: How can wives become more attuned to reading their husbands' body language and actions correctly?
Just remember that for most men, actions trump words. Instead of waiting for him to say "I love you," or "You look fantastic," look for signs that he feels this way. Acknowledge the little ways that he shows his love; tell him you like it when he does certain things that demonstrate his caring.
Also remember that initiating sex is one of the ways that men show that they love their wives. It shouldn't be the only way, of course, but women should be careful not to interpret all sexual initiation by their husbands as selfish. Initiating sex makes a man vulnerable; he really hopes his wife will enjoy it. In these ways, making the first move can be a very generous act.
Q: Given that men communicate feelings differently from women, what is the most effective way for a woman to express her emotions to a man?
Most men like it when women express their love openly, in words and physical affection. Just don't expect him to do it exactly the same way. So women should express themselves in whatever way they're inspired to -- through words, hugs, delicious dinners, whatever.
Q: You identify four major stages of marriage: the honeymoon phase, the family phase, the empty-nest phase, and the mature marriage phase. What are some of the most crucial differences between how men act out in each of these phases, and how would you advise their wives to handle it?
First of all, it's important to note that most husbands are happy -- in all phases of marriage. In my survey for VoiceMale, at every stage of marriage, more than half of men reported being very happy with their wives.
When men are unhappy, they act out in similar ways in all stages of marriage: they withdraw (emotionally and physically) from their wives and, sometimes, find someone else to connect with. The best way to handle these "separations" is to invite the man to make it clear -- in whatever way he wants -- what the problem is.
If it gets to the point where you can no longer accept his distance, then invite him to join you at a therapist's office.
Q: What's your number one piece of advice on how wives can keep their husbands committed to and happy with their marriage?
I don't see it as a woman's job to keep her husband committed and happy, but I do know that what men want most is a friend: someone they can count on, someone they can trust, someone who, in the words of one man I interviewed, "has my back." They also want someone they can do things with, a companion. Look for ways to enjoy each other's company. Build your relationship on what's most positive about it.
Originally published in LHJ.com, April 2006.