Willis and I have been married for 15 years. Better and worse, sickness and health, richer and poorer – we’ve lived through it all. I don’t think that either one of us are particularly easy to live with, but we’ve smoothed out the bumps over the years and settled into a comfy equilibrium. He could probably write a dissertation on how to stay married from a man’s perspective, but as a wife, here’s what I’ve learned over the past decade and a half about keeping a husband.
- Good food and good sex. It’s a cliché, but if their stomachs and libidos are happy, you’re off to an excellent start.
- Men need to be needed. This took me a long time to learn. I was raised to believe that I can do for myself. I don’t need anyone to take care of me. And I don’t. But once I learned to let him be my knight in shining armor, life improved for both of us.
- Physical contact. I read a study once (and I kick myself for not keeping track of the citation) that found a strong correlation between healthy, long-lasting marriages and the number of non-sexual touches in a day. Little things like putting your hand on his knee when he’s driving or when he walks behind you through a doorway and touches the small of your back. In this study, sex didn’t count because technically, you can have sex with someone you don’t even like. But physical affection was shown to strengthen the bond between partners.
- Treat him as you want to be treated. All of the things that women want, men want too. Hold your tongue if you have something unkind to say. Be courteous. Listen when he speaks. Treat him as your equal.
- Have high expectations of each other. Anyone who wants to be treated as an equal needs to step up and be an equal. Therefore, nobody gets a free pass based on their gender. This includes everything from not dating outside the marriage to pitching in with the dishes. Being a man is an excuse for nothing. Men and women are equally capable of good behavior.
- Be free and easy with the compliments. Another thing that my husband does better than I do. But men need to hear that they look good just as much as women. Tell him you love him often and tell him why often. My rule of thumb is every time I think something nice about him, I make a point of saying it out loud.
- Trust, honesty and respect. There is no relationship without these things. Like I tell my 5-year-old, if you have to be sneaky, it means that you’re doing the wrong thing.
- Work it out. Your marriage can’t last forever unless you truly believe that it will. Willis and I agreed early on to not even think about divorce, let along suggest it unless something truly cataclysmic happens, like infidelity, violence, substance abuse, criminal activity, etc. (I’m happy to say that we struggle with none of these things). Aside from these deal breakers, hang on tight and get through the hard times.
- Make him your priority. My marriage is the foundation for my life and for my children’s lives. So even though it would be very easy to lose each other in the shuffle of our lives, it benefits everyone to put our relationship first.
- Have fun! Laughter is important. If you enjoy each others company, you’re more motivated to keep the spark alive.
What else? What other tips do you have for keeping your relationships healthy?