by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD” (NIV).

I don't know a single marriage that could not use some improvement. And husbands, you may feel this is an unfair observation, but in most cases I find it is the man who could be doing more to lighten the load his lady finds herself under. From my counseling experience it seems men could benefit greatly by applying some practical tips to their marriage relationships. Let's look at some practical steps that can be taken to help all husbands not only strengthen their marriage but the intimacy in their marriage as well.

I'm going to come at this topic a bit differently than I normally do. Most things I write about I do so from the preacher/pastor/theologian perspective. With this article I'm going to approach it from my Behavioral Science and counseling background, education and experience. So, things such as reading the Bible together, praying together, and going to church as a family are going to be assumed considering this is the Evangelical Channel of Patheos. Items in this list are going to be more directly practical and applicable to specific life situations.

One: Make Time For Your Friends, But Not Too Much Time
Why? Often times it's not that you’re seeing too little of each other, it can also be that you're seeing too much of each other. Does that sound a bit off? Well, newlyweds in particular seem to sacrifice time with friends which can end up being quite costly. The ripple effects of this find their way into many crevices of a relationship. One semi-recent study found that people who named their spouses as their closest confidants has increased by about 20 percent over the past twenty years. This sounds good but the same study showed the total number of confidants a person has has dropped by 50 percent. That means we’re now more dependent on our spouses than we ever have been.

You might be thinking to yourself, “So why is that a bad thing?” Well, variety and friendships are key components for our long-term health. As an example, research has shown that men who hang out together in groups actually handle stress better, and their systems appear to do a better job of defending from illnesses during the cold and flu seasons. A side note to this, researchers at Cornell and the University of Chicago have found that men whose close friends and confidants were the same as their wives were 97 percent more likely to develop some kind erectile dysfunction.

The point: Keep your friends, make time for them. Not only is it helpful to you, it's helpful for your marriage as well.

Two: Help With the Dishes
Why? You can imagine your wife as a French maid, costume and all, but you better not treat her like one. A study out of George Mason University found that husbands help out around the house even less than live-in boyfriends (and no that is not an endorsement for living together instead of marriage). In fact, according to a University of Michigan study, husbands create an extra seven hours a week of housework for his wife. And on the other side of the coin, a wife saves a man from about an hour of housework a week. “That’s one reason why a man’s willingness to do housework is a major predictor of marital bliss, according to a Pew survey of 1,128 women.”* Keep your wife happy by helping out with all of the daily chores. If you see her grab the dishrag after dinner, ask if you can help. Better yet, just go ahead and help.

The point: Help around the house. Don't sit on the couch with the remote control while your wife busies herself with all the household chores.

Three: Make Sure She Gets Her Sleep
Why? Typically, women are grumpier than men in the morning, according to the Sleep Council.** You, on the other hand, might be in a better mood because you’re more rested. Almost twice as many men than women reported getting a good, restful night’s sleep on a regular basis. If your wife has trouble falling asleep tonight, tomorrow (at least in the morning) could be a nightmare for both of you. One study showed that the longer it takes for your wife to fall asleep at night, the more negative your interactions will be the next day. On the other hand, how well a man slept did not have an affect on his relationship. Encourage your wife to escape to the bedroom early every so often while you finish up chores or get the kids to bed. It will be well worth it in the morning.

The point: Help your wife get the sleep and rest she needs. It will make for happier days.

Four: Stop The Mental “What If” Game
Why? If you're mind is constantly playing the “what if” game, if you repeatedly think about if you'd be so much happier with a wife who "didn't act that way" or who “really” understood you, stop thinking that way. The grass is NOT always greener. "Constantly visualizing ideal spouses makes you less happy because it creates more potential for unproductive desire or regret," says marriage therapist Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., author of The Marriage Makeover. While some communication about the issues that bother you is absolutely important, Coleman recommends regularly communicating what you think is great about her, instead of constantly trying to smooth out the edges that irritate you. Stay positive. Tell her, for example, that she did a great job painting and decorating the bathroom instead of simply saying, "Oh, that's nice." This way she'll know that it's her you're impressed with, not happenstance.

The point: Be thankful for who you have. Stay positive and appreciate the good.

Five: Help With Meals
Why? Just like her husband, a career-oriented woman finds satisfaction and pleasure in contributing financially to the relationship. Unlike her mate though, in many if not most cases, the pressure is still on for her after work. Pressure to get home and start cooking, which leaves her less time to prove herself at work. A study from Cornell University found that women’s careers suffer when their husbands put in overtime. In fact, wives are 42 percent more likely to quit their jobs when their husbands spend 60 or more hours a week at work. How about you husbands? Do you have to worry about your career suffering if your wife works longer hours? That's a “no” in almost all cases. As expected, the study also revealed that a wife who works longer hours doesn’t affect a man's likelihood of quitting their job.

The point: Helping with the meals keeps you both balanced and feeling worthwhile at home and at work.

Six: Show Her More Attention
Why? Don't waste the money on chocolate covered strawberries or scented candles. If you want to be more romantic just say these five magical words and watch her melt: “Tell me about your day.” Talking to your wife, actual conversation where you pay attention—about work, family, the news, whatever—is an even better aphrodisiac than oysters or roses. A study out of the University of Virginia found that wives care most about how affectionate and understanding their husbands are. Spending quality time together and discussing things she likes creates a bond your wife automatically links to romance.

The point: Make your wife feel like she matters. Let her know you hear her and want to know about the things going on in her life. Let her know that what she cares about you care about.

Seven: Escape Electronics
Why? If you spend more time staring into your iPhone than you do your wife's eyes, it could be causing a build up of problems in your relationship. The Journal of Marriage and Family published a study where researchers reviewed the cell phone usage of more than 1,300 couples for two years and the result was that relationship and family happiness both decrease the more cell phone usage increases. And it's not just cell phones is it husbands? How about turning off your video games as well? Turn off the electronics and turn on your ears.

The point: Technology is pulling us away from intimacy and real life relationships. Turn off the toys and turn on the conversation.

Eight: Show Support In Little Ways
Why? People who are in bad marriages are more than twice as likely to report stress at work than those who are happily married. As most are well aware of by now, stress has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many other health problems. Unhappy spouses also showed higher blood pressure readings. The good news is, a supportive spouse decreases stress. Think of some little ways you can show support to your spouse. Put an old fashion, hand written note in her lunch. You could make a quick phone call or send a brief text during the workday to see how things are going and show support. Even if she’s stressed out, the fact you showed interest, thought about her, and showed support will help her get back on her feet again.

The point: A little support can go a long way.

Nine: Give Her Compliments In Private
Why? The more a compliment is specifically tailored for a specific person, the more intimate and effective it is. "Use sensory words, like...'I love the way you smell,' 'I love the sound of your voice,'" says Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., licensed psychotherapist and published author. "The more detailed your praise, the more personal it is to her—it shows her that you derive pleasure from her...”

The point: Who does not like to be complimented? Pay her compliments and mean what you say.

Ten: Give Her Compliments In Public
Why? "If a woman's body image is low, she'll feel less passionate...," says Patricia Love, Ed.D., and the coauthor of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. But here's the key: Compliment her in public. "It'll emphasize your commitment, making her feel more secure and ultimately improving her body image,” Love says.

The point: Don't be graphic. That's not what is meant here. But when a man is willing to compliment his wife in public it does something for her self-esteem and confidence.

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