“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” — Albert Einstein
In a serious relationship, if anyone is going to move across country, or even to another country for their partner, it will likely be the woman–and she will end up doing the packing too. If there is accommodating to do for their partners, women win the gold and men generally come in last.
I don’t want to say that all men drag their feet when it comes to changing or accommodating their wives. But frequently, I do see that many women struggle with myopic men, men who think, But why should I change that for her?? The short answer is because you just might lose her if you don’t. I speak from experience (I suffered a divorce) and though I am a marriage and family therapist, I have certainly not been close to perfect in accommodating my second wife (and last) over the 20-plus years we have been together.
So, have I changed anything for my wife? I thought she’d be the best person to answer this. This morning, I asked her, Have there been any ways I have changed over the years that make you happier with me? (First, I overloaded her with compliments hoping she’d be particularly kind in her responses.)
What I heard from her was, I believe, a list of universal needs that women wish to have from the men in their lives. In other words, these four things are the ways men could change for their wives and never regret it.
1. Pay More Attention To What She is Doing.
When I speak to men they often tell me that what they want most is peace and harmony at home. But how does that happen? Here’s how…A happy wife makes a happy life. My wife is so much happier when I am aware of her. She sometimes tells the story of when we were first married and we would go out to dinner. When we were done, I would simply get up and walk out leaving her sitting there. I have become much more aware over the years of something as simple as, Is she ready to leave? Does she want to leave now or later? And she has given me credit for my efforts. I now wait and make sure she is with me, not only at dinner, but at parties, when we are out walking with other people, and in general.
2. Listen To What She is Saying.
Women are thoughtful creatures. They don’t often talk about frivolous things. So, when she wants to talk to you, do your best to listen to every word. Most men are not good listeners. We are good at competition, being hard-working, but more often we are distracted. I was no different. Now when my wife is trying to talk to me I will set aside what I am doing and listen. I am also willing to acknowledge or admit if I have done something wrong that she is complaining about—and this makes her very happy.
3. Don’t Let Your Anger/Ego Do The Talking.
In my later years of marriage, I have finally learned how to take a pause and think before I speak. It’s an invaluable method to maintaining daily feelings of connection with my wife. Typically the first thing that comes to mind when any of us are angry is not a good thing to verbalize and those reactive thoughts do go away if we take a few moments—but when I went ahead and said angry words, the hurt feelings sure did last for days. We have to know when and how to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. I have learned to pick my battles and let the small stuff go and believe it or not, it’s mostly small stuff. Anger is useless in the end; resolution and her feelings are what matter most. Don’t lose sight of your values (read: honoring the relationship) when anger hits. We all get mad, but the solution is: it’s all in how we handle it.
4. Tune Into Her Daily Show.
What we do for our women on a daily basis—those little kindnesses that make a big difference—is how we learn to make a happy wife. Express appreciation for the many daily things that she does will make her feel loved and needed; acknowledge to her that you know those things do take time and energy to do. A few things to keep in mind: Make sure that she is comfortable when you are out or away; help her bring in the groceries; put the dishes away; bring her favorite flowers for no special reason other than you love her; do not expect her to pick up after you…this is a small list but you can see where I am going. Ask your wife what are a few things you could do on a daily basis that would make her feel special and then do them (see #2). Responsibility for your stuff and consideration for your mate are the important everyday skills that keep the ship from listing to one side, and let’s face it we all love smooth sailing.