Just be her friend.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Happy wife, happy life.” The problem is it’s hard (and it can feel impossible) to know what makes her happy because, let’s face it, we women are way different from you guys.
What I want you to know is that your heart is obviously in the right place. (If it wasn’t you wouldn’t be reading this.) You just need to stop assuming that your wife thinks like you do. (And us ladies need to stop assuming you think like we do too.)
And yet it’s natural to think that your spouse thinks like you do. After all it sure seemed like you did when you first fell in love, right?
Well, here’s the thing, after all of the love potion wears off and you start living your real lives as husband and wife you stop being hyper-focused on each other. And when you stop being hyper-focused you stop thinking alike because other things, people, events and experiences now claim some (or maybe most) of your attention.
Hopefully, you’re getting the idea that it’s going to take a little work on your part to get things turned around in your marriage to the point where she’s happy and you’ve got your happy life with her. But don’t worry, the work isn’t onerous because all you have to do is be her friend.
Now before you start claiming that you already are her friend, remember that you’re assuming she thinks like you do. She doesn’t. Friendship to her means understanding and supporting her in a way that makes sense to her – not you.
So here are 7 ways you can improve your friendship with your wife:
- Respect her. Respect her thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, priorities, values, work, hobbies, wants, needs, and time as much as you want her to respect yours. Believe it or not, most men quickly discount their wives’ thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, priorities, values, work, hobbies, wants, needs, and time when these things in any way conflict with what they want.
For most men, it’s not on purpose because it’s how they would treat another man. They expect another man to tell them no. But, remember, your wife doesn’t think like you do so she feels disrespected when you continually push your agenda ahead of hers.
- Pitch in without being asked. Have you ever noticed how busy your wife continually is? (OK, not all wives are like this, but most are.) She’s always got something she’s working on and it’s rare to see her sit down and relax. She assumes that you notice how hard she’s working to take care of the kids, the pets, the house and the meals. And you probably do.
The problem is that she needs help taking care of the kids, the pets, the house and the meals. Taking care of your house and family requires both of you because they’re both of yours. So pitch in without being asked. Notice what needs doing and just do it. Oh, and don’t expect her to praise you for doing it any more than you praise her for getting things done to maintain your family and household.
- Spend quality time together. Now her idea of quality time might be different than yours, so be sure and do things that she really enjoys doing and not just things that she does with you to please you. (The secret you need to know is that she probably enjoys talking with you and connecting with you on an emotional level.)
- Honor her need for emotional security. I’ve read that women value emotional security more than financial security. I don’t know if that’s or not, but I do know that women need to feel safe to express themselves. Most of us women emotional beings and need to know that our husbands respect this about us.
(We also need our husbands to know that we are sensitive to their emotions too.)
If we don’t feel safe emotionally, we start to shut down and look to others to satisfy our need for emotional intimacy. Now I’m not saying that we’ll look for another man (although some women do), but we will start spending more time with people who do fill this need for us – like our friends and family.
- Know that she can’t just turn off her thoughts and feelings. I know this seems weird to those of you guys who can put things out of your minds pretty easily, but most women can’t do that. We tend to have a bazillion thoughts and emotions streaking through our minds all the time.
I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about the couple who are in the throes of passion and all of a sudden she says, “Blue.” He’s trying to maintain his focus, but he doesn’t want to ignore her so somewhat distractedly he asks, “What?” She responds, “I think I’ll paint the bedroom blue.” Well, that ruins the mood for him, but she’s still ready to go because she finally solved a dilemma that she’d been struggling with for quite some time! And that, gentlemen, is how a woman’s mind works.
So give her time if she’s caught up in a thought or emotion and isn’t able to just put it aside. Patiently talk with her about it to help her process it (DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE IT FOR HER) and as soon as she does, she’ll be back to herself again.
- Know her love language and use it to your advantage. Hopefully you’ve heard of Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages before. If not, you need to order a copy right away. Chapman’s premise is that we all naturally experience and express love in at least one of five different ways. It’s important that you express your love for your wife in the way that makes most sense to her instead of the way that makes the most sense to you.
For example, let’s say your love language is physical touch and you love it when she spontaneously gives you a hug and kiss in public. And let’s say her love language is gifts. If you assume she’ll feel loved by you spontaneously giving her hugs and kisses in public, you’ll be very, very wrong. She won’t feel that you’re showing her love, she’ll feel that you’re just getting your needs for love met and ignoring hers.
- Build her up. This is one place where you both need the same thing. The problem is that culturally men do this less frequently than women do. So take the time to let her know how much you appreciate her (and more than just sexually).
The more you encourage and appreciate her, the more energy and ability she’ll have to encourage and appreciate you. It’s one of those things where if you lead by example she’ll easily be able to follow your example.
I wish that I could give you an iron-clad guarantee that by consistently doing these 7 things that your wife will be happy and your life together will be amazing, but I can’t. All women are different, but almost all of us respond to having our husband put forth the effort to be our best friend. And given that the reward is a happy life with her, I’m guessing you’ll be happy being her best friend.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach who believes that choosing divorce is a last resort. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
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This article originally appeared at Marriage.com.