No matter how long you’ve been married, you can always strengthen and improve your relationship. You just need the right tools.
In this post, you won’t find the same old generic marriage tips for husbands that you’ve heard before. Instead, you’ll get cutting-edge marriage advice based on:
- the latest evidence-based scientific studies
- the hard lessons learned from my own marriage
- the insights and wisdom gained from helping other husbands improve their marriage over the past 7 years
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #1:
Trying To Be Perfect
Contrary to popular belief, your wife doesn’t need you to be the smartest, funniest, strongest, richest, sexiest, or most ‘Alpha’ man who ever lived.
Surveys of women over the past few decades consistently show that what women want most is a partner who:
- they can trust
- shows emotional maturity
- shares mutual love and attraction
Yes, it’s important to have goals and ambition and standards. But don’t make the mistake of thinking your wife needs you to be the most perfectly flawless specimen of a man 24 hours a day. Like seriously, give yourself a break:
Be genuine, be real, and be human – which means yes, being imperfect.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #2:
Forgetting How To Be Playful
Something I’ve noticed over the years of working with men is that being fun, silly, and playful is something that tends to come naturally to us. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all just big kids at heart.
But as the pressures and stresses of life build up in a marriage, many men tend to lose that sense of playfulness.
And that’s a freaking tragedy, because fun and play are pure gold for your relationship.
So consider this a gentle nudge to bring more of that playfulness back into your marriage.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #3:
An Immature Approach To Sex
An uncomfortable truth is that many men approach sex with their wives like immature teenagers:
“I have an itch that needs scratching. And if you don’t scratch it for me, I’m going to sulk about it.”
This looks like nagging or pestering your wife for sex. Or throwing a little tantrum if you don’t get your way.
Not the most enticing of foreplay material, right?
If your wife has lower desire than you, it can feel like your sex life is in her hands. Leaving you feeling frustrated and helpless. But how you respond might be making things worse.
Let me be absolutely clear here: there’s nothing wrong with having a high desire for sex. And it’s OK to feel disappointed if you’re not having as much sex as you’d like.
But it’s also important to take personal responsibility for your sexual desires, instead of making sex a duty your wife is expected to fulfil.
Because when sex feels like pressure, it shuts down her natural desire. And being worried about a potential teenage tantrum to deal with makes it even harder for her to find a genuine ‘yes’.
So rather than remaining stuck in the horny teenager approach (which obviously doesn’t work), the solution lies in finding a more mature approach.
Not sure what that looks like?
Check out our Reignite Your Love Life home study course. It’s helped men just like you to revive a sexless marriage in as little as 4 weeks.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #4:
Not Having An Opinion
“I don’t know, what do you want?”
Urgh. There’s few things more infuriating than those seven little words.
Sure, you just want to please her and make her happy. So you’re willing to be flexible and go with whatever she wants. It’s so selfless, right?
Well, not really.
The antidote here is simple: have an opinion. Make a decision. Take a stand for something – anything.
You don’t have to be rigid about it, but by having a perspective, you’re contributing to the conversation instead of leaving it all up to them.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #5:
Not Developing Your EQ
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is one of the biggest predictors of marriage satisfaction and harmony*.
No one’s born with a high EQ, but unlike IQ (which is notoriously difficult to improve) emotional intelligence is something anyone can increase.
Working on your EQ – from developing your self awareness and your ability to process emotions, to handling conflict and communication better – is a guaranteed way to make your marriage better.
Or as women consistently tell us: emotional intelligence in a man is sexy AF.
For this reason, I’ve included a bunch of EQ tips in this article. If you apply even half them you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better husband – and a more all around attractive partner.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #6:
Not Being Present
A lack of presence is a common marital complaint from both husbands and wives:
- Checking your phone in the middle of a conversation
- Answering emails outside of work time
- Not being fully engaged in a conversation
- Not checking in with one another
- Not prioritizing quality time together
- Being generally ‘checked out’ or uninterested in the relationship
Simply put, these behaviours communicate to your partner that they’re not important; that they’re not worth stopping what you’re doing and giving your full attention to.
And if you’re not consistently practicing presence in your relationship, it’s also likely that you’re…
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #7:
Not Prioritizing Emotional Connection
Emotional intimacy in marriage matters.
Studies show that the breakdown of emotional connection is one of the leading causes of divorce.
(Learn more toxic signs there’s no emotional intimacy in your marriage to watch out for.)
Consistently share your inner world with your partner: your hopes, dreams, fears, challenges… Even just your everyday thoughts and feelings.
Don’t make the mistake of avoiding this because “real men don’t have feelings”. Talking openly about your experience helps nurture your connection and strengthens your marriage.
And research shows that simply identifying what you feel (even if you don’t find a solution to it) actually reduces the intensity of your emotions, and helps you move past them.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #8:
Trying To Fix Her
While we’re on the topic of opening up to each other… When your partner comes to you with their challenges, here’s one of the biggest mistakes men make:
Trying to fix her.
But immediately jumping to solutions has the unintended consequence of diminishing her experience. Which can feel dismissive at best, patronising or belittling at worst.
Without intending to, it can come across as, “You shouldn’t be experiencing this. You’re doing it wrong. You should do this instead.”
If she wants solutions, she’ll ask. And if you’re not sure, you can ask: “Would you like my help to brainstorm solutions? Or do you want me to just listen?”
Chances are, talking through her problems with you is giving her the space she needs to work out her own solutions. And creating that space for her is the best role you can play.
Which brings us to…
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #9:
Not Being Curious
There’s an art to listening that, when practiced, will transform your relationship for the better.
Here’s the thing: she’s coming to you because she wants you to understand her. She’s giving you a window into her internal world because she wants to be known by you:
Not to be judged. Not to be fixed. Not even to be agreed with. To be understood.
So how do you do that?
You get curious.
Your mission is to gather information about what it’s like to be her and to have had that experience. Keep the goal of understanding her at the forefront of your mind.
Here are some great questions to get you started:
- How did you feel when that happened?
- What was challenging about that?
- Why is this important to you?
- What would you like to see happen?
This brings us to the next mistake to conquer (and one of the most important EQ tips to master)…
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #10:
Not Validating Her Feelings
Starting to get a handle on asking curious questions and listening to understand? Then here’s a magic bullet that’ll have her feeling super seen and heard:
Acknowledge and validate how she’s feeling.
Now, don’t make the rookie mistake of simply parroting their words back to them. It’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t help your partner feel heard.
Now, you might worry that validating her feelings could encourage her to ‘wallow’ in them. But the opposite is actually true:
Knowing that she can come to you with her challenges can be a source of strength and stability in a messy, complicated world. And more often than not, having our feelings validated helps us ‘complete the cycle’ and move on from difficult emotions.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #11:
Believing ‘Libidos’ Are Real
Let’s take it back to sex for a moment, with one of the biggest lies we’re told about sex and desire:
That it’s driven by your libido (AKA a sex drive).
Spoiler alert: It’s not*.
So if you’re arguing about sex in your marriage, it’s time to stop blaming your libidos.
What really drives desire is a brake and an accelerator.
How sensitive your brake and accelerator are varies from person to person. Context also plays a big role, such as whether you’re stressed, or you’ve just had an argument, or you’re living it up on a tropical beach vacation.
So instead of trying to ‘boost her libido’ (or yours) what’s actually helpful is learning how to work with each other’s brakes and accelerators.
And while we’re on the topic of sex, let’s also talk about not…
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #12:
Skimping On Foreplay
When you’ve been together a while, it’s easy to rush straight to the sex part.
But foreplay matters for women – even if they don’t always ask for it. (Especially if you find yourself with a dead bedroom or sexless marriage).
Women generally need a lot more time to warm up* for sex to be deeply pleasurable. While you might have a quick switch for erection (and orgasm), there’s a lot that needs to happen anatomically (and mentally) for a woman to fully turn on.
Slow down and spend more time savouring pleasure and getting each other super turned on and hot.
In fact, let go of penetrative sex as the ‘goal’ and expand your definition of sex to include any sexy activity that makes you both feel good. It will take your sex life to another level, and help your wife discover even deeper levels of pleasure and satisfaction.
And if you want to make sex more enjoyable for a woman, here’s 7 important tips that even she might not know.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #13:
Not Being Open To Influence
In a long-term study of married couples, relationship therapists and marriage researchers Julie & John Gottman found that, “Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”
Being open to influence looks like:
- Not dismissing your wife when she comes to you with a complaint or a request
- Trying to genuinely understand where she’s coming from
- Asking yourself, “How can I find a way to work together so that we both get our needs, wants, and desires met, in a way that feels good for both of us?”
So instead of either rejecting or giving in, being open to influence is essentially being willing to collaborate. And it’s one of the best, evidence-based ways to be a better husband.
(And for the record, accepting influence is important for both partners. But research shows that it’s an area that men tend to struggle with more than women.)
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #14:
Not Saying ‘No’
Being open to influence and finding ways to collaborate are important.
And, just as important is having healthy boundaries and knowing how to say ‘no’.
Because being a good husband also includes standing up for your values and personal desires, so you can also be true to the man you want to be.
As long as you’re respectful when you do it, your wife will respect that you’re taking a stand for yourself and what you believe in. Even if it’s hard to hear.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #15:
Shutting Down During Conflict
In the midst of conflict with your partner, men are 80% more likely* to get emotionally overwhelmed – a phenomenon known as emotional flooding.
It means your body goes into a stress response, and your ability to have a productive conversation diminishes.
But continuing to engage once you’re flooded doesn’t work either. Just like a flooded engine, the best strategy is to take some time out and let things settle.
So if you feel yourself shutting down, call a Timeout. It allows you to calm your nervous system so you can have a more productive conversation.
“I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Let’s call a Timeout so I can calm down, get some clarity, and check back in 20 minutes.”
Simple as that.
For bonus points, you can also add an, “I love you, and we’ll work this out” for reassurance. This shows that you’re not abandoning her, while also allowing yourself the space to work through your feelings and figure out how you’d like to respond.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #16:
Missing The Yearning Beneath The Complaint
Speaking of conflict, it’s not easy when your wife comes to you with a complaint:
- That you’re spending too much time at work
- Or too much time with your friends
- Or that you’re not doing your share of the housework
It can feel like criticism or a personal attack – that she’s pointing out all the ways that you’re not doing enough, or not doing it right.
Too much time at work? – She wants quality time with you.
Time with friends? – She wants to feel prioritized and chosen.
Not pulling your weight? – She wants to feel like a team who works together fairly.
Focusing on the underlying desire helps move you from a place of defensiveness to a place of collaboration, turning potential conflict into a more productive conversation.
From this perspective, you get to be a part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #17:
Forgetting to Compliment Her
When you first got together, chances are the appreciations and compliments flowed freely.
But is that still the case?
Look, everyone loves external validation. And ‘positive re-enforcement’ works wonders for building safety and trust in a marriage.
So don’t be stingy when it comes to compliments, from all the brilliant things she does to how damn gorgeous she looks when you go out to dinner.
It’ll bring back the sparkle in her eyes, and yours.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #18:
Not Sharing The Housework
It might sound boring, but managing the household fairly is simply a part of being a grown-ass adult.
And despite how far we’ve come with gender equality, women are still spending more time doing housework than their male partners. Even when they’re both working full-time.
It’s not just the chores themselves. It’s also the weight of the emotional and mental load that women carry.
Look, the bottom line is that, man or woman, no one wants to be married to a child who can’t work together to run the house. That isn’t attractive at all.
And if you still need more motivation to get this sorted, studies show that couples who share the responsibility are happier, more satisfied, and have a more fulfilling sex life.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #19:
Not Owning Your Mistakes
It can be really hard to admit where we went wrong. Or when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Or how we could’ve done better.
And it can be especially difficult for us men when we’ve been taught that to be ‘masculine’ means to have all the answers and to always be right.
You also help create a relationship culture where you both get to be human and make mistakes, which really takes the pressure off.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #20:
Making Crap Apologies
Speaking of mistakes… Messing up and unintentionally hurting people happens in even the strongest marriages. But what matters is understanding how to apologise and repair.
Here’s what you need to know:
Great apologies have the power to steer conflict in a much more productive direction, and help you to repair arguments a whole lot faster.
How To Be A Better Husband Mistake #21:
Not Expressing Your Love
It’s obvious that you love her. You wouldn’t be here trying to be a better husband otherwise.
But over the years of being together, it’s far too easy to get complacent in your marriage, and to assume she knows how you feel. The probelm is, we all need to feel actively loved and appreciated, or else we start to doubt it or feel taken for granted.
So if you take only one thing from this whole post, let it be this:
Find little ways to authentically express your love, and do it on the daily. They don’t have to be big, extravagant gestures. Just make sure you express your love so she knows how you truly feel about her.
If sex a problem in your relationship, and you crave more physical intimacy, check out our complete how-to guide to help you reignite your love life.
If you want more ideas about how to improve the emotional connection in your relationship, check out our practical guide on building emotional intimacy.
Having arguments, conflicts, and fights you don’t know how to resolve? The Conflict To Connection communication course for couples is for you.
Ready to create the best marriage possible? Check out these 11 conscious marriage goals for a stronger relationship.
Or if you’ve got a more specific relationship challenge you’re ready to face and overcome, learn more about 1:1 men’s coaching.
While many of these points apply to gay husbands – as there are a lot of similarities between heterosexual and gay relationships – there are also important differences too.
And although I do work with gay men in my men’s coaching practice, we work exclusively with heterosexual couples in our couple’s coaching practice. For these reasons, this article is focused on straight, cis-gendered husbands.
Sources & References
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Bancroft, John, Graham, Cynthia A., Janssen, Erick, Sanders, Stephanie A. (2009). The Dual Control Model: Current Status and Future Directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46 (2 & 3): 121-142. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19308839/
Boxer, C. F., Noonan, M. C., & Whelan, C. B. (2015). Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension. Journal of Family Issues, 36(2), 163–187. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X13490404
Brittle, Z. (2015). Manage Conflict: Accepting Influence. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/manage-conflict-accepting-influence/
Carlson, D.L., Miller, A.J., Sassler, S. and Hanson, S. (2016), The Gendered Division of Housework and Couples’ Sexual Relationships: A Reexamination. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78: 975-995. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12313
Ellingsen, D. M., Leknes, S., Løseth, G., Wessberg, J., & Olausson, H. (2016). The Neurobiology Shaping Affective Touch: Expectation, Motivation, and Meaning in the Multisensory Context. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1986. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01986
Glover, A. (2003). No More Mr Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life. Running Press Adult.
Gottman, J. (1993). A theory of marital dissolution and stability. Journal of Family Psychology, 7, 57–75. doi:10.1037/0893-3126.96.36.199 https://relationshipinstitute.com.au/uploads/resources/A-theory-of-marital-dissolution-and-stability.pdf
Haden, J. (2020, January 29) 3 Words That Will Make You A More Effective Leader. Gusto. https://gusto.com/blog/people-management/pratfall-effect
Hartley, G. (2017, September 27). Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up. Harper’s Bazaar. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12063822/emotional-labor-gender-equality/
Nave, G., Nadler, A., Zava, D. & Camerer, C. (2017) Single dose testosterone administration impairs cognitive reflection in men. Psychological Science, 28 (10). pp. 1398-1407. ISSN 0956-7976. https://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20170428-091020875
Pomerance, M. (n.d.) What Is Emotional Flooding? The Candidly. https://www.thecandidly.com/2019/this-is-why-we-become-emotionally-flooded
Velasco, E. (2017, April 27) Testosterone Makes Men Less Likely to Question Their Impulses, Caltech. https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/testosterone-makes-men-less-likely-question-their-impulses-55864
Zamosky, L. & Westen, L. C. (2009, October 27) Sex: Why Foreplay Matters (Especially for Women). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/sex-why-foreplay-matters-especially-for-women
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