Yay! You’ve been working and praying for this day and it is finally here: you’re married. Congratulations!
Now is a great time to look ahead and figure out what to do – and not do – with the “new normal” of being a wife. Or maybe you’ve been married for years and want to know how to get the spark back or keep it from fading.
I’ve studied those exact topics for years in my research with more than 15,000 men and women for my books For Women Only, For Men Only, and The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. And there are four common habits that are so easy for us as women to fall into – and yet so dangerous. (In case you’re wondering, men have their own list too!)
One important caveat: this list will be applied differently if you’re dealing with extremely serious issues like addictions or affairs. Those require more than just this list. But for the vast majority of marriages, let’s take a look at four things we as married women should never do:
1) Never take on activities—including time with the kids–that consistently keep you away from your husband.
You may be immediately skeptical of this one – just as I was, as a new wife, in a new city. But I’m a busy, independent woman, my thinking went, why shouldn’t I dive full-force into the type of activities that I loved before I got married? After all, church volunteering, community theater, choirs, and service projects kept me busy and fulfilled while I was single and wondering if I’d ever get married. It gave me the vibrancy and energy that attracted Jeff to me in the first place. Why should I have to cut back now that I was married?
No reason but one, I discovered, and it changes everything: your marriage is now your top priority, which essentially means that it has to be your top activity! And like any scheduling conflict, when you add a major priority, others have to be cut back. Or even be set aside altogether for a time.
In my research study of the happiest couples, one of their top secrets was also one of the easiest to overlook or discount: the husband and wife hung out together a lot. Happy spouses need to spend time together and treat each other as best friends. And you are best friends in name only if most of your discretionary time is spent on other priorities (which includes kids, once they come along, by the way). One of the sneakiest ways for a marriage to fail is for one or both spouses to spend so much attention and time on the kids that they hardly know each other anymore.
Don’t let that happen. Make your husband your top human priority.
2) Never keep things from your husband.
Speaking of being best friends, another marital no-no is to purposefully keep anything from your husband. Keeping secrets may have worked when you were dating the high-school football jock and trying to figure out if you liked the class president better, but once you’re married, secrets are death to a happy, lifelong marriage. The “just in case” bank account on the side will kill a union that is supposed to be all in. Telling your girlfriend things you purposefully don’t share with your man will kill a union designed for complete trust and oneness.
You don’t have to make your husband into your best girlfriend and expect him to listen for hours. Most men aren’t wired for that! But if you want a great marriage, live by the “zero secrets” rule in such a way that either of you would be totally fine if you happened to listen in on the others’ conversations, or happened to see the other person’s emails, texts, or bank accounts. This is not, by the way, an excuse for trying to control your husband – or for him to control you. That’s not healthy, either! This simply means living in a way that you have nothing to hide – nor do you want to.
Keeping a secret, in fact, usually is a warning sign that the two of you need to address something for the marriage to be healthy. So if that is you, get help and advice from a licensed Christian counselor who will support your marriage!
In the passion of the newlywed years, it may be easy to think such a day would never come. But many women find that as the years go by, distractions, tiredness, kids, discontent, and simple inertia get in the way.
Yet in my For Women Only study of thousands of men, I was startled to learn that for most men, sex fills an emotional need even more than a physical one. For a guy, it is not “getting enough sex” that matters, but knowing that his wife desires him.
So if you are routinely too tired, don’t initiate physical intimacy, or simply don’t make sex a priority, it sends a very depressing message that will eventually deeply hurt your man – and your marriage.
While seeing that you do desire him gives your man a sense of confidence and security in himself that makes him want to be a better, kinder, more tender, and more loving husband.
So keep up the habit of making sex a priority, and you’ll see the benefits to you!
4) Never make your man feel inadequate.
Finally, you might wonder why a guy would ever need more of a sense of confidence and security in himself. Doesn’t he have that in spades already? Actually… no. Your man may look confident on the outside, but on the inside, he is likely saturated with self-doubt. The type of self-doubt that asks, all day long, Do I measure up? I want to be a great husband… but am I? I want to be a great man for this great woman, but I have no idea what I’m doing. Does she think I am any good as a husband? As a man?
We women might be surprised to learn that these questions are very, very painful for a man. And that pain becomes excruciating when we answer those questions in the negative. No, you don’t measure up. No, you’re not doing well as a husband. Comments like “That’s not where the good dishes go” or “Why were you late for dinner?” may seem minor to us – but to him, it is a painful signal that he failed. And a man who feels like he failed will quickly not want to try.
Thankfully, the reverse is also true. When you applaud what your man does, and try as often as possible to answer his secret self-doubt with positives (“You were so sweet to put all the fancy dishes back last night after the dinner, honey, thank you.”), he will run through walls to please you – including fixing and changing whatever he needs to, to make you happy. (“Hey, thanks again for putting everything away last night. Do you mind if I show you how I’ve been stacking all those dishes, that I think will fit better?”)
Interacting with your man in such a way that he always hears and sees the message “You DO measure up / I appreciate you so much / you’re a great man” will ensure he wants to make you happy for the rest of your life. And that is a win-win for the marriage.