It's not complicated. What men really want from their wives is appreciation, respect and love.
"He wants to be her hero. When she is disappointed and unhappy over anything, he feels like a failure," says relationship expert John Gray. "Many women today don't realize how vulnerable men are and how much they need love too."
This concept is echoed in Jewish tradition. Rabbi Yisroel Miller writes in his book, In Search of the Jewish Woman, about "three immensely practical secrets, secrets known to all men and almost no women. Here they are:
- Compliments a wife gives her husband hit home deeply.
- A wife's opinion of her husband is vitally important to him.
- A husband desires desperately that his wife should be happy."
Appreciation, respect and love. Does your husband get nagging, criticism and resentment instead?
Do you welcome your husband at the end of the day, or greet him with a barrage of complaints? "You forgot to take out the garbage." "Take your children -- I can't stand it another minute."
Does he respond with "You didn't take my suit to the cleaners"? "Dinner isn't ready"?
It's not about who has what job; it's about attitude. "If you treat him like a king, he will treat you like a queen." (Menorat HaMaor)
How about this instead? "Thanks for bathing the kids tonight." Or: "Picking up dinner was a big help." Don't take for granted that these are his jobs and he should just do them. And (this is the really difficult one!) try to focus on the tasks he did accomplish and not on the long list of the jobs left undone!
How many stories have I heard of stay-at-home moms whose husbands' hard work has permitted them to make that choice, but who frequently greet him with bitterness rather than gratitude? Are all the frustrations in our lives our husbands' faults?
Your husband is not an irritation, another demand on your already overbooked time. Appreciation means giving him the focus of your undivided attention at some point, every day, even if it's only for 20 minutes.
Let your husband know you're proud of him. "You handled that client very skillfully," "You were so patient with Joey tonight" (when I was at my wits' end and ready to throw him in bed around 4:15!), "You dealt with that crisis at school so diplomatically" (sparing me from screaming at the principal, the administrator and a few choice teachers!).
So many men slog it out, day after day and it's never good enough. Their pain is palpable. They want that love and respect so badly that they keep trying despite the lack of positive reinforcement. They're acting like servants, but certainly not being treated like kings…
Yes, of course, there are situations where it's reversed. I know women who try with lack of response. I know women who are the victims of repeated criticisms and abuse. Don't get me wrong: I'm not diminishing that. But that is not the issue here. The issue here is what our responsibility is as married women and are we fulfilling it? As they say in every wise marriage class, marriage is not about give and take, it's not 50/50, it's not about equal division of labor (it's not Ford auto plant!); marriage is about each side giving and giving and giving 100%.
Respect is the foundation of love. You can start small … by getting off the phone when he walks in the door, by not putting him down in public.
There's a simple rule on how to treat your spouse with dignity: just treat him the way you would like to be treated. (And it certainly includes treating your spouse with the same respect you show your boss, your hairdresser and the cashier at the local grocery store.)
Say those three simple words, often. And without prompting. Men need to hear them too.
Express it in actions too, just as we expect our husbands to do. We're so used to focusing on our own needs for love, it's easy to forget our reciprocal responsibility.
"If I do what you suggest," moaned my friend, "I'll become a Stepford wife."
"I'm not suggesting robotic behavior," I countered. "On the contrary. To behave appropriately and lovingly requires a lot more thought and effort than to nag and kvetch. Screaming at our husbands is the default position. Only intelligence and thought lead to a more reasoned and productive approach."
Marriage is about men and women working together. You both need each other. The saying "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" made for cute T-shirts, but lousy marriages. Appreciating your spouse, giving him respect and showering him with love is the basis of a strong marriage.