Last week I suggested that the key to a successful marriage (for women) is to put our husbands first. This is predicated on the idea that we put our marriages first. If not, then it’s much harder, if not impossible, to implement.

If yes, it’s still difficult but possible…

But how? And what about all the other people and things tugging at us?

It begins, like everything, with a conscious decision. If we are committed to putting our husbands first, some of the answers to the above question will become obvious. Should I join that committee? Only if I can do both…Should I take that extra work project? Only if I can do both…This should be the guiding principle, applied of course with common sense.

Putting our husbands first does not mean that we don’t have other commitments and responsibilities. That would be absurd. It’s an attitude, an attitude that will affect our actions. It means that he should be first in our emotional life, how we think about allocating our time, how we expend our energy and ultimately how we behave. Let’s take a moment and stop and think if we are in sync.

It applies to every area of our lives, from morning until evening. When he or the two of you leave in the morning, don’t let the last comment be an expression of resentment (“You forgot to take out the garbage again!” “I’m working too; couldn’t you help a little”) or even a list of chores (“Please pick up milk and the dry cleaning on the way home”). Even if you need to remind him, do it later. Let your words of goodbye be positive, uplifting, loving…

I always think about 9/11. Maybe it’s macabre but it’s a useful tool. If these were, God forbid, the last words I had to say to him, would I want them to be about the dry cleaners?

Just as an aside, this is a useful parenting tool as well. When we drop our kids off at school or the school bus or send them out the door as they walk down the block, let’s add some words of love to block out the memory of the fight over homework, lunches, what they’re wearing. We used to say, “Have a good day. Remember God loves you. Learn Torah, do acts of kindness and be happy.” I don’t know what impact it had but it was a regular mantra so even if the last 15 minutes had been fighting in the car, this (hopefully) softened the impact.

But back to our husbands. During the day, we should think of things we could do to give them pleasure. I know someone’s going to accuse me to trying to create Stepford wives or some other robotic women who has no will of her own. So let me clarify. I’m not suggesting that every moment be devoted to thinking of your husband. You have a court case to litigate, patients to see or a soccer game to provide all the refreshments for. But when your mind wanders, maybe think about what would bring joy to his day – what you are making (or picking up!) for dinner – is he something he would particularly appreciate? Plans you are making for the weekend – is it an activity he enjoys? You get the picture.

And when he/the two of you walk in at the end of the day, don’t rush to your room to change into your sweats. Not because you shouldn’t be comfortable, not because I’m trying to create some June Cleaver clone, but because it makes a statement about your priorities. Do you want to look good for him or for others? If you are home first and on the phone, end your call (unless it’s the school principal!). Look up from your children’s homework to say hello. Put your work papers aside. Greet him with a smile …then you can launch into a dialog of your work challenges or hand him the baby!

At the end of the day, your husband should also feel like he comes first. Before that novel you are dying to finish, before that late night TV show you like to watch…

We all have lots of demands on our lives, some externally generated and some internally. We may have young children who need us (or older children who may need us more!) We may have aging parents who are calling us, demanding jobs…I don’t have to tell you. Whatever we can outsource (the chores as opposed to the love) we should. Whatever we can delegate (the chores as opposed to the love) we should. Whatever we can ignore (the chores as opposed to the love) we should.

If our spouses see that we are making the effort, they will feel that they come first. It doesn’t mean that we spend our time staring into each other’s eyes. We’re busy. It means that they KNOW they are a priority. Our words express it and our actions confirm it.

It means that we set aside time – preferably daily – that is just ours. Time that isn’t about bills or struggles with the children (that’s really hard!). Not a lot of time necessarily but undistracted time. The funny thing about putting our husbands first is that it may initially seem like a burden, but if we’re able to do this, we will be the ultimate beneficiaries. We will feel calmer, happier, more centered and better able to cope with all those other pressures.

The real secret here is that it’s not really about him or even you; it’s about the two of you and your marriage. You are not giving to him; you are giving to your marriage. Since we are taught that we spend both this world and the next with our spouse, you are investing in eternity.

Next week: The other side of the equation: What women really want from their husbands.