What makes makes men truly content in their marriages? Below, marriage therapists share seven things husbands say they need from their wives.
1. Men want their wives to say “I love you.”
After years of being married, don’t assume that your husband knows how much you love him. Express your love for him — in words and actions — and do so daily, advised Charles Schmitz, who authored the book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage with his wife Elizabeth.
“The old adage that ‘I don’t need to tell him because he already knows‘ is absolutely false,” Schmitz said. “Men want to be told they are loved. Make it a habit of telling your husband that you love him and why you love him multiple times a day.”
2. Men want their space, especially after an argument.
Don’t take umbrage or feel bad because he’d rather stay home and watch the game than go Christmas shopping with you. We all need a break from coupledom sometimes. And if your spouse needs some time apart after an argument or disagreement, your best bet is to give him that, said Anne Crowley, a psychologist based in Austin, Texas.
“When a couple gets into an argument, it’s not uncommon for the wife to continue to pursue the husband, especially as he withdraws,” she said. “This dynamic is detrimental to both people: The wife is seeking resolution and pursues and the husband is feeling attacked and moves away, reinforcing the cycle.”
Let your partner cool down and process things before trying to address the issue, said Crowley, and “try to manage your anxiety about needing immediacy.”
3. Men want their wives to initiate sex.
Men want to feel wanted. That’s the long and short of it. Having to gently ask, “so, how about tonight?” again and again, especially if you’re mostly getting turned down, becomes demoralizing after a while, said Kurt Smith, a Northern California-based marriage and family therapist who specializes in counseling for men.
“Men tell me in counseling that they wish their wives would initiate sex, be more spontaneous about sex, do things to spice it up and make it more exciting and different,” he said. “They want to be teased with the anticipation of having sex Saturday night.”
4. Men want to be heard.
Just because your spouse is slow to respond in the middle of an argument or conversation doesn’t mean he’s less invested in the marriage than you are. Some people just need a little more time to process an issue, said Crowley.
“Frustrated women can have a lot to say and most times men are quiet and let their wives speak,” the psychologist said. “Women tend to be faster processors than men so it’s not uncommon in therapy (and at home) for a wife to ask her husband a question, have him pause to consider an answer, while she continues talking over him.”
If you’re the more reserved spouse, this dynamic can be hugely frustrating. What’s more, Crowley said it often results in the silent treatment.
“The belief often expressed from guys is, ‘She doesn’t really care what I have to say,'” she explained. “If you really want to know what your husband thinks or feels about a topic, give him time to respond. He wants to contribute and be heard; slow down, take a breath and let him participate in the conversation.”
5. Men want to be praised, appreciated and validated.
You know how awesome you feel when your husband sends you a celebratory, emoji-heavy text after a win at work — or sends you flowers for no particular reason? He needs encouragement and cheerleading like that, too. Toss compliments out freely and recognize the little (and big!) things your husband does to make your life run a little smoother, Smith said.
“I hear this from men a lot: ‘She doesn’t appreciate what I do.’ Feeling unappreciated can cause them to feel taken for granted,” he said. “Being valued is important to everybody, but as a marriage matures, it’s easy to stop showing our partner we appreciate them, especially when kids come along and they become our focus. Look for things to praise or thank each other for, even simple chores like taking out the garbage or washing the dishes.”
6. Men want to be touched.
Physical intimacy is how many men emotionally connect with their wives, said Crowley, and some say they miss the days when their partner reached out to touch them.
“The couple stops touching: kisses become pecks and hugs end in a flash,” she said. “The counter-argument to husbands wanting sex to feel emotionally connected is that wives want to be emotionally connected before having sex. But if it’s not detrimental to the relationship, I try to get the couple to bridge this gap: When they do reengage in sexual intimacy, the wife typically reports, ‘he is so much nicer.’ What’s good for one spouse is usually good for the other.”
If you’ve put casual touching on the back-burner for so long it feels awkward to do it again, take baby steps to get back on track, Crowley said.
“I instruct couples to give hugs or kiss (some form of physical contact — it depends on their comfort level) four times a day: when waking, when leaving for work, when returning to the home and when going to bed.”
7. Men want to be respected.
If you’ve got a good man in your life, recognize it and treat him accordingly, said marriage expert Elizabeth Schmitz. (And obviously, he should return the favor.)
“Men will tell us, ‘I want my wife to respect me. I want her to respect me for who I am, how I act and behave, and for how I treat her,'” Schmitz said. “More than anything, men want the love of their lives to respect and appreciate them for who they are as human beings. Women who focus on their husband’s strengths and tell them what they do well are bound to have happier marriages.”
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