As the saying goes, ladies first, but now it’s our turn to soak up the wisdom from some of the happiest married men I know. I would love to tell you that the day the women had brunch and exchanged marriage advice (read Marriage Advice to the Ladies here) that the guys met and did the same, but instead we ate bacon and talked sports. As a result, I had to do a little over time and reach back out to all the guys. So here you go, my friends, 6 bits of marriage advice for men that will start your marriage off on the right foot and keep you out of the dog house…guaranteed.
1. Do your homework.
Before you actually seal the deal, put the time and effort into building a good foundation for a lasting marriage.
This means several things: develop relationship habits like regular open and focused talk-times, mutually supported resolutions to conflicts (which means that you must make sure you put on the table any disagreements, complaints, concerns and differences), and balances of power in roles, responsibilities and ways that decisions are made.
Seriously, no excuses! Especially because there are some really great marriage-preparation courses out there.
2. Take the lead in running your relationship.
Relationships don’t run themselves. Although your relationship can have some momentum for a while, eventually the good times that fueled your feelings of closeness and connection run dry.
I remember reading a really interesting research study with married couples on this subject—they used the label, “relationship manager.” Well, the study found that many guys were the primary relationship manager during the beginning of dating and continued in this role into their engagement. But the closer the couples got to the big day, the more the women took over the running of the relationship and the less involved were the guys. By the time they were married for a year, most men were no longer the initiators of adventures, dates, or times of communication (most only initiated sex).
Guys, be a leader… not in the arena of power (or just the bedroom), but in taking charge of what will enhance your relationship, what will make her feel loved, and what will promote harmony.
3. Learn to play second fiddle.
Now this might sound contradictory to the last point I just made, but it really is not. Most of the men I reached out to said this in one or more ways: “serve your wife,” “put your partner first,” “honor your partner.”
I like the image of second string. Whenever you hum a song or whistle a tune, I am sure that you follow the melody and not the harmony. In fact, most of us wouldn’t even know what song was being played if all we heard was the second string harmony lines… and that is how it is supposed to be. The one singing harmony or playing second fiddle hits only the notes that enhance and spotlight the lead first string.
This means that you make her feel that she is first in your life, a priority, supported, and that the many things that she does are appreciated (not invisible).
Let me give just one example in order to make this real and try this, I promise you’ll blow her away—compliment your partner with more than three words, “good,” “nice,” and “thanks.” Climb into her world and think about all that she has been doing, and then be descriptive when you talk to her. And tie her actions in with her heart. It sounds like this:
“Hey, babe, once again I am so impressed at how quickly you respond to a friend in need. You heard about her diagnosis and before you hung up the phone you were already planning on what soup you wanted to make for them. You are so thoughtful and compassionate… and I am so often on the receiving end of your love—thank you.”
4. Be a team player.
I like sports—and I suspect that most of you all do too. But think about what makes a championship team—each player excelling in his own role while also complimenting the role of the other.
In the same way, you need to work hard at being the best in the areas of your own responsibilities (like my son-in-law said: “get er done—and start with doing the hardest *#@ first, the stuff no one else wants to do”).
And I would add, we need to step also into our partner’s world of responsibilities and help out. “What can I do for you;” or “let me help—you wash and I’ll dry;” or “I will take the kids upstairs… why don’t you just hang out downstairs and relax.”
Finances are another example. Decide who is doing what… but make sure to talk and budget together so that your financial goals for spending and saving are in sync.
5. Master the art of making up.
Now what this doesn’t mean is, kiss and make out (although that may happen later). But make it your goal to be able to be able to navigate through conflicts and misunderstandings with genuine humility, respectful thoughtfulness of your partner’s perspective, and an emotional self-control.
When you mess up, practice saying, “I was wrong; I am sorry; Please forgive me;” And be sure to describe what you said or did, AND how it impacted your partner. She will feel much more understood when you are able to put her feelings and experience into words.
But with that said, over the 37 years of my marriage to Shirley, I think that most times of her hurt feelings were actually the result of misunderstandings rather than wrong doings. And explaining my “good” intentions or perspective was never enough—in fact, that approach usually sounded more like a defensive excuse. So, I found that when I listened closely to my wife when she explained her perspective and feelings (kind of like a good detective), and then restated them in my own words, then I was able to better understand how I came across to her that made her feel hurt or upset. Genuinely and humbly apologizing for “how I came across” actually resolved most of my unintentional blunders.
6. Be a connoisseur of your spouse.
Make sure that you know what it is that really makes her feel loved.
Gary Chapman called this a partner’s love language (btw if you don’t know his stuff you should, google it!). But I like to think of it as becoming a connoisseur because that requires that you really pay attention to the little nuances of your wife… that you read between the lines of what she says, and that you use your imagination to walk in her shoes.
For you to be successful in this venture, you must keep a positive attitude toward all these details you discover. Soooo, she likes to sit on the couch and talk—but you like to “get things done.” However, when you regularly and intentionally initiate times of lounging and talking, you realize that her strengths actually blend with yours to make you something more (and better) than what you could ever have been just on your own.
Bottom line, loving someone in your own style and comfort zone is quite simplistic. True love moves you out of your own world and into the world of the one you love, stretching you to meet her needs in the most personalized ways.
As always, thank you for reading and hopefully you’ve gleaned some really practical nuggets of marital wisdom that you can put into action pronto! And for those of you who are on the verge of marriage, seriously, you will be light years ahead of the game if you practice some of the suggestions in this post.