BY BRITTANY BROLLEY
People often say marriage is hard work. According to Dr. Stephen Mentz, a leading authority on families, children, youth, and the life course, attributed marriage difficulty to four main reasons — all of which have to do with tension.
Couples battle tension between commitment and self-fulfillment, tension between the modern view of marriage not only as an “emotional bond” but an “economic union,” and even more tension as expectations of married ones continue to mount while the support system for married people erodes. Lastly, tension also arises when disagreements or conflicts occur between spouses. But, what can you do?
One couple, novelist Richard Paul Evans and his wife Keri, told NBC that asking each other this very simple question has made all the difference in their marriage: “How can I make your day better?” Hmm. What do you think your husband would say if you asked him that same question? Well, here’s what some men have claimed would make them happier. Spoiler: they’re all things they wish their wives would stop doing or, at least, do less often.
Getting uncomfortable when complimented
When you receive compliments, how do you react? When a friend tells you how much she loves your new dress, do you spiral down the rabbit hole, replying, “Oh, this old thing?” or “Really, do you think so?” Maybe you even provide a detailed explanation on how much you spent — or how much you saved.
Accepting compliments can be even harder when they’re not as much about your outfit as they are about you personally. A man by the name of Chris E. revealed his biggest pet peeve to Vixen Daily, saying, “It’s unreal how many women can’t take a compliment. If I say, ‘You look great today,’ I’m not saying you don’t look great every other day.” While Chris says it’s “freaking simple,” it may not be as easy as it sounds. If it were, there probably wouldn’t be nearly 34 million Google search results for the query “How can I accept a compliment?”
Basing your romantic expectations on rom-coms
Just as Disney princesses aren’t an accurate depiction of real-life royalty, romance movies aren’t exactly the best gauge by which to measure your marriage or committed relationship.
According to Time, researchers at Heriot Watt University’s Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh, Scotland studied 40 romantic comedies released between 1995-2005. Not a bad gig, right? As part of their research, they also played the 2001 rom-com Serendipity for a group of around 130 students. At the same time, another group of 130 students watched a drama by David Lynch. After the conclusion of each movie, those who watched Serendipity were found more likely to believe in, well, serendipity — or fate and destiny. Researchers also discovered that problems reported by couples participating in relationship or marriage counseling were often the same kinds of romantic misconceptions prevalent in Hollywood movies. It would seem these films mess with our heads — and hearts.
One man interviewed by Thought Catalog said he wished his partner would “stop watching romantic movies and expecting [him] to act like they do.” He added, “It’s an impossible standard that no one can reach.” That may very well be true.
Making subtle hints
Maybe it’s from our love of rom-coms, but there are times when we drop hints in the hopes our spouses will pick up on them and instantly know what to do. This rarely works and, in the process, it also irritates our partners. Greg F. shared his thoughts on the matter with Vixen Daily: “Don’t tell me what you really want by dropping a hint. I’m not going to see it, I won’t get it, and you’re going to get mad because I can’t read your mind.” But, why, Greg, why?
Researchers in Germany discovered the answer. After recruiting 22 men between 21 and 52 years old, each participant was shown 18 photos of male eyes and 18 photos of female eyes. Then, they were asked to choose whether the person’s emotional state was “distrustful” or “terrified.” All the while, their brains were analyzed during the decision-making process. In the end, the men took longer and had more trouble deciphering emotions in female eyes and fMRI images showed the brain regions related to emotions were more active when analyzing male eyes.
So, ladies, when your husband says he doesn’t get your hints, that’s exactly what he means.
Complaining about the toilet seat
Should men put the toilet seat down after using it? This age old debate, though seemingly trivial, can be a huge cause for contention in a marriage. When speaking to The Telegraph specifically on the issue of the raised or lowered seat, Stefan Walters, a couples’ counselor and psychologist at Harley Therapy in London, said, “Often it is these little issues that can build up over time and lead to resentment or dissatisfaction in the relationship.”
Dating expert Jo Barnett said it’s simply “good manners” to return the toilet seat to its full downright position. “And yes, it requires effort — but that is the point. It shows consideration and these little steps go such a long way to a happy relationship,” she explained.
Our husbands, however, may not agree. One man griped about his partner to Thought Catalog, saying, “You ran your car into a pole and the headlight is hanging out of the front and you don’t think to mention it, but if you come home and the toilet seat is up, it’s like you’ve found out I kidnap children and keep them in the basement.” Alternatively, he could just put the seat down…
Mocking his emotions
No one — and we mean no one — should be shamed for their emotions. That fact may sound obvious, but sometimes we can forget that our husbands are not impervious to getting their feelings hurt. And, when they do, how we react to those feelings matters. Lissa Rankin, a physician, author, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, pleaded for women to stop shaming men in an article for Psychology Today, writing, “Instead of badgering men for being shut down and unemotional, let’s have conversations with the boys and men in our lives to let them know our love and acceptance is not conditional upon their strength.”
How we respond to the “men in our lives” doesn’t just apply to sad or angry emotions, either. Michael K. explained it this way to Vixen Daily: “If I decide I’m comfortable enough to reveal my sensitive side, I DON’T want to hear ‘Awwww.'” Fair enough.
Asking his opinion about other women
If you’ve ever asked your husband to comment on the attractiveness of another woman, you’re not alone. At the same time, however, your spouse probably wishes you’d stop asking — or at least ask less often.
There are two big reasons why you shouldn’t ask your partner to weigh in on the looks of someone else. One, you probably don’t want to hear his honest answer and two, it’s a no-win situation, according to Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men. “Most men have already identified the pretty women in the room,” Smith told HuffPost, “If he’s trying to respect you then he should be already trying not to look, so you pointing her out will only make him more self-conscious, uncomfortable and unsure of what to do to not upset you or hurt your feelings.”
“Do you think she’s hot?” is definitely a question worth retiring.
Saying “we need to talk”
There are few words more potent to a relationship than “we need to talk.” We may have a range of different reasons to use the four-word sentence: We need to talk; you mixed the dirty dishes in with the clean ones again. We need to talk; did you remember to take off from work for our trip?
Sometimes the phrase can become a part of our daily rhetoric, but there’s no denying that it sounds downright terrifying. Marcia Naomi Berger, a therapist and author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted explained to HuffPost, saying, “The phrase ‘we need to talk’ is often a signal that the wife has complaints or criticism about the husband. He assumes he somehow failed you and withdraws, creating a disconnect, which is the exact opposite of what you were trying to accomplish.” That’s right, saying “we need to talk” may actually close the lines of communication.
Being overly critical
Criticism isn’t always the easiest to take — even when it’s warranted. Needless to say, someone who is overly critical is not likely to be well-received. In marriages, though, becoming too critical of your partner can happen before you even realize. Dr. Steven Stosny, founder of CompassionPower in Washington, D.C., explained in Psychology Today that criticism within relationships usually starts out “low key ” and “escalates over time, forming a downward spiral with increasing resentment.” Criticism will always fail to foster change because, as Stosny highlighted, it contains two things women and men hate more than anything else: submission and devaluation.
It’s no wonder that men (and women) wish their spouses would let up on the criticism. One man admitted that criticism is the “one thing” that frustrates him the most. He told Thought Catalog: “If I’m helping you with something that I’m obviously not familiar with, don’t keep yelling at me and telling me I’m not doing a good enough job.” Sorry!
Complaining about guys’ nights
Do you hate it when your husband is more excited to hang out with his bros than to snuggle up binge-watching Netflix with you? We hear you. But, as it turns out, guys’ nights are actually scientifically proven to be beneficial. It’s true. A study in 2013 (via National Post) found that men “must physically meet with four friends, two times a week, in order to reap the benefits of male friendship.” Say what now? According to the study’s findings, men who follow this program have better general health, including faster recovery times when sick, and are even more altruistic.
While Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist based in Pasadena, California, admitted to HuffPost that sometimes a night with the bros is “just an excuse to drink and fart,” it’s also an opportunity for men to “connect, seek advice, get support and express some important emotions.” Howes added, “There’s a good chance he’ll actually be a better husband if he can compare notes with other husbands and dads.” Who knew there was such a case to be made for guys’ nights?
Being a Negative Nancy
The Dating Divas, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages, released an anonymous survey to find out what husbands really wish their wives knew. One of the top ten responses was “positivity is attractive.” Multiple husbands wrote in, saying things like, “Be positive!” One husband in particular said, “Be pleasant and positive. Don’t nag and complain.” Okay, buddy. Another man even remarked, “Negativity is ugly. I married you because you were pretty.” You can roll your eyes, we won’t tell. Even for those men who used less cringey terms, it was clear that an overwhelming amount of guys wished their spouses would be less negative.
Of course, it’s much easier to be a Positive Patty when you’re married to a Positive Paul, isn’t that true, ladies? Still, positivity is key for a happy marriage. According to Time, researchers at the University of Washington found that there are at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones in stable marriages. It seems we could all stand to be a little more positive.