54 Small, Nice Ways To Be A Better Husband

It's the little things that matter.

by Fatherly
Originally Published: 
Husband and wife being affectionate

Want to be a better husband? Well, the first step is to, well, try to be a better husband. Why? Marriages thrive when both partners play active roles in the relationship, paying mind to everything from the daily maintenance of the relationship to personal care in hopes of understanding your partner and yourself better In other words: It’s about making an effort. Do the work — and stay consistent in your effort — and you’ll achieve something great. Will times always be happy? No. But who expects that? And when you lay the foundation, those hard times are easier than they would be otherwise. So, what steps can you take? There are too many to count. But there are a number of small, nice things all of us can focus on to be happier, more present, and more attentive husbands and partners. In no particular order, here are 54 things to consider.

54 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Husband

1. Talk about your feelings honestly. When your spouse asks you how your day is, tell them about something that made you upset or annoyed. Don’t just say your day was “okay,” and leave it at that. Respond. Listen. Repeat.

2. Make an effort to interrupt less. Chances are you do it more than you realize. A good tactic: If your spouse seems like they’re in between two thoughts, give them five seconds. If they don’t say anything, then speak.

3. Don’t try to constantly solve problems. When a spouse tells us problems at work or with their friends or family, many men feel the best way to support them is to come hard and fast with solutions. But that hunt for a solve often bypasses what the person is likely seeking: understanding. “Psychologically, the best way you can engage with your spouse as you listen to them is to truly try and understand what they are feeling in an emotional sense,” says Nancy Lee, a Beverly Hills-based psychologist. “This type of empathetic listening strengthens connections and builds intimacy. That isn’t to say that problem-solving isn’t important, it’s just that you don’t need to jump in and try to ‘fix’ things immediately, which is the tendency of many men,” she says. When a problem is brought up get in the habit of asking, “Would you like to just vent or would you like to talk about solutions?”

4. Clean that thing you know they hate cleaning. Just do it. They’ll notice.

5. Do the dishes when it’s “not your turn.” And try to eradicate the idea of “fairness” in a marriage.

6. Stay in good shape. Part of the gig is trying to remain attractive.

7. Go to the doctor. Part of the gig is also not dying.

8. Remember: Your spouse is not your therapist.

Yes, it’s good and essential to share your anxieties, fears, and frustrations, big and small, with your spouse. But they can’t be the only person you turn to for advice and counsel. Try to find friends, family, or a mentor you can lean on as well. This has the dual benefits of getting different perspectives on things, while also developing and strengthening those friendships, too.

“Confiding in your partner is a great way to be intimate and feel close, but there is also a thin line between confiding in your partner and your partner becoming your full-blown therapist,” says relationship expert April Davis. “Not only could that become tiring quickly to the person on the receiving end, but it could also eventually turn from a thing of bonding to driving a wedge between you and your partner if they start feeling overwhelmed and as if they are your caretaker instead of your romantic partner

9. Be nice to their friends. For no other reason than they’re your spouse’s friends.

10. Be honest even when it’s hard. Confrontation is not always bad. It’s critical to moving forward.

11. Explain why you’re excited about the things that excite you. Don’t keep them on the outside of the things you like. Also: Excitement and passion are contagious qualities.

12. If someone is rude to them in a social situation, ask for permission to be rude back. If the situation warrants it, go to fucking town.

13. Oral Sex. We’re all adults here.

14. Leave Work at Work

“A great way to suck the romance right out of a relationship is to make all conversations and time with your partner about work,” says Davis. Of course, you’ll go through periods where work dominates your mind space space – which can make you less present at home, putting more of the parenting burden on your spouse, and preventing yourself from recharging. Any and all of this can stress a relationship. But develop ways to decompress. Listen to music or a podcast. Go for a walk. Do 20 minutes of kettle bells. Anything you can do to make sure that when you’re with your family they are what’s on your mind.

15. Does your spouse like SMPDA — that is, social media public displays of affection? Then post about them earnestly on social media every so often. Even if it’s a photo of her with the heart-eyed emoji. It may not be your jam, but because it’s not it will mean even more.

16. Don’t hold back small seemingly insignificant compliments. If they really impressed you by parallel parking, their lunch order, or how they de-escalated a toddler tantrum, tell them. And be specific. Appreciation is everything.

17. Be the keeper of your love story. Get nostalgic about your relationship from time to time. Reminisce about how you met. Open up the wedding album. Bring it up with friends.

18. Write down the things you’re upset about before vocalizing them to your spouse. This exercise, while simple, has proven to help the writer see that some — or all — of the things bothering them are not worth complaining about.

19. Put. Your. Phone. Away.

Even if you haven’t heard of phubbing, you’ve done it. Phubbing, or phone snubbing, is when you completely ignore or only half-heartedly listen to someone else because you’re focused on your phone, instead. It’s a pretty annoying habit and, done regularly, it can be destructive to a relationship because it sends the signal to your partner that whatever they are saying is less important than anything happening on your phone.

“Humans are designed for face-to-face interactions, hence our reactions to nonverbal cues, including the intimacy that is communicated through eye contact,” says Heather Lyons, a Baltimore-based psychologist and couples therapist. “Even if it’s not intentional, we miss out of on the potential for connection when we’re on our phones.”

When you’re at home, put your phone away, as much as possible. At the very least, if you’re having a conversation with your spouse, put your phone down and give them your undivided attention.

20. Leave nice notes. Or emails. Or texts. They don’t have to be long or saccharine, they just have to be original.

21. Make a decision when they doesn’t want to. Let them make a decision when they do. Know the difference.

22. Be kind. The world is mean; your marriage shouldn’t be.

23. And be mindful of the energy you bring home. At least, as often as you can. Stress is hard and it makes us forget the ground rules of a good relationship. But if you’re mindful of it, you can take actions to avoid being a grump too 0ften.

24. When you introduce them to your friends or coworkers, mention one of their accomplishments. That is, be a fan of theirs.

25. Make an effort to look presentable. Shave or clean up your beard regularly. Dress nice. Don’t always be a schlub. No one wants to be married to a schlub 24/7.

26. Be aware of any imbalances in emotional labor.

This is a big one. The mental work of running a household and a family – planning, scheduling, etc. – is often conducted primarily by one partner in a relationship. But that work, while essential, is also often invisible or under-appreciated, at the very least. Don’t fall into that trap. Yes, you may split the housework and hands-on kid stuff 50/50, but recognize that, if it’s your spouse who schedules the doctor’s appointments, sets up the play dates, signs the kids up for soccer, etc., these are things that take their time and brain power, not yours.

“The weight of the household could vary depending on what you two are going through in your lives at any given moment, [so] it is important to make sure a balance is there and while one person might be carrying a bit more weight at one point, they can also rely on their partner to carry more weight during a different period,” Davis says. “The key is to be able to rely on each other to show up when it counts and contribute to the household to ensure both of you are feeling supported by one another.”

27. If you make yourself something — tea, a sandwich, a stiff cocktail — offer to make them one, too. And if they’re being hangry and say they don’t want anything but you know they do, bring them something anyway.

28. Take their side in family squabbles whenever possible. If you sense a family fight might happen, discuss it beforehand to get on the same page. Then, talk about how you’ll mount your defense together. Teamwork, baby.

29. Keep your promises.

30. Talk to them about what they like in bed. Don’t assume that you know. If there’s a thing they’d like you to do more? Do that thing.

31. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

32. Send some tasteful nudes. If that’s your style. Hell, you can send tasteful “noods” and just text them some pasta pics. Be you. But show that you’re thinking about them during the day.

33. When you become frustrated, take a few deep breaths. Walk away if you need to. Do whatever you can to not let anger or stress puppeteer you.

34. Remember to love them even when you don’t like them.

35. Get rid of the unreasonable expectations you have for them.

Your partner is the person they were when you met them. We’re all striving for personal improvement, but expecting your partner to fundamentally change aspects of their personality is unrealistic and unhealthy.

“Expectations are premeditated resentment,” says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a relationship therapist. “Make sure your expectations are both realistic and articulated to your spouse. When they go unspoken they create negative feelings.”

“The trick is to manage your expectations, have open communication, and come up with realistic ways to make your relationship better and more satisfying for both yourself and your partner,” says Davis.

36. Call just to say hi. Don’t text. Call them.

37. When they ask you to go on a run, go. Even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it. They’ll know you did it just because you love them.

38. When your spouse talks about a sexist thing that happened to her that day, don’t give the man in the story the benefit of the doubt. Help them through it. Talk shit about the jerk with your wife.

39. Be enthusiastic about their favorite TV shows. Get into it. Make fun of the contestants. Root for someone.

40. Make it a point to be positive.

Men stereotypically find the reasons why something will not work out or will be a bad experience. “It’s easy to be negative,” says Slatkin. “It’s a lot harder to be constructive and see the good.” This can be a drag on relationships, not to mention it just makes it harder to actually do things. But it’s also a natural byproduct of long-term relationships that partners start to see each other as the limiting factor in situations.

.“A lot of times, instead of couples looking at such situations as them versus the problem, they look at each other as the problem and therefore have a stance of them versus themselves,” Davis says. “Do not fall into this trap, instead, look at the issue as a thing of its own and work with your partner as a united front to come up with a solution that will benefit both of you.”

41. When your spouse asks you how they look in something, and if they don’t look great, tell them about another outfit you like. Provide an alternative. Tell them you love them in it.

42. When you get in a fight, use “I” statements. Don’t put your anger on her. Make sure they know it’s about how you’re feeling.

43. If you don’t know where something is in your house, actually look for it before you ask. You are not a clueless intern. You are their partner.

44. Tell them — and demonstrate — that you love them.

45. Flirt More

It’s easy to forget, once you’re married, that flirting doesn’t just make your spouse feel appreciated and loved – it’s fun. There’s a scientific reason for that.

“The actual crux of what makes flirting feel so good is that it has the potential to release dopamine, that phenomenally pleasurable neurochemical in our brain,” Lee says. “So, if you wish to intensify an attraction, feel slightly euphoric, and give the suggestion – not promise – of greater intimacy down the line, then by all means flirt more.”

46. Be flexible. Life throws a lot of uppercuts our way. It’s important for partners to understand and anticipate that, well, they can’t anticipate anything and must therefore react with flexibility.

47. Prioritize self-care.

Between parenting and working, it’s easy to quickly and constantly feel some level of stressed and cranky. That’s no fun for you, and it’s definitely no fun for your kids or your spouse. Resolve to consistently destress, and find strategic, regular pathways to your inner chill. This is different for different people, but in short: make time for yourself — and make your partner take time for themself as well.

If you love movies, go see a movie with a friend, or even by yourself. If you like to work out, regularly carve out time for a run or a trip to the gym. If you have – or had – a hobby, keep it up. Whatever your thing is, do it. Because giving your time and your emotional and physical presence is essential to being a good parent and spouse, but it can also become draining.

“Any partner who doesn’t take alone time can begin to feel resentful even in the most loving of relationships,” Lyons says.

48. Do away with defensiveness. It’s a learned behavior that so many of us have, but defensiveness is a wall that blocks growth and destroys marriages. Try your best to understand — and root out — the behavior.

49. Remember: It doesn’t matter who wins. When couples respect each other, they can accept not being right in favor of maintaining a healthy balance

50. Don’t undermine their thoughts or concerns.

It’s easy to qualify or diminish your spouse’s perspective when you’re trying to come up with a quick fix for a problem they’re facing. Don’t tell them they’re overreacting or freaking out, or that their concerns are silly. Because if they’re thinking/feeling it, it’s inherently valid.

“Even if you genuinely think her perception is silly or ridiculous, keep that judgment to yourself and instead offer constructive solutions, or try asking thought-provoking questions that could lead to some real insight,” Lee says.

And always remember, Davis says, that these different viewpoints are indicators of individuality, and maintaining that is key to any healthy relationship.“It is important to remember that your partner is not you, they are a person of their own with their own values, thoughts, and opinions,” she says. “Make sure to view them as such and value their point of view with respect and be open to understanding why they have those views.”

51. Be open about your finances. This is crucial for the health of your relationship in numerous ways. Talking about money is one of the most intimate conversations a couple can have. And yeah, financial infidelity is a thing.

52. Learn how to get past arguments. Spats. Snipes. Disagreements. Screaming matches. They happen. One of the defining aspects of a strong, happy marriage, however, is the ability to get past them — and do the repair work after they happen.

53. If they seem like they want to be left alone, don’t take it as a referendum on anything. Just leave them alone.

54. Don’t ever stop trying to do better. Be generous. Be thoughtful. Say “thank you” more than you already are.

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