When you’re married with kids and you have a thriving career, the first thing that slips away in your daily life is “you time.” The second thing? “You and him” time.
The good news: it doesn’t take much to get the latter back on track. If you believe the top relationship experts (and you should!), it’s the little stuff you do on a day-to-day basis that can really mean the difference between a happy marriage and a hard marriage. So try these small, totally doable actions, and you’ll find that they have maximum impact on your collective happiness.
If you don’t ever say this, do it today. “Your partner wants to be the best you ever had,” says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert and author. “So make sure he knows he is. It’s easy to forget to do this. Make a conscious effort to let him know he’s a total stud.”
“Men tend to give up their man friends when they get married, and that’s a shame” says Karen Jones, relationship expert and founder of The Heart Matters. “One thing you can do to be a better wife is encourage him to hang out with other men. There’s something they get from each other that they can’t get from women. It’s more carefree, less responsibility, and a great boost in their tanks. And when they do get that boost, they tend to use it to make their wives happier. It’s such a great deal!”
Even if it’s just for a little bit. “When your partner has something they want to talk about, put down your phone,” recommends Kelsey Matheson, a life coach. “It’s so disrespectful to be checking your phone while someone is trying to talk to you. Give your partner your full attention. He will feel the difference it makes and will automatically feel more connected and more appreciated. With your undivided attention on him, you may even learn something new about your partner.”
“Your man needs to feel admired, adored, and respected,” explains Caroline Madden, Ph.D., an author and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Burbank, CA. “Make a conscious effort to show him that you appreciate him. An effective way to do this is to allow him to overhear you talking to someone else about how much you love him and that you feel lucky to be his wife.”
“As women, we like to talk, but men aren’t usually as verbal,” points out Dr. Venessa Marie Perry, founder and Chief Relationship Strategist at The Love Write. “So when he comes home from work after a long day, we expect to hear all about his day. Men want to be able to decompress from the day before they start engaging. Allow him to start the conversation on his own. Let him breathe.”
“If he is wanting to begin a new business, start a new hobby, try a new fitness regimen, encourage him to reach what he is wanting to achieve,” says Patricia Bubash, a Licensed Professional Counselor. “In other words, be his cheerleader.”
Particularly if it’s to something you’d normally say “no” to. “After the courting period, couples often become more honest and decline to participate in potentially fun activities together,” notes Jared Heathman, MD, a Houston-based psychiatrist. “Start saying yes more often and participate in new hobbies as a couple.”
It would be unrealistic to say you should never criticize your husband, but making sure it’s really necessary beforehand can minimize how critical you’re being of him.
“It is easy to fall into the pattern of complaining to your partner when they don’t follow through with things or don’t do things the way that you want to,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW and founder of Relationup. “Be mindful of when you want to criticize and ask yourself if it is really necessary to say something. If it is, then go ahead. But if it isn’t, bite your tongue and refrain from doing it. Less criticism will result in your partner feeling less attacked, less controlled, more appreciated, and consequently, more eager to step up and help out.”
Especially if you are a stay-at-home mom or work from home. “Brew the coffee. Join him in the shower,” Madden suggests.
Why? “Because even the most enlightened, loving man becomes resentful of leaving in the morning to go to work while his wife is sleeping in.”
“Arguments are often good icebreakers to get more positive communication flowing with your spouse,” explains Nicole Merritt, relationship expert and founder of jthreeNMe. “Don’t avoid confrontation. Take it on, but do so as respectfully and as calmly as possible. Think of your fighting as a healthy alternative to blatant avoidance and passive aggressiveness.”
Without forcing it, of course. “Helping him to have a healthy lifestyle is a benefit to you, as a couple,” Bubash notes. “If you are the main cook, arrange for healthy meals. Take up walking together, or head to the gym. I have observed many couples where one has decided to have a healthy lifestyle, the other doesn’t, and in retirement years, resentment exists as one becomes the caregiver. Work together on this.” That way, you’ll hopefully have many more years together to enjoy each other’s company in good health.
“When told something in confidence by your partner, do not share the information with anyone— even your best friend,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. Keep this in mind no matter how tempting or relevant to your conversation it is. “It is difficult to be vulnerable and share problems with others. When your husband is able to open up to you, it is important to not break his trust.”
Particularly if you don’t usually. “Men are often the initiators and like when women take control in the bedroom,” notes Dr. Perry. “Surprise him by showing him what you’ve got in the bedroom. It’ll keep him running home for more.”
“After being together for awhile, it is natural to speak more comfortably with each other,” says Dr. Heathman. “Comfortable sounds nice, but it can also lead to speaking bluntly instead of politely.” While it’s great to be able to “get real” with your husband about something, it’s also important not to be negative all the time.
There’s no need to make a huge meal every night if cooking isn’t your thing, but if you want to do something nice for your husband, food is usually a safe bet. “Men usually prefer a home-cooked meal,” says Dr. Perry. “Have dinner waiting to set the stage for a relaxing evening.” So much better than takeout.
Yes, even if she’s not your favorite person on the planet. “If you do little things to have a relationship with her, whether it’s sending her notes, taking her to lunch, making sure she has a nice birthday, it lets your guy know that you’re with him and support him. You will be, in his eyes, the best wife ever,” Jones says.
This one might seem obvious, but life gets busy. Give him a full day or night of your time—uninterrupted. “Each one of us needs affirmation and affection,” Bubash says. “If you are always too busy to be affectionate or set time aside, he may look to someone else or begin to not care.”
A little bit of affirmation can go a long way. Whether it’s on his appearance, work, or personality, a compliment is an easy and effective way to make him feel great. “Most men crave appreciation and want to feel like their wife recognizes their hard work and appreciates them for it,” explains Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist based in Boulder, CO.
“Maybe it’s even after the kids go to sleep, but instead of automatically turning on Netflix, plan a night where the TV, tablets, and phones are all turned off,” recommends Matheson. “You may want to cook together, snuggle up under a blanket and read to each other, or perhaps have a bath together. The only rule is electronics are not allowed!”
He probably has a best friend, but there are some good reasons you should act like one, too. “Best friends love each other, support each other unconditionally and are loyal to a fault,” explains Vikki Ziegler, divorce attorney and author of The Pre-Marital Planner. “Be that cheerleader for your husband so that he knows you are an unbreakable team no matter what, as this will open him up to being more vulnerable, honest, and loving.”
Regardless of whether you absolutely love everyone in his social circle. “Just because you don’t like his friends doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out with them when he asks,” Masini notes. “Let him show you off to his friends. And if you really don’t like them, do it for him. In a healthy relationship partners do things for each other. Sacrifice builds intimacy.”
You know all those little things you thought were adorable about your husband when you first met and now find ridiculously annoying? Sometimes simply making an effort to be less annoyed can do wonders for your mindset. “Despite your significant other’s so-called flaws, quirks, and what you believe to be his shortcomings, recognize that he loves you enough to see past all of yours,” Merritt says. “Find some new appreciation of him for that.”
“Surprise your partner by bringing some unexpected novelty to your lovemaking,” Milrad suggests. “Head over to an adult store and buy a toy for him and a toy for yourself. Your partner will be thrilled that you are spicing up your s*x life and changing up your familiar patterns.”
“It may seem counterintuitive when we’re talking about relationships, but it’s so important that a woman take some time for herself or she won’t be able to truly be present for her partner,” Matheson notes. “Book yourself a massage, enjoy a bubble bath with a glass of champagne, go to your local Zumba class—whatever works for you. When you’ve showered yourself with a bit of love, you’re in a better position to shower your loved ones with it as well.”
It’s easy to ask someone how their day was and then launch into how you own day was right afterwards. Instead, try letting the conversation be just about him once in awhile. “Asking your partner how they are doing sometimes without even sharing your own personal issues allows you to be completely available and lets them know you are fully present to listen to them,” Hershenson explains.
Even if it’s something small, like what to eat for dinner or how to spend your Sunday afternoon. “Many women become such micromanagers (because we have to with jobs and families) that we tend to manage everything—including which restaurant to go to, movie to see, paint color to use in the bedroom, etc.” Bubash notes. “Let your husband participate in those choices.”
Non-s*xual touch is actually an incredibly powerful connector. “If your massage skills aren’t up to par, consider watching a YouTube video or taking a class on how to give your partner a massage,” says Dr. Perry. “After a long day, rubbing your man’s back will make him relax quicker, build intimacy, and allow him to connect with you on a deeper level.”
This one might sound small, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. “Be enthusiastic, make eye contact, smile at him, and show him how happy you are to see him,” Jones suggests. “You’d be amazed at how much it matters. It’s so easy to let the kids/work/Facebook/cooking or any of the other gazillion things that demand our attention take precedence over that special moment of connection. You get a lot of bang for your buck; five minutes of your undivided attention and he’ll be feeling loved, and will want to show you how much he loves you, too.”
There’s nothing better than changing into comfy clothes at the end of the day. But why not try to find some pieces that you look forward to slipping into that are also cute?
“Junk the sweatpants and the old lingerie,” Masini suggests. “Your partner will notice in the best possible way. While your old sweats may be super cozy, shop a little harder and find something that’s s*xy and comfy.”
“It could be writing him a little note that he’ll find in his car, surprising him with his favorite meal or cocktail after work (Mad Men-style), or sending a text just to say how much you appreciate him,” says Matheson. “They could be little things or larger gestures, but every day, wake up and choose something that you will do to show your gratitude and appreciation for him being in your life.”