As a woman who’s been married for close to a decade, marriage is quite different from how I might have imagined it as a teenager with dreams of Prince Charming and ‘Happily Ever’ After bliss. Real marriage, while bringing with it its fair share of romance and lovey-dovey moments, is hard work.
A man’s greatest need is to be respected, and for any husband, the person he most desires respect from is his wife. Of course, we all recognise that respect and trust need to be earned, but there needs to be a baseline from which we operate, a minimum foundation of respect that is there, no matter what, simply because you said your vows sincerely to each other and committed to live the rest of your days together. And the truth is, your man will mess up many times in the course of your marriage – and so will you. No one is perfect. There’s no place where forgiveness is more needed or challenging than in the marriage relationship.
2. Know his love language
All of us give and receive love in different ways, and one of the best gifts you can give towards your marriage is to understand yourself and your spouse’s love languages. According to psychologist Gary Chapman, the five main love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. You can take the quiz here to find out your love language.
3. Make time for romance
When marriage begins, it doesn’t mean that your dating days are over. It shouldn’t. Romance begins at home – from the littlest things, like making his favourite French toast breakfast on weekends, or surprising him with lunch at his office. Plan one-on-one special dates on anniversaries and birthdays, and random days in between. Of course this is more challenging if you have kids, but babysitting can always be arranged. And don’t talk about the kids, housework or family finances all the time, if you can help it. Instead, share your dreams, plan your next holiday, talk about your fears, or even explore a new hobby together.
4. Communication is key
The root of most relationship problems is a lack of communication. There is no substitute for open, honest communication in a marriage. Never assume that your husband will be able to read between the lines or presume that he knows what to do,feel, say. Say things as it is – don’t beat around the bush or randomly drop hints. If you need him to step up to do his share of the housework, just tell him. Instead of “I didn’t have time to do the laundry today yet,” and then feeling upset when he doesn’t offer to do it, just say “I couldn’t finish the laundry today. Can you help to do it?”
5. Guard your heart
Ladies, your husband doesn’t just want to be head of the household – he longs to be king of your heart. As part of your marriage vows, you committed your heart to one man for the rest of your life. Now is the time to stick to your commitment, when the rubber hits the road. While there is nothing wrong with having a BFF or circle of close friends, be mindful to guard your heart against being too emotionally-tied to any other individual more so than to your spouse.
6. Let your “Yes” be Yes and your “No” be No
Honesty is truly the best policy, and definitely so in marriage. Ladies, we sometimes give vague answers when we are uncomfortable with the truth, or when we don’t want to appear pushy or demanding, but in truth, your husband wants to know your real opinion on things, not just what sounds good. We’ve all been in that situation when we agreed to do something for the sake of making our spouse happy, but then secretly resented being dragged into it. Little things like these can build up over time, creating bitterness and eroding trust.
7. Give him space
Ladies, we need our me-time for retail therapy, the occasional pampering sessions at the spa and catch up time with our girlfriends. Men need their me-time too. However, they may not “get it” in the same way as we do. Many husbands need some personal down-time at the end of the work day – a break from the stresses of work and the expectations of family life – just to do whatever it is that energises them.
For some, it might be just catching up with the news online; for others it might be a half hour of video games. Working mums, you’re tired too and as in need of your personal space as your husband is. The main thing is to recognise that you BOTH need to carve out this me-time on a regular basis, and to figure out a strategy for including it in your family’s schedules.
Read More: 10 Biggest Mistakes Women Make in a Marriage
8. Take interest in what interests him
Find out more about his hobbies. No, you don’t necessarily have to join him in the (video game) battlefield or on those overnight bicycle rides (although you can!), but take the time to understand what the game is about, or how the men prepare for their overnight adventures. Get to know the music he listens to, the kind of movies he enjoys, the hobbies he’s given up. Marriage is not the end of getting to know your partner – it’s just the beginning.
9. Take time to get to know his family and friends
When you married the man, you also took in his circle of influence into your lives. His family and friends continue to be a part of his new life with you, as much as your family and friends are part of yours. So if you haven’t done this pre-marriage, make it a point to get to know these key people in your man’s life. It means much more to him than you may know.
10. Don’t talk negatively about your spouse
Marital spats are part and parcel of the journey, however the old saying “Don’t hang your dirty laundry out to dry” bears much weight. Ladies, we do tend to gossip and may get carried away when sharing about our marital woes and incidences with our friends. While it may be tempting to do so to gain the support and encouragement you need, avoid such conversations at all costs. Firstly, think about how your spouse would feel if he were to catch wind of any of these conversations.