I’ve already said once that I was married before to a different woman than I am now married to. My first marriage crashed and burned after eight years, but we were legally married for ten. Those last couple of years was only a marriage in name.
Now, only a pure coward would look back on a marriage like I had and not look at all the reasons he caused the marriage to fail. No, it wasn’t all my fault, but yes, there were things I did that were hurtful, and I have to learn from them. In fact, all husbands need to know the following five things, which I learned the hard way. I strive daily to achieve them in my current marriage.
This list isn’t ground-breaking. I’ve read other, longer lists of ways husbands from failed marriages acknowledge their part in destroying their relationships, but this is my point of view, and I only write this post to share what I personally learned. This list is in no way exhaustive, but it hits the five points I think of as the ones to hold closest in your heart and head.
5. No really, your wife is not a sex (or food, or chore)-dispensing robot. Now, I was hardly the sort of husband who demanded sex just because it was a “wifely duty” or something. In all honesty, I didn’t realize there were still husbands who held that viewpoint until I met a few of them. But seriously, your wife does not exist to service your needs. That is…not unless you’re willing to service hers just as regularly. Most women, true, aren’t as focused on sex as your average man, but they have their areas of need, and if a husband expects that his wife will fill all of his needs, he has to be willing to do the same. If your wife needs you to be attentive to finances, be attentive to finances. If your wife needs you to be the sort who helps with housework, help with housework. Moreover, if your wife needs you to just simply listen when she tells you all about something you couldn’t care less about, pay attention to that need as well. Now, I don’t mean “give in to all your wife’s demands until she finally consents to sleep with you.” But I am saying that you cannot expect that she will be attentive to your needs if you are not even aware of what her needs are. And, if you find that you don’t always have the energy or inclinations to be attentive to all her needs at all times, don’t be surprised if she also isn’t when it comes to your needs.
4. The kids are both of your responsibility…even if your roles are slightly different. Men have a tendency to decide that their role as a father is to provide for their kids and maybe play a game of catch or drive their daughter to prom. Meanwhile the wife’s role as a mother is literally everything else. Wives, meanwhile, tend to get upset if it seems like her husband isn’t jumping in to help with the kids in every way the minute he comes home. Both miss the point somewhat. Here’s the bottom line; both of you made those kids, and both of them are your responsibility. But the roles are different. These aren’t society-placed gender roles that are hideously unfair; these are roles that children naturally look to each parent for. Moms, in particular, are the ones kids naturally go to if they’re hungry, hurt or upset, or have lost something. Dads, meanwhile, are sought out by their kids when they’re scared, or want to play, or need to learn things like riding their bike or other physical activities. Children seem to gravitate toward Mom for advice on relationships or school, etc. while looking at Dad for more general types of advice. Am I saying that each parent is useless in the opposite areas? Not at all. A mom can teach her child to ride a bike, and a dad can be a comfort to his kids when they get a boo-boo, etc.. I am saying, however, that kids expect and need their parents to handle different areas of their lives, and that’s a totally normal, acceptable thing. I used to get slightly upset when my son would hurt himself and yell “I want Mommy!” when I would try to help him feel better. But that’s the thing; kids want Mom when they get hurt. When they’re happy and want to play a game, they seek out Dad. This is often why it seems like dads get the “easy” part of child-rearing and why moms often feel like they’ve been left alone to raise the kids by themselves. Dads, generally, aren’t much help when it comes to looking after kids’ homework and making sure they’re fulfilling all their responsibilities. This is usually because Dad has a long list of responsibilities himself, because your average dad is probably also the one bringing home a majority of the wages. He cannot do this without a full time job, which, as a side-effect, means he’s gone to work most of the day. By the time he gets home, the kids have usually been home for at least an hour, and chances are good that Mom is there, too. Mom might have a full time job herself, but even if she does, it tends to be her that makes sure the kids are getting to work on their chores/homework and it tends to be Dad who listens as the kids tell him about their day. Both of these roles are incredibly important. And contrary to popular belief, neither role is “easy”. It may seem like the dad isn’t doing much when he listens while a kid talks to him or watches them as they show him something they learned. But this doesn’t mean he is doing “nothing” just because he’s not up and active. However, what husbands primarily need to remember is that, one, you do have responsibilities to your children and, two, your wife might need help with her side of it, just as you might need help with yours. Your responsibility to your kids does not begin and end with “make sure you earn enough money for them to live” and “punish them when they piss you off.” And no, just because your children seem to expect different things of you than they do their mother does not mean that you shouldn’t lend your wife a hand when it comes to things like cooking, cleaning, looking after their homework, etc.
3. Learn to understand when your wife just needs you, and be there, even if you’d rather be somewhere else. Sometimes your wife does not need you to do anything or say anything. Sometimes she just needs you there. She needs to know you’re with her, that you’re beside her. She needs to feel your presence in a way that has nothing to do with physical intimacy but is instead a means of comfort. This is not a selfish or demanding thing, and you need to understand that as a husband, one of your primary duties, the top duty, in fact, is that you need to not just love your wife but do what she needs you to do to let her know that, to let her feel that. That might mean that tonight you don’t go out with the boys for a drink. It might mean you don’t get to go fishing/bowling/whatever this weekend. It might even mean (gasp! horror!) that you miss the big game. But why should you have to give all that up? Well, for one thing, you don’t, at least not on a regular basis. But when your wife really needs just you, everything else should be a distant second. I know that you might be tired, or you might be preoccupied by something else. You might really prefer to be watching the game or reading, or doing anything else than being present for your wife. This is not her fault. She is not being pushy or demanding. You’re the problem if you deny her in these moments. This sorta goes back to point 5, but it’s more important. Things like housework, cooking, being willing to fix something that broke…these are all things that under certain circumstances might be able to be put on the back burner. But not this. There will never be a time your wife needs you more than when she needs just you. And if you deny her then, you might as well just say the words “I don’t love you” or “you’re less important to me than other things.” Maybe that isn’t true, but it’s certainly what you communicate. So learn when your wife needs just you, and if you really love her it won’t be hard to learn that. When she does, be there. Don’t tell her “in a minute”. Don’t tell her “after the game is over”. Don’t do anything except run, not walk, to be by her side.
Now, number 3 on this list might be the most important, but you can’t do any of these other things unless you remember the following two points:
2. Porn is cheating. Yes, it is. No, it’s not harmless. Yes, it’s hurting someone, and not just your wife. True, it may not be exactly the same thing as physically cheating on her, but you’re lying to yourself if you think that it doesn’t hurt her the same way. See, guys see the entire pornography thing in a very different way than women do, even if men are themselves not in favor of porn. To a guy, porn is just pictures. Sure, they’re pictures that might arouse him, or might give him fantasies, or, if he’s against pornography might be disgusted by the idea of getting off on just a picture. But it’s still, ultimately, just him looking at a picture. To a woman, pornography is a rejection of her as a wife. It is a message that she is not good enough for you, or that you still have sexual fantasies that don’t involve her. And trust me when I say, men, that these are in large part the same way she would feel if you actually did physically cheat. Sure, in your mind, it might be different, but because she is your wife, and she feels the very same way about both things, your duty as a husband is to put the porn away. If you have trouble doing so, seek help. You might have an addiction you don’t even really know about. But the long and short of it is that porn will harm your wife, even if she pretends otherwise. But I said it doesn’t just harm your wife, and it doesn’t. It harms you, too. It gradually takes away your ability to be sexually fulfilled. Give yourself over to it for long enough and you will find yourself less and less able to be sexually satisfied by real live sex with your wife. In a way that almost makes it worse than physically cheating, because you’re undermining a core piece of your marriage.
1. Learn to be open with your feelings, but do so without becoming a doormat. There’s a joke that says women claim to want a sensitive man, but always leap over the sensitive guy to go for the bad boy. There’s a ring of truth to that, but really, it’s less that women want “bad boys” and instead want, well, men. In this day and age where acting like a man has been turned into a bad thing, it is usually only the bad boys who behave in a confident, manly way that attracts women. Unfortunately, because they’re bad boys, they also think they have carte blanche to abuse or cheat on their women. A “sensitive guy”, on the other hand, usually doesn’t even get a second glance, because a woman is usually not looking for an achingly “sincere” doormat who is so “in touch with his feelings” that he practically has more estrogen than the woman does. These are the guys who get “friend zoned” and well they should because women are not vending machines that you pump full of sensitivity quarters until sex falls out, which, let’s face it, is generally what a man acting all sensitive like that is really hoping will happen. What a wife needs her husband to be is a man who is open, communicative, honest, truly sincere, and sensitive to her needs, but is still the man in the relationship. He doesn’t just weep at poetry or at a sad movie along with his wife, but he’s genuinely in tune with his wife and knows how to be her rock to lean on. At the same time, even if they won’t tell you this, women expect their men to act like men. If you come home from the office depressed because you didn’t get a raise or promotion, sitting around and crying about it will not impress any woman. For that matter, letting the woman lead in the household and doing nothing without her say-so is also generally not something women prefer, even if modern feminism tells them is how it should be. While a man is to respect and value his wife’s opinion, he needs to convey the notion that he’s “got this”, as the saying goes. Yes, the woman can drive, but the man is still expected to give direction. I learned this by being married to a woman who had unfortunately been exposed to a lot of modern feminism, and thus expected to lead the household, but still would get angry when I just caved in and let her. Am I saying become a caveman who rules with an iron fist and tells his wife that he makes all the decisions? Emphatically no. But I am also saying that the other extreme, becoming a doormat who is so sensitive that he never speaks up or does anything without his wife’s say-so is a man headed for divorce without even knowing it. A real woman wants a real man. And a real man understands that being a real man means being his wife’s rock. Yes, even a strong woman expects that her husband will be the solid rock in their marriage. That’s his job. If a woman is forced to be the rock, she will end up resenting it, even if she demanded that position in the first place. But while rocks are strong and can weather a lot, they are also places of protection and safety. A real man needs to be both.