Advice from an Old Husband

April 7, 2008

The best part about boring airplane trips is that you can sit around and listen in on other people’s conversations (especially when they think a tune is actually playing on your ipod). In a ten minute stretch of snooping around the floating conversations, I caught two younger husbands making some fundamental mistakes in their marital communication.

This got me thinking about the things I would have loved to know when I first got married that I should pass on to other men. If any of these is new to you, you’re welcome, and please pass them on. None of these is meant to slam or in any way denigrate my wife. That last sentence is actually the first thing you should learn as a husband: Never slam or denigrate your wife. The old adage still stands – never piss off the person who helps prepare your food.

1. Never start a conflict after 9 p.m. This should be obvious, but you would be amazed how many men do it. For the most part, men are usually winding down mental acuity earlier in the evening than this and we don’t stand a chance being good listeners at night. Plus, depending on your bed-time, you will weary of the battle and not accomplish anything before both of you are exhausted.

2. Looking after your children is not called “babysitting the kids”. You put the seed into the equation, therefore you are a caregiver as much as your wife. Mutually shared exhaustion, especially in this day of mutually shared income, is a given. I never knew that and paid a medium-sized price for it.

3. You both can be good at different things and still be a couple. You don’t have to do everything together, dress with the same colors and spout the same philosophy in life to have a good marriage. If both of you agree on everything, one of you is unnecessary. Also, you will annoy the crap out of the rest of us.

4. You don’t have to tell your wife everything. Oh, I don’t mean have dark secrets from her. What I mean is, you don’t have to tell her about every person you’re angry at and every person who is angry at you. Some things really are your yoke to bear in life…our wives tend to defend us if they sense we are being attacked. We might get over an imagined offense in a couple of days and wonder why, two years later, she doesn’t want to hang out with that person.

5. It is okay to ask your wife if she is agreeable to having more sex. Just as it is okay for her to ask you the following:
a. Can you please shower first?
b. Can I wake up first?
c. Can I be warm, and assured that no one, including our children, will walk in on us?
d. Will your ego handle it if I don’t react with delight after 14 hours of looking after little people with dirty hands?
e. Can we avoid any positions that require me to know the five basic ballet moves?

6. If she says she likes flowers, buy her lots of flowers. Don’t ask why she likes them, just do it.

7. Don’t let your wife put a scale in the bathroom, unless you want to deal with a regular bout of “I just need to lose five more pounds”. If she owns one when you get married, then break it or set it back monthly. Remember, no one is sexier than the person who likes the body they currently have.

8. You ask her if you can pray together each evening. Don’t make her ask. She will be in love with you forever if you do this.

9. Asking your wife ten straight questions when you are doing finances together is intimidating to her and usually ends up badly.

10. The phrase “all I said was” is a rationalization…always. If you want to communicate as well as she does, learn to recognize tones of voice, body language and timing…your own!



  1. #5 inappriorate.
    this actually denigrates you, not your wife.

  2. Anonymous…I am sorry, but I don’t agree. #5 is not inappropriate, but it may hit close to home with many couples. Some things need to be discussed between husbands. It doesn’t hurt for a few wives to throw their two cents in as well. I taught on this subject at a marriage seminar two years ago, and very few of the experienced couples disagreed with these observations. I am sorry you didn’t. What did you find inappropriate?

  3. Mike

    So true, so true, so true. A few of these I’ve learned the hard way (my own experience) a few of these I’ve learned the easy way (other’s experience) and a number of things I’ve had the opportunity to share with others myself.

    I know these are tried and true as you’ve shared most of these points over the years and I’ve benefited from them (so thank you). I am, however, going to make one request for follow up.

    #3: If we don’t both need to be right, which of us is … well … in the other category?

  4. Aaron: You mean “left”? Sometimes, marital discussions are not about right and wrong, but right and left.

  5. Mike, you are of course right, er left, umm, I mean … yes dear.

  6. The most commonly read comment after I have lead marriage seminars after we do the “Realities of Marital Sex” session is “how come no one told us this going in?” The attitude that this is a subject to be avoided makes the community of believers woefully ignorant in areas we should be leading the way.

    But, I fully recognize that there are ways to say things that are helpful and ways that harm. I am committed to really trying to be helpful. For the person who sent me the private note about boundaries, all I can say is that comfort levels are different for everyone, but community comfort levels have to be determined by leadership.

  7. I agree. Yep, uh huh. Unfortunately I am the one who has to remember #10!

    Wise man.

  8. Well TBM…sometimes in the process of joining as husband and wife, we share the mistakes equally. What a democratic way to live.

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