10 things your husband really hates about marriage
Published 28/06/2013 | 05:00
Andrew G Marshall has worked as a marital therapist for almost thirty years. He’s heard it all – and here he lists men’s most common relationship problems.
1 Saying "No"
Most men want a quiet life. So they often agree to do things even if they don't want to. Although in the short term the man feels he's made his partner happy, in the medium term things will only get worse because he will be nagged and then there will be a row.
The man needs to be honest, explain his feelings and then he can negotiate. His partner needs to be wary of his agreeing too readily to things and to give permission for the man to say no.
Often I see women start to cry in my consulting room and the man instantly shuts up. Men hate seeing women cry. They find tears difficult to negotiate, mainly because they don't cry that much themselves.
Men need to realise that if their partner is crying they don't have to make it better instantly – just let them get on with it in a supportive way, perhaps with a hand on the shoulder or simply by saying: "I'm sorry you're upset."
3 Being a provider versus being a partner
Balancing being a provider and being a partner is difficult for men. At work there are clear deadlines and tasks, but home is more confusing. It's easy to bury yourself in work and think that's enough.
Men need to ask themselves how much they are doing this for themselves, or for the family? It might be that the male partner hasn't realised his wife would prefer to have more of his time rather than being able to go to the Maldives on holiday.
4 Being micro-managed
Here's a perfect example: a man makes his child's packed lunch. Unfortunately he forgets to cut the grapes in half and so he gets told off by his partner because they are a choking hazard. Rather than the partner being "in charge" and the man merely helping out, they need to divide the responsibilities clearly.
One of my clients, for example, arranged all the dentists' appointments, while his wife did all the doctors' ones. So he is the "expert" in all matters to do with teeth, arranging appointments, deciding whether to switch to electric toothbrushes and so on. There's no need to negotiate.
5 Having two or more children under 5
Children under 5 have an amazing number of needs that tend to swallow everything else up. What I say to men in this situation is: "Don't think your partner isn't attracted to you." They often tell me, "She doesn't fancy me any more," but it's not that: it's exhaustion and hormones. You need to reconnect with your other identities as a woman.
6 Facing female anger
Female anger is the thing that men will do anything to avoid. What women don't understand about men is just how important their mother is in their lives. Our introduction to anger in women is from our mothers and, to put it slightly dramatically, they are the people who have the balance of our life and death in their hands.
Generally, what I say is never avoid anger. Saying: "I can see you're angry" might cause an outburst at that moment, but that's better than the unmovable anger that builds up over the day. It's perfectly OK to be angry but emotions are always clues to things that you need to change in your life, so women need to listen to their anger as well as expressing it.
7 Being expected to be psychic
We have this myth of the soul mate, that we know each other so well we shouldn't have to ask what the other one wants; this can lead to problems.
Men tell me, for example, that they might take the initiative and arrange a night out but it's not what their partner wanted, so next time they don't bother and then get criticised for that. Men need to realise that it's OK to get things wrong, and to not to take things personally. Women need to realise that carrots work better than sticks – if you give positive feedback about the things you do like, then you will get more of them.
8 Seducing their wives
Maintaining a sex life is one of the most common complaints that I see. The problem is that men use sex to get close to their partner, while women need to feel close in order to have sex. My advice is that it's important to flirt with your wife.
Flirting is giving a packet of sexual energy to someone and seeing if they return it to you. It could be sending texts, small presents, private jokes. In turn, women need to make a conscious decision to put sex on their list of priorities. I do an exercise where I ask couples to put aside 10 minutes each week where they touch each other, not even sexually, to help them become more sensual. I can't tell you how many couples say they haven't been able to find time to do this.
9 Feeling inadequate
Men tend to compare their lives with that of their fathers, and they often feel that by comparison they are working their fingers to the bone. You both need to look at the expectations you have – and why. I get a lot of women saying: "Men should do a lot of DIY." When I ask them who says they should, they realise that it was something their fathers did, and their mothers liked them to do. Then they think: "I'm not my mother, my husband's not my father," and they can let it go.
10 Admitting that there's a problem I often hear women say: "I just wish my husband would man up." Usually it's half an hour after they've asked: "Why doesn't he ever show his feelings?" If men are unhappy the temptation is for them to shut up and get on with it. The trouble is that suppression equals depression. They start self-medicating with alcohol and the attention of other women. They need to realise that this coping mechanism isn't working.
Andrew G. Marshall was talking to Fiona MacDonald-Smith. He is the author of My Wife Doesn't Love Me Any More - The Love Coach Guide to Winning Her Back (Marshall Method Publishing, £6.99).