Sitting in the counselor’s office, we learned at least one thing we didn’t expect. I think my wife-to-be mostly wanted to be sure she wasn’t making a mistake. I only hoped to gain insight into how I as her soon-to-be-husband could meet my wife’s expectations.
My fiancé and I made an appointment for pre-marital counseling after getting engaged. The counseling was a free service offered by the psychology department at our school, Walla Walla University, in College Place, Washington. In preparation for the counseling we took the Myers-Briggs personality inventory. Our counselor, a female psychology graduate student, offered the inventory to help us discover how our different personalities might compliment and clash with each other.
Our unexpected discovery was that my fiancé and I were total opposites on every trait assessed by the inventory. Love had blinded us. We should have seen it coming. We didn’t.
The counselor cautioned us against having high expectations for our marriage. As my wife and I now recall, the young woman asked us, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
The counselor suggested our differences would likely contribute to frequent conflict that could result in divorce. We brushed her concerns aside and married anyway.
It didn’t take long for us to realize the counselor was right to predict frequent conflict. We’ve had may conflicts. But we’ve avoided divorce. We’ve managed to work through our differences and create a marriage that’s thriving over 27 years later.
One of the keys to our success has been my ability as a husband to learn about, understand and meet my wife’s expectations for our relationship.
Here are some of the more important things I’ve learned. While each woman is different, research in marriage has concluded these expectations apply to a majority of wives.
1. She Wants Help Around the House
The popular TV series Leave it to Beaver launched in 1957 and memorialized June Cleaver as the stereotypical housewife of that era. June stayed home to clean house, prepare meals, and keep an eye on her son Beaver and his older brother Wally. June also cared for the needs of her husband Ward, preparing his meals, doing his laundry, and greeting him with a smile when he arrived home from work.
Most modern wives don’t fit this stereotype, and many never did. According to the Pew Research Center, over seventy percent of all mothers work outside the home. Many also carry an extra burden of managing responsibilities at home—not only caring for children, but also caring for their husbands. According to a University of Michigan Study, having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework per week for a woman.
How does this affect a wife’s happiness? Also according to Pew, wives and their husbands ranked sharing chores as the third most important key to a successful marriage. They only considered faithfulness and a happy sexual relationship as more important.
The many ways a husband can help around the house include putting his dirty clothes in the laundry, washing and putting dishes away, preparing meals, and cleaning the bathroom.
2. She Wants Me to Parent
In spite of their best intentions, dads can come up short on parenting. Dads get preoccupied with other responsibilities and stressed about work. It gets easy to make excuses for not getting involved with the kids. When this happens, his wife’s marital satisfaction suffers. A study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found a direct relationship between a high level of father involvement in parenting and high marital satisfaction among mothers.
Some ways a dad can be more involved include listening to his wife express her concerns about the children, disciplining when the kids misbehave, taking initiative in planning activities for the kids, attending school functions, and helping with school homework.
3. She Wants More “Yes,” Less “No”
Couples have different styles of conflict. All married couples experience it. Some have more conflict than others. Some are good at keeping it hidden from the public eye. Some don’t try to hide it. Some couples yell and slam doors, others stew in different rooms of the house until they can calmly talk things though, and others work through their differences head-on. None of these is necessarily the right way to work out differences when it comes to marital satisfaction.
During conflict, negative interactions usually occur, and eliminating them shouldn’t be primary focus of making your wife happy. Instead, the happiest couples discover how to increase positive interactions to what researcher John Gottman calls the “Magic Ratio.” Gottman is professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle, and has studied couples for over 30 years. The Magic Ratio, is five positive interactions to one negative interaction.
A husband can create positive interactions with his wife by saying “yes” to her requests five times more often than he says “no.” Sincere compliments, affectionate touch, smiling and laughing together also add up as positive interactions.
4. She Wants Her Husband to Be Worthy of Her Trust
Faithfulness in marriage is more than avoiding an extra-marital affair. It’s about being faithful to marital vows. Those vows usually include loving each other until death. To a woman, nothing says “I love you” more than her husband showing himself worthy of her trust.
According to Gottman’s research, the number one thing a wife wants in her marriage is to trust her husband. How her husband responds to her negative emotions is key to earning her trust. There are six attributes that Gottman has discovered in those husbands who successfully earn their wife’s trust. These men are attuned to their wives. The attuned husband learns to recognize his wife’s emotions, turns toward her rather than away when she experiences negative emotions, and accepts rather than dismisses her emotions. He works at understanding what she’s feeling, listens to her non-defensively, and opens his heart to her with empathy.
Wives, what does your husband do to meet your expectations? Husbands, what do you do to meet your wife’s expectations? Let me know on the Contact Me tab, with Facebook Messenger, or a Voicemail. You can also comment below. If you found this post helpful, please share.
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.