“Men will never ask for it,” Gonsiewski says, but regular doses of praise are important. “They need to hear that their women are proud of them.” Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women, notes that men tend to be more action-oriented than women, which means they show affection in different ways. “He may empty the dishwasher as a way of saying he cares about you.” Haltzman’s suggestion: “Pay attention to what he does, and let him know you notice.”
While women generally need emotional intimacy to make love, men express emotional intimacy through sex,” says Marla Taviano, author of Is That All He Thinks About? When a wife turns down sex, in her husband’s mind, “she’s turning him down as a person,” explains Taviano. Using sex as a bargaining chip is emotional blackmail, which can alienate him. “Withholding sex may make your partner feel less love from you and give you less love in return,” says Dr. Haltzman.
“Every person can change, but it’s better to focus on our own changes, rather than our partner’s behaviors,” says Anne Ziff, LMFT, author of Marrying Well. And yet, some women see relationships as a starting point for a “my man is a working progress makeover.” This isn’t all bad. There are studies that show men who are in a relationship tend to eat healthier and have fewer problems with drugs and alcohol than single men—but it’s important to avoid creating a relationship in which your man feels like he can’t be himself. “When a man feels his home is not his castle, and he can’t just be a guy—whether it’s walking around in his boxers or letting out a burp—he’ll feel like he’s been put in a box where he has to act prim and proper all the time,” Dr. Meunier says.
Other research shows that money is a top source of disagreement among couples, even those with bigger budgets. The more you have, the more there is to argue about. “In a lot of ways, money equals power, and balancing power is important to harmonious relationships,” Meunier says. Whether you’re considering booking a weekend holiday together again or buying a massage chair, your partner deserves a say. The same goes for all those decisions that affect how you and your partner spend your time, such as inviting your friends over for dinner.
Mothers often have different ways of parenting than fathers, but that does not necessarily mean better. For instance, some studies show that parenting styles more common with dads, such as rough-and-tumble play, offer children unique developmental benefits. “Men’s resentment grows as their children develop with gaps in their competency and independence, two attributes men rate highly,” Gonsiewski says. “When a woman doesn’t trust her husband to parent she sends a message that he’s wrong and only she’s right.” Instead, “reinforce your husband for the positive contributions he makes to your children’s lives,” Dr. Haltzman recommends.