Whether you recently said “I do” or just celebrated a double-digit anniversary, you can probably spout off a lot of info about your husband — his middle name, where he was born, his favorite food. But surprisingly, there are some other things you should know that can help bring you even closer together. Try remembering this crucial info the next time your husband becomes a complete mystery.
1. When he needs space
Sharing office news, the kids’ schedules and the latest neighborhood drama as soon as your husband walks in the door each night can backfire. “Most women want to immediately connect at the end of the day. For a lot of guys, they need their space more than ever then,” says Les Parrott III, PhD, a psychology professor and co-author (with wife and marriage therapist Leslie Parrott, EdD) of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer. Give your hubby a few minutes to unwind when he comes home. You’re more likely to get his undivided attention if you wait.
2. When he’s really listening
If it seems like your husband constantly tunes you out, consider this: Men may look at other areas of the room while still paying attention, according to Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, who reviewed videotapes of same-sex best friends talking. Rather than focus on where your husband’s gaze lands during conversations, note how he responds to you. If your words are truly falling on deaf ears, Rachel A. Sussman, a relationship specialist and author of The Breakup Bible, suggests gently telling him you feel he isn’t listening; then, let him respond. “Don’t accuse or blame him,” she advises.
3. Which topics set him off
Maybe it’s talking about his mom’s flavorless cooking — or his late nights at work. Dr. Les Parrott says it’s important to “know where the emotional landmines are. If you step on one, you can expect an explosion,” he says. But you can’t avoid all “hot topics.” “Find the right space and time to talk about these issues,” he suggests. Plus, try to understand your husband’s side, and then approach him in a non-threatening way. You might say, “I’m not looking to upset you; I’m just looking for a solution to an issue that’s causing me a lot of pain,” Sussman offers.
4. When (and how) he needs support
Couples who say they have strong spousal support and face daily stress have 50% higher rates of marriage satisfaction, according to a 2012 study. While wives equate affection and warmth with support, husbands feel supported when they’re appreciated, needed and receiving offers to help with errands. Not sure if your hubby needs you? Ask him. “Mindreading is outlawed,” says Jackie Black, PhD, a board-certified couples’ coach and author of Meeting Your Match: Cracking the Code to Successful Relationships. Volunteer to tackle some tasks on his list so he can recharge. And tell him how much you appreciate him as a partner to give him a boost.
5. How he views his role as husband and father
Whether it’s just you two or you plus kids, you and your husband have equally important family roles. And it’s vital that you recognize how he views his part and respect it. “Of course that’s a two-way street, but it’s even more important for men,” says Dr. Les Parrott, who adds that respecting his role helps him feel close to you. Fight the urge to cast your husband into specific parts without his input. And keep in mind that you don’t always have to be in sync with parenting. “Differences in temperament and style are key to parents’ success and the enjoyment of parenting,” Dr. Black says.
6. What his dreams are
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, but happy couples discuss “each other’s hopes and dreams to build and sustain intimacy,” says Dr. Black. Make it a point to regularly talk to your husband about, well, him. Find out his career goals for the next few years — or just hear about his favorite book, TV show or food of the moment. Then, reciprocate by telling him more about you. Communication helps you grow with each other instead of apart.
7. When he’s not loving your love life
If your man isn’t showing signs he wants to have sex — perhaps he usually kisses your neck or gives you a telltale look—then it’s time to rekindle the fire. Dr. Leslie Parrott says couples reconnect when they try out-of-the-box activities together. “Women experience intimacy through communication, so we often underplay sharing something novel,” she says. Plan a date that’ll get you both in the mood. Some ideas: Sign up for a race, head to the museum or take a cooking class to, ahem, turn up the heat.
8. When an argument is going nowhere
For some disagreements, there’s just no productive way to fight it out. To find out if you’re gearing up for a purposeful fight, rate the importance of the topic. If it’s a core value — like how to raise your children or which city to live in — rank it highly. If it’s not — like the color of a new bedspread or what to have for dinner — it may not be worth an argument. Next, determine if you and your husband are ready for the discussion. If either of you are “tired, hungry or distracted, don’t get into a conversation about something important,” Dr. Leslie Parrott advises.
9. That you don’t know everything about him
No matter how much you communicate with your husband, you can never completely know him, and that’s OK. “It’s never good to believe you know anything about your partner for sure and therefore not ask,” says Dr. Black. “It’s vital that you and your husband continually get to know each other,” adds Sussman. “If you’re growing, you have to continue to catch up with each other.” That means there’s at least one enjoyable thing you can do each week: get to know — and fall in love with — your husband all over again.