Mistake 1: Becoming king
Many men automatically assert a leadership role in the marriage rather than work at an equal partnership. According to Dr Kennon Rider, a marriage and family therapist at The German Neuroscience Centre, men do this because for most of history they have been assigned this role. “In our contemporary world, however, with women [having become] educated and joining the workforce, this system of male dominance can ultimately build resentment into the marriage,” he says.
Solution: Equity is the key, explains Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and owner of The LightHouse Arabia clinic. “It’s not that a man shouldn’t be the king, but… there is space for both individuals to discuss compromise and, in turn, impact on the family kingdom,” she says. “Men need to ask themselves ‘is this fair?’ If the answer is no, then don’t do it.”
Mistake 2: Not expressing compassion
A wife tells her husband about the fight she had with her best friend and he quickly offers an instant solution. Dr Rider points out that for some couples it is a mistake for men to go into fix-it mode. “Some women want their husbands to fix it, however, many more just want their men to listen so they feel understood and cared for,” he says.
Solution: Both husbands and wives need to make their intentions clear before starting any conversation. Dr Afridi says these things should be explicit. “The husband can ask, ‘How can I be most helpful right now?’ and the woman can then express her needs.”
Mistake 3: Withdrawing love
If a wife doesn’t meet expectations and take care of needs, men may withhold love without even realising it. “No matter how much you discuss matters, there will be times in a marriage where your partner is not meeting your expectations,” says Dr Afridi. But it is not helpful to withdraw love or be punitive about it. “If you judge someone to be a bad or good wife based on whether or not they cooked that night, then your model of marriage is a superficial one and deeper issues need to be resolved.”
Solution: “Three of the most important factors in a relationship are acceptance, patience, and mercy,” Dr Afridi says. “There is no ‘his’ way or ‘her’ way in a marriage and instead, both individuals need to sit down and discuss the things that are important to them and find ways to be helpful and encouraging to each other.”
Mistake 4: Hiding financial facts
From overspending to keeping a hidden bank account, money, says Dr Rider, equates power with whoever has it. The person in control of money in a relationship has relatively more power than the one who doesn’t. “Money is another opportunity for shared experience and women who feel cut off from knowing about the finances feel threatened and therefore less loved and connected.” When women feel less love and connection, they, in turn, begin to withdraw their affections.
Solution: “For a woman to be happy in a marriage, she needs to feel safe, valued, and appreciated,” says Dr Afridi. “She needs to feel like her husband trusts her with his heart and his bank account and if this is not the case, and there is a lack of safety in the relationship to discuss matters openly, then there are deeper issues at play that warrant a discussion.”
Mistake 5: Selfishness in the bedroom
In the bedroom, men forget that their wives often need more than they do to get in the mood and the idea that men enjoy sex while women provide it is a common assumption. “As a result, most men (and women) never learn to talk about sex as a shared joyful experience,” says Dr Afridi. Dr Rider underlines the point; “Why would a wife continue to want to be intimate with a partner who disregards her needs? The answer is simple – she wouldn’t.”
Solution: Discussing sex requires a very high level of communication since it is such a personal topic, says Dr Rider. It could easily lead to misunderstandings and defensiveness . “A conversation about needs should be addressed outside the bedroom, at a time when both people are calm, relaxed and receptive to ideas.” A wife could say what she wants and explain that if intimacy improves for her, it will improve for him too.
Mistake 6: Comparing her to your mother
From cooking to cleaning, if a mother did everything for her son, he may later think
his wife should do the same for him. “This is a big mistake. Wives are not mothers and husbands and wives should each be self-responsible,” says Dr Rider. “Many studies show that marital happiness depends on there being a sense of equity in relationships, and there is not much equity when wives have to pick up their husbands’ underwear every day.”
Solution: “The truth is that no one will ever be like your mother or father and it is unrealistic to have this expectation of one another,” says Dr Afridi. Instead, she suggests you may want to think about having conversations that centre on how you like to be cared for and what your language of love is. “It is important for both parties to know and express to each other how they feel most loved and nurtured, without expectations for having to be like the mother or father.”