The Secret to Making Your Husband Happy

a happy husband and wife

After polling thousands of men to find out what really motivates them, encourages them, and discourages them in their relationships, here is what I learned about how to make your husband happy.

Appreciating What He Accomplishes:

Very few things are as powerful to a man as feeling that he has tried something, accomplished it, done it well, and someone noticed.

I didn’t see how profound this need was until a few years after the original edition of For Women Only came out. At that time, my friend Lisa Rice and I were researching teenagers for For Parents Only—and talking to both males and females at the same time. We found that the girls (and women) tended to have deep, hidden questions like Am I special? Am I lovable? and thus deeply needed to feel accepted and worthy of being loved for who they were on the inside.

But here’s the thing: the men and boys really didn’t have those questions. Instead (as we’ll cover in Chapter 3), they worried, Do I measure up? Am I any good at what I do? They deeply needed to feel noticed, able, and appreciated for what they do on the outside.

We women need to feel special and worthy of being loved for who we are on the inside. Men deeply need to feel able and appreciated for what they do on the outside.

As strange as it sounds to women, hearing “You did a great job at that meeting” or “You are such a great dad” or even “Thank you for fixing that broken kitchen cabinet” is far more emotionally powerful to a man than hearing “I love you.”

In the survey for my upcoming book, Seven Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, more than seven out of ten men said that if their wife simply noticed something and said thank you, it had a big impact on their happiness level.

When (or if) your wife does the things below, choose the impact each one has on you, in terms of how happy or “filled up” it makes you.

Noticing when I do something and sincerely thanking me for it. (For example, “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside” or “Thanks for playing with the kids, even when you were so tired from work.”) (Choose one answer.)

  • It deeply pleases me—a small thing that has a relatively big impact (72%)
  • It feels nice, but not much impact (26%)
  • It doesn’t do much for me (2%)

The Wrong Way to Show Appreciation:

I cannot tell you the number of times a man has shared how secretly painful it is when his wife tries to thank him but instead sends the (accidental!) signal “But it wasn’t good enough.” As one man told me, “She’ll come into the kitchen after I’ve finished wiping down all the countertops. I’m proud it looks so good, and she’ll say, ‘Thanks honey. Oh, but you missed the crumbs under the toaster.’ Under the toaster! I know she doesn’t mean it to say, ‘You’ve failed,’ but privately it just kills me.”

Many women have been confused about why their man would say, “Nothing I do is good enough for you.” Huh? Well, guess what: that is a giant red flag. Without realizing it, we’ve been sending him the ultimate in painful messages: “You tried…and failed.”

Thankfully, even simple appreciation (if it is undiluted by criticism) is powerful. One of my favorite speaking formats is when pastors interview me on these subjects during their sermon time. One Sunday I was with Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church near Atlanta, when he relayed to the congregation something I’ll never forget—a conversation where he told his wife, “If you never told me that you loved me again, but throughout our marriage you simply told me how proud you are…I’m not sure I would miss ‘I love you’ because of what it means in my heart to hear that you’re proud of me. It is that big of a deal.”


  • Korey Meyer Wysocki

    While I agree that the importance of being appreciated and affirmed is paramount to most, if not all men, I want to be cautious about how the title of this article is interpretted. Yes our actions impact how others might feel – like being “happy”. But what also impacts how someone feels is his/her own perspective on life and circumstances. I have struggled for years learning the truth that I cannot be soley responsible for how others are feeling. Absolutely I want my husband and daughters to perceive me as a source of comfort, encouragement and love for them. What I do and say certainly will impact them. But I am not the one responsible for making them “happy”. Nor should I expect that they are responsible for making me happy. So for those reading this who beat themselves up thinking it is all their fault if their husband isn’t happy, please know that while you can show him love in the ways mentioned here, and that may cause him to feel better in the moment, you are NOT responsible for his happiness. Likely we desire our spouse to be happy and hopefully will communicate with one another to know how we can help make life easier/more meaningful for each other. However, marriage (and any relationship) includes more than one person and BOTH parties have a role in how the relationship will function and each needs to accept their own responsibility for their emotions, perceptions, biases, tendencies, etcetera, that impact themselves and the overall relationship.

    • Annoyed

      Every time I tell my appreciation to my husband he rolls his eyes and says ” oh yeah, Prove it!” And he’s serious! It’s always about sex with him and it makes me not want to compliment him knowing he won’t appreciate unless followed by a sexual act!

      • Chris Heinzman

        Sex is also validation for men. Perhaps your husband only feels that he “earns” sex from you by performing these tasks. He shouldn’t feel that way. Choosing to not compliment your husband because you also don’t want to have sex with him is just 2 wrongs not making it right. Please rethink your stance in both arenas, for the sake of your husband and your marriage.

  • Lahlah Henkins

    It deeply pleases me—when an Afro American male uses an S curl-that has a relatively big impact on a mother.