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.”