Getting married is one of life’s most exciting milestones. The romantic proposal, the gorgeous engagement ring, the fairytale wedding — all of it just screams, “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, once the honeymoon phase subsides, many couples are faced with the harsh reality that marriage can be pretty darn difficult.
“Men and women often enter marriage with false pretenses,” Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of The Web radio show, told me. “As much as they say they are thinking about all the hard work at an emotional level, getting married is the accomplishment. Then reality sets in.”
For women, it’s one thing to realize the challenges that being a great partner actually involves. The question is, how can we best navigate the sometimes rough waters of marriage, together with our dear husbands? I asked the experts and learned eight of the most common reasons that husbands become unhappy.
He has a misunderstanding of marriage
The feeling of being head over heels in love is powerful. So powerful, in fact, many couples forget that being married, or at least having a successful marriage, goes beyond just being in love. Klapow explains that men often don’t realize marriage isn’t an addition to their life, but really a call to change their life. “This takes a while but sets in hard — that marriage means your life changes,” he said. “Men have a hard time accepting this.”
Klapow also told me that some men have a hard time realizing that in successful marriages, people continue to evolve and change but within the context of someone else. “Men often want to go about life at their pace. Learn, grow, change (or not change) as individuals,” he explained. “What they don’t understand is that their growth or lack thereof has a direct impact on their partner. Often men find themselves being forced to finally grow up and they don’t like it. They love their wives but they want their lives to be the same.”
He doesn’t feel appreciated
My husband and I have been together for almost four years and I think he’s pretty amazing. He works hard, he’s thoughtful, and he’s the absolute best at making me laugh when I’m feeling down. I’ll admit, though, that I’m not always the best at reminding him of these things. I am, however, really good at reminding him of many other things — like how he forgot to take out the trash again, or that the way he loads the dishwasher isn’t as efficient as the way I do it. I get it, and I’m trying my best to be less of a critic.
“The biggest mistake I see women doing in their marriages is showing a lack or admiration and respect for their husbands,” international dating and relationship expert Megan Weks told me in an interview. “If you want him to be happy, feel loved, and feel sexually attracted to you, he needs to feel admired. He is not going to tell you this and he may not even be able to pinpoint the problem, but if you are doing and saying things which beat him down instead of build him up, you are asking for your man to be unhappy in the marriage.”
Celebrity relationship expert Audrey Hope agrees, saying. “The number one secret thing that men really need is nurturing,” she told me. “This is so surprising, but sitting in therapy sessions with them, I learned the truth — men want love and appreciation just like women do. If there is no gratitude, they will tire of the union.”
He feels constrained
If we’re not conscious about it, a simple criticism like “you’re not good at loading the dishwasher,” can evolve into “load the dishwasher this way.” Suddenly, we’re meticulously telling our husbands how to do everything, which, according to Weks, can leave a man feeling backed into a corner. “You don’t realize how controlling you are with him and over time, this chips away at his masculinity,” she told me. “Being a good woman is not enough. In order for him to feel good, he must be able to feel like a man around you.”
So maybe he doesn’t make the bed or fold the laundry perfectly. “Allow him to make mistakes,” stresses Weks. “Don’t point them all out. Don’t direct, control, or warn him. Certainly don’t blame him. He is very sensitive and reads into anything that you say which can be read as blaming, causing him to feel less valued. All of these things over time will wear him down, and his feelings toward you will be the first to go.”
You start sounding like his mom
Women are worriers by nature. In fact, according to one scientific study (via Metro), women appear to have lower levels of anxiety-regulating brain chemicals, which, as a result can make us more, “high strung.” If you tend to project your worries on to your husband — constantly reminding him to take his multivitamin, ease up on the beer-drinking, and repeatedly telling him to take an umbrella to work in case it rains — you could be headed for trouble, says Hope.
“Men hate to be with women who remind them of their mothers,” she told me. “If the wife has nagging tendencies, this is the formula to push the man out the door.”
He feels like he can’t make you happy
Life is stressful. Work can be challenging. Kids can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like things could be better if only we had a more money, a better job, a bigger house. And while those pipe dreams might have nothing to do with your husband, that “grass is always greener” mentality may actually be putting a strain on your relationship.
“When we are focused on the disappointments, which inevitably occur in our lives, rather than the good stuff, it becomes a downward spiral,” Weks told me. “When a man is making efforts and they are not recognized, he feels like he can never please you no matter what he does. If this is the case, he will eventually stop trying.”
So next time you feel like complaining to your hubby about all the things you wish you had, take a moment to chat about all the wonderful things you’ve already accomplished together as a couple, instead.
There’s a lack of intimacy
Okay, so maybe you and your husband aren’t experiencing any conflict. You aren’t nagging him. You aren’t arguing. Actually, come to think of it, you aren’t doing much of anything — even getting it on. This might seem like no big deal, but couples coach Lesli Doares, host of Happily Ever After is Just the Beginning on Web Talk Radio, says this could spell trouble in paradise. “It isn’t just that most men have a higher sex drive,” she told me. “It’s that this is a way for men to open up emotionally. Sex releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, so not being physical can create distance. It also can result in feelings of rejection which can lead to feeling unloved.”
Monotonous sex can be just as problematic, according to sex coach and speaker Tiffany Yelverton, who founded the sexual wellness company, Entice Me. “When having sex is the same routine every time, sometimes no one makes a move to change in fear of hurting feelings,” she said.
You let yourself go
According to Hope, keeping your man interested goes beyond sex. “Men want to be with women who wear high heels, take great care of themselves, and look hot,” she told me. “This never changes with them. So if you are a wife who is bogged down with daily chores and worries, thus letting yourself go in the process, this could be the secret turn-off button.”
She added, “Men need visual and sexual stimulation. They can’t stand to be with women who take them for granted and think that being hot and sexy is not important.”
You get caught up in parenthood
Becoming a parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. And once that mommy brain kicks in, it’s easy to become consumed by your new bundle of joy. In fact, Hope says that in many marriages, women forget about their husbands when they have kids. “They become mothers first and wives second,” she said. “Women have a great excuse to put her husband second, but it is lethal for the marriage and romance.”
So while it’s a given that you’re going to become totally obsessed with your kids — just look at how cute they are, right? — make it a point to enjoy date nights with your husband every now and then, even if it is just snuggling on the couch with a glass of wine while your baby is napping.
A real happily ever after
While conflict is inevitable in any relationship, it doesn’t mean that if you or your spouse is currently unhappy, the marriage is doomed. “If someone is unhappy, it is a great wake up call and a chance to create a new marriage by investigating the old,” explained Hope. “If you learn to embrace pain and conflict as a spiritual push for greater potential, then you won’t freak out in times of madness and conflict.”
She added, “Relationships inspire the best in both of you. It is an alchemy, a pressure to turn base metal into gold, and make a mediocre marriage into a great one. Dare to use the pain to inspire change.”