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8 Men on Making Marriage Work

Jun 12, 2008
Have you bought into the commercialism of Father's Day, thinking that expensive cologne and fancy tools will bring you closer to your partner? And what do you figure would please your husband more, a night out with the boys or the chance to watch Monday night football without interruptions?

Well, think again. Both men and women are short changed when sweeping generalizations are applied to the male psyche. Men should not all be painted with broad strokes. Some comments from a recent poll may help build a more complex picture of the midlife male perspective, particularly concerning long-term relationships.

1. Although it can be a struggle for partners to maintain commitment to each other, a lot of men recognize that the outcome is worth the effort. Henry discussed his secret to success. "We have never lost our focus - we knew we had to work to stay together. It was the two of us in the beginning and it would be the two of us when the children grew up. We took at least one trip a year by ourselves and tried to go on a date every week, to reconnect. It worked - we're still together after 25 years."

2. Bill was determined not to make some of the same mistakes with his second wife that he had with his first. "I used to believe that my partner was like my mother - with the added component of sex. That she'd be there to take care of me, no matter how I treated her. I grew up after my first marriage failed. My wife makes it perfectly clear about what we both need to do in order to make the relationship work."

3. Common interests have made it somewhat easier for Gary and his wife to feel like a team. "We share major goals and support each other in our individual pursuits. We just started taking dance lessons - we both love music and want to stay in shape. By collaborating on creative projects in and out of work, we remain close and connected."

4. Shortly after they were married, Ed and his wife came up with a plan to help them maintain their commitment. "We decided to make Wednesday nights 'divorce night.' We knew that we had that time to talk about whatever was going on between us. That way we never felt trapped - we both knew that we had an out if we wanted one."

5. Husbands in successful long-term marriages believe that mutual acceptance and respect are crucial. Charles and his wife have learned from each other. "I have accepted who she is and I'm not trying to change her. The years together have made both of us more tolerant. And sometimes she understands me better than I understand myself."

6. Mike talked about how he was affected by his wife's attitude. "I feel her love and respect for who I am and what I say, even though we do not always agree. This makes me feel safe. I look forward to our future even though we have no idea where it will be or what it will bring. But I want to enjoy it in small and big ways, daily, for however long it will be."

7. Change has probably been an integral part of your marriage - in the roles you each play and in the way you relate to each other. Tom has been able to focus on the changing realities of his particular situation. "It's a matter of accepting what is, rather than what you would like it to be. It is not easy and I feel I am always working toward that goal. Our lives have had a series of ups and downs - we both try to be flexible and accept what is. Usually we succeed and are able to move on."

8. Steve, retired for several years, summed up his marriage this way: "We began as husband and wife in a more traditional relationship. Overall, I was the noisemaker and she was the nest-maker. Now I'm more involved around the house - I help with laundry, do the dishes. We're a team and our roles interchange, depending on who is most interested or available. I have learned a lot but changed only a little. I try to be less temperamental, more compromising, more giving. When I was working, I was focused only on myself. Now I'm paying attention to me, her and us - and still learning new things about all three."

As you can see, there are several important themes here - commitment, intimacy, common goals, mutual respect and shared interests. The men also appreciate the part that both change in roles and acceptance of this play in long-term relationships.

Yet, it is clear that not all men think alike. Try to be flexibility in how you approach the differences. Integrate the unique opinions and attitudes of the man who means the most to you. This Father's Day give your partner the gift of greater understanding.

(C) Her Mentor Center, 2008
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is the co-founder of http://www.HermentorCenter.com, a website for the Sandwich Generation, and blog, http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com. She is the co-author of a forthcoming book about women and their relationships and publishes a newsletter, Stepping Stones, on her website.
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