What do husbands talk about -- and more pointedly, complain about -- when they sit down with their partner and a marriage therapist?
Below, three psychotherapists who work extensively with couples share the biggest issues that men say cause friction in their marriages.
1. My wife expects me to be a mind reader.
Men talk a lot about how unfair it is that they're expected to know exactly what their wives are thinking and feeling at all times, said Marcia Naomi Berger, a psychotherapist and author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted. Then when the husbands misread the situation, they feel like they're somehow the bad guy.
"It's so wrong for women to assume, 'My partner should know how I feel and what I want. I shouldn’t have to tell him,'" said Berger. "Wives should be direct but husbands can also help by encouraging their spouses to say specifically what they want. Then, he should either accommodate or negotiate so both of their needs are met."
2. The late night arguments are getting out of hand.
He's just about to drift off to sleep... and then his wife rolls over and brings up some major household or relationship issue that needs addressing right away, sleep be damned. It may sound like a relatively minor problem, but it's an almost universal complaint among married men, said Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a couples psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.
"Often, from the woman’s perspective, the topic feels so important that she can’t possibly sleep until things have been adequately discussed," LaMotte explained. "But for many men, this is the least appealing time to talk. They feel like their exhaustion and need to sleep is being dismissed by their wives."
To curb unexpected late-night convos, LaMotte suggests carving out some time -- maybe it's 10 minutes after work or right after dinner -- when spouses can give their full attention and mental energy to issues that matter.
3. She doesn't appreciate me.
When speaking with husbands who've cheated, psychotherapist and Neuman Method co-creator M. Gary Neuman said the biggest complaint usually isn't a lackluster sex life, but rather feeling under-appreciated by their wives.
"The problem is, too many women think that if they are overly appreciative to their husbands, they'll reduce their husband's desire to please her. It's quite the opposite. actually. Men are energized when they feel their wives are appreciating them," he said.
4. She doesn't back me up when I discipline the kids.
To be an effective parenting team, you need to establish a genuinely united front for the kids' sake: When dad says to take it easy on the Halloween candy, mom needs to back him up. But Berger said many husbands complain about having to go it alone on discipline.
"They feel like there's no backup,' she said. "Couples really need to support each other in front of the kids and talk to each other in advance so they can agree on what disciplinary action will occur. When children know their parents disagree about what they're allowed to do or on consequences for breaking rules, they're likely to play one parent against the other -- and that only results in stress for the couple."
5. She's not interested in sex.
Sex may not be as hot and heavy as it used to be, but for most couples, it still needs to be a priority. Neuman said that men often complain that they're starting to feel more like roommates than spouses -- their wives just don't seem interested in sex anymore.
"The biggest complaint in the intimacy department for men is not about how satisfying sex is with their wives, but that they feel there's simply not enough," he said.
The solution doesn't rest squarely on wives' shoulders, said Neuman; husbands need to work on fostering intimacy by lending their wives some support outside the bedroom.
"Research shows that when men split the duties of household chores and child-rearing, they have more sex," he said. "Couples need to talk about what will make both of them happier -- what each need in order to create a more intimate relationship."
6. Our marriage is no longer a priority for her.
In therapy sessions, men tell Berger that at some point in time, they feel like their marriage took a backseat to nearly everything else in their wives' lives: the kids, her career, nights out with friends. To rebuild that sense of partnership, Berger tells couples to make a real effort to go on date nights once a week.
"It should be a time to relax and daydream out loud, like when you were courting -- before the responsibilities of married life kicked in!" she said. "Then also schedule marriage meetings where you work on resolving issues and fostering teamwork within your marriage."
Date nights -- along with loosely structured conversations about marriage and family responsibilities -- should go a long way in bringing spouses closer together, Berger said.
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