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Published August 06, 2010, 12:00 AM

Husbands and wives air common complaints

At a marriage enrichment retreat, husbands and wives met in separate groups to discuss what they felt the opposite sex needed to learn about relationships.

By: Val Farmer, INFORUM

At a marriage enrichment retreat, husbands and wives met in separate groups to discuss what they felt the opposite sex needed to learn about relationships. Most of the participants had been married for two to 12 years, were regular church attendees and had normal and healthy marriages.

The discussions were animated. Out of these small, same-sex discussion groups, lists of common issues were developed and reported to the retreat participants as a whole.

Each gender had ready, well-developed perspectives on improvements the other gender should make. The overall conclusions didn’t reflect everyone’s experience, but there was enough consensus to make this an insightful experience for everyone involved.

What men wished women would do differently

1. Judge fairly. There was a sense that they were often on the defensive and wrong just for voicing an opinion that did not match their wives’ expectations. They wanted a feeling of teamwork, cooperation, partnership and legitimate discussion of issues in their marriage.

2. Forget the past. Husbands felt that some past hurts and blunders in the marriage weren’t left alone. They felt that matters that had been resolved were brought up unfairly in fights. “Let the dead stay buried.”

3. Know that work is important. They felt that their wives needed to understand and appreciate the work pressures and responsibilities they face. They wanted their wives to understand better that sometimes work obligations take precedence over family needs. Some of their priorities are out of their control. “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

4. Verbalize needs. These men didn’t like being judged or criticized for not doing something they “should have known.” There are times when they just “don’t get it.” They wanted their wives’ expectations spelled out; the more detail, the better.

5. Be a friend. Men want a safe haven, a best friend where they can unburden themselves and be accepted for who they are. They want to be able to share emotions and know their thoughts and feelings will be kept confidential. Companionship, affection and romance are important.

They want a friend who can take their side and be supportive of their struggles. They face performance pressures enough in society without being under the gun at home, too.

6. Understand the importance of free time. Men wanted acceptance for their occasional need to be alone or to pursue their personal interests.

What women wished men would do differently

1. Show emotions. Women wanted men to know that expressing their emotions is OK. They want more emotional expression from their husbands.

2. Don’t give lip service. Women didn’t like their husbands agreeing or placating them and then not following through. They want their ideas and concerns taken seriously. Their feelings are real, and their ideas have value.

Women didn’t like being put in the position of repeatedly requesting something and then being expected to be grateful when their husbands finally honored their request. To them, it feels like begging and being rewarded – as if they were some sort of troublesome pets.

3. Recognize that differences in opinion are not fights. Wives had trouble getting issues talked about because husbands would be too reactive or withdraw because of an emotional edge to the discussion. It is hard to get a legitimate discussion going about important issues.

4. Give affection without sex. Women in this group would like to share affection without feeling obligated to respond with sex. They appreciate holding, touching, cuddling and physical closeness that doesn’t lead to the bedroom. They want understanding for the time it takes to transition emotions. They want consideration of their moods and energy level when it comes to sexual interest.

They want to be loved, wanted and appreciated. They want their husbands to pay attention and care about them. A minority of the women expressed concern about the lack of physical affection and sexual interest their husbands paid to them. This was hard on them.

5. Understand family obligations. Women expressed concerns that their husbands be sympathetic and supportive of efforts to keep family ties with parents and siblings strong.

6. Negotiate work and parenting responsibilities. Fairness in family and household work is important. Resentments build easily if the workload in the family is one-sided. Women also wanted their marriages to be a partnership experience full of cooperation and teamwork.

Take this list and discuss it with your spouse. See how much of it rings true from his or her perspective. It should be an interesting discussion.


What is your perspective? Send an e-mail to val@valfarmer.com or a letter labeled “Differences” to the Preston Connection, PO Box 1135, Orem, UT 84059.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.

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