How to Make My Husband Happy
You love your husband, and he loves you. You would do anything to make him happy. But sometimes this feels easier said than done. You’ve tried everything you can think of, and he’s still stuck in a rut.
It’s time to reframe the problem: the way to make your husband happy is to cultivate a happy marriage. Rather than focusing on him, focus on the two of you, and the partnership you share. His happiness will follow naturally.
That isn’t to say that you or your marriage are the cause of your husband’s unhappiness (though it is likely suffering because of it). But it could be a cure. A successful marriage is one of the factors most often linked to an individual’s happiness.
It’s essential to keep in mind that you can’t make another person happy. You can please them in the moment, yes. But in the end, their long-term, enduring state of mind is going to be up to them. What you can do is help develop an environment in which their happiness can thrive. And that starts with your marriage. Work together to build a marriage where both of you feel valued and validated, and his happiness will follow.
Love is a Partnership
A healthy marriage requires effort. People often think that if they’re meant to be, they’ll just be happy together naturally. That is especially true, given how easy your happiness was when you first started dating. But the fact is, a successful, lasting relationship is something you need to build, and that takes work (from both parties).
If you take one thing away from this reading, let it be this. Love is a partnership. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, and taken it in, but what does it mean exactly? The term “partnership” often carries business connotations. Two separate individuals working together, making compromises towards a mutually beneficial goal.
While it’s true that compromise is a valuable part of a successful marriage, this is not the type of partnership to which I’m referring here. Marriage isn’t about competing interests winning out over each other. Nor is it about focusing on one person’s happiness over another’s.
If your husband has been unhappy, you’ve undoubtedly been working to change that. And that probably means you’ve been focusing on him so much you’ve been neglecting not only yourself but also the relationship you share. So, no matter how much you’re focusing on his happiness, if the woman he loves is struggling, and your relationship is suffering, how is your husband supposed to be happy?
So what does it really mean when I say that love is a partnership?
Complementary vs. Competing Interests
No matter how in sync you are, no two people are going to have needs, desires, interests, and skills that are perfectly aligned. And when partners in a marriage have interests that don’t precisely line up, there are three paths forward. You can compete, you can compromise, or you can work to find a way that those interests complement each other.
The easiest path is to see it as a competition. Your husband’s needs are different from yours; only one can “win.” But this approach, while natural, can put a severe strain on a relationship. The “loser” is likely to feel disappointed and bitter, and even the “winner” may feel guilty. Over time, this is sure to breed resentment.
Compromise is typically seen as the natural alternative. Come together and find a way that each of you gets something that you want, even if neither of you is completely happy with it. That is a fine outcome, and sometimes it will be the best you can do. But many couples tend to think these are the only two choices: compete or compromise. But a true partnership is about finding ways that your disparate interests can, in fact, complement and enhance each other.
Being in a relationship is not just about your similarities. While it’s enjoyable to share interests, your differences are what can be most exciting.
Communicate Freely and Openly
Communication is one of the most significant drivers of marital success. Effective, open communication is a key to the happiness of your husband as an individual and your shared partnership both. A relationship cannot thrive if you don’t understand each other, in totality.
Talk about your wants, your needs, your favorite things about each other, and the things that bother you most. Communicate things you’re struggling with and things that make you happy. It’s imperative to find this balance, so active communication doesn’t begin to feel like an inherently negative thing.
You don’t need to unload all these things at once. But it’s essential to cultivate a relationship where both parties feel comfortable sharing all these things. So how do you do that? Let’s break it down.
What is Communication, Exactly?
When people think of communication in a marriage, they often think of two people sitting down on a couch together, facing each other, and having a long deep conversation. And while this can indeed be a part of it, the fact is communication runs much deeper than this.
As an example, your husband has communicated to you that he is unhappy, and there’s a pretty good chance he did so without telling you directly, or even using words at all. Understanding nonverbal communication is a significant part of being able to understand your partner. It can include:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Paralanguage (expressions like “oh” or “hmm)
And much more. We’ll have more on this later. Some couples understand each other’s nonverbal communication so well that they can have the equivalent of full conversations without saying a word. But it’s not something to be ashamed of or an indication that you’re a less successful couple if you’re not there yet.
And it’s important not to rely too heavily on nonverbal communication anyway. You don’t need to be a mind reader; if you don’t know what your husband is saying, ask him! The foundation of healthy communication is the ability to talk openly with one another about anything. That might take some effort at first, but it’s well worth it.
Some Thoughts on Listening
If your husband is sharing something with you, it’s natural to feel the need to say something “valuable” in response. Your husband has been unhappy, and now he’s being vulnerable. Here is your chance to help him feel better, and get things turned around. But you need to find the perfect thing to say!
It’s perfectly logical to feel this way. But it’s not true. The most important part of listening… is listening. Of course, you should engage with him, but it’s far more impactful to make him feel heard and validated than it is to come up with that perfect response.
If you do have something to say in response, say it! But what matters is making sure your husband understands that when he has something to share, you will be there to truly hear what he has to say. Having a sounding board and a listening ear can make an immense difference sometimes.
Make Sure It’s a Two-Way Street
I know your focus here is on making your husband happy. And it is indeed incredibly important to be there for him. Ask him about his needs, and truly listen when he expresses them. But as we talked about earlier, if you ignore yourself and your partnership, your marriage is naturally going to suffer, and you’re not going to make him happy.
It’s imperative that you also communicate what you’re feeling as well. Tell your husband about positive things and negative things. Talking shouldn’t just be about sharing concerns you have, or things that are bothering you. It should be about breaking down barriers of all kinds and fostering an environment where communication is simply a natural part of your relationship.
And when you do share negative things or things that bother you about your husband, make sure not to frame them in an exclusively critical way. Be constructive; provide opportunities for growth. Don’t focus on what you don’t want; focus on the alternative that you’d prefer. They communicate the same things, but your husband will naturally be much more open to the latter than the former.
Building off of that last point, it is essential to focus a substantial amount of your communication on positive things. Whether it’s just a routine good thing that happened to you today or something you love about your husband, share positive thoughts regularly and often.
That serves two purposes. First of all, it’s just good for the soul to hear positive things. Your husband loves you, and he will appreciate hearing about things that have made you happy. And he knows you love him, but it can still make a huge difference to say it out loud—the more specific, the better.
Beyond that, the more positive communication you utilize, the more effective your overall communication as a couple will be. This is about breaking down the stigma around the concept of “we need to talk.” Often, people hear that and completely shut down. But if you’re able to cultivate a marriage where communication flows freely and regularly about all kinds of topics, both parties will be more open to talking about negative things as well.
I touched on the importance of nonverbal communication earlier, but let’s talk about it a bit more. Direct, verbal communication is essential, and without it, you’re not going to be very successful here. But it’s fundamentally important to be able to understand each other’s nonverbal communication as well.
People are communicating all the time, whether they intend to or not. If someone is oblivious to their spouse’s nonverbal communication style, it is very likely to breed conflict or resentment. But if both spouses are in sync with each other in this regard, that can really open things up and take your overall communication to the next level.
It’s essential always to consider the situational context. The same body language, facial expression, or words can mean entirely different things in different situations
And everyone has their own unique nonverbal communication style as well. I can’t tell you that particular body language will always mean one specific thing because that’s not true. But I can tell you to look for patterns in the way your husband carries himself, the way he reacts to certain things, indicators of his mood, and so on. The more aware the two of you become of those types of things, the better you will understand each other.
Spend Quality Time Together
The longer you and your husband have been together, the more effort it can take to spend real quality time together. When you first started dating, you were always going out together or just enjoying each other’s company. But the longer you spend together, the easier it is to fall into a routine that can quickly become a rut.
Along with communication, true quality time is the other most universal factor in successful marriages. And it could play a significant role in helping your husband snap out of his rut.
What Quality Time Isn’t
Don’t get me wrong—we all love settling down after a long day, cuddling up on the couch, and watching some TV or a movie with our loved one. But this likely isn’t real quality time.
It’s all too easy to sit on the couch, looking at the TV or your phone, zoning out. The TV show plays, one of you might make a comment here or there, but you’re not really interacting. You’re in each other’s presence, but you might as well be on different planets. And this can actually make you feel even more isolated from each other; “we spend the whole evening together every night, why don’t we feel more connected?”
The fact is, being physically together isn’t enough. You have to be together mentally, as well. I know it can be difficult. You’re both tired after a long day. You both love the show you’re watching. And there’s comfort in a routine.
But to strengthen your marriage, and to make your husband (and yourself!) happier, you need to do more.
What Quality Time Is
Quality time means being present together. That goes beyond being in each other’s physical presence—it means being mentally involved, focusing your attention directly on each other.
The most natural thing to do to get this quality time is to go on a date. Whether it’s dinner, a movie, or just a walk in a park, going on a date is a great way to find some time where it’s only the two of you together. Just because you’ve been together for a long time doesn’t mean it’s not important to go on dates anymore; if anything, it can be even more important to keep that spark going!
That said, you don’t need to go out to spend quality time together. You can do it right at home. Just set some time aside to leave your phones in the other room and leave the TV off. The setting doesn’t matter, as long as you’re both present and engaging with each other.
I’d recommend setting aside two nights a week to spend quality time with each other. It doesn’t take much, but you’ll feel the difference right away. It can be challenging to break out of a routine, but the renewed connection will be incredibly refreshing.
Spend Time Apart
Wait, what? You just spent all that time telling me we need to spend quality time together, and now you’re telling me the opposite? What’s going on here?
You’ll remember that earlier I mentioned the three elements of marriage: each of the two individuals, as well as the partnership they share. For a marriage to be as successful as possible, all three elements need to be strong. The stronger and more fulfilled the two of you are as individuals, the better your relationship will become.
That means taking time to focus on yourself and do the things that are most important to you—and giving your husband the time and space to do the same. It may be counterintuitive, but for your marriage to truly thrive, you need to have an identity independent from your spouse. The more self-assured you each are as individuals, the better your relationship can be.
As things currently stand, you and your husband likely spend most of your free time in each other’s presence, but very little actual quality time. It’s important to veer off in both directions. Take a day or two each week to spend time apart, and work on yourselves as individual human beings. But when you are together, truly be together. Be present and give your relationship the focus it deserves.
A Few More Notes
Quality time and communication are consistently cited as two of the most critical factors for successful marriages, and improvements in these areas should go a long way in helping to make your husband happy.
But here are a few more areas you can work on to improve your partnership:
This is a big one. Conflict happens! The most idyllic couple you know surely gets into disagreements all the time. The key is to remember that disagreements don’t have to be fights. And that none of it has to be personal. The most successful couples focus on solving the problem itself, not getting defensive, or attacking the other person.
Sometimes fights do happen, though, and you or your husband may say something that you regret. Forgiveness in these situations is very important, both for the success of the marriage and even for the mental health of the offended party.
I’m not saying you need to forget, or even let them off the hook without a sincere apology and change in their behavior. But holding onto grudges is poison. Let go, and practice forgiveness.
Growth as individuals and as a pair is one of the most important things a couple can pursue. But trying to change the other can be one of the most toxic. What’s the difference? Help them grow by fostering their pursuit of things in which they are interested, as opposed to trying to shoehorn them to change in your image.
You fell in love with each other for the people that you were. Don’t try to change that. But work together so that you don’t become static and stale.
The Final Word
When your husband is unhappy, it’s very hard to be happy yourself. You’d do anything to cheer him up, but nothing seems to work long term. It makes you feel defeated, and causes your marriage to struggle, and that all feeds into a vicious cycle of unhappiness. What do you do?
The fact is, you can’t just make him be happy. But you can work to create an environment in which his happiness will emerge. The best way to do that is to focus on cultivating a happy marriage, one that is a true partnership in which both parties are valued and celebrated.
Snap out of your rut and start spending quality time together. Go on dates or spend time at home when it’s just the two of you, genuinely focusing on one another. Just as important, though, is to take some time apart to focus on yourselves as individuals. Work on your communication skills, about positive and negative things alike. Break down barriers, so that you can talk about anything, and put in the effort to understand each other’s nonverbal communication as well.
Work on conflict resolution, remembering that a disagreement isn’t a fight. Focus on the problem and not the person. And if a fight does happen, practice forgiveness. And never stop focusing on your growth or helping him with his own. If you do all these things, your marriage is sure to flourish. And your husband’s happiness will flourish along with it.