Now a days, there seems to be so much confusion about what a man’s role in a relationship should be. You hear phrases like “A real man makes the decisions in the relationship” mixed with “Happy wife, happy life.” Then there’s the “traditional” household where the man works a full-time job, the woman stays at home as happy as can be, and then the man comes home to watch television the rest of the night. Needless to say, I have never seen a satisfied relationship that looks like this.
To provide some guidance, I made the habit of discussing roles with couples in my office. The men provided answers of what they aspire to be, as men in their relationship. And the woman’s response is always the same “I would LOVE it if he did that!” When the men work towards these characteristics, satisfaction increases and both partners are happier in their relationship. Here are those answers to help guide you in your relationship too:
As for making decisions, this does not mean that you do things willy-nilly on your own without talking to your spouse. It also does not mean that your partner should not make ANY decisions. Rather, the men I have spoken with aspire to make tough decisions without placing all of the responsibility (or blame) on their partner. For difficult decisions in your relationship, consult your spouse, understand their perspective, and make a decision based on all of the information. After, take responsibility for the outcome and learn from mistakes to guide future decisions.
Take initiative for things that you have been putting to the side or things that demand your attention right now. Men tell me they want to fight laziness and women tell me that things never get done – putting aside excuses and taking initiative is the cure. It may be hard after a long day of work (or caring for children). But, finding your priorities and carving out time for your responsibilities will bring back a sense of accomplishment and focus.
Running a (happy) household takes more than one person. Men aspire to work together with their partner when they are struggling. Instead of zoning out and watching television first thing when you get home, think about what chores or duties that need to be completed. Work together with your spouse to get things done. I have heard AMAZING changes from using teamwork rather than having one person do all of the work.
Calming and Assuring
Anxiety is a common issue in relationships. Men aspire to be able to be the partner that is calming and assuring during anxious times. When anxiety or frustration is high (especially during arguments), keep a calm demeanor. Assure your spouse that things will be okay and have a plan for the future when possible.
Men have told me that they aspire to be the protector of their relationship or family. When talking about the protector role, men talk about protecting their family physically (i.e. from physical threats of harm), from negative influences (i.e. drugs, friends, etc.), and financially (i.e. through providing income). Being the protector assures that there is less risk of someone or something harming your family. Keep an eye out for what could be harmful to your relationship and/or your kids and protect against it.
When talking about roles, men aspire to: be decisive, take initiative, use teamwork, calm/assure their spouse, and protect their relationship/family. Women in the relationships respond positively when men talk about these aspirations. They are also pleased when men start to actually make these changes. Use some of these characteristics to guide your thoughts about what your role is in your relationship.
About The Author
Chris Cummins is a couples counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He focuses on working with with couples in high conflict and couples who are experiencing substance abuse. Living in Colorado, Chris enjoys hiking traveling and anything else outdoors.