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Secrets of Married Men: Part 2

Men share their secrets for marriage success


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Dr. Scott Haltzman

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Men tell their secrets of marriage success
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Winning Your Wife’s Heart Forever: Eight Ways to Have and Hold the Prize.

Winning at sports requires hope, courage, spirit, pride, and perseverance. But above all, it requires skill. Champions beat out others by honing their talents and developing strategies to stay on top.

Marriage is like sports. Heart, inspiration and determination have their place. But if you don’t know the skills…well, you just aren’t going to win.

There are no playbooks for marriage. But good husbands can, and do, master marriage skills on their own through trial and error. There’s a big problem, though. Current American culture provides few opportunities for men to talk about relationships with each other. After the frat house days, a code of silence bounds men to secrecy about their intimate lives. We might talk about investment portfolios or last night’s game, but marriage-building strategies are almost never shared man to man.

At my Internet site,, married men and women discuss the realities of their marriage, and show how they master the game. Like sports, there’s a way to do it right, and many men who have kept their marriages intact have figured it out. These contributions are now found in the book: The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever. (Buy online) Finally, men have broken through the silence barrier.

Winning at Marriage

Men can win at marriage. You can win, too. Start with a goal in mind. Winning at marriage doesn’t mean winning an argument. You don’t win by morphing your woman into a Stepford wife. And she doesn’t win by you being morphed into Alan Alda. You win at marriage when you win your wife’s heart.

Think about when you dated your wife. It was the easiest thing in the world to focus on her happiness. She made your every dream come true; and you lived to please her. If you’re like most couples, though, the glow began to dim sometime after the walk down the aisle. It became harder for you to focus on each other’s needs. Conflicts intruded on your bliss. Always hopeful, you wait and wait for the glow to return. And when that moment comes, you’ll once again meet each other’s needs. There’s only one flaw in that plan: the glow won’t return on its own. It’s up to you to bring it back.

Let me repeat: It’s up to you to bring it back. Don’t buy the lore that men can’t be good at relationship building skills. If you want to improve your marriage, then you have to use your fix-it skills to do it. Because once your wife knows she is the focus of your life, she’ll return your love and build a better relationship by your side. Then the embers will heat up again.

I’ve traveled over the country telling men how they can find happiness in their marriages. Here’s a summary of the eight ways to win your wife’s heart…forever.

The First Way: Make Marriage Your Job

Surprisingly, I have found that the same men who can masterfully deal with conflict at work say they just don’t know how to handle marital problems, and they tune out and give up. Why not start thinking about your marriage the same way you think of your job. It’s easier than you think. You’ll feel more adept at managing marital problems if you use your work skills: long-range planning, active listening, and considering all options before action. And, just like your job, your marriage has many rewards: from personal fulfillment, to a longer, healthier and more financially secure future, to a better sex life. (Yes, studies show that the average married man has more, and more satisfying, sex than his unmarried peers.)

The Second Way: Know Your Wife

If something works for me, it must work for my wife, right? Wrong. It’s likely that your wife and you see practically everything differently. Here’s where your job skills come in handy. To understand the way to your wife’s heart, you must first learn what makes her tick. A bouquet of flowers may not mean much to you, so it may seem like a colossal waste of money to send them. But that’s not the way your wife sees it. To you, working late might be your way of saying: “I love you and take care of you.” To her, it might mean you don’t care about the relationship. If you learn how she views the world, and learn to see things through her eyes, you’ll understand what actions you must take to affect her in a positive way.

The Third Way: Be Home Now

Most marriages that dissolve begin to unravel in the very first year. Do not underestimate the importance of spending time at home with your wife. Time together is proof that you care. You may have thought the wedding ring was enough evidence of your commitment. But for her, the vows are only a start; she wants you to prove your love for her every day. To do this, you must give up your bachelor identity. You may want to play golf on Saturdays and Sundays, regularly attend happy hour or ante-up in nightly poker games. If that’s what you choose to do, though, don’t be surprised if you arrive home to find your packed suitcase waiting for you on the curb.

The Fourth Way: Expect Conflict and Learn to Deal with It

Most people assume that if there is conflict in a marriage, there must be something wrong. The reality is, conflict is part of marriage. If we always agreed with our spouses on everything, imagine how boring life would be. Disagreements happen even in the best of marriages. There are good ways to fight and bad ways to fight. Those who maintain relationships learn to go into the argument slowly; they avoid accusations such as: “How dare you say that?” and instead share their own experience: “I was really upset when you made that comment.” Don’t panic when you clash. It’s OK to disagree. But avoid contempt, criticism, defensiveness and emotional withdrawal. If you fight fair, you will find that conflict can help you learn about your wife and make you a better husband. When the heat builds up, don’t take off in a huff. Loving humor and kind words can help heal the rift.

The Fifth Way: Learn to Listen

Men and women differ dramatically in verbal communication skills. The average woman uses the spoken word three times more frequently than the male of the species. For many women, verbalizing a feeling is more than communicating a thought; it’s a way to establish closeness.

Men, you have to learn the basics. When she wants to talk, sit quietly without distractions. Turn the TV off. And, while you’re at it, put down the newspaper. Now, when she talks, take a few moments and reflect back on what she’s said. Grunt occasionally, to let her know you heard. I realize you know exactly what she’s saying within the first five seconds, but it doesn’t matter. Let your wife talk, and let her know you are listening. Before offering suggestions to problem-solve, ask her whether she wants advice or whether she just wants you to listen. You’d be surprised how appreciative she will be that you are just a good ear.

The Sixth Way: Aim to Please

Funny, isn’t it, that most people treat strangers better than they do their loved ones. You know that if you treat someone well, they will think more highly of you and treat you better in return. Now apply that principle to your wife. Open the door for her when she gets out of the car, place a Hershey’s Kiss on the pillow at night, or celebrate her half-birthday.

Aiming to please may frustrate you, and may leave you wondering, “When do I get my needs taken care of?” I understand your frustration. But I guarantee if your wife doesn’t feel like you are fully committed to meeting her needs, she won’t be there to meet yours. That doesn’t mean you always have to agree; after all, one of the things your wife wants is a man with a backbone. Before disagreeing, though, listen carefully to what she says. Try to determine what she needs, and ask yourself: Is there some way I can make this happen for her? Being a happily married husband means regularly and consistently demonstrating your love for your wife.

The Seventh Way: Learn the Truth About Sex

Sex is not the overriding factor in either marital happiness or marital distress. And while in most cases women want a romantic experience and men want sex, there are many steps to take to make both parties happy. You’ll have to start by understanding her and aiming to please. But don’t stop there. It’s O.K. to ask for what you need sexually. You should be proud of your sexual desires, not feel like they’re something to be suppressed.

The Eighth Way: Introduce Yourself

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You may have thought that earlier on in the eight “ways,” you would have had an opportunity to express your own needs to your wife. You would be wrong. Most couples assume getting needs met is like building the Trans-Continental railroad: one partner goes half way, then sits and waits for the other partner to meet him or her there. That doesn’t work in marriage: When I’m at my half-way point, my wife may see it as only coming along one-tenth of the way. She’s expecting me to keep moving, and I wonder why she’s not trying to come toward me. Only when she recognizes I’m totally committed to her happiness, then (and only then) can I begin to get my own needs met.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to introduce yourself to your wife. Step one: Take a good look at yourself. Are you the kind of guy your wife would want to know? If you are abusing substances, neglecting your health, or engaged in shady underworld dealings, clean up your act before you ask to have your needs met. Step two: Help your wife learn who you are, what makes you tick, and how she can make you happy. Lovingly help her to see the world through your eyes. You won’t end up convincing her you’re right, but you can help her to learn from you and grow with you.

Celebrate your Marriage

When champions triumph, they party like there’s no tomorrow. If your marriage is a success, it’s not out of dumb luck—it’s out of honed skills and hard work. Making your union work demonstrates more than a personal victory; it’s a way of telling your family and your community that you have achieved something special. So take time to celebrate. Treat yourselves to a weekend away from the kids, have passionate sex on a bear rug, go to the beach, or pack up a picnic and take her duck hunting. Then, tomorrow it’s back to work, because keeping your marriage alive requires attention every day.

Dr. Scott Haltzman is a married man, living in suburbs outside Providence, Rhode Island. He is a graduate of Brown University, and received his medical degree from the Brown University Program in Medicine. He completed his psychiatric training and Chief Residency at Yale University. Dr. Haltzman has trained with world-renowned experts in the fields of couples and sexual therapy. He has published scientific articles and book chapters related to the field of psychiatry. He currently is the Medical Director of NRI Community Services in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Dr. Haltzman’s interest in the nature of the married relationship grows from observations made over years of providing individual and couple’s therapy. His research focuses on seeking out data to better help understand the relationship patterns of husbands and wives, and the techniques individuals use to advance the institution of marriage. His Web site is at

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