Updated: Sep 5
Original post: 6/15/22; Updated post: 4/20/23
By now, most of us have heard the statistic that around 50% of marriages end in divorce, but did you know that “statistics suggest that the chance of a marriage being happy are no better than 50 percent”?
Although we focus a lot of our content around financial education for couples and money management, we understand that money is just one piece of the fulfillment puzzle. In order to manage our finances better, we have to understand how to build and maintain healthy relationships with our partners and spouses.
Today we want to spend some time discussing how to be better partners so that we can build more meaningful relationships with our spouses.
How to be a better partner with empathy
In many ways, empathy is the root of a happy relationship, and one of the most sought-after traits in all types of relationships. As humans, a huge part of feeling loved is a feeling understood. The ability to have empathy for your partner will humanize all interactions, and bring more awareness to your relationship.
One of the best ways to build empathy is through practicing active listening. As men, even when we are listening, it’s natural for our minds to jump to fixing or solving problems. Many times, we skip the key indicators of active listening such as eye contact, affirmation, repeating back to our partner what they just said so they know we understand, or even asking follow up questions to dig deeper into the emotions behind the words.
Empathy is not a means to an end, or problem solving step. It’s an act of presence and understanding that stands alone in meeting our partners needs. Active listening is a great way to build and demonstrate empathy, and ultimately become a better partner.
How to be a better partner in conflict
In marriage, conflict is an unavoidable, and actually healthy, aspect of the relationship. But conflict is an art, and it takes dedication and persistent effort to learn how to fight well.
All relationships are different, so there is no blanket framework for how to address and navigate conflict. But here is a helpful assessment I heard recently, that made me think differently about how I approach (or sometimes avoid approaching conflict) within my own relationship.
Commonly, people fall into one of two camps when it comes to conflict: pursuers and withdrawers. Pursuers actively embrace conflict and often are the first to vocalize when they feel something is wrong. They are the “let’s just talk it out” types.
Withdrawers, for one reason or another, do not respond as quickly when they feel something is wrong. They need time to approach conflict, and if caught off-guard or by surprise in a high-tension situation, will do their best to end the situation by whatever means necessary.
Many relationships consist of one of each type, and each type has its strengths and weaknesses.
It’s important to understand which type you and your partner are because it can be a helpful understanding to guide how you approach conflict. Pursuers will be anxious until they feel like the point of conflict is addressed, but withdrawers won’t be able to fully engage with pursuers without the necessary time and processing they need first.
A helpful tip for pursuers:
Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts, but when you’re feeling anxious to bring a contentious conversation up with your partner, start by saying something like: “I’d like to talk about X, when would be a good time to discuss it together?” Commit to a scheduled date/time in the future together, that gives your partner enough time to process, but allows you to relieve some anxiety
A helpful tip for withdrawers:
Take ownership and responsibility for the time you need and your process. If you feel stuck in a tense situation, acknowledge it with your partner and ask them for time. Realize that anxiety is driving their timeline, and make a compromise by scheduling the conversation for a later date.
How to be a better partner with expectations
While writing this article, I asked a friend: What’s your number one happy relationship tip?
Immediately, he shot back, “Expectations!”
We all have our unique perceptions and perspectives, and likely, what you know about your partners views on life are part of what attracts you to them. However, it is impossible to always be “on the same page”.
Although when choosing someone to spend the rest of our lives with, there are important steps, like aligning on values, that can sync base level expectations of how you both want to live out your lives and what things are important to you both.
However, we are constantly oscillating between past, present, and future in our minds and subconsciously forming expectations. Maybe you have an anniversary planned, and although you’ve had anniversaries in the past, your wife expects something completely different than what you do. This mismatch has the potential to ruin an otherwise happy experience, and neither of you may even be aware of your own expectations, let alone your partners.
Mismatched or unconscious expectations are one of the number one ways couples miscommunicate, and can lead to conflict, frustration, or fights. They may not always be possible to catch up front, but when you find yourself confused about your own frustrations or your partners, spend some time considering each others expectations. This usually leads to resolution and creates empathy much more painlessly.
Set aside time to regularly discuss expectations, especially leading up to important events or changes in your lives.
Thriving in the Modern Marriage from The Modern Husbands #podcast
Sarah Suatoni MA, LPC is a Managing Partner at the Mindkind Institute and was a guest of ours on the Modern Husbands Podcast. She provided great insight into how husbands can be better partners.
Sarah is a licensed Professional Counselor with vast experience, including helping married couples. She partners with leaders to develop emotional and social intelligence, mindful presence, and interpersonal skills along with a clear sense of purpose and values. Her corporate clients include Goldman Sachs, Google, and the World Bank.
0:05~2:38 Sarah’s work
3:14~8:19 Gender roles history vs reality
12:45~15:05 Uncoupling masculinity and money vs. femininity and nurturing
15:07~15:47 Common sense approach
16:25~19:30 What conversations arise from talking about gender roles?
19:30~22:08 Sarah’s suggestions on what we could do differently
23:30~24:28 System site work: swap roles
25:25~27:44 The power in flexibility
31:18~35:25 Sarah’s specific advice on what to do when roles are shifting
36:35~38:04 Key takeaway
As Modern Husbands, we seek to constantly grow in our abilities as partners and to better support our own needs and the needs of our partners. Follow along for more insights about building more fulfilling relationships and let us know what you think!
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Fileva, Iskra. “Is Getting Married a Bad Deal for Women?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 May 2021, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-philosophers-diaries/202105/is-getting-married-bad-deal-women.
Benson, Kyle. “Breaking the Pursue-Withdraw Pattern: An Interview with Scott R. Woolley, Ph.D..” The Gottman Institute, The Pursue-Withdraw Pattern Is an Extremely Common Cause of Divorce. If Left Unresolved, It Will Continue into a Second Marriage and Subsequent Intimate Relationships., 3 Feb. 2021, https://www.gottman.com/blog/breaking-pursue-withdraw-pattern-interview-scott-r-woolley-ph-d/.