Improving Marriages For Men
By Elizabeth Black©

Scott Halztman is a psychologist and Brown University professor who
studies marriage and men in relationships. The
article  looks into advice
he gives men about marriage. He has a new book out, called
Secrets Of Happily Married Men" Haltzman's suggestions as described
by the author of the article are in italics. My comments follow.

Make Marriage Your Job.

Premise: Guys have skills and habits developed at work that can be
successfully applied to marriage.

Details: If men are to accept marriage as a job, they need a job
description. Here's Haltzman's: Love, honor and respect her; be sexually
and emotionally faithful; listen without being judgmental; support her
ambitions; try to understand how she is different emotionally; be honest
at all times and keep promises; share in child care and domestic work;
be as attentive, fun-loving and adoring as you were during courtship; and
be affectionate. This is no part-time gig.

How disappointing, viewing marriage as a job. Lots of people view their
jobs as drudgery, and it would be a mistake to view marriage that way. I
wish he would have chosen a different gimmick to describe how to
improve your marriage. Still, I understand why he has chosen to take on
the issue in this manner. Many men find their identities through their
jobs. This article is using job language to speak to men, but I feel it is
limited by doing that. Maybe the next time he can compare marriage to
how guys treat their cars. Check the state of the marriage every 5,000
miles like they get the oil, oil filter, and air filter changed in their cars. Give
their marriages a tune-up. Take on more of the household chores and
childrearing with the same gusto they use when washing and waxing
their cars, and cleaning the inside of their cars with Turtle Wax Leather
Cleaner. Lots of guys can identify with their cars. Yeah, it's a stereotype,
but such an article would have an interesting gimmick.

Despite those points, his advice is sound. The key to a good marriage -
or any good relationship, for that matter - is to be attentive to your partner.
Communicate. While I agree that partners should be honest with each
other, most people have a circle of privacy that should be kept private. I
believe that circle of privacy should be respected. Fathers must do more,
though, than "shared in child care and domestic work". For them to do
this to the extend mothers do it, they must be willing to make sacrifices.
Primary caregiving moms give up salary, opportunity, and career perks to
properly raise their children, and those sacrifices will affect them for the
rest of their lives. Despite taking on those costs, most married mothers
work outside the home. The Whirlpool study found that " 55% of
married households, wives bring in half to all of the family's income." I
believe that men will live more well-rounded and enjoyable lives if they
properly devote themselves to their families.

Know Your Wife.

Premise: You think you know your wife, but you haven't really been
paying attention. Do your research.

Details: Haltzman urges guys to do what guys do: Collect data. Observe
her in mundane situations where she reveals herself: at the sidelines at a
kid's game; at a restaurant or coffee shop; and before, during and after
sex. Here is where you will discover who she really is, not who she says
she is. For detail and accuracy, Haltzman recommends creating a "Daily
Observation Chart" (!) to record her activities. He appears to be serious
about this.

Your wife is not a Powerpoint chart that can be broken down into specific
boxes. Don't treat her that way. I think that his main point is to pay
attention to your wife when she is not focused on you (not counting
before and after sex). She is an individual human being, not an extension
of her spouse. She is her own, unique, person, and she deserves to be
treated that way.

Be Home Now.

Premise: Guys evolved as prowlers and hunters, not home-tenders. But
to make a marriage work, you've got to spend a lot of time around the

Details: "To... build a lasting marriage, you have to be there, in person,
day by day, Mr. Regular, at home, in the building - and that's that." And
why don't more guys do this? Haltzman says men need to be honest
about why they often leave the cave, returning only to feed, sleep and lie
with their mate: to avoid conflict, loss of control, domestic responsibilities,
intimacy or...having to grow up. But if men are sufficiently present at
home - and attentive while there - the payoff is "direct and bountiful...
love, friendship, support, emotional nourishment, peace of mind, fun,
intimacy and sexual satisfaction."

How much is a man willing to give up in the work sector to do right by his
family? As I have already stated on this blog repeatedly, mothers are
most often the primary caregivers of their children. They tend to take on a
"second shift" of housework that men don't take on. Mothers also take on
opportuntity costs, salary losses, career losses, and life costs that are
necessary for taking on the main responsibility of the care of their
children. Are men willing to take on these same costs? These costs
cannot be regained. Not many men are willing to take them on. Even if
they aren't willing to take on those kinds of losses, they can still be
important and vital members of their families. What they need to do is to
acknowledge the sacrifices their wives have made in order to care for
their families, even if their wives work outside the home. I agree that the
benefits of focusing more on their homes will only benefit men. They will
end up with a more well-rounded and pleasant life if they spend more of
their time and energy on their families. The Timberlawn study found that
the main factor in helping children grow up to become healthy and happy
adults is the quality of the relationship between the parents.

Expect Conflict; Deal With It.

Premise: Fights are inevitable, but you can control them.

Details: "You can...stop the mounting tensions in their tracks," Haltzman
says, not by doing what guys are inclined to do (dig in and fight to the
death) but by using various higher cerebral strategies. For instance, take
advantage of a woman's natural inclination to nurture by softening your
tone. And stymie escalation by not letting emotion drive something you
say or do.

"Woman's natural inclination to nurture"? Women aren't hard-wired to
nurture. Nurturing is learned. I'm not an essentialist. This suggestion is
rather stereotypical and vague. Married people have disagreements just
like anyone else. It's how you handle those disagreements that will
determine the strength of your relationship.

5. Learn to Listen.

Premise: Listening does not come naturally to guys, who are more
inclined to act. But it can be learned, to great benefit.

Details: Stand still while she talks. Turn off the TV. Look directly at her.
Use verbal nods to show that you're listening. If it's important, seek
clarification. If not, just let her talk.

More essentialist talk - listening is something that both men and women
can learn to do. I wonder what kind of man Haltzman is talking to if he
paces while she talks or focuses on the TV when she's trying to talk to
him? That kind of behavior is learned. I think he was more on the right
track when he told men to listen to their wives. Actually take in what she
is saying and respond to her in kind. Communication is not a one-way
street. Communication is key in any good relationship.

Aim to Please.

Premise: "In the are masters of relationship-building."
So: Bring this skill home.

Details: Treat your wife at least as well as you would a valuable client,
co-worker or employee: Greet her warmly, see what she needs and how
you can help. Do thoughtful favors, anticipate desires and offer gifts as

What kind of man treats his clients better than his wife? I know that he is
giving his advice in this manner because some men are used to
functioning in a work environment in a certain way. While some of his
advice to men to treat their wives like valuable clients makes sense, it
must be remembered that wives aren't business clients. They can't be
treated as if they are slots in a Dayplanner.

Understand the Truth About Sex.

Premise: Men. Women. They're different!

Details: Haltzman planks out a by-the-numbers program consisting of
five "gears" that men need to move through, sort of like a sporty
transmission. First gear is holding hands, kissing, etc. Second gear gets
more emotional and private. Third is playful. Fourth is getting awfully
close, and fifth is where guys usually wanted to be from the beginning.
Attend to the earlier stages, the author says, and the fifth is more likely -
and better.

While good, this kind of advice is limited. When a husband and wife are
already communicating well, the good sex follows. I don't agree with
taking "proper steps" leading to great sex. If the fifth step - which I
assume is intercourse - is what guys "usually wanted from the
beginning", they are missing out on some great sex play. Pack up the
kids with the grandparents for the evening. Couples can use sex toys
and good women-friendly erotic movies or a good, sexy romantic movie.
They can read sexy passages of erotic stories to each other. They can
set up a fun bubble bath with sexy music and a bottle of champagne. Go
for a walk on the beach before coming home to a great evening of sex.
Try something new. Give each other massages with new massage oil.
Use flavored body gels. Tie each other to the bed if you'd like to try that
sort of thing. Have sex on top of the washer while its on the spin cycle.
Have sex on the living room rug in front of a roaring fire. There are
limitless possibilities for having great sex. It doesn't have to be holding
hands, then kissing, then playful, then fucking.

Introduce yourself.

Premise: Enough about her.

Details: Take inventory of who you are, Haltzman says, which is
something that can get lost in the shuffle. Then, assuming you've
mastered the seven "secrets" above, your efforts to meet your own needs
- doing stuff together that you like, hanging with the guys, taking
occasional solo sorties, playing sports, cultivating hobbies - won't be
greeted as if they are threats or acts of abandonment.

This should have been the first step, not the last. There is no reason that
a man who takes inventory of himself and his needs should "get lost in
the shuffle" when it comes to being there for his wife. Successful couples
make room for each other's personal space. The key is communication
and keeping things in balance.

Elizabeth Black leads a
peaceful life on the
Massachusetts coast,
next to the ocean. She
has written many erotic
short stories. Her
stories have been
published in Xodtica,
Scarlet Magazine, and
Emerging Women
Writers. She lives in a
two-hundred year old
house that she sadly
admits is not haunted.
She is married with a
teenaged son, and she
is owned by six cats. lol
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