If you don’t want to be in one of the most annoying relationship dynamics of all time, never utter these phrases to your husband.
“You need a haircut”.
It’s great that you want your husband to look his best, but avoid giving him unsolicited advice on things that he’s capable of deciding for himself. What if he likes his locks a little long, or was planning to schedule an appointment right before you said something? Now you’re just annoying. “If you treat your husband as if he can’t think for himself, he will stop thinking for himself, and ultimately will become so coddled that he’ll stop thinking much of you,” says relationship expert Todd Valentine. At some point, he learned how to shave and book salon appointments on his own, meaning he has all the tools he needs to act like a grown-up. So unless he’s seriously verging onWolverine hairy (no one but Hugh Jackman can pull off that look), allow him to be a man and figure out grooming all on his own. That also goes for getting his suits dry-cleaned and going shopping for new shirts when his old ones get holes.
“Laundry belongs in the hamper.”
Staring at a mound of dirty clothes can be so infuriating that you’ve gotten into the habit of picking up after your husband, which of course you resent. The simple solution: Don’t do it. If he wants clean pants, he’ll figure it out eventually. “Just because he acts like a child doesn’t mean you have to act like his mom,” says Charles Orlando, author of The Problem with Women… Is Men. “I used to leave my shoes at the coffee table, and my wife hated tripping over them. After months of moving them for me, she finally said that if she ever had to do it again, I wouldn’t like the result. As promised, the next time I forgot to move them, she covered them in honey, put them outside, and let ants crawl all over them. Obviously I was mad, but I was also warned–and she was right. It was a playful punishment that caused me to change. Had she continued to act like a mom and nag me, I wouldn’t have, but acting like a pissed-off wife worked.”
“It’s time to go to bed.”
Unless you have a naughty striptease planned, it’s best to avoid phrases that begin, “It’s time to,” “You should,” and “Just don’t.” “If you believe it’s your job to raise your husband or teach him self-care, whatever you say will sound maternal,” says Steve Stosny, author ofHow to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. “If you shift your mindset so that you no longer think it’s your duty, your tone will become more friendly and less authoritarian.”
“You’re going to wear that?”
“Research tells us that the best way to maintain a strong marriage is to avoid criticism,” says Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women. “You need to learn to express yourself to your husband without making him feel bad.” Even though he’s not a child, there are times when we all need to be treated more kindly and handled with kid gloves, so instead of taking a critical tone with him, be positive and direct and say, “That navy shirt you wear really turns me on.”
“You need to do this.“
You might have an epically long to-do list, but sounding like your husband’s whiny boss won’t make him want to help you. “It’s akin to being ordered around by an authoritarian mother who tells her child what to do,” says Marcia Naomi Berger, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love. “Your husband might cave in and do what you tell him to, but over time, he may also lose sexual interest in you as he starts seeing you as his mom.” Instead of ordering him around or reminding him just how many times you’ve asked him to figure out a tech issue, turn your demand into a question. Say, “Our laptop isn’t working. Do you want to bring it to the Apple store on your way home from work tomorrow, or should I?” “This sets you up as teammates,” says Berger.
“Don’t get up, honey.”
Spoiling the man you love from time to time is, of course, okay. But mother him too much and he’s likely to get used to it. “If you don’t require your partner to be an adult, he won’t act like one,” says Valentine. “People expend only the amount of effort necessary, so if they can take the lazy route, they will. You may think you’re giving your husband what he wants, but what a man really wants is a woman he respects and has to work for. When you spoil him, you’re actually taking away the thing he desires most.”
“You can’t go to the game, we have brunch plans.”
As much as he loves having dinner with your friend and her new husband, beware of putting too many events on your shared calendar without giving him a say. “When one person absorbs the other’s responsibility, it’s no longer a relationship, it’s a dictatorship,” says Valentine. “Your husband stops being an adult with free will, either out of fear or laziness. He needs to maintain his autonomy.” Sometimes, it’s best to turn that double date into an excuse for you and your girlfriend to catch up, and give him some time to get baseball-happy.