5 Things Your Husband Wishes You Knew (but Won’t Tell You)

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Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin explores five unexpressed needs of married men


There are many things your husband would love you to know about him. Sometimes though, he just won’t tell you. Even those in the best of marriages are often surprised when they realize they don’t know everything there is to know about their spouse. Is he purposely not sharing these things with you or has it been awhile since you had a deep conversation together? While the answer may be different for each couple, here are five things most men want their wives to know:

1. He loves you. You are his world though you may not think so. He does not always have an easy time expressing his feelings or sharing verbally with you—though he does show you in other ways.  While you may prefer a hug or words of endearment, he may demonstrate his love when he buys you your favorite snack or mows the lawn.

2. Sometimes, he is embarrassed how you talk about him with your friends and/or in public. When you make a joke about how he can’t find anything, that he doesn’t listen to what you say, or that he is a hermit, he doesn’t always find it funny. When you criticize him in public he feels shamed. After awhile, these remarks begin to chip away at his trust in you as his loving partner.

3. He wants to be #1 (at least some of the time). Although he loves your devotion to the children, sometimes he feels left out. He wants to feel more important than the kids so that when he is talking to you and the children interrupt, you put him first instead of always attending to them. He is your full partner in parenting but he doesn’t want to compete for supermom’s attention. He wishes you would take interest in him, spend time with him, and go out once in a while. Showing your kids that your marriage comes first is a valuable lesson that will benefit them in the long-run even though they may be “kicking and screaming” when you leave them with a baby sitter.

4. His entire sense of self-worth is often directly connected to his ability to provide for you. If your husband is currently out of a job and you are experiencing tension in your relationship, it is no wonder why. He needs you to understand how hard it is for him when he can’t provide because he feels like a failure. When you get anxious about your financial situation, it makes him feel even worse because he feels that he has let you down. There is nothing more satisfying for a man than providing for his family. Realize that money is an extremely charged issue for both of you. Any discussion about the topic will be smoother if you are able to be more sensitive and focus on crunching numbers instead of battling fears.

5. He wants to be appreciated. He wants to know that you appreciate him for everything he does for you. He wants to know that you appreciate him for who he is. When you complain about all of the things he doesn’t do right, it is hard for him to feel that you value him. Keep in mind Dr John Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interchanges. For every one negative remark you make, try to think of five positive things to say, to counteract the negative effects of a critical word. While we may feel so busy with life’s to-do’s that we forget to express our appreciation, we seem to find time to share a complaint or frustration with our spouse. Try carving out a few minutes each day before bed where you share with your husband what you appreciate about him and why.  Hopefully, he will do the same for you.

While these five things may not seem entirely surprising or profound, you would be amazed at the positive and immediate effect that these realizations will have on your marriage. By accepting the way your husband loves you, being careful about criticizing him, making him #1, monitoring your money fears, and expressing appreciation for him, you are showing him that you are willing to meet him half way towards a better and more fulfilling relationship.


image credit: Flickr/Adam Marelli


About Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin (MS, LCPC) and his wife Rivka, are founders of the
Marriage Restoration Project, providing people with invaluable
tools to create and nurture loving and healthy relationships. To learn
more, visit http://www.theMarriageRestorationProject.com/ or follow them on Twitter


  1. Some of these like number 4 seems to be promoting patriarchal ideas. Dislike.

    What if in a particular situation, his wife is in a more lucrative career money-wise?

  2. As much as I want to say something positive about this list…I just can’t. It seems very one-sided where the wife is expected to lift him up way too much…but he won’t take the time to utter the words “I love you” instead he shows it in other ways.. This is total bull…I know it’s a “man-thing” that some guys are not great communicators but this is so over the top about the expectations of the wife. Sorry I won’t buy into this one.

  3. Modern day list:

    1. He watches porn. All the time. But that doesn’t mean he’s not sexually attracted to you.
    2. He wants to have sex more, but you don’t, so hence he falls back on #1.
    3. He misses the time when you two had separate identities.
    4. The only time he has to himself away from you and the kids is when he’s in the can which is why he stays in the bathroom longer than he needs to.
    5. He doesn’t know if he would still choose to be with you if it weren’t for the kids.

    FYI – this list could be flipped and applied to things women wished their men knew.


  4. No Man in Particular says:

    Strange as this may sound, there are some real problems with the assumption that a higher divorce rate today is a sign that marriages fail more often than they used to. It’s not necessarily a direct connection.

    First, plenty of “traditional” marriages fell apart in earlier generations, they just didn’t technically lead to divorce. In previous generations, non-divorce splits were much more common than today, for example permanent separation. On paper, two people could have been married, never divorced but split and hadn’t seen each other in 20 years — that counts as a lifelong marriage? Go back 100 years and add up the number of marriages that ended with separation, annulment, and things other than divorce, and the numbers are much closer to today’s divorce stats. Failure, but no divorce.

    Second, “not getting divorced” is a pretty poor measure of the health of a marriage. Some people in my extended family have been in dysfunctional, abusive marriages that last 40 years. Un-divorced is not the same thing as happily married, no matter how committed to traditional marriage the couple is. Again, failure but no divorce.

    Finally, divorce as a practice has changed over time. In some ways, divorce gets more common in some generations because there are more legal divorce options in that generation. It becomes “easier” to get divorced, but that doesn’t mean the laws encourage divorce, just that now there’s a new way to end failed marriages. Changing divorce laws makes little difference in how much people WANT to get divorced.

    The increase in divorce is not just a recent thing anyway. It’s not just about 1960’s feminism. The divorce rate in the U.S. has been going up since the late 1800’s. (It’s practically tradition in America since the 1880’s for people to get divorced more often than the previous generation!) It leveled off in the Baby Boom era, then increased, and now it’s leveled off again.

  5. No Man in Particular says:

    I think there’s a conservative flavor to the language, which is not wording that I would use, but the basic ideas seem very sound and very applicable to all kinds of marriages.

    For example, I think #5 is basically the root of all the others. People in general feel better when they feel appreciated. Relationships are better and stronger when the people in them feel appreciation. Of course that’s true for both men and women. I think what the list is getting at is that many men who seem pretty taciturn or don’t share their feelings much have many of the same needs as everyone else. Just because he doesn’t talk about his feelings easy doesn’t mean he has no emotional needs. It’s not just women who need to feel appreciated. Men do, too.

    Yes, of course, this list applies to people in general, so it doesn’t have to be male-specific. However, in some marriages the idea that a husband is a human being is itself a radical concept. “Men are people, too” sounds totally obvious to most people, but not everyone….

    I would phrase #4 differently: a husband’s desire to make money is not necessarily from some sort of macho money ego. A man may have feelings associated with his paycheck that are different from what a woman feels about hers. Some husbands may even feel pressure from their wives about making money, even if the wives aren’t doing it on purpose.

    However, men still have to be able to make requests and have the courage to talk constructively about their feelings. If he doesn’t feel appreciated, he needs to speak up and say he doesn’t feel appreciated. Ultimately, if you can’t even make a request, then you’re holding yourself back.

  6. I do not know why people get so upset at the idea that men want to be treated nicely.
    As a woman, the discussion on the table is always about having the highest expectations and being treated like a queen/goddess/whatever, and rightly so. Treating a man well by loving and appreciating him in ways THAT FEEL GOOD TO HIM (as an individual, Rabbi is generalizing here with his examples but we all do that when we write or give advice) is not demeaning to women. Nowhere did he say, make yourself small women, in order to make your man feel big. Nothing is lost through appreciation and respect.

    • Bravo, Freja. So perfectly said.

      The very day a person starts withholding their ability to give what another needs because of what he/she is not GETTING is the day the downward spiral begins. There is no amount of talking, negotiating, or compromising that can fix the FEELING that your partner no longer cares to give without expectation.

      This is why marriage counseling fails so often. Too much talk. Not enough personal accountability and action from a place of love and without expectation.

      Works with horses too.

  7. Everything the Rabbi says is true. Husbands would be happier if we did all these things and we probably should. I would be happier is someone did these things for me. The problem is that that this essay reinforces the idea that women should just suck it up and take what we get in a relationship. Don’t complain. Don’t have high expectations, because that will stress your poor husband. Being the sole guardian of a marriage’s happiness is exhausting and impossible. This is a covenant between two people. The women I know share the responsibility for their family’s financial needs. It is expected. It’s time to start expecting men to take more responsibility for their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of the people they love. Hiding behind a paycheck doesn’t work anymore.

  8. Regarding the whole “monitor your money worries” thing” … If I can’t express my fears and worries to my husband, who might possibly be able to realistically reassure me or even do something about them, who SHOULD I express them to? Hmmm… my girlfriends? Wouldn’t that just be reducing his ‘status’ in their eyes? Maybe to my relatives who might feel like I’m asking them to alleviate the problem? Surely my soul mate should, to some extent, be able to hear my fears without taking it as a personal attack?

  9. Tom Brechlin says:

    That should have read “My wife” is very much like my mom

  10. Tom Brechlin says:

    It’s interesting that in another article “listening” was brought up. Here we have Rabbi who is stating his views, more then likely based upon personal experiences and some responders are saying “you’re wrong” this is old fashion thinking or outdated. Here is the reality and attested to by some respondents, these are not outdated.

    I’ve been married for 38 years and can say that in my life, they aren’t outdated.
    1. He loves you. I can say that through the years that in my heart I showed my love through who I was as the financial provider, as the home laborer. Installing a new dishwasher, making sure her life was comfortable and stable. Besides marrying me, which she stated she would when she was 11 years old, was to be a stay at home mom. Like my dad, I gave my all to accommodate her goals. In college, my goal was to be a recognized artist … I gave that up and struggled through a corporate career which I hated. Yes, there were times I showed my love emotionally and physically but much of my life was spent providing. I don’t regret a moment of any of it.
    2. Sometimes, he is embarrassed how you talk about him with your friends and/or in public. There is no doubt that I would be upset if my wife did such a thing.
    3. He wants to be #1 (at least some of the time). I’m a big proponent of “the kids come first” but the interesting thing is that although they came first in our lives, I never felt that I came in behind them. It was more like our “family” comes first and everything we did or didn’t do was in the best interest of the “family.”
    4. His entire sense of self-worth is often directly connected to his ability to provide for you. As I mentioned in #1, this was and is a key to who I am. My wife is no longer a stay at home mom but is now a full time grandma. My wife is amazing and had she chosen a career, there is no doubt in my mind she would have been amazingly successful as she has been as a mom and now a grandma. My taking on the responsibility as the so called financial provider in no way minimizes her abilities. She recognizes my role as provider is a role of love and appreciates my hard to provide an environment which gave her the opportunity to grow in her roles.
    5. He wants to be appreciated. I am sooooo appreciated. I know I’m appreciated by the home my wife has provided for us. There isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t acknowledge my existence as a dad, a husband or as a grandpa.

    All that being said, we are both still growing. I was really worried about our relationship after the kids were grown and out of the house. After all, we’d been parents for so long, I wasn’t sure how it would be when we didn’t have the kids as a common thread. Within the first year, after the last child had moved out, I realized I was worried for no reason. We’re as in love as we ever were. It’s as though we didn’t skip a beat at all. As important as our kids are to us, we are still very important to each other.

    I’m very much like my dad. He was the provider and gave his all for his family. My mom was very much like my mom, the housewife that kept things together. My dad passed away a few months after I was married but in his death he showed me the importance of his wife. He had a massive coronary and as it happen, his last word was his calling out for his wife.

  11. Number 2 is the best one on this list, it’s so true. But…

    ‘He wants to feel more important than the kids’

    Does he really? While adults need to create adult time in their relationship, if you are in a partnership with kids, the kids do come first. If they were in trouble and you brushed them off to have adult time, what kind of a parent does that make you? No parent should want to come before their kids in that way, that’s just selfish

    • What? The kids are out playing in traffic and he’s an asshole for wanting attention right this instant? That’s how it usually goes right? That must be what these guys are talking about. It doesn’t seem too hard to be a good parent and a shitty spouse.

  12. I think this article is spot on.

    Granted, it is spot on for men and women who are in the midst of raising children together and are probably insanely exhausted.

    I would just add that this list would probably be nearly identical for women.

    With the exception of a woman who has chosen to raise her (your) children full-time, maybe having given up a fulfilling career where she would have had the pleasure of speaking to adults every day. She wants you to appreciate that her job IS being a mother and no one gives her a raise, a paycheck or an evaluation. So, husbands/Dads, this means YOU need to do it., Besides, you are the one from whom she wants and needs approval and appreciation in this department.

    Women, you know if you listen to this article, you will have more intimacy and support from your partner (read: help around the house & with the kids), right?

    Men, you know if you do all these things, you will get more sex, right? 😉

  13. #4, a lot. I think a lot of this is cultural, same as women base their esteem on their looks pleasing their partner, men base it on providing and making their partner happy.
    Is it right? No, but undoing decades of cultural and media programming is difficult. I was born in 1971 as well. Luckily, I was raised in a family where expressing love was not a big deal, but there are plenty who still never heard “I love you.”
    Graeme’s #6 is a big one, too.

    The funny thing is how universal many of these are. It’s good to hear that for many men these are no longer issues, but for many of us, they still are.

    • As a woman I find all of these to be true for me as well. When my husband was the stay at home parent he WAS providing for his family and so was I in working outside the home full time. Our definitions of what it means to provide for the family are warped. I believe men have more value than what the make financially same as women. It is a human thing to want to provide for the people we love, not just a male thing. Understanding that will go a long way in everyone feeling more valued.

  14. On #4 – I’m more worried about making my partner happy than I am providing for her.

    I’ve been the sole provider for a family of 5. My then wife had to go back to work because we couldn’t make ends meet any longer on my salary.

    It didn’t hurt me that she had to go back to work. It did hurt me that two years later I found out that she became really unhappy around that time because I always wanted to make her happy.

  15. Re #2,
    “Joking” with your friends about the shortcomings of your partner, or spreading information that was shared with you in confidence, I become annoyed (to put it mildly) rather than embarrassed!
    I do however agree that it chips away at the trust in the partner!

    And, a partner sharing “sensitive” information with you in confidence, shouldn’t need to explicitely spell out that this is not for sharing for the bemusement of your friends. You should be able to figure that out for yorself!

  16. This is a good start. I think that’s the point or this article. For folks who want more specifics, look into his other blogs or books. Same as any other marriage counselor. Obviously, something like this speaks to married couples with children. Speaking from a standpoint of statistics, most married couples have children still. For the majority of married people I know, this is one of the reasons why they got married. It doesn’t make not having children wrong (nor does it make for a “modern marriage” as one commenter put it as though having children makes me “old fashioned”?) it’s just it’s still within a minority group of married people so a more specialized approach would work better.

  17. I’ve seen a bunch of articles like this and I’ve not been a fan of any of them yet. They all seem to wash over the differences between individual men and make the whole exercise a little pointless. For me, 1 and 2 from this list I just disagreed with and number 3 was not relevant to me as I don’t have kids. Number 4 needs to lose the word “entire”. Number 5 is around 50% appropriate to me. I like to be appreciated for specific things I’ve done but general appreciation for me as a person falls flat and never sounds genuine. But hey, that’s just me, I have no doubt that many men are completely different.

  18. 6. He wants to feel desired

  19. Theorema Egregium says:

    Very good points, Rabbi!

    I’t like to chime to #3 a little, however:

    I’ve often felt like being in a relationship/marriage with a woman in a way is not only a privilege, but an anti-privilege as well: She will likely interrupt conversation with you for other people, but not interrupt conversation with other people for you. Or it may feel that you are the only person in the world for whom she will NOT make herself beautiful/put on makeup/wear anything other than fluffy pyjamas. I think we all have experienced women who will inevitably put on makeup just to go to the supermarket around the corner, but for her husband generally will not. Does that put him BELOW random unknown supermarket employees in her list of priorities and esteem?

    On the other hand, of course, to expect her to be gleaming and styled up when “the man” comes home from work, as might be recommended in 1950’s and earlier self-help books — that is just impossible.There’s no way we can put such a burden on a woman (which is sexist too), and she must be able to feel relaxed, and at home around you, or the marriage will never work. She needs to feel you will have her back and be gracious even if e.g. at parties she ignores you completely all evening to talk with friends and other people.

    Isn’t that a dilemma? What do you propose to solve it? Can only one person at a time feel valued in a couple?

    • nelizadrew says:

      If I put on makeup to go to the store, is not to be “pretty” for random strangers. Is so I look presentable if I run into clients, potential clients, possible future employees/employers, etc. Furthermore, “makeup” to me is generally lip gloss and mascara so I don’t look like I have the flu.
      And if I put on makeup around the house, I’m probably experimenting with fun lip sick colors.

      And as for communication? She can talk to you any day. At a party with people she sees infrequently, of course she’s going to talk to them. You’re approaching abusive levels of control.

      • Joanne Q says:

        Unfair, nelizadrew. Theorema (above) is expressing a wish to be valued.
        I’ve seen “abusive levels of control,” and this ain’t it.

  20. Joshua Boden says:

    What decade is this? I’m a 42 year old married man. I tell my wife I love everyday. I don’t care if she talks to about me to her friends. We have no kids, and to go about assuming that I married adult male should have kids is presumptuous . We both work, so my self worth has absolutely nothing to do with providing for my wife, we both work… like most modern married couples.
    I thought this was a website for modern men. I was born in ’71. This advice comes from the early 60’s. Frankly I find it condescending in tone, to women in particular.

    • Um yeah, my parents are nearing 60 and over 30 years of marriage, and this advice feels outdated even for them. Not just outdated, but kind of problematic too, really. If a husband’s “entire sense of self worth” is derived from being able to provide for his wife and kids, there’s a problem. If a father is vying for his wife’s attention with his kids, there’s a problem.

      I also find it, I dunno, kinda a problem that all five things on this list are very much about women taking men’s egos into consideration before doing anything. I mean even #1 (which is that a husband loves his wife but may not be able to express it) is essentially telling women not to make too many demands on their husband to say it…just accept that the way he communicates it might be to buy gifts or do chores. It’s like the advice is: wives, don’t demand your own emotional needs…accept whatever your husband gives you on his terms.

      Very problematic, indeed.

      • Yeah, it’s a little “Poor us. We can’t use our words”. I get these are universal concerns for shy/insecure humans (not husbands, men or humans IN GENERAL), but this reads a lot like “wives, don’t demand your own emotional needs…accept whatever your husband gives you on his terms.”, like HeatherN said. (or “husbands, accept your wive’s… etc” if the roles were reversed)

        Like, these needs are close to my heart too, I understand them, but this felt a little… creepy. Can’t articulate it better than this.

      • shane gerzon-kessler says:

        The rabbi is fairly conservative, family oriented, and coming from a patriarch’s perspective. It is expected that feminist minded viewers would be offended by putting a man first sometimes. But this is part of the reason many families are falling apart today.

        Hearing some of the critical and self-centered American female responses makes me happier than ever to have found the most beautiful and family centered woman in all of Israel. Tears came to my eyes this morning when she said “I just want to make you happy.” I had never felt so loved.

        So listen up fem-snipers, listen to the good rabbi, wash a dish or two, and start treating your men like kings. You will like the results.

      • I don’t think the list is dated at all. There are a lot of men today that do have a hard time expressing their love verbally. There are a lot of men that are infact embarrassed when their partners say personal things about them to others even though their partner may not be trying to be cruel. There are lots of men who would like their partners to put them first over the kids sometimes. This is a very common complaint infact. There are lots of men who do still connect their self worth to their ability to earn money. I suspect it’s not just about the money but also has to do with needing to feel accomplished in some way outside the home and productivity. And yes, there are tons of men that would benefit if their partners showed them a little more appreciation.

        I think this is a great list that could infact withstand the test of time from 1950s to 2013 and beyond. While our gender roles become more fluid, and that’s a good thing, there are certain truths that will always remain. And none of these actually seem sexist to me.

        • I agree Erin,

          Maybe it is because everyone thinks this is old school advice is why the rate of diverse is so high. I know many men would agree with this.
          Just because some men don’t feel this way it does not necessarily mean that all men are like them.

          • Thanks Kymee. This entire list are things I’ve heard men touch on in their own lives and things I’ve seen and experienced myself in relationships with men in my own life.

        • I agree with Erin. There is nothing 50’s about my marriage and yet, these tips were eye-opening and reassuring to me.

      • I tell folk having their first baby, “Remember, you married [partnered with] your wife/husband, not your child[ren].” If/When they get that, it makes the children’s demands less stressful, and puts the adults back in charge.

    • Anonymous says:

      Haha… PREACH!!! I was reading this and thinking something similar! My wife and I don’t have this dynamic, we’re already set if this is all we need them to know!



  1. […] "Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin explores five unexpressed needs of married men." There are many things your husband would love you to know about him. Sometimes though, he just won’t tell you. Even those in the best of marriages are often surprised when they realize they don’t know everything there is to know about their spouse. Is he purposely not sharing these things with you or has it been awhile since you had a deep conversation together? While the answer may be different for each couple, here are five things most men want their wives to know:  […]

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