"My wife has been my closest friend, my closest advisor. And ... she's not somebody who looks to the limelight, or even is wild about me being in politics. And that's a good reality check on me. When I go home, she wants me to be a good father and a good husband. And everything else is secondary to that." --Barack Obama.
Being a good husband starts with looking at your wedding vows. Use those as the touchstone by which you judge your performance as a husband. One common set of marriage vows goes like this:
"Will you love her, comfort and keep her, and forsaking all others, remain true to her as long as you both shall live?"
"With this ring I thee wed, and all my worldly goods I thee endow. In sickness and in health, in poverty or in wealth, 'til death do us part."
The first words in those vows are crucial. "Will you love her?"
Author Stephen Covey shares a story about a husband who came to him asking for advice on what he should do if he wasn't in love with his wife anymore.
Covey told the man, "Love her."
The frustrated husband explained again, in more detail, how he didn't have those feelings toward his wife anymore. They'd fallen out of love.
Covey explained to the man that "love" is a verb, and if he started loving his wife again, he'd start having the feelings for her again.
Love is about giving, not about taking. What you do for her is what gives you the satisfaction of loving.
What things do you do when you love someone?
You put her needs ahead of your own.
You give to her without thinking about what you're getting in return.
You forgive her for her faults and mistakes.
You listen to her.
You encourage her.
Marriage counselors don't talk about it much, but comforting your wife is one of your primary roles as a husband. (It's right there in the vows, remember?)
You're not only there to comfort your wife when she's devastated because her mom just died. You're also there to comfort her when the kids have worn her patience to a nub. You're also there to comfort her when she has a headache. You're also there to comfort her when she doesn't feel pretty.
Men tend to want to solve problems and offer solutions to others with problems. But often, what women need is comfort, not solutions.
Forsaking All Others
This one's simple. You promised to have a single wife for the rest of your life. So if you have a mistress or a girlfriend, then you're not keeping your promise.
Want to be a good husband? Get rid of the girlfriend.
Want to be a good husband? Don't put yourself in situations where you'll be tempted to break your vows.
Put the effort you'd put into covering up an illicit relationship into improving your relationship with your wife instead. It will pay untold dividends.
All My Worldly Goods
A friend of mine explained to me once that when you're married, you don't have a glass of soda any more. It's not yours.
It belongs to your wife too.
That made a big impression on me. If you want to be a good husband, then you have to take the attitude that all your worldly goods belong to her just as much as they do to her.
What does this mean?
A good husband doesn't loan money to his deadbeat pals secretly.
A good husband doesn't blow money gambling when his wife disapproves.
A good husband doesn't let his wife do without good clothes or anything else she needs. She should be able to dress as nicely as you do, eat as well as you do, and enjoy all the other physical comforts you enjoy.
In Sickness and in Health
This means you keep these promises whether or not she's sick. Being sick isn't just a matter of having a cold or cancer either. Mental illnesses and spiritual illnesses count too.
If a wife suffers from a mental illness like depression, a good husband stands by her.
If a wife suffers from a spiritual illness like alcoholism, a good husband stands by her.
If a wife suffers from a physical illness like obesity, a good husband stands by her.
This doesn't mean that a good husband ignores his wife's unwillingness to get treatment for her ills. But it does mean that you stay with her and patiently, consistently continue to comfort her and help her with whatever treatment she needs. And it means you'll continue to do so until one of you dies.
It's a Tall Order
Being a good husband is a tall order. Like running a marathon, it's not easy, and it's not for everyone. But also like running a marathon, being a good husband brings untold benefits, not the least of which is the ability to look in the mirror and know you've accomplished something really difficult.