A good relationship doesn’t have to be 100-percent honest, say the real guys and experts we spoke to. Fibs like these can smooth over small issues—and end up making your bond even stronger.
Relationships are all about compromise—including what movie to see on Saturday night. Even if your husband knows comic-book films aren’t your cup of tea, expressing enthusiasm—it could just be about how excited you know he is—will make the outing lot more enjoyable for him. And it’s a two-way street: You come, no complaints, to his movie, and he holds the tissues while you sob your way through The Fault in Our Stars later this summer.
Even if you don’t dig whatever’s on the menu, thanking him for taking charge rather than pointing out what you would have done differently makes him feel in control and mastery of the situation. “Men can be sensitive to emotional cues, often more so than women realize,” says San Diego-based therapist Rebecca Jurgensen, Ph.D. “If you criticize the way a task is done, he may feel like there’s no point in trying again.” Meal prep might not be your husband’s forte, but it’s best to accept his strengths, appreciate when he steps out of his comfort zone, and little by little, you never know, he could turn into a master chef.
When you come home from a girls’ night and your husband asks how everyone is, he’s probably just being polite, meaning he doesn’t really want to know the nitty-gritty about Jen’s fertility problems or Amanda’s new house—especially if he doesn’t know the women very well orif you know the information is super-personal. “If a situation doesn’t directly affect him or your relationship, there’s no reason to spill secrets,” says Barbie Adler, relationship expert and president of Selective Search, a matchmaking firm.
You may want to prod your husband to get rid of the spare tire he acquired during the long winter, but making it less about how he looks and more about being active will make you sound a whole lot less naggy. Not only that, but committing to going together makes the concept a lot more fun and increases the chance you’ll actually complete that weight-lifting circuit.
Being honest about finances is important, but idly wishing you had more money or talking about how awesome it would be to live in a house well out of your price range will only make both of you feel bad. Instead of talking up the awesome constructions going up on the other side of town, use those feelings as a chance to have a real talk about financial goals, like buying a bigger but reasonably priced home to accommodate your growing family.
When your husband tells you about a thorny issue at work, your first thought may be how he could have changed his behavior, but in that moment, it’s important for him to feel like you’re on his side, says Jurgensen. Once things aren’t so fresh, he’ll likely be less sensitive, and you can bring up your thoughts about how he can better deal with the situation if it happens again.
Even if you did take a trip down memory lane on your browser, you can keep your husband in the dark with no harm done—especially if you didn’t engage beyond a five-minute search. “Men tend to reveal information for a reason, while women reveal information to make conversation,” says Charles J. Orlando, relationship expert and author of The Problem With Women… is Men. “When you tell him you ran a search for your ex, he may assume there’s a reason beyond simple curiosity.” And if you did find out he runs a Fortune 500 company/saves endangered tigers/built his wife a lake house? Keep it on the DL, because if you spill—even if it’s simply because you think it’s interesting—your guy may think that he doesn’t measure up.
An offhand comment—about the ex who lasted forever in bed or made you orgasm at leasttwice a night—can live in a man’s brain forever. “Often, women don’t marry the best sex of their lives, simply because many women register great sex as the first time they fell in love or the first time they regularly had orgasms,” says Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., author of The New Monogamy.But your husband doesn’t need to know about those escapades, especially since the sex you have now—even if it’s not the toe-curling, bring-the-house-down variety you may have had with an ex—is probably pretty damn awesome.
For a lot of men, friends are like family, and they’re sensitive to criticism about them—especially if it’s benign, like they’re too loud or occasionally sleep on the couch after one too many beers. Of course, you don’t want your house to turn into a crash pad for all of his former frat brothers, but letting your husband feel free to occasionally invite them over—even if they’re not your favorite people—makes it clear that the house belongs to both of you. Otherwise, you risk him feeling like a high-schooler asking his mom’s permission to invite friends to hang out.
Experts agree: Even if your husband occasionally complains about his parents, it doesn’t mean you have license to do the same. Family loyalty is complicated, and while you and your guy can disagree over the things his parents do (i.e., you wish they wouldn’t sugar the kids up when they babysit), letting him know you straight-up adore them—especially when it’s clear that, occasional exasperations aside, that’s how he feels—can make these conversations about specific issues go more smoothly.