What Your Wife Really Wants (But Will Never Ask For)

Photo: Serge Bielanko

It ain't rocket science.

The secret to marriage is anyone's guess.

With each passing 21st century hour, every married couple is standing on thin-ass ice. People claim to have it together, but I'm jaded, I'm skeptical. Marriage, by its own morphing definition, doesn't mean forever anymore. No one is saying this out loud, but I will.

Marriage these days means seven to eight years of trying. And then like two to four of suffering in medium-grade dark silence before the divorce comes down. I'm sorry, dreamers, but there you go.

Chances are: your marriage is sh*tting the bed (or separate beds!) as we speak. But why? Have people changed all that much since say, I don't know, the 1950s? Back when human beings were still marrying each other and sticking to it until they died?

It seems hard to believe that we could have either evolved or devolved so much (depending on your own slant) over such a short period of time. We're rarely that onto our own laid-out path. Yet here we are. Being single, remaining unmarried — that used to get you cross-eyed looks from your mom and your aunts. Now it's a sign that you're a free-spirited child of true liberation. And that you're brave. And that you won't be tied down by anyone.

Look, if you do get married these days, you're still toasted and gifted and wished well, but c'mon. On the way home from the reception there's a million private conversations going on between your friends and relatives. They talk. They sigh. They know where you two are headed.

It's just a matter of freakin' time. 

Then again, love is love, and marriage lives. 

People get swept up in the initial phase and feelings of enchantment, attraction, magnetic smiles and brains, and what's wrong with that? Nothing at all, that's what. The idea behind marriage is still as strong and true as ever before. It's the wearing down that has gotten harder. It's the giving up that has taken us out. 

Now, for me to sit here at the bar in my summer kitchen, tapping away at my laptop, a couple extra tabs opened up at that top and pretend that I'm somehow someone who you should listen to when I talk about love, that's laughable and I need you to know that. I've got nothing, man.

I'm divorced, a father of three little ones, rollin' solo through my days. My heart is so banged up that I have to lie to it to wake it up in the morning. I've been hurt in my time. And I have stung with the sting of a trillion Satans. 

I'm no expert on love. I hold no degrees. I hold no hands. I am — and I own it — a failure at this juncture.


But the funny thing is: falling on your face makes you start looking where you're going. So is it with me and love. I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. And one thing I believe now is that wives (and girlfriends) don't tell you the thing that they really want.

Women are insanely insane at times and men are often so wildly blind to the cause of that. But I may be onto at least a partial reason why that is.

See, your wife wants you to put her first. How is that so hard to see? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure I never knew that when I was in a relationship. I thought, "Hey, we're equals, so I'll just treat her like my equal and that's a solid tip of my hat to our magnificent equality." 

But I suspect that might've been wrong. Women don't NEED us to baby them or fawn all over them or tamper with their self-madeness. But deep down I'm thinking they WANT us to bang up against that stuff anyway. To show them we not only acknowledge them as "equals," but also to show them that we are madly in love with them and that we would gladly take a bullet in the unibrow right this second for them if it came down to Superhero sh*t. 

When was the last time that was your regular pattern of treating your lady? When was it the last time it was mine? I'm ashamed to answer that. 


Guess what? I have a 7-year-old daughter now. Violet. She's my world. And whenever I think about whoever it is she's going fall in love with in this world at some point, these are the things I end up pondering. 

I want her to end up with someone who adores her and who never stops proving that in all the little ways. Then they would last, I figure. Or at least have a better shot at lasting. Then they could both know True Love in this Kingdom of Divorce.

I never hope that whatever guy or girl she ends up with is rich or well-educated; I think about how he'll treat my baby girl. That's it. That's how I came up with my whole scheme here. 

It ain't rocket science. We're mostly losing at love. I'd give anything for Violet to not lose at love. 


It seems so easy to hear this stuff I'm saying, to nod in agreement. Lots of men everywhere will look you straight in the Charles Bronson eyeball and tell you, "Yup. That's true. You wanna be a good man, a good husband, you gotta put the little lady first." It sounds so f*cking sexist in a way, but I can't truly buy that complaint either. I'm a smart idiot.

Marriage isn't a thing about who works for a living or who cooks dinner or watches the kids or whatever antiquated bird sh*t you want smear all over every modern marriage collapse that happens. 

Marriage is about sacrifice and mercy. And it's almost too difficult to wrap our heads around. 

Women, wives, girlfriends — they want a thing so badly but they have no idea what it is. So it ultimately causes trouble, gets misperceived as restlessness or discontent within a relationship. And then it gets grossly mishandled. 

Men, especially men who have yet to marry, listen the f*ck to me close:

The woman you love, or will someday love, wants you to be everything. She wants you to be a man. She wants you to work hard. She wants you to provide as much as you can no matter what your role in the household might be. She wants you to watch your skeevy roaming eyeball, but she wants you to remain sexual and sexy, so you'd better not get all stale by not looking around you.

A woman wants her man to be brave, too, and not be a damn p*ssy so much. It's OK to cry, it's OK to feel and to be sensitive and to hurt for the poor seals getting clubbed to death, or for the starving people or the downtrodden masses, but enough is enough after a while.

You also need to be kind of a dick sometimes, too, don't you think? If a mechanic is ripping you off or some dad is yelling at your kid on the playground someday, you think your wife is seriously wanting you to just walk away and cower without speaking your mind? I doubt that very much. I just do.

Mostly, though, I think about Violet, my daughter, and the person who might love her someday, and I think that what she'll really want the most from him/her, without even knowing it probably, will be that beautiful, steady feeling that comes with being treated like you're loved.

Little things, really. Car doors open for her, maybe not every single time, but enough. Store doors opened for her. "Can I get you a glass of wine?" in the evening, coming from the kitchen. Making sure she's not too sad. Making sure she's smiling at least once a day. Or dying trying. That's the person I dream of for her. For my daughter.

Oh god, I could die so peacefully then. I really could, I know I could. I know I'm right here. I mean, I hope I'm right. It's been so unclear up 'til now.



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