Marriage doesn't come with a manual, but this comes close.
I didn't get the "How to be a Husband" manual when I got married ... It must not have been available on Amazon that year.
The only manual I had was the one I put together watching my mom and dad navigate their relationship. I learned some good practices, and some not-so-good ones, but even with everything I learned by watching, there was a whole lot more that was never taught.
So, if I had to boil it all down and pass along some marriage wisdom, the things I would have wanted someone to tell me before I tied the knot, I would pass along these ten nuggets of husband-ness. I hope they're helpful.
1. Encourage your wife.
Do you know what your wife's dreams are? Do you care? You should. She needs you to support her in her life. She doesn't want to be thought of as a second-class citizen. When you find out what she cares about, encourage her to go do it. If she feels like you won't let her, she'll end up resenting you down the road, and no one likes resentful people.
2. Become the spiritual leader of your home.
Your wife needs you to be the spiritual leader. The old "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" saying is true. If you don't lead your wife in spiritual situations, she might try to lead you, and this can cause pressure in your marriage.
3. Stop looking at porn.
Porn introduces someone else into your relationship. Now, you may argue, "It's not a real person," but when you're trying to be intimate with your wife, that picture is all you think about. And guess what? Your wife also thinks that picture is all you're thinking about, which makes her feel used.
4. Have healthy, encouraging male friendships.
No more hanging out with guys who badmouth their wives. No more guys who check out porn and send it via email. You don't need that. Find guys who love their wives, and can encourage you to keep getting better as a husband, and as a man.
5. Speak kindly of your wife to her.
Find something your wife does well and point it out. Then, make a big deal of it! Even if it's just vacuuming the house. Tell her you appreciate it.
6. Speak kindly of your wife to others.
No more badmouthing your spouse to your friends. The old adage works: "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."
First, your casual friends may not really care about your marriage. They could be either jealous of you or selfish. They could want you to hang out more often, so they may play up the "problems" that you tell them about. Second, there is no honor in airing your dirty laundry outside your marriage. Don't do it.
7. Help out around the house without complaining.
I've written about this here on traditional love — there are some things that are simply part of life (i.e. taking out the trash, cleaning up the shower when it gets that black-and-pink mold in it, etc.) These are chores we just have to do. It's not even about showing love. It's taking responsibility.
8. Invite her to join in doing something you like.
Maybe she never joins you watching the game because she doesn't understand it, or even more likely, she doesn't know why it's so important to you. Take time to explain why you like to do the things you do, why you want to share them with her, and then invite her to be part of them.
9. Make sure to take time for yourself.
While you should invite your wife to take part in some things you do, you should also have activities you are able to enjoy for yourself. If you are constantly hanging around one another, you two might become weird drones that have no thoughts or feelings of your own! Make sure you find a hobby that is just yours to enjoy as a guy.
10. Be present.
I think there is a real manhood crisis in our country, and it comes back to the family. I'll take it a step further: It's a problem brought on by husbands. Sometimes the man leaves, and the mother has to raise a family by herself. Sometimes, the husband just isn't present, even if he is physically there.
Are you so exhausted by your life and work that you can't take a moment to be in the present with your wife and family? Turn off the electronics. Block out time that is for family only. Be present and fully engage with your wife. And remember: they say the best way to love your kids is to love their mother well.