Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and founder of the website drscott.com, says he was inspired to develop a support system for married men because of his own life.
"Nothing I read in a medical journal prepared me for the experience of marriage," he says. "Women have so many resources available to them in their quest for a better marriage. I was surprised to find there were no similar, non-commercial resources on the Internet for men." After all, Haltzman says, "Fifty per cent of every (traditional) marriage is a man -- shouldn't we be able to benefit from research and information as well?"
Haltzman's website received a positive response -- from both men and women, who, he says, were happy to gain some insight into what their husbands are really thinking.
Haltzman's book was one of Time.com's Six Books for a Better You and is one of the few self-help books that targets men and provides them with the tools they need to work on their relationships. We spoke to Haltzman to get his tips on how both husbands and wives can work together to have happier marriages.
Vive la difference
Guess what? Men and women are different -- in almost every way. The communication breakdowns between husbands and wives make perfect sense, says Haltzman. It's matter of our biological hardwiring. In a nutshell, Haltzman says that different parts of our brains make men and women act and react differently and that we need to accept this gap, rather than try to close it.
"Men are task-oriented, so if their wives want them to simply listen, they need to present it as a task," Haltzman says. "Simply say, 'I'm going to talk now and I just want you to listen.'"
Too many marriage counsellors try to bridge the gap between men and women, Haltzman says, by encouraging men to adopt innately female traits.
"Guys don't need to be soft or tender to be successful husbands," he says. "We can use what we've already got to make our marriages work."
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover how happily married men express their love on page 2
Accept the position
Treating marriage like work is one of Haltzman's tips for making the union work. He says communication skills, salesmanship and diplomacy are just a few of the job skills that are transferable to relationships.
"Thinking of marriage as a job is hugely appealing to men, he says. To men, having a job is part of being a man and they understand the concept.
It's "OK tell me what my job is, I'll do it." The payoff -- because with work come rewards -- is a meaningful connection in life, "far beyond anything you could get from a road trip to a basketball game," he says.
"It's a myth that love is enough," Haltzman says. "It's a great starting point but you have to work at marriage."
If men are workers by nature and their marriage is in trouble, it becomes their job to fix it. Men respond well to an opportunity to get a job done, Haltzman says.
Shout it from the rooftops
Men and women speak different "languages of love," according to Haltzman. Men are more action-oriented and physical when it comes to expressing themselves, while women are more verbal, he says.
That's why, when you "look up at him with those big doe eyes and ask 'What are you thinking?' you don't get the response you'd like," explains Haltzman.
So what's the answer? Take a page out of each other's books. He might not like to talk about his feelings -- well tough, Haltzman says. "Even though it's not their language, they need to use it. A guy needs to tell his woman that he loves her and that she's special and they need to do it often. It's how women understand love, so guys jut have to learn to say it," he says, adding, "Women should expect verbal expressions of love from their husbands, they just shouldn't expect it to come naturally."
As for women? They need to recognize the language of men and engage in some physical acts of loving. Yes, we're talking about sex, but its more than that. "Men express love physically, through touching, through connecting. Its an equally important language."
Not to mention, it's his way of feeling connected to you. Find an equal mix of words and action to keep both spouses happy.
Page 2 of 2