I still remember the days leading up to my wedding almost seven years ago. They were a haze of anticipation, excitement, and nervous energy. I was about to marry the man of my dreams! And I wanted to get it right. I needed to know all the ways to be a better wife.

I asked many already-married friends what marriage was really like. They reminded me that marriage is not all roses, cuddles, and dancing barefoot in the kitchen. Marriage is hard work. And some days, it’s not especially fun. But it’s worth fighting for, even in the midst of big fights.

One piece of advice that has stuck with me over the years came from my best friend’s dad. Her parents were like second parents to me. Since my parents divorced when I was young, I learned a lot about marriage from observing them.

Before my friend got married, her dad told her, “The root of almost every single fight you and your husband have will boil down to either money or sex.”

Now that may sound a little oversimplified. But if you think about it, it makes sense. Money can represent security, control, and the future. Sex can represent intimacy, emotional closeness, and physical desire.

Although, I think I’ve gotten this marriage philosophy down, I want to get the practicality of it right in the day-to-day as well. Which means I have to be willing to keep learning from the advice of others.

Recently, I polled other women on ways to be a better wife. While I can’t assume I have all the “successful wife” answers, I’m really loving what they said:

1. Always be respectful of your husband, especially in public.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a Stepford Wife. It simply means wives should always seek to respect and honor their husbands in public (really, all the time). One of the biggest ways we can respect our husbands in public is if we have something we want to discuss that contradicts him, either pull him aside or share it with him later when alone.

Be proud of him, and don’t be afraid to brag on him to others. I know this may seem prideful, but I view it as encouraging him in his successes. When your husband knows you’re proud of him, he’ll feel like Superman.

2. Tell your husband what you need.

You can’t expect your husband to be a mind reader. Maybe one of your parents or your best friends can tell what you’re thinking or knows the perfect gift for your birthday. But our husbands are still learning about who we are and what makes us tick.

If we’re upset with our husband or want him to do something, we need to learn how to simply talk about it. Passive aggression is one of the most common ways women fight. But it’s not going to get you what you want or help your husband understand you.

Help him out a little and just tell him what you’re thinking. It’ll save you both from a big fight and a lot of hurt feelings.

3. Cheer him on.

Encouragement is always better received than nagging. If your husband keeps forgetting to do something you’ve asked him to do, try thinking of something he’s done well and encourage him in that.

If you need to remind him once more, make sure the tone of your voice and your attitude are more encouraging than annoyed. He’ll be more apt to do what you’re asking if he feels championed as opposed to reprimanded and scolded.

4. Take care of yourself.

A lot of times, as the wife, parental roles fall onto you in the early years. But that doesn’t mean you should completely forget to take care of yourself. Yes, there will be days you go without a shower, forget to eat, and live in your sweats. But all too soon that leads to burnout. And burnout isn’t healthy for anyone. Happy wife, happy life, right?

Don’t forget you were a person before you were “mom.” Remember who that person was, and if you had interests and hobbies before you became a mom, try to figure out ways to work them into your life. Invite your kids to join you, or spend some time during nap time doing things you’ve always loved to do. And if you can’t imagine having the energy to do anything except nap or sit on the couch during nap time, don’t lose heart, this season, too, shall pass.

5. Appreciate him.

I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning. I would rather do almost anything over vacuuming, mopping, or scrubbing the toilets. So when I finally do these things, even though they’re a normal part of adulthood, it always feels good when my husband notices and thanks me.

In the same way, when your husband does something, even an expected task, going above and beyond in your appreciation makes him feel loved. And it’ll probably make him want to keep doing it (Remember #1 and #3?).

6. Forgive quickly.

We all get our feelings hurt at some point. It’s part of being in a relationship with just about anyone. But holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness hurts you more than anyone else. Ephesians 4:32 clearly commands us to forgive each other as God forgave us.

If your husband hurts your feelings, tell him—in love—how he hurt you. And once you’ve forgiven him, let it go. Don’t keep bringing up past hurts in a manipulative or controlling way. First Corinthians 13:5 states that love keeps no record of wrongs.

7. Trust the way he parents.

The way you and your husband parent will be different. Don’t micromanage him, and don’t reprimand his parenting in front of your children.

If you constantly tell him how he’s doing it wrong, eventually he’ll give up and let you do it all. And that doesn’t help anyone. Even if he feeds the kids pizza every single night, give him some space to dad his own way.

8. Know when to be quiet.

When your husband is driving around lost, it’s probably not the right time to say, “I told you that you should’ve asked for directions.” Be wise and discerning. Know when to hold your tongue. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

9. Trust his motives.

When things go wrong and your husband has hurt you, it’s all too easy to feel like you’re fighting against each other. But you’re really on the same team.

Remember, your husband is not your enemy. There’s a real Enemy and he doesn’t need anyone’s help to stir up trouble. Give your husband the benefit of the doubt. Allow him to explain his actions before you jump to conclusions.

10. Let your husband be your husband and your girlfriends be your girlfriends.

My husband doesn’t care which celebrities are dating each other. He doesn’t particularly love chick flicks (although he will watch them with me because he loves me!) I’ve had to learn that some things are better done with my girlfriends over my husband.

But I’ve also had to learn that my husband is my priority. There have been a few times in our marriage when my husband has felt like I’d rather be with my girlfriends over him. And that’s not good either.

11. Don’t bash your husband to your friends or family.

As women, we know if one of us has been wronged, it’s not hard to find a whole girl gang who will listen and keep that fire of anger going toward our husbands. Pretty soon, one simple misunderstanding has escalated into a full-fledged war crime. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (NLT). Plug “spouses” in for “the best of friends.” It works just the same.

12. Don’t expect Prince Charming.

Prepare yourselves, I’m about to burst a major bubble for some women: Prince Charming isn’t real. So your husband will never be him. Too often we romanticize life and relationships. We watch movies such as Jerry McGuire and get stuck on lines like, “You complete me.”

Our spouses will never complete us. That role can only be fulfilled by Jesus Christ. (See John 6:35 and Psalm 16:11.) However, our spouses can love us well, show us an earthly example of how Jesus loves us, and point us to our need for Him.

When we expect Prince Charming, the unrealistic expectations we place on our husbands will only end badly for all involved. Expect to be loved well, but by someone who is human and will most likely mess up time and time again. Move forward in love and forgiveness together.

13. Allow him to learn and grow in leadership.

Ephesians 5:22 tells wives, “Submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” That doesn’t mean be his slave. Or that you have to do whatever he asks you to do, even if it is morally wrong.

But it does mean that, as wives, we should allow our husbands to lead us. Yes, it’s a partnership. But when push comes to shove in my marriage, I will trust my husband to make the final call. And so will God. Ephesians 5 continues in verse 23 with, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.”

This can be a really difficult verse in our culture today, but the Bible is clear. God set up marriage roles for specific purposes, and our best life is to follow His perfect plan. Encourage your husband to grow in leadership, stop undermining him, and love him by respecting him. Your marriage will grow stronger each day.

14. Pray for him every day.

The greatest way to love your husband is to pray for him. Instead of nagging, let’s pray for their growth. Instead of taking over a certain task and doing it “better,” pray for God to show him his need for change (or our own—better doesn’t always mean best!).

We can’t change our spouses. Only God can do that. We can’t manipulate them into who we want them to be or they’ll grow to resent us. Instead of trying to change him, step back and remember why you fell in love with your husband. Think of all the ways he’s grown, matured, and loved you well. Thank God for that work in him.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters (and husbands!). Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out” (MSG, parenthesis mine).

15. Make love, not bargains.

Sex should never be something you bargain with. And saying no should never be something done out of punishment. Never withhold sex from him as a consequence of his wrongdoing. If anything needs to be addressed, see #2, and discuss your conflict together. Then you can feel safe to enjoy some time between the sheets.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4 it says husbands’ and wives’ bodies belong to each other. Physical disconnect can and usually does affect other areas of your marriage. God designed sex to grow a healthy marriage, keep you connected, and allow you to enjoy each other.

Go for it. You’re ready to be the wife of his dreams! And if you’re interested in the husbands side of things, check out 25 Things Husbands Should Start Doing.

Copyright © 2019 Jenn Grandlienard. All rights reserved.

Jenn Grandlienard grew up an East Coast Philly girl, but now loves calling the Midwest her home. She lives in Xenia, Ohio with her husband, Stuart, two sons, Knox and Zeke, and pup, Stella. Jenn and her husband work with Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru that teaches college athletes what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She loves to read, work out, laugh really hard with friends, and spend time with her husband and boys. You can check out her blog about all these things and more at OurGrandLife.com. Find her on Instagram at @mrsjenngrand and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifergrandlienard.