I had one dream above all others when I was a little girl. I wanted to be a wife. I didn’t focus much on having kids, although I figured I’d probably have one or two. My focus was solely on finding the man who would be my life partner and building a beautiful dream together. And I was determined to be a good wife.
Of course, as a child, I couldn’t know what being a good wife meant. But as an adult, I have been given a unique opportunity to learn what it means. I married my first husband in 2010. He and the marriage we began to build was the fulfillment of my childhood dream. I dove into being a good wife and eventually a good mom with gusto. I was lucky to have good role models in my parents, who have been married for nearly 50 years. And my husband had the same blessing: loving parents who adored each other. I thought we were a shoo-in for a long, loving marriage. And I still believe we would have had one. But I lost him to a sudden heart attack when he was 36 years old. We had only been married (almost) seven years, and our kids were just babies.
Fast-forward four years, and I have been blessed to find someone to love again. But our relationship is so different. He is so different. I am so different. What I once thought I knew about being a good wife looks and feels completely different this time than when I was young, naïve, and full of starry-eyed innocence. I am learning how to be a good wife for the second time. And amid my reeducation, I am preparing my daughter to be a good wife. She has the unique experience of watching her mama navigate, from being a suddenly single mom to carefully cultivating a new relationship to becoming a wife again. And I know that she is watching every step of the way.
How to Prepare Your Daughter to Be a Good Wife
While I believe that each partner has their own responsibilities and requirements to make a marriage last, some things will look the same for both husbands and wives. I have written about preparing your son to be a good husband, but this article is dedicated solely to our beautiful daughters. This is what I hope I can teach my daughter to prepare her to be a good wife.
1. Be respectful.
In his best-selling book, Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs asserted that husbands desire respect and wives desire love. While this may be true on the surface, other experts disagree and suggest that respect is a mutual core necessity between a man and his wife. As a woman who has been married (twice now), I tend to agree that respect should go both ways.
Teaching your daughter how to show respect in an intimate relationship will go a long way in preparing her for marriage. She should learn things like being considerate, effective communication, keeping confidence, showing kindness even in anger, and recognizing that her partner is flawed and will make mistakes. And, of course, practicing forgiveness.
2. Love the skin you’re in.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where women are taught to criticize their bodies and feel shame if they’re not “perfect” as the models on the covers of magazines. Girls as young as three start to worry about their body image. Yikes!
Instead of focusing on physical attractiveness, teaching our daughters to focus on being kind and confident in who they are will make them far more attractive to everyone, including their husbands. More importantly, it will give them the confidence and self-worth (discussed below) they need to sustain a healthy relationship.
3. Communicate effectively.
When it boils down to it, the key to a healthy marriage is effective communication. And the key to effective communication is listening. Women, it seems, are naturally better listeners than men and so have a leg up in this department. However, many women expect men to listen as they do, but men’s brains just aren’t wired that way.
In marriage, women tend to focus on communication that strengthens, builds, and maintains relationships. Men tend to focus on communication that analyzes issues and solves problems. When a couple doesn’t understand how they communicate differently, it can lead to misunderstanding and, ultimately, a breakdown in communication altogether.
One way you can prepare your daughter to be a good wife is to make sure she understands that people communicate differently, specifically men and women. Being open, honest, using an appropriate tone of voice, and being an active listener can help when those communication styles begin to clash.
4. Fight fair.
Conflicts in marriage are inevitable. An intimate relationship with someone with different thoughts, ideas, opinions, or beliefs will result in an argument or two at the very least. Learning how to fight fair with the person you love will go a long way in creating a healthy marriage dynamic that will survive these types of disagreements.
Rules of Fighting Fair
You can help your daughter learn how to fight fair by teaching her some basic rules, such as:
- No name-calling.
- Using “I feel” statements.
- No yelling.
- Attempting to understand the other’s point of view.
- Taking a time out when things get too heated.
- Giving full attention to your partner when they’re speaking.
In addition, parents need to understand the effect fighting in front of their kids has on them. As stated above, all couples fight. Modeling how to fight fair may be a good thing for them to see . . . but be careful. Experts agree that if parents can resolve conflict well, letting their kids overhear how people work things out, negotiate, and compromise can help them model such behavior. However, they also warn that if parents cannot regulate themselves in front of their kids or argue about tender topics, it’s best to argue in private.
5. Be a good cheerleader.
Part of the reason we get married is to have a supportive partner and friend by our side for the rest of our lives. Knowing that your person is always in your corner cheering for you is one of the best, most comforting feelings in the world. And being your partner’s biggest cheerleader may lead to a happier marriage.
In a 2007 study, researchers found that mates whose partners tended to be energetically supportive of their accomplishments reported having the highest levels of relationship satisfaction. Moreover, positive-event support better predicted relationship satisfaction than compassionate responses to disappointing news. Teaching our daughters to support their husbands enthusiastically is a great way to prepare them to be good wives.
6. Know your worth.
Self-worth is imperative to having a healthy and loving relationship. If you don’t value and respect yourself, how can you know 1) when a partner values and respects you or 2) how to value and respect your partner? Those with limited self-worth are more vulnerable to getting involved in toxic, if not abusive, relationships.
Build Her Self Worth
Helping our daughters build their self-worth early can help them avoid a damaging intimate relationship. Here are some ways you can create an environment that supports building self-worth in your daughter:
- Show her that she is loved, wanted, and accepted unconditionally.
- Allow her to express herself.
- Make her feel protected and safe.
- Give her your time, attention, and affection.
- Encourage her interests and show your interest in them.
- Allow her to make decisions.
- Encourage her to try.
- Accept that she will make mistakes and have difficult life lessons.
- Encourage healthy friendships.
7. Learn how to be independent.
For better or worse, gone are the days when a woman should expect to depend on someone else for the rest of her life. Whether you believe in traditional gender roles or not, teaching your daughter to be independent will serve her in many ways.
Many young women choose to wait later in life to marry, which means they will likely live alone for some time. These young ladies will need to learn how to fend for themselves. Moreover, when these young women decide to take a spouse, having a healthy sense of independence will help them create a balanced, healthy marriage relationship.
You can teach your daughter independence using these tips:
- Stop doing things for her that she can do for herself. Teach her to do things for herself and then let her do it.
- Start assigning age-appropriate chores and tasks around the house. And hold her accountable for getting them done.
- Allow her to make age-appropriate choices throughout the day. This will teach her independent thinking and reasoning skills.
- Teach her the value of hard work by offering allowance for extra responsibilities.
- Encourage her to try new things. And celebrate failure as valuable lessons.
- Instead of jumping in to solve her problems, help her problem-solve with your guidance.
8. Be a good teammate.
Strong marriages are built on many things, but teamwork is one of the most fundamental. It takes a lot of effort from both partners to make a marriage work. When one isn’t pulling their weight, it can bring the whole team down.
Similar to being a part of a winning sports team, each teammate needs to treat each other with respect, admiration, and grace. This is true for marriage as well. And when the team starts having kids, these traits become even more important!
9. Be patient.
Patience is probably one of the most fundamental and challenging virtues to learn. But it is necessary when preparing a daughter to be a good wife. Let’s be honest. Wives deal with a lot. Between the children and her husband (who can sometimes be a giant child!) and running a house and maybe even holding down a job, wives can sometimes grow thin in the patience department. Cultivating and practicing patience will serve your daughter in her marriage and life.
A 2007 study showed that patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions, more frequently achieve their goals, and have better health. In the relationship department, the same study showed that cultivating patience often makes a person a better friend and neighbor and more cooperative, empathetic, and forgiving. Based on these findings, some strategies for cultivating patience are practicing self-control, mindfulness, and gratitude. You can read more about mindfulness here and teaching kids how to practice gratitude here.
10. Put him first.
I’m sure this will be a controversial suggestion, but hear me out. Putting your spouse first in your life, even after you have children, is the best thing a couple can do for their marriage and children. Women specifically have a hard time with this as many tend to put their children above their marriage, even if they don’t realize it. But to prepare your daughter to be a good wife, she will need to put her husband, and by default, her marriage, first.
Marriage is not easy. Not for any couple. It takes hard work by both partners, sometimes daily. When women put their marriage on the back burner to focus on their children, nothing will be left of it when those children fly the nest. A strong and healthy marriage is the best gift you can give your kids, so making it your priority is neither selfish nor wrong. It’s imperative.
How to Model Putting Your Husband First
Modeling putting your husband first is the best way to teach this to your daughter. But how can a wife put her husband first in the thick of a busy life with kids? Here are some ideas:
- Make regular date nights a priority, even if they’re date nights at home after the kids go to bed.
- Try to give him some space and time to unwind when he comes home after work. Just as you wouldn’t appreciate him unloading all of his frustrations of the day on you after your own rough day, he doesn’t deserve that either. Just give him some time and then talk together calmly (maybe over a glass of wine?).
- Continue to learn all you can about him! He is supposed to be your best friend and life partner. Continue to seek to know him better.
- Teach your kids to show him honor and respect.
- Ask his opinions, even if you think he doesn’t have one. He will appreciate knowing you seek his insight.
- Express your gratitude for what he does for the family regularly.
- This is a big one: if there is a conflict with his or your parents, take his side—every time. If you need to discuss the issue later, do it privately. You are now a team, a unit, a united front. Act like it, especially in front of others.
- Make life goals together and talk about them often.
Marriage is a beautiful and sacred institution. But it was never meant to be easy. It was meant to refine and grow two people into a more sanctified unit. And it was meant to be a comfort and support system for those two individuals. Both parties have to work hard to make a marriage work. While boys have their own skills to learn to become good husbands, our daughters will have their own unique skills to learn. By helping them develop these skills, we are helping them to build a solid foundation for a healthy, happy marriage.