Dr. Scott Haltzman has a message for men: Treat your marriage like a job.
"When you use the work strategies that you use in the workplace at home, you can be really successful," he said today on "Good Morning America." Also, he said, men need to make their wives their priority.
In his book, "The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife's Heart Forever," Haltzman offers practical advice for men to improve their relationships. He tells them that they have to understand that men and women are different and take that in account when communicating. Men tend to be "action-oriented," while women "tend to respond to emotionally based conversation," he said.
Below is an except from the book:
I jumped into the cab, hoping to catch a quick ride from one side of Rhode Island to the other. During the thirty-minute trip, I fell into an easy conversation with the cabbie and soon learned that he was typical of so many men I know -- great at managing and negotiating the complexities of life in general, but insecure and frustrated in his marriage.
At first he told me, with great pride, about his car. He planned to replace the horns because of water buildup. He talked about needing to get the transmission rebuilt and how he was able to strike a good deal. Did you know he paid $1,500 for the job on a Buick that had almost 300,000 thousand miles on it?! Soon, the banter shifted to family (probably because I can't help asking people, "So, are you married?"). My cab driver told me that he had two sons and that he had been married for twenty years. Losing the bravado of our earlier conversation, he quietly admitted that he'd been separated from his wife for the last two years.
"My wife and I just can't agree on the right way to raise the kids," he said with a sigh that gave away his frustration and resignation.
"I didn't want to separate, because I think it's the coward's way out," he was quick to add. "But I just couldn't figure out how to make things better."
Usually, as a psychiatrist, I'm the one with the meter running. But during this impromptu session, I was paying for his time, and before we arrived on the other side of Rhode Island, I had something important to say to this man. Here's the short version: You're a creative man who has a marvelous knack for fixing things. If something's not working in your car, you figure out a way to fix it. If you can't, you find someone who can. You've stuck with your car when most owners would have sent it to the trash heap. You have a real sense of commitment and a knack for getting things to work. What makes you think you can't use those same wonderful qualities to save your marriage?
When my trip was over ($60!) and my little speech done, my driver look startled, but also relieved, as he said, "No one's ever told me that before, Doc. Thanks."
For a long while, I thought about this conversation and about many similar discussions I've had with my patients and colleagues. It's obvious to anyone who studies male behavior that men demonstrate extraordinary skill in sales, mechanics, politics, medicine, finance, construction, and many other areas. So why is it, I have to wonder, that when it comes to problems in relationships, men resign themselves to their fate, act helpless, and give up? After long thought and study, I think I know.