Unless your last name is on the front of the building, you’re probably not going to score the corner office without working a few late nights. If you double down at work too often, however, the price to your relationship might not be worth the bonus in your paycheck. The happiest couples approach their careers and their relationships with the same level of commitment, says Jill Bowers, Ph.D., a University of Illinois researcher who studies relationship satisfaction.
So what’s a guy to do? The answer doesn’t require dialing back your ambition. Think about it: A good partner has a lot in common with a good colleague, right? He’s calm under pressure, is an attentive listener, and has his hot coworker’s back if she screws up. The strategies that follow will help you rise in the boardroom. Embrace them at home, and you’ll emerge on top (and bottom and behind) in the bedroom too.
Dress Like the Guy in Charge
WHY IT MATTERS Women zero in on clothes, subconsciously looking for signs of status. “What you wear advertises who you are and the resources you have to offer,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and the author of Why We Love. Your attire also conveys confidence; plus, by mixing up your look, you show that you value her enough to keep trying to impress her, notes relationship expert Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D.
DO THIS Rework your wardrobe. She’ll notice shoes instantly, says David Hart, a leading menswear designer, so buff them and swap out the laces with a more daring color, like red or green. Next, invest in a pair of dark jeans. Focus on fit—they should be neither too loose nor skintight, and the waistband should sit at your actual waist (1″ over your hipbone). Above the belt, mix things up, says Hart. Try a solid, a pattern, and a texture—like a navy jacket with a plaid dress shirt and a solid knit wool tie.
Exploit Your Social Network
WHY IT MATTERS Boredom is a big contributor to relationship dissatisfaction, according to a study in Psychological Science. That’s why squabbling over the Netflix queue, if it turns into a nightly activity, can be a warning sign. You need to get out more: People feel more passionate about their partners when they hang with other couples, say Wayne State University researchers. “We tend to be at our best around others: happy, engaged, and telling stories,” says Geoffrey L. Greif, Ph.D., a professor of family therapy and the coauthor of Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships. “Seeing other people who value your opinions and respond to your thoughts will also make her appreciate you more, and vice versa.”
DO THIS Go on a double date with the most fun-loving couple you know. Couples feed off other couples’ excitement, says Jeremy Nicholson, Ph.D., a relationship consultant who studies attraction. “Seeing other happy couples together subtly reinforces the benefits of being in a relationship,” he says. Look her in the eye when she speaks, and laugh at her jokes to make her feel appreciated, says persuasion expert Jay Heinrichs, the author of Thank You for Arguing. Sing her praises, especially when she’s not around. “Every word will get back to her, guaranteed,” says Heinrichs. And those words will seem even more sincere because she wasn’t there when you said them.
Be a Better Team Player
WHY IT MATTERS A good worker relieves a colleague who’s snowed under, and the same idea applies at home: A recent Swedish study found that women in relationships are more likely than men to experience psychological distress if they feel they’re juggling an unfair share of chores. Start by proactively taking over her least favorite or most time-consuming task, like food shopping or helping with the kids’ homework, says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You.
DO THIS Delegate efficiently. A smart manager doesn’t do it all alone. So grab your phone: Tons of new apps and digital services can take everyday tasks off your plate. With Amazon Subscribe & Save, for instance, you can schedule monthly deliveries of nonperishables like toothpaste and detergent. The food delivery app Seamless lets you order in from restaurants in more than 600 cities nationwide, cutting down on travel and wait time. Services like TaskRabbit and Fiverr also empower you to easily and cheaply outsource everything from resume design to furniture assembly.
Boost Morale at Home
WHY IT MATTERS It sucks working for a sad sack—and a woman shouldn’t have to live with one either. Wives with positive husbands report less relationship conflict than women hitched to Eeyores, reports a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. But get this: Men with positive mates report just as much conflict as men married to not-so-sunny partners. “Women may be more likely to try to repair the relationship,” says study author James Iveniuk, Ph.D. “Men tend to withdraw from conflict, so guys who naturally look on the bright side may be better at preventing disagreements.”
DO THIS Celebrate victories—even the small ones. No, that doesn’t mean a high five for doing the dishes. It means noticing the little things: “Women look for sincerity and integrity of actions,” says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a family therapist based in New York City. Is she running her first 10K? Be there with a coffee and a bagel at the finish line. Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that mates who showed appreciation for each other were more likely to be together after nine months. And make sure those thoughtful gestures mirror her values, not just yours, says Lombardo. “If it’s adventure she craves, then she might want a surprise rock-climbing trip. But if it’s quiet time she’s after, she’ll be happier with a nice dinner for two.”
Give Back to the Community
WHY IT MATTERS Good news: Couples who have more sex are also more likely to have stronger marriages, reveals research from Johns Hopkins University. (No pressure or anything.) But it’s overall satisfaction, not frequency, that really counts, says Fulbright. Yeah, you know what that means, fella. “Being desired is the ultimate aphrodisiac,” Fulbright says, “so focusing entirely on her needs can boost your bond and her confidence in bed.”
DO THIS Make it all about her. “Oral sex is often thought of as just a form of foreplay, but couples should treat it like the new main event,” says Fulbright. “If she’s game, start by setting the mood—with candles or a massage, for instance,” says Men’s Health sex and relationships advisor Debby Herbenick, Ph.D. That’ll leave her more relaxed—and supercharge her odds of achieving the big O.