When Mike and I announced our engagement a bajillion years ago, someone’s crusty relative gave us a pamphlet outlining the secrets to a happy marriage. This must have been material scavenged from some 1950s era backwoods church storeroom. The drawings looked like something from a Dick and Jane reader. And the pamphlet was primarily focused on advice for the wife in the so-called “happy marriage.”
It included all manner of gems like always have a hot meal ready for him when he comes home, and never greet him at the door with curlers in your hair.
Regardless of whether anyone around here wears curlers, if I greet my husband at the door, it’s because I happen to be on my way out, or else he forgot his key.
I think a modern, non sexist version of the same pamphlet might include such helpful tidbits as: especially if you have company, refrain from blaming your silent-deadlies on your spouse, and if you’re going to declare publicly you think your wife has had one cocktail too many, do not be surprised to receive a karate chop to the throat.
This Christmas, my Facebook newsfeed included the engagement announcements of several friends, and that of Mike’s niece to a man I know her parents adore. I started thinking about advice we might give from the perspective of a couple which has enjoyed an extraordinarily happy marriage for 22 years. Karate chops notwithstanding.
Granted, we’ve not faced any significant challenges during that time. We’ve always had great health, reasonable economic stability, and kids we generally enjoy.
Still, even a great marriage takes more work than falling off a log. And, not once in all this time together has ours had anything to do with wearing curlers or the presence of a hot meal. So, with my congratulations to all those newly engaged out there, and in no particular order, here’s my list of things you should consider in pursuit of a happy marriage:
Always refrain from pointing out how much cleaner your car is than that of your spouse, or from inferring how much more together you may or may not be by virtue of having a clean car, especially if you’re not the person responsible for chauffeuring kids around all day.
Don’t talk about money, ever. True, you’re going to have to talk about big expenditures, budgets, or what to save for retirement. In such instances you might employ a substitute word, and maybe use finger quotes:
- “Honey, I don’t think we have enough Sasquatch to send junior to private school,” or
- “If either of us had a job that paid more lickspittle, we could take a vacation once in a while.”
Competing with your spouse is only okay if you’re playing Monopoly or foosball. Only play Scrabble if you have commensurate vocabularies and agree never to allow Latin. Or Greek. Always say no to the board game Risk. Strip Poker or any game that involves taking off articles of clothing is encouraged, particularly if you’re alone together.
You will never be able to teach your spouse to ski without getting into a big argument and without someone ending up in tears at the top of an impossibly high and dangerous looking run…. No you will not…. I don’t care how easy you think it will be. Sign that person up for lessons right now. Same with golf.
Don’t just volunteer to take out the garbage or run to the store because it gets you away from the kids or the in-laws for a moment. Your beloved will see right through your ruse and you’ll cancel out any chits you may have earned otherwise.
You’re not married to a butler. Use “please” and “thank you” instead of barking orders (Unless you’re involved in some sort activity following strip poker, in which case you can certainly pretend to be someone’s a butler, or whatever).
Make up your mind right now that your sweetie’s need to smooth out every wrinkle from the bottom sheet before going to bed is endearing rather than irritating and that no number of references to any fairy tale about a Princess and a Pea is going to change the fact she’s a light sleeper and wrinkled bed sheets irritate the crap out of her.
Concede a point once in a while. Even if it’s ridiculous. Madonna does so happen to be a fantastic pop artist, just like Days of Thunder should have won an Oscar.
There’s other great advice out there for a happy marriage, I’m sure. These are just the few I could pull together before I go plan the hot meal I’m going to have ready for when my sweet babushka comes waltzing in the door. Feel free to share your own.
And best wishes to all my newly engaged Facebook buddies. The world is a richer place for your love and commitment to each other.
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