Tis the eve of another family wedding and I thought that it would be a great time to share this great "how to not suck at your marriage" list I came across online. It was written by the author of Single Dad Laughing. I love this list mainly because it's a little different than the typical "be honest, communicate, don't go to bed angry" lists you usually read regarding marriage/relationships.
This list really made me stop and reflect upon my own marriage. I find that it is especially crucial now to fix any less-than-ideal characteristics that I bring into the marriage because I want Lil Arch (and all future Lil Archs) to grow up witnessing a marriage similar to the ones Clay and I grew up around. Both our parents have amazing marriages (and relationships with their children), so I won't settle for anything less than my children being surrounded by amazing relationship role models.
Single Dad Laughing offered up 16 ways he "blew his marriages" and if he had a do-over, how he would remedy each characteristic/situation. These are relevant to both men and women. Below is the slightly condensed/edited version.
1. Don't stop holding her hand.
When I first dated the woman I ended up marrying, I always held her hand. In the car. While walking. At meals. At movies. It didn’t matter where. Over time, I stopped. I made up excuses like my hand was too hot or it made me sweat or I wasn’t comfortable with it in public. Truth was, I stopped holding hands because I stopped wanting to put in the effort to be close to my wife. No other reason.
Do-over: I’d hold her hand everywhere, even when we didn’t particularly like each other for the moment.
2. Don't stop trying to be attractive.
Obviously when I was working to woo her, I would do myself up as attractively as I possibly could every time I saw her. I kept perfectly groomed. I always smelled good. I held in my farts until she wasn’t around. For some reason, marriage made me feel like I could stop doing all that. I would get all properly groomed, smelling good, and dressed up any time we went out somewhere or I went out by myself, but I rarely, if ever, cared about making myself attractive just for her.
Do-over: I’d try and put my best foot forward throughout our entire marriage. I’d make myself desirable so that she would desire me.
3. Don't always point out her weaknesses.
For some reason, I always ended up feeling like it was my place to tell her where she was weak and where she could do better. I sure as heck didn’t do that while we were dating. No, when I dated her I only built her up, only told her how amazing she was, and easily looked past all of her flaws. After we got married though, she sometimes couldn’t even cook eggs without me telling her how she might be able to improve.
Do-over: I wouldn’t say a damned thing about anything that I thought could use improvement. I’ve learned since my marriage ended that there is more than one right way to do most things, and that the imperfections of others are too beautiful to try and change.
4. Don't stop cooking for her.
I knew how to woo a girl, for sure. And the ticket was usually a night in, cooking a nice meal and having a romantic evening. So why is it then, that I didn’t do that for her after we got married? Sure, I’d throw some canned soup in the microwave or fry up some chimichangas once in a while, but I rarely if ever went out of my way to sweep her off her feet after we were married by steaming crab legs, or making fancy pasta, or setting up a candlelit table.
Do-over: I’d make it a priority to cook for her, and only her, something awesome at least every month.
5. Don't yell at your spouse.
I’m not talking about the angry kind of yelling. I’m talking about the lazy kind of yelling. The kind of yelling you do when you don’t want to get up from your television show or you don’t want to go ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS to ask her if she’s seen your keys. It really doesn’t take that much effort to go find her, and yelling (by nature) sounds demanding and authoritative.
Do-over: I’d try to go find her anytime I needed something or wanted to know something, and I’d have both gratitude and manners when I did. I always hated when she would yell to me, so why did I always feel it was okay to yell to her?
6. Don't call names.
I always felt I was the king of not calling names, but I wasn’t. I may not have called her stupid, or idiot, or any of the other names she’d sometimes call me, but I would tell her she was stubborn, or that she was impossible, or that she was so hard to deal with. Names are names, and calling them will drive bigger wedges in communication than just about anything else.
Do-over: Any time it got to the point that I wanted to call names, I’d call a time-out and come back to it later. Or better yet, I’d call her names, but they’d be names like “super sexy” or “hotness.” Even in the heat of the moment.
7. Don't be stingy with your money.
As the main bread earner, I was always so stingy with the money. I’d whine about the cost of her shampoo or that she didn’t order water at restaurants, or that she’d spend so much money on things like pedicures or hair dye jobs. But seriously. I always had just as many if not more things that I spent my money on, and in the end, the money was spent, we were just fine, and the only thing my bitching and moaning did was bring undo stress to our relationship.
Do-over: I’d tell her I trusted her to buy whatever she wanted, whenever she felt like she needed it. And then, I’d actually trust her to do it.
8. Don't argue in front of the kids.
There was never any argument that was so important or pressing that we couldn’t wait to have it until the kids weren’t there. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or super-shrink to know why fighting in front of the kids is a dangerous and selfish way of doing things.
Do-over: I would never, ever, not even once fight in front of the kids, no matter how big or how small the issue was. I’d maybe make a code word that meant, “not with the kids here.” When you wait to fight, usually you both realize how stupid or unimportant the fight was and the fight never happens.
9. Don't encourage each other to skip working out.
I always thought it was love to tell my spouse, “I don’t care if you don’t take care of yourself. I don’t care if you don’t exercise. I don’t care if you let yourself go.” But that was lying, and it was lying when she said it to me because the truth is, we did care and I wish that we would have always told each other how sexy and attractive the other was any time we’d go workout or do something to become healthier.
Do-over: I’d ask her to tell me that she cared. I’d ask her to encourage me to go to the gym. I’d ask her to remind me of my goals and tell me I’m strong enough to keep them.
10. Don't poop with the bathroom door open.
I don’t know why, but at some point I started thinking it was okay to poop with the bathroom door open, and so did she. First of all, it’s gross. Second of all, it stinks everything up. Third of all, there is literally no way to make pooping attractive.
Do-over: I’d shut the damn door and poop in private.
11. Don't stop kissing her.
It always got to a point when I’d more or less stop kissing her. Usually it was because things were stressful and there was tension in our relationship, and so I’d make it worse by refusing to kiss her. This of course would lead to her feeling rejected. Which would of course lead to arguments about it. Other times I had my own issues with germs and whatnot.
Do-over: I’d kiss her in the morning when she looked like people do in the morning. I’d kiss her at night when she’s had a long day. I’d kiss her any time I felt like she secretly wanted a kiss. And, I’d kiss her even when my germ issues kicked in.
12. Don't stop having fun together.
Couples should never stop having fun with each other, and I really wish I wouldn’t have gotten into so many ruts in which we didn’t really go out and do anything. And, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when the fun is missing, and the social part of life is missing, so also goes missing the ability to be fully content with each other.
Do-over: I’d make a rule with her that we’d never stay home two weekends in a row.
13. Don't pressure each other.
Pressuring each other about anything is always a recipe for resentment. I always felt so pressured to make more money, to not slip in my religion, to feel certain ways about things when I felt the opposite. And I usually carried a lot of resentment. Looking back, I can think of just as many times that I pressured her, so I know it was a two-way street.
Do-over: I’d make it a point to celebrate the different views, opinions, and ways that she had of doing things. I’d find the beauty in differentiation, not the threat.
14. Don't label each other with negative labels.
Sometimes the easiest phrases to say in my marriage started with one of three things. Either, “you should have,” “you aren’t,” or “you didn’t.” Inevitably after each of those seemed to come something negative. And since when have negative labels ever helped anyone? They certainly never helped her. Or me. Instead, they seemed to make the action that sparked the label worsen in big ways.
Do-over: I would learn to stop myself before saying any of those phrases, and then I’d switch them out for positive labels. Instead of “you should,” I’d say “you are great at.” Instead of saying “you aren’t,” I’d say “you are.” Instead of saying “you didn’t,” I’d say, “you did.” And then I’d follow it up with something positive.
15. Don't skip out on things that are important to her.
It was so easy in marriage to veto so many of the things she enjoyed doing. My reasoning, “we can find things we both enjoy.” That’s lame. There will always be things she enjoys that I will never enjoy, and that’s no reason not to support her in them. Sometimes the only thing she needs is to know that I’m there.
Do-over: I’d attend many more of the events that she invited me to. I would actively participate and not tell all the reasons why I’d do it differently or how it could be better or more fun or time better spent.
16. Don't emotionally distance yourself after a fight.
I never got to experience the power of make-up sex because any time my wife was mean or we got in a fight, I’d completely distance myself from her, usually for several days. Communication would shut down and I’d avoid contact at all cost. This never let things get worked out, and eventually after it had happened enough times I’d explode unnecessarily.
Do-over: I’d let myself communicate my emotions and feelings more often, and I’d make sure that she knew I still loved her any time we had an ugly bout. Sure, we’d give each other some distance. But not days of distance.
For the original text, click here.
I know... some of these rules are (or at least should be) common sense, but we can all find places to improve. I know a lot of these hit close to home for me and I believe it's so important to never stop self-analyzing... especially when it comes to what you bring to your relationships. Go forth folks... kiss your spouse and make an effort to be better at your marriage.