If you don’t regard the list that follows as my most farcical exercise in hypocrisy, I’m afraid you don’t know me very well. I wrote 50 Rules for Sons and 50 Rules for Daughters with a sense of well-earned confidence. When it comes to marriage, not quite so much.
Marriage is a tough bitch. And it’s certainly not for everyone. As a lawyer I have handled a few divorces. Thank goodness there is such an alternative for people trapped in horrible circumstances.
But if you’re inclined to weather sickness and health, richer and poorer, bring a short memory and a long sense of humor. You’re gonna need it.
1. Burn your blueprint.
Rid yourself of whatever fantasies you harbor about the bliss of married life. They’re not helping. There is no script, so don’t be disappointed when your fairytale gets hijacked.
Didn’t Jesus say something about forgiving someone not just seven times but seventy times seven? That would be 490 times….which should last you through your first 6 months. Jesus underestimated because, remember, he wasn’t married.
3. And Forget.
If you forgive but don’t forget, did you really forgive? I know people who claim to have forgiven but still use every available opportunity to bring it up. And if you don’t want to forgive, forgetting works just as well.
4. Be a good teammate.
Life can come at you hard. One of the nice things about marriage is being able to have someone else in the bunker when you’re getting shelled.
If you still have the same desires, opinions and beliefs at age 50 that you did at age 25, that’s your own damn fault. You will not, and should not, be the same person you were then.
6. And adapt.
Even if you stagnate, the person you married will change. Don’t fight it. Embrace it, learn from it, be thankful for it.
7. Find your faith.
There is great comfort in believing in something or someone beyond our crude human existence. Explore this belief. Take this journey together.
8. Travel together.
Travel forces couples to rely on one another in unpredictable ways. It will also broaden your worldview and the way you value your relationship.
9. Travel separately.
I want to go to Australia and you want to go to Maine? Cool. Take lots of pics. See you in a week.
10. Develop your own interests.
It seems counter-intuitive, but you will enhance your marriage when you pursue your separate interests.
11. Cultivate a wide, diverse circle of friends.
One of the greatest joys of living is meeting new people. And many of the people you meet will likely make you appreciate your mate even more.
12. Don’t keep score.
I know a couple who keeps track of the number of times each partner completes a household chore. Don’t do this. It’s exhausting. And childish.
You owe it to each other to be in the best physical health possible. The mental side effects from exercise will also be beneficial.
14. Practice self-awareness.
Take frequent looks in the mirror. Reflect on who you are and the contributions you are making to your relationship. Are you being judgmental? Unfair? Harsh? Hypercritical? Defensive?
15. Admit that you’re wrong (even, on occasion, when you aren’t).
This is both the easiest and hardest thing to do on this list. But this simple gesture will pay immeasurable dividends; it will help you grow and it’s just the right thing to do.
16. Celebrate accomplishments big and small.
Whether it’s a promotion at work or the police officer let you off with just a warning, find every occasion possible to toast your good fortune.
17. Surprise one another.
Fill up her car. Let him sleep alone in the bed once in a while. Buy some bacon.
18. It’s the good little things.
Holding the door, suggesting a movie night, paying attention. The reward for these is greater than the sum of the parts.
19. And it’s the bad little things.
Cracking your knuckles, spitting, clearing your throat, picking your nose, chewing ice. These are death by a thousand cuts to your marriage.
20. Cultivate your finer qualities.
When do you ever have an opportunity to really work on qualities that make you a better person? In marriage you can do it every single day. Qualities like patience, loyalty, compassion, trust.
21. The bathroom is private.
If you think it’s quaint to brush your teeth while I use the toilet, you’ll change your mind about that eventually. Trust me.
22. Talk about sex (but not just right before, during or right after).
Sex is an important part of any marriage. But for some reason couples don’t want to discuss it unless they are in the throes of passion. Don’t make sex a taboo subject.
23. Encourage each other.
We all have insecurities. Your marriage is one place where you should be completely free to reveal these and your spouse should help you overcome them.
24. It’s okay to have secrets.
Even George Bailey slipped Violet Bick a $20 bill every now and then.
25. Avoid subtext.
This is a cowardly way to communicate. If you have something to say, say it. Don’t hint about it.
26. Put it down.
The toilet seat. Her cell phone. The beat.
27. Pick it up.
Your dirty sock. Your used tissue. The pace.
28. Don’t over-romanticize past (or future) relationships.
You weren’t that great and she isn’t that hot.
29. Never use the “s” word.
Don’t call each other “stupid.” That’s just stu…. not wise.
30. Offer solutions, not criticism.
Anyone can criticize. A good teammate (See Rule 4) will offer a way out.
To escape or to expand. Either way, it helps.
32. You are equals.
It doesn’t matter which one of you makes the most money. It doesn’t matter which one of you has the better collection of vinyl by REO Speedwagon. It doesn’t matter which one of you has the best nickname. It doesn’t even matter which one of you has the coolest food allergy.
33. Compliment each other.
Sincerely and often.
34. Respect each other’s friends.
You know your wife’s loud mouthed, insane friend Cathy who thinks you have weak bullshit and can’t believe you married her bff? See 35 below.
35. Know when to keep your mouth shut.
No list would be complete without the “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” lesson.
36. Indulge each other’s passions.
Scrapbooking doesn’t count.
37. Lose your arbitrary moral code.
This list alone proves that I am the king of the double standard. When I want to spend money on a new set of golf clubs, it’s a good investment. When my wife wants to spend money on new kitchen countertops, she’s a profligate. It’s not exactly fair.
38. Respect space and time.
Have we not evolved as a species or watched enough Dr. Phil to realize our mate does not want to answer the question “How was your day?” the minute he/she walks in the door?
39. Take pride in your appearance.
Your marriage license doesn’t give you a free pass to always wear sweat pants and T-shirts.
40. Maintain good hygiene.
Could your big toenail puncture a snow tire? Could your breath peel wallpaper? Take care of that, please. I don’t want to have to tell you again.
41. Ask before you throw it away.
Don’t touch that broken, ceramic, animated cactus tequila shot glass holder. I’m serious.
42. Invite his/her family.
At least once. Thankfully, this may be all you need.
43. Speaking of family, everyone gets a Holiday card and a birth announcement.
Even his creepy Uncle Bart and her psycho cousin Lisa.
44. Don’t be petty.
So I forgot to stop at the store to get your prescription. Did you have to throw away my ceramic cactus shot glass holder?
45. Be self-sufficient.
Learn to do your own laundry. Know how to cook a meal; how to navigate the grocery store; how to make an online purchase; how to turn off the water to the house; how to erect a nerf basketball hoop; how to unclog a toilet.
46. Everything is fair game for a joke.
This is far too important to place at 46. This should be at the heart of everything you do. I have not found a single thing that I have been unable to eventually laugh about. If you know this from the beginning it makes things a lot more fun.
47. Have good manners.
Don’t yell. Open the door. Help carry the groceries. Cover your cough. Hold your gas.
48. Be responsible with money.
No one lives on love. You need money. If you earned it, you will almost certainly respect it. If you didn’t earn it, you must respect it even more.
50. Adapting beats abandoning.
There will be moments when you want to quit, walk out, give up. You can do that. But you will probably be doing so without giving due consideration to the new life that awaits you. Will you be better off in six months? 10 years?
So there they are. I’d love to see what you would like to add.