The other night I was sitting with my family, most of whom are very successfully married. We were going in a circle giving our best marriage advice to my little sister on the eve of her wedding. It’s somewhat of a family tradition.
But that’s not what blows. What really blows is that I realized I don’t have any good marriage advice to give. After all, I’ve never had a successful marriage out of the two marriages I did have.
And so, when it was my turn, I just made a joke about divorce and how you should always remember why you loved your spouse when you first met her so that when times get tough, you can find someone new that is just like she was.
There were a couple courtesy giggles, but overall my humor wasn’t welcome in such a beautifully building ring of profundity.
They finished round one, and for some reason started into another round. And that’s when I realized. Hey. I don’t have marriage advice to give, but I have plenty of “keep your marriage from ending” advice (two equivocally different things), and that might be almost as good.
It eventually came to me again, and what I said would have been such great advice if I were a tenth as good at saying things as I was at writing them.
And so, that night, I sat down and wrote out my “advice list” for my little sister. You know… things I wish I would have known or done differently so that I didn’t end up divorced (twice). After writing it, I thought maybe I’d share it with all of you, too.
I call it my “Ways I Blew My Marriage” list. Also, for the list’s sake, I am just going to refer to “her” instead of “them” even though they almost all were true in both marriages.
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.
IF I HAD IT TO DO-OVER: I’d hold her hand in the car. I’d hold her hand on a star. I’d hold her hand in a box. I’d hold her hand with a fox. And I’d hold her hand everywhere else, too, even when we didn’t particularly like each other for the moment.
BONUS! When you hold hands in the winter, they don’t get cold. True story.
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.
IF I HAD IT TO DO-OVER: I’d try and put my best foot forward throughout our entire marriage. I’d wait to fart until I was in the bathroom whenever possible. I’d make myself desirable so that she would desire me.
BONUS! when you trim your man hair, guess what. She returns the favor.
3. DON’T ALWAYS POINT OUT HER WEAKNESSES.
For some reason, somewhere along the way, 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.
IF I HAD IT TO 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.
BONUS! when you tell her what she’s doing right, she’ll tell you what you’re doing right. And she’ll also tell her friends. And her family. And the dentist. And even strangers on the street.
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.
IF I HAD IT TO DO-OVER: I’d make it a priority to cook for her, and only her, something awesome at least every month. And I’d remember that meat in a can is never awesome.
BONUS! candlelit dinners often lead to candlelit bow chica bow-wow.
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.
IF I HAD IT TO 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?
BONUS! sometimes you catch her doing something cute that you would have missed otherwise.
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.
IF I HAD IT TO 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.
BONUS! she’ll call you names in better places. Like the bedroom.