I told you all about my family’s tradition of going around the room and having everyone give their best marriage advice to the bride and groom on the eve of their wedding.
While sitting in that circle on the night before my sister’s nuptials, I felt so valueless having been divorced not just once but twice. Not a lick of what I had was good marriage advice. No. Everything I had was “how not to botch your marriage like I did” advice, which was something I had plenty of. They were the “don’t dos” instead of the “do dos.” (Yes, I heard it the second I typed it). They were my regrets, and not my successes. And I didn’t really feel like anyone in that room would want to hear them.
So, after an awesomely failed joke and an evening of feeling like the biggest turd on earth, I sat down for a few hours and wrote my own advice list to my sister (and probably even more so for myself). I shared the first half of it with you in my “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage” post. The list had gotten much longer than I planned, so I chopped it in half. That was the first half. Today, I wanted to share the other 15 things that were on my list. I hope that’s okay.
I never, not even once, thought that post would be popular. When it went crazy viral, I couldn’t help but wonder why. I’m still wondering why, if I’m being honest. After all, it’s the advice from a guy who blew it, not a guy who knows what he’s doing. My failure at marriage is one of the things I am most insecure about. I sat down and wrote the list in insecurity. It was shared in insecurity. It’s a list of things I’ll forever be working on, none of which I’ve mastered.
And maybe in the end, that is the “why.” I don’t know. I’d love your opinion on it.
That being said, I’m so thankful that so many people found value in it and shared it. If you haven’t read the first half of the list yet, you can find it here. I also hope the rest of my list has value as well. It may be better to read while cranking up Gotye’s Somebody that I used to Know.
Anyways… with that, I give you:
1. DON’T STOP BRINGING HER FLOWERS.
When I was wooing her, I made it a point to show up with flowers. And not just for special occasions. I’d have them delivered. I’d drop some at her door and run. I’d have them if I was just showing up for a movie on her couch. I brought her flowers from day one to day married. And then after we said I do, I stopped. Flowers became an unnecessary expense and were only worth splurging on for really special occasions like anniversaries or Valentine’s day. And sadly not always on those days, either.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I might get her flowers on those special occasions, but I’d make it a point to get her flowers often enough that she never wondered what I’d done wrong when I did. I’d understand that the most meaningful flowers were the ones given with no reason but to give them.
BONUS! It’s hard to hold grudges for the other stupid things you do when there are fresh flowers reminding her that you’re a good guy most of the time.
2. DON’T WORK SO MUCH THAT YOU DON’T WANT SEX.
This may be a little too much information, but when I was married, I would sometimes be so in need of sex, yet I would work so hard and so late into the night that even when sex was an option, I would turn it down in favor of crashing and decompressing. This of course would make her feel rejected because she knew that I wanted it, but couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want it from her.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d set a bed time for myself and wake up earlier to get my work done if needed. I’d remind myself that no amount of money is ever enough when you’re a workaholic. And I’d not give up the boonda boonda with my wife to make a few extra unneeded bucks.
BONUS! You don’t have to go to the gym as often because the gym comes to your bedroom.
3. DON’T PUT HER DOWN TO OTHERS.
It always seemed that the more bla our marriage got, the more I would (usually jokingly) put her down to others. What’s worse is that I’d do it while she was standing there as much as I would when she wasn’t. I made sure that she knew that her faults and her weaknesses were never going to be secret and then if she’d get mad about it, I’d throw it back on her and tell her she needed to develop a sense of humor.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d realize that there’s nothing motivating about being put down. Building people up can still be done in awesomely joking ways.
BONUS! She probably wants a good guy as part of her foundation. Building her up makes sure that her foundation is with you and not Billy Bob over there.
4. DON’T BE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE WITH HER.
Always claiming I was the saint, I would refuse to talk about what was bothering me, I’d refuse to discuss when things hurt me, and I’d refuse to admit that anything was wrong. Instead, I’d be passive aggressive about things. I’d pretend to take the high road. “It’s not worth the contention to me, just have it your way,” I’d blurt out. Let’s not kid ourselves. I said that to make her feel like a bully and to push her into giving me my way. It rarely worked. All it ever did was make her feel worse about herself and about me, and neither one of us would get what we needed.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d tell her how things were actually affecting me, and I’d learn to genuinely want her to have her way sometimes, or I’d learn to agree to disagree, or I’d learn to take a break from the conversation. I’d also ask her to point out when I was being passive aggressive so that I could rephrase things in a productive way.
BONUS! When you tell her what you actually want or need, sometimes you get it. Fancy that.
5. DON’T FIND REASONS TO DITCH HER.
It seemed that when I got home from work, there was always an important business issue that needed dealing with. There was always an email that needed to be answered. There was always something I needed to check on my phone. There was always Facebook that needed updating. There was always something that couldn’t wait, and I’d happily ditch her to go do it.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d completely power off my cell phone for an hour or two every night and instead spend that time with her. Eating, talking, having fun, playing games, or just catching up on all the little things. The computer would be off limits, and so would the TV.
BONUS! A quality hour with her is far more fun than a six-hour long fight about not spending enough quality time with her.
6. DON’T TOUCH HER ONLY WHEN YOU WANT SEX.
Ever the Romeo, I would usually distance myself from her physically and emotionally for days or weeks, and then I’d roll over in bed one night, and start putting the moves on her. This of course would leave her hurt and upset that I was only touching her for sex, which would make me react passive aggressively, and become more emotionally and physically distant.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d touch her gently and without sexual motives when she was lying in bed. I’d rub her legs when she was reading a book. I’d softly make circles on the small of her back while we washed dishes. I’d massage her knees in the car. I’d push the hair out of her eyes. I’d kiss her on the forehead. And the cheek. And the nose when I wanted to really grab her by surprise. And I’d do it all without the need to get it on.
BONUS! Wait for it… wait for it… more sex. Well, sex and you touching her doesn’t give her the heebie jeebies.