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My son got married this weekend. It was the culmination of months and months of stress, some family bickering, and a lot of planning hours that, in the end, didn’t really pan out the way anyone thought it would. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact. Weddings, like the marriages that follow, are lot like combat. Planning is critical…you absolutely must have a plan. But all the details fly out the window when the bullets start flying. Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder, a Prussian Chief of Staff before World War II, said it best when he stated,
“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
That pretty much sums up my son’s wedding day. It was organized chaos at times, and other times it wasn’t even organized. In short, it went off exactly as expected and exactly like almost every other nuptial event I’ve seen. Still, as long as he said, “I do,” and she did too, it was a pretty good wedding.
Now, it’s a few days on and I’ve been thinking about the events of that day as well as my own wedding and subsequent marriage. I was a groom late in life at 38 years old when I took the proverbial arrow in the knee, as the Vikings were known to say. Even still, with decades of life experience behind me, there were a lot of surprises thrown my way. Things I hadn’t planned on and things I had to adapt to quickly if I wanted my marriage to be a success. My father had long passed on when I tied the knot. I know that if he had been there, he could have passed on a wealth of knowledge about life as a married man. The good news is, I’m not gone yet. And though my experience is significantly less than his would have been, I have some information, some Universal Laws if you will, that I know will make my son’s transition to the married life a little smoother. At the very least, maybe I can help him dodge some of the bigger pot holes in front of him.
10 LAWS of MARRIAGE
1. The Law of Exclusion
You must understand that no one else matters. I know that sounds a little harsh, but it is critical that both parties grasp this crucial concept, especially in the beginning. You see, everyone is going come out of the woodwork bombarding you newlyweds with what should be done and what shouldn’t be done, what they can do and can’t, and a list of things they aren’t doing right. I hate to say it, but this comes mostly from the parents. Particularly the Moms. Where do you think the idea that the man is supposed to hate his mother-in-law comes from? You need to try and remember that it comes from a good place, at least most of the time. We, collectively, have been there and we’ve already bumped our heads trying to figure it all out. The reason we try so hard to tell you what to do is because we don’t want you to bump your head like we did. Here’s the thing, though… you need to. You need to bump your noggin and you need to trip and fall. It’s the only way you are going to learn to rely on each other to pick yourselves up. You are adults now; the Law dictates it’s time to take responsibility and make your own decisions. I’m not saying you shouldn’t reach out and ask for advice. That’s a sign of maturity and it can help you find the short cuts. But, just because you asked for it, doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Instead, learn to rely on each other; what everyone else thinks simply doesn’t matter… including me.
2. The Law of Attention
Notice her. I know I sounds unlikely now, but you will grow used to each other. You will come to be so familiar with the way they smell and the way they dress and look that you will stop noticing them the way you did when you first met. The Law dictates you cannot let that happen. Make a conscientious effort to really see them every day. Most days it won’t make a huge difference but pay especially close attention on the days they obviously want you to notice them. Did they fix their hair differently or get it styled? Are they dressed up for an event? If you see them and they are looking particularly good, take the time to tell them. The Law dictates that you compliment them as often as you can, it shows you appreciate them and that you still find them attractive. There is a real danger of becoming too comfortable, avoid it by staying present in each moment with them.
3. The Law of Bathroom Inequality
Put the toilet seat back down when you’re done. Squeeze the toothpaste the way she likes. Don’t use the “fancy” washcloths; those are for guests. Hang the towel here, not there. The Law dictates that you are not equal in the eyes of the Bathroom Mirror. I know what you’re thinking: if I can lift the seat up, she can certainly put it back down. She’s a big girl. But, that is flawed thinking. If you are sitting there thinking you are right in this regard, please skip ahead to Law #8: The Law of Yes Dear.
4. The Law of Financial Harmony
Only one of you needs to handle the bills, but both need to be equally involved in the household’s finances. If you are the keeper of the bills, it is your responsibility to make sure everything is paid; if you are not, it is still your job to remain interested in what’s being paid and to whom. Set guidelines and follow them. A good rule of thumb, depending upon your combined income, is to pick a number like $50 as the free-spend limit. If either one of you wants to buy something over $50, you need to consult the other party first. Anything under that is fair game. If your income doesn’t allow that kind of freedom yet, pick a lower number. But, the rule needs to be there nonetheless. In 2015, CNBC reported that, based on a poll conducted by SunTrust Bank, 35 percent of marriage stress comes from money issues. It can lead to divorce. To prevent that from happening, the Law dictates there must be constant communication. If you know where you are financially, there aren’t any surprises…and that’s usually the culprit that starts the fight. Be aware, it must be a partnership; there is no room for “my money” and “your money.” You’re married; it doesn’t work that way. And it doesn’t matter who makes more. Stop worrying about it and never, ever say “well, I make more money than you…” as justification for anything. Just don’t… that is strictly against the Law. Instead, look at the household as a whole. The household brings this much money in and spends this much money out. Work together to manage it.
5. The Law of Indecisive Dining
This is a tough one to move past, but for happiness sake, you must. They will never just tell you where they want to eat. Ever. You still have to ask, but they will not give you a straight answer. Be prepared. They will say something like, “I don’t care, any place is fine.” or, “Surprise me.” However, the Law dictates that any place you pick will almost certainly be answered with, “No, I’m not really in the mood for that right now.” Also, be aware that if you point out that, yes in fact, it obviously did matter to them… you will be punished. I know, it flies in the face of logic, but it is one of the most resolute laws of the universe.
6. The Law of Togetherness
This Law dictates that you do things together as often as possible. When I married my wife, we only had one car. It seemed like an inconvenience at the time, but I look back on it now as the blessing it was. The first year or so is a crucial time; all the real bonds form within this time frame, as do a lot of the habits. We spent the first year going everywhere together because we only had the one car. If she had to be at work at 7 AM, I got up and we rode to work together in the morning. When we got off from work, we were together because we relied on each other for transportation. It just became habit… we went everywhere together. It cemented our status as partners and the bond we have as a result is very strong. Honestly, I really miss those days and that old blue Taurus.
7. The Law of Energetic Affirmation
She’s going to ask you some questions that you need to be prepared for. They aren’t the kinds of questions that you, as a man, would ever ask. Questions like, “Do I look fat in this?” or “Is she prettier than I am?” Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap. Be aware, they can smell it if you’re saying something just to appease them; so, don’t just shake your head or grumble a quick, “No.” The Law dictates you say it with energy and using as many flattering affirmations as possible. Here are some acceptable answers:
“No way…you look amazing in that dress.”
“No, I love that dress on you. It’s one of my favorites.”
“Who? Oh, her? I didn’t even notice her.”
“Not even close… you’re the prettiest lady in the room.”
8. The Law of Yes Dear
Simply put, this Law dictates that you, as the husband, can either be “right” or you can be “happy.” You very seldom can be both. Decide now how best to use this law and which topics you are willing to give up happiness for to be considered right. I suggest you save being right for the important things and let the small things go. Let it be enough that you know you’re right and choose happiness by saying “Yes, Dear.” Be aware, there is another similar law, the Law of Incorrectness, that dictates that even when you are right, you are not right. So, choose your path carefully.
9. The Law of Proximity
You are always closer. You are closer to the remote control, to the kitchen, to the pillow, and to any item just out of her reach. Logic may appear to dictate that she is, in fact, closer to the item in question but it is a trap. You see there are other factors involved that you may not be instantly aware of. The Law of She’s Already Comfortable may come into play, for example, or the Law of If I Move, I’ll Disturb the Dog. Both are commonly cited as the basis for the Law of Proximity. If all else fails, simply refer again to Law #8: The Law of Yes Dear
10. The Law of Love
If you love her, tell her. It really is that simple. Say it and say it often because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Hug her and snuggle while watching TV, even if you’re not really a fan of doing so. Kiss passionately and hold hands every chance you get. Take walks together. Call for no reason, just to remind them that they are your world. Love is the greatest adventure you can go on, and each of you have now embarked on it together.
These are just a few of the many Laws I have come to recognize as the true rulers of the universe… or at least my universe. You will most certainly come up with your own laws as you make your way through the years of your own unique marriage. But here’s one last piece of advice… there really is only one immutable Law when it comes to any relationship between two people.
Love and respect each other in all ways, always.
That’s the secret.
You need to obey the other Laws too, though.