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.
7. DON’T STOP TAKING HER ON NICE DATES.
When I was dating her, I’d have no problem paying a little more for nice dates. Twenty extra bucks for the ambiance of a nicer restaurant was no biggie when I wanted to charm her and make her feel worth it. I’d pay for nicer seats at the show. I’d get better seats at the basketball game. So why is it that after marriage, she was no longer worth it? Why was spending the money a waste instead of a valuable way to keep her feeling special? Why did I stop going to shows and basketball games and everything else?
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d think she was special enough to spend a little extra cash on once in a while. I’d look at every extra dollar spent as an investment into our relationship. I’d keep apprised of her favorite bands and her favorite performing art shows and I’d surprise her with tickets before she even knew they were coming.
BONUS! Nice dates lead to nice pictures on her phone which lead to everyone on her Instagram and Facebook thinking you’re the damned coolest hubby on the planet.
8. DON’T GIVE HER GUILT FOR NEEDING TO GET AWAY FROM YOU.
There were times when I just needed to get the hell away from her for a while. And not because something was wrong. Simply because too much of anybody is just too much. But for some reason, I always felt like something was secretly wrong when she wanted to duck out for a while with no explanation. I’d insist she “talk” or that she tell me what was up. I’d never just let her go and get her much needed moments without me.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d make sure she knew that it was always okay with me if she just needed to get out and away for a little while. I would never pressure her to have a good reason. I’d encourage her to spend some time on her own, out with the girls, or doing what she wanted to do.
BONUS! Time away from you means you can sneak that triple bacon burger she rightfully never wants you to eat.
9. DON’T DROWN HER WITH YOUR SARCASM.
Sarcasm comes from the Latin sarcasmos or “tearing of the flesh.” I don’t know that having my flesh torn sounds particularly fun. Yet, fun is exactly what I thought it was every time I’d lay on the sarcasm. Fun. No matter what she did, it seemed I would lay on a dose of sarcasm. Happy sarcasm. Funny sarcasm. Snide sarcasm. A lot of times straight up mean sarcasm. And, just like when I put her down, I’d make her feel stupid for not laughing about it.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d understand that some funny sarcasm, in the proper moments and with the right spirit can really enhance a relationship, so long as it goes both ways. I’d also understand that when she’s trying to tell me something important is not the time. Or when she’s trying to apologize. Or when she’s sad that her mom’s in the hospital. Or when she’s throwing up. Or when she miscarries. Or when she’s already about to strangle me because she just dipped her butt in the toilet water.
BONUS! When you skip the negative sarcasm, you develop a real sense of humor instead of that sorry excuse for a funny bone you call wit. Pleeeease tell me you noted my ironic use of sarcasm being used here.
10. DON’T MAKE HER DO THE GROSS AND SCARY THINGS.
When we were dating, I was a knight in shining armor. Was there a spider that needed killing? I was the Gladiator. Was there a drain that needed a good hair-unclogging? Who else would she call but me? Was one of the kids losing her lunch in the entryway? Sit back my fair lady. I’ll clean up the puke. Then, the second we were married I told her to kill her own spiders. It was her hair clogging the drain, so why should I have to touch it? And it just seemed like a mom’s duty to “help” a sick kid.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d cinch up my damned knickers and do the gross and scary things that I was born to do. I’d remember that I fell in love with sugar and spice and everything nice, not slugs and snails and puppy dog tails.
BONUS! How do I put this? When she gets scared, she more often than not needs physical reassurance of the safety that she’ll only feel in the arms of her big, brawny, tough, macho man.
EXTRA BONUS! After doing the gross and scary things, you get to stand up and scream, “are you not entertained?! ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!” (name that movie.)
11. DON’T THINK YOU’RE SMARTER THAN SHE IS.
I have always struggled with an over-bloated “confidence” in my own intelligence, and unfortunately that carried over into my marriage far too often. Guess who always had the right answer about everything? Guess who always had to correct her when she was wrong? Guess who always had to whip out his phone to prove something she said was incorrect? Guess who would crap on her awesome ideas? Guess who was constantly DRIVING HER CRAZY with it?
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d remember three things. One, know-it-alls drive everyone crazy. Two, know-it-alls usually end up alone. Three, know-it-alls are wrong, a lot. And they’re never as smart as they think they are. So, instead of thinking I knew everything and that I knew better ways of doing everything, I’d sit back and enjoy letting her make a lot of the decisions. I’d let her save face when she was wrong. And, I’d applaud the fact that there are a lot of areas of life that she knows a lot more about than I do.
BONUS! Not knowing everything makes you look a lot less stupid.
12. MOVE AWAY FROM HER FAMILY. AND YOURS.
When we were first married, we would see my family all the time and her family almost as often. We spent almost every Sunday at my family’s house, and a lot of weeknights and weekends at hers. We spent nearly every holiday with our families. And every special occasion, too. And while family is usually great, it really kept us from developing our own working family dynamic, our own traditions, and our own strengthened way of living and doing things. It drug us into unnecessary drama. And most of all, it kept us from learning to lean on each other during our rough patches instead of on our parents or siblings.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I would move far away from both families for a year or two. I wouldn’t come back until we’d been through at least a few big marital challenges on our own without the involvement of any family at all. That way, when we did come back, we’d be strong on our own and our families would be great supplements to our marriage instead of major players.
BONUS! When you make your own traditions, you can finally add things in that your parents weren’t cool with. “And after we open our Christmas pajamas… everyone has to eat a pound of chocolate. And then they have to stand on their heads while screaming. And then they have to jump on their beds.” Stuff like that.
13. DON’T BE A TALK-HOG.
I often had a way of making everything about me. I’d come home from work and want to talk about me. I’d go to bed with her and want to talk about me. I’d want to talk about my successes, my ideas, my struggles, and my worries. Usually I’d realize I was being a talk-hog and I’d ask her about what was going on with her, but only listen with half an ear, hardly reply, and be anxious to move the conversation back to me as soon as possible.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d shut the heck up. And, because of my little problem, I’d try not to talk about me at all until I knew about her day, her successes, her ideas, her struggles, and her worries.
BONUS! When you listen, you hear nifty things that remind you how awesome and messed up and funny and perfect for you she really is.
14. DON’T DEMAND THAT SHE TELL YOU WHAT SHE’S THINKING.
I always knew when something was wrong. I always knew when something was bugging her. I always knew when she disapproved of something I said or did. And, I always knew when she was keeping her mouth shut about it. Being the great communicator that I was, I would badger her, and pester her, and harass her until she finally told me what she was thinking. And sure enough, it was usually what I thought it was, and the next world war would break out.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: ’d shrug my shoulders and send serious thank you vibes to her for keeping her opinion or her disapproval to herself, even though I’d know they weren’t positive. I’d recognize the noble reasons she was doing it, and I’d respect those reasons. I’d learn not to take it all personally and I’d learn not to desperately need approval for everything I did or said.
BONUS! When war is averted, nobody ends up clobbered and wounded and hungry for blood. Which is always nice.
15. DON’T BUY INTO YOUR GRANDPARENTS’ GENDER ROLES.
I had no trouble letting my wife go join all the other wives on Sundays and fix dinner for all of us men. I also had no trouble letting them all do clean-up without our help. I enjoyed playing pool, or ping pong, or chattin’ it up with the fellas while the women toiled. It’s just what happens more often than not in my family, and I often brought it home with me during the week. After all. I had a job, so she did everything else. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Well, apparently not because it always led to all sorts of justified resentment.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d realize that working a desk job is usually a heck of a lot easier than working at home all day. I’d jump into the chores that she had left when I got home so that we could both enjoy some quality free time later on. I’d insist on doing the dishes more often. I’d demand that she relax sometimes while I got the kids ready for bed. And, I’d never let myself think that her work was easier or less important than mine.
BONUS! Appreciated wives show their appreciation for it in much more private settings, like the bedroom. And by appreciation, I mean they’ll surprise you with that incredible nerdy electric tie rack that spins.
Oh, and probably sex, too. I hadn’t even thought of that.
That’s a lot of dirty marriage laundry to air out in front of the world. I’ll probably never get a date now.
Love you all. Thanks in advance for sharing all these botched-it-big-time secrets of mine with others (you know, if you found value in them).
Dan Pearce, from my Single Dad Laughing blog
If you missed the first half of this list, you can read “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage” here.
PS. Would love your comments on today’s posts (I do read every one of them). What do you agree/disagree with? What advice would you have added? What would your bonuses for that advice be? And, what is your opinion as to why so many people connected with and shared this list?
PPS. I know I joke about sex a lot in these posts. Get over it. Sex is one of the most important and often most dysfunctional parts of marriage. Working toward having lots of healthy sex ain’t a bad thing.