1. After a while: say, seven years – it may occur to you that you haven’t made any new friends lately. But you’re happy, and you love your wife, and what’s the big deal? The big deal is that unless you keep evolving, you’re going to get depressed. Taciturn, grumbly, lonely, and slightly overweight: Your new friends will become Mr. Bag of Doritoes, Mr. Gin and Tonic, Mr. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Doo-Dads with Sea Salt, and Mr. Satellite TV. You’ll start to resent “her” friends. You’ll develop odd hobbies – calligraphy, maybe – and behave more or less like a mushroom. That’s why.
2. You will learn that her feelings are real: You’re going to think, from time to time, that your wife is crazy. The only reason we don’t realize that most people are crazy is that we’re not married to most people. But here’s the key: Don’t tell her she’s crazy. Not only that: Stop thinking she’s crazy. Treat her irrational feelings as rational, because that’s how they feel to her. It’s called compassion. And marriage is one of the few ways we ever really learn it.
3. The argument: Make your marriage a black-hole: My wife went to lunch with a group of girlfriends. When she came home, she told me all about it: “We got trashed, and then everyone started talking about how often they have sex with their husbands.” I asked her if she’d said anything about us. Well, yeah, she said. An argument ensued. I’ll spare you the details, but from my end it boiled down to this: Marriage is different, and if it’s going to work, it needs to stay that way. It’s the deepest, most complex, most demanding relationship of your life. Some information should be absolutely privileged. – Paul Sogub
4. There are ways of knowing if yours is going ok: Phycologist John Gottman claims he can predict the success or failure of a marriage with 94% accuracy, here are some of the more telling feature; You’re in a good marriage if…
- You don’t take it personally when she is in a bad mood.
- You don’t take for granted the thoughtful things your partner does – replacing your toothbrush or asking how Tottenham are doing when she could give a crap about sports.
- When you fight, neither one blames the other, and each takes responsibility. (Note: If you act like this, you were created in a lab by Dr. Phil and the woman who wrote The Secret.)
- The division of household responsibilities feels fair (regardless of the truth).
- You can talk to each other about what turns you on.
- You don’t feel like you’re being compared to other people.
- You still have big, open-ended conversations about the future – “Are we happy at our jobs?” – just like you did when you were falling in love.
5. The counter-argument: The black-hole marriage is bulls**t:I have always had a difficult time with Jessica and Dan. Maybe it’s because they’re always tan from skiing in the Dolomites. It may have to do with his relationship with his Labradoodle. I think he might be gay with that dog. But when we go out for dinner with them and they seem just as simpatico with each other as they are with the entire world, my wife and I always leave feeling like we have an inferior relationship. That’s the problem with black hole-ness: You start to believe that other people have perfect marriages. And I’m pretty sure that if they do, it’s only because they’re robotic and repressed and gay with their dogs. – Clarkson Schlitz
6. There are ways to tell if yours on NOT going ok: John Gottman claims he can predict the success or failure of a marriage with 94% accuracy, here are some of the more telling feature; You’re in a bad marriage if;
- You’re so hyperaware of your partner’s shortcomings – “How can she think the elliptical counts as real exercise?” – that you fail to notice the good things she does.
- You feel like you’re constantly being compared to other people.
- You disagree in unconstructive ways: with defensiveness, contempt, or superiority.
- You avoid conflict altogether.
- You find yourself feeling jealous of the attention your spouse pays to her iPhone.
- When something big happens in your life, good or bad, the person you want to tell first isn’t your spouse.
- Not only does your partner not like going down on you, but neither of you can actually say “going down on you.” You can’t talk openly about sex, and as a result you both feel dissatisfied.
7. You will need to get home at night: Marriage is about a lot of things, but mainly it’s about showing up. Showing your wife that this thing right here – dinner, dessert, bath, and bedtime; going to get groceries, a Christmas tree, a flu shot – is the most important thing going.
8. It may not be a bad idea to schedule sex. Seriously: On the one hand, it sounds like the death of all that is worth living for. Scheduled sex? What’s next? Scheduled smiles? But bear with us: It is easy to fall out of the habit, especially if you have kids. You get busy; you get tired. Suddenly you look up and you haven’t been laid in four months. This is not good. Your brain is in danger of absorbing a dangerous idea: I can live without sex. Sex, in addition to feeling good and keeping you from murdering people who annoy you, is good for things like intimacy with your spouse. And scheduling it is a way of making sure that intimacy doesn’t get away from you.
9. You can forget Valentine’s day. You can forget Mother’s day. DO NOT FORGET YOUR ANNIVERSARY.
10. What are we talking about? Don’t forget any of them.
11. Don’t have sex with people who aren’t your wife: Simple to say. But if you abide, the kingdom opens at your feet. If you’ve reached an agreement to explore/ lie/invite the local barista into your relationship, find yourself a good divorce lawyer.
12. Or go ahead and cheat (under certain conditions): The idea of cheating is so stigmatized that a recent CNN story detailing ways to save a ‘mediocre marriage’ suggested divorce before finally, and very tentatively, suggesting that a couple explore “ethical nonmonogomy”. That’s insane. The truth is that there are times when cheating can be the best thing for a marriage. Of course, being able to correctly recognise those times is crucial. Here are some general rules about when it’s ok;
- The dude whose wife won’t sleep with him, doesn’t want him sleeping with others, and refuses to discuss it.
- The foot fetishist whose wife refuses to indulge his harmless low-stakes kinks. (In that case, I’d advise him to see a professional – so long as those visits to the professional were safe, discreet, and rare.)
- Long-married couples whose otherwise affectionate marriages have been sexless for more years than they care to remember. Here the rule should be: Don’t do anything to threaten those marriages’ socially monogamous standings.
- This isn’t technically about when it’s okay to cheat. But I believe that the one-off, not-okay infidelity is something that an otherwise strong, healthy couple can survive. People tell me they love their spouses so much that they would do anything for them – walk through fire, give up a kidney – except take them back after an infidelity. Ridiculous.
And about when it’s not okay, these circumstances are much clearer;
- It’s not okay to cheat when you’ve made a monogamous commitment and your partner is doing his or her best to meet many to most of your reasonable sexual needs – i.e., you’re getting regularly scheduled vanilla intercourse, milder kinks cheerfully indulged, a pass to watch a little porn and jerk it now and then.
- It’s not okay to cheat on your spouse because you’re horny right now and she happens to have the flu right now.
- It’s not okay to cheat on your wife because she recently had a baby – you did that with her, don’t forget – and she’s not feeling it.
- Boredom is often a reason people cheat, as is the desire for some variety or a longing for a sexual adventure. But before cheating out of boredom, invite your spouse to go on a sexual adventure with you.
13. You’ll realise you’re starting to become your parents: and that won’t seem so bad.
14. You’ll be tempted to get a little too dependent: It will be hard not to become one of those people who can’t operate outside their marriage. Who doesn’t quite remember who he was before he got married and stopped playing soccer with his friends on Saturday mornings. Who doesn’t know how to work the washing machine or what his account number is. Giving up on your old self completely is tempting. Don’t do it.
15. On the other hand, the dependency is beautiful and important: And yes, terrifying. But what’s more terrifying: giving yourself over to someone so completely, or never letting go at all?