A Happy Marriage is Unselfish

Following up on yesterday’s post about how we met, I thought I’d address some of the reasons I think we’ve made it to 37 years of marriage.

These will be more or less, what I passed on to my sons before they got married and what I’ll share with my daughter and future son in law before they marry in December. Some of these may be directed more at husbands, but most are relevant to both sides of a marriage.

In economics, the most foundational principles are referred to as laws, but calling my suggestions the Laws of Marriage just sounds too heavy-handed. Instead, I’m going to refer to them as rules because I believe they have proved to be valid under a variety of conditions and over a long periods of time.

When you talk about rules one of the first things that is often expressed is the tired old expression “rules are made to be broken.” A better, more thoughtful guideline comes a Brit named Douglas Bader*,

“Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

Rule #1 As Much As Possible Give Them What They Want

This is a rule I did not practice early in our marriage, but one I follow closely today. Following this rule took stress out of our relationship and brought us closer together.

Let’s say that 2 years into marriage we were looking to buy a new set of silverware, and we both had different ideas of what we should buy.

The particular colors and styles of domestic goods we buy is far more important to Becky than to me, but I would still feel the need to express and defend my preference in the matter. This would often create a winner and a loser when a purchase was made. I hate to admit it, but early in our marriage I probably won many more of these little battles than I lost, and many of these victories were for things I cared little about.

Do you think Steven Spielberg would really care if he won the Macedonian People’s Choice award for best director? Can you imagine him putting on a tux and flying into its capital Skopje to accept the trophy? Looking back that is the way I view some of my victories.

At one time the design of our silverware seemed important to me. We’ve had the same set for more than 10 years, so I decided to test myself today to see if I the foggy image of the pattern is even remotely close to reality. It wasn’t. I could only remember that we had 2 kinds of forks and spoons and a set of knives that wouldn’t cut hot butter. That brings a very important question to mind.

Why did I ever care what silverware pattern we bought or the color of our shower curtain?

Today, we are both much more laid back and make most decisions by coming to one mind on our choices, but we each recognize the areas of decision that really matter to each other and we give deference to those. We will sometimes toss out opposing viewpoints on a choice, but we don’t defend those opinions like they were the crown jewels.

Giving up the right to make every decision shows respect for your spouse and that is the topic of rule 2 tomorrow.

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