• If you're flexible and willing to negotiate terms, good things happen
• When faced by overwhelming odds, it's OK to surrender, but only conditionally
• Arguing is fine; fighting is not
• Be unpredictable
• If she ain't happy, you ain't happy
• Show her respect – she's your wife
You're tired and overworked and you both have your needs as well as a typical assortment of deeply twisted personality quirks. Just remember that no matter what the latest, greatest expert on Oprah says, your needs are just as significant as anyone else's. That doesn't mean you can't miss one game in your favourite baseball team's 984-game schedule to spend an afternoon picnicking in the park. Your wife is likely to be a lot more reasonable when you ask her to put her half-hour diatribe about the deteriorating condition of Main Street on hold while you watch the ninth inning, if you can show her that ultimately, nothing is more important than being there for her.
You won't win all of your marital throw-downs. In fact, that shouldn't even be your goal. A good-natured argument, with liberal amounts of humour thrown in, can actually enhance your relationship and solve some simple problems. My own dear bride has an aversion to doing dishes that borders on the supernatural -- and I'm rarely in a hurry to scrub up after enjoying a tasty meal. So one day I laughingly told her that a glob of ketchup had attached itself to one of our plates on a molecular level and that I might have to commission a demolitions expert to help us remove it. After a few lovingly exchanged barbs, I agreed to handle most of the dishwashing chores the following day, on the condition that in the evening, she soak any plates and glasses that were likely to crust over. Domestic crisis averted.
Page 1 of 2No fighting
While some may disagree, my own marital experience, coupled with the extensive observation of couples I've known -- some still together, some not -- has lead me to the conclusion that there's a big, fat line between disagreement and a full-blown fight. If you're married long enough, there's a good chance that an ugly spat at some point may be a foregone conclusion, but if so, try and learn from that mistake. No matter how angry you may feel, cheap shots are the type of thing that linger and fester. So before you enter into any confrontation with your wife, be sure you have something constructive to say. If you do, she'll answer in kind, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by her willingness to compromise.
A stale, boring home life is the bane of any marriage. Google "training your husband" and you'll be inundated with web articles comparing men to dogs, referring specifically to the predictable nature of men and making other, less kindly assumptions as well. While the concept of positive reinforcement is a sound one, the idea that your wife can read you like a book is not for the best. Throw her for a loop every once in a while; act absurd, have fun, do things she doesn't expect. Good feelings are contagious and spontaneous acts of kindness, sprinkled liberally with random acts of silliness, will have you smiling and laughing your way to marital bliss. Here are a few suggestions:
• Buy her a present for no reason
• Break into song during dinner (the worse you sing, the funnier it is)
• Grab her and take her clothes shopping; let her take all the time she needs
• When she gets home, be in the kitchen making dinner, wearing a gorilla costume
• Invite her friends over for a surprise party in her honour
If she ain't happy, you ain't happy
OK, we all know the gag and it's true enough: a miserable wife makes for a miserable husband. But it's about a lot more than the standard -- and endlessly suggested -- division of household chores and responsibilities. (But just a quick note, guys: if your contribution to the chores is changing the occasional lightbulb and taking out the trash, you've become a burden.) Now for the sappy part: Happiness, for both of you, is dependent on your willingness to sacrifice for the other, to compromise and put their needs ahead of your own. It's cliché but it's true. Take it from me.
Determined to have the perfect relationship? Read about the anatomy of a great marriage.
Kennedy Pires is a former CanadianLiving.com food editor. And a happily married man.
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