3 Tips To Marital Bliss
or how to train your spouse to avoid insanity
“Honey have you paid that utility bill? Not yet. I’ll get it done.
I know. When? Sometime this week.
How about today?”
I’m sure this conversation never happens in your house. It took me only a few years to figure out that when my husband signs up to do something he usually meant one of these days. If I’m lucky sometime this week. I was usually thinking today, actually NOW.
I’ve been married for almost twenty five years. Here’s the good news — you don’t have to wait as long as I did to avoid insanity while training your spouse.
Here are 3 tips that I’ve picked up and will hopefully shorten the time-to-bliss for you. As with any advice, remember results are likely to vary.
Expectations — things you didn’t even know you had
Language — English is not enough to communicate to your spouse
Journey— It’s a journey not a destination
I don’t know about you but growing up I was one of those kids who read books and dreamt a lot. I practically grew up as an only child as my brother was much older than me. So I’m not sure I really had any expectations of my future spouse.
If at all I’d learned anything about men, it was from a steady diet of romance novels featuring usually white women and always dusky, handsome men. Not exactly the best place to develop realistic expectations. We’ve all heard the saying that “marriages are made in heaven.” I had an arranged marriage, which was the norm in my community. A day before I got married my wise old aunt who’d been married for 40 years took me aside and said “Look girl, whatever you’ve been told, marriages are not made in heaven, they are very much made on earth — it’s not going to be a cakewalk and it’s not...” This was the point at which my mom swooped in and took me away.
Fortunately or unfortunately my husband grew up in a large family surrounded by a lot of assertive women. Of course you would have thought that would be to my advantage…NOT! I’d think he would understand women, be more empathetic to them…NOT! At the very least he would have learnt how to communicate clearly with women …NOT!
On the first day of our honeymoon he took me to this fancy French restaurant. Yay! I thought he was getting it right. But that was before I was served macrobiotic food and had cats purring all over me. I love cats as much as the next person but not as dining companions. Slowly it dawned on me that I did have expectations.
Expectations about how my spouse would behave, what he wore to a dinner party (not that tatty green thing again) or did he wash his hands (after he took the garbage out). Whoa! I did have a whole lot of expectations and not just of the romantic variety. So the first step was to recognize this. Silly me, I figured it was just a matter of communicating them now to my loving spouse.
Between my husband and I, we can speak in three languages fluently — English, Tamil and Hindi . I speak a smattering of Marathi and don’t mind boasting that I’ve studied French. Yet little good did all this language skill do me when trying to get the love-of-my-life to even understand, let alone meet my expectations.
It’s not just that my spouse is a man. I knew he wasn’t from Mars, but figured he was from somewhere up there. But nine years of engineering college had rendered him incoherent. He spoke or the very least seemed to understand another language together. I knew I’d better learn to speak his language — if required use Venn Diagrams and lemmas and worse yet, speak at a truly infuriating pace of a 5th grader so that he doesn’t get side-tracked into arguing about how I said something rather than what I said.
To give credit where it’s due, my husband’s engineering education did pay off, in that he was able instruct me (or at least translate for me) what he heard me say, when I said things like, “Can you pay the utility bill, honey?” (one of these days, not NOW) or ‘Why don’t you try that yellow shirt my mom got you (“I hate the green one you got on”). So we agreed to certain specific vocabulary — which usually entailed me telling him, not just what I wanted done, but WHEN I wanted it done. When something was an instruction as opposed to a suggestion. All, of course, couched in polite engineer-approved language.
The optimist that I was, I reckoned we’d cracked it, when the spouse paid bills on time and dressed better for parties — but little did I know that it was just the start of a journey.
Training your spouse, err I mean, marriage is a journey. It’s not a light switch that you turn on and it works. It’s a process-a work in progress, one that we need to continually improve upon. I learnt to enjoy the small victories — whether it was him not bingeing on the tortilla chips at the office party or leaving an hour earlier for the airport.
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck
In summary, identify and state your expectations, communicate them effectively, then rinse & repeat!