How We’ve Stayed Happy. My five-part series this week on what I’ve found to be effective in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship comes to a close today. I hope you found something useful in it. If you have any tips of your won to share, please do.
Key #1: Your partner gets the benefit of the doubt.
Key #2: Take the Long View
Key #3: Wait to have kids
Key #4: Believe Them
Key #5: But Don’t Say Everything in Your Head
I’ve never faced this particular Question of Damocles, but I suspect that when your wife asks you “Do these pants make my butt look big?” there is only one acceptable answer, regardless of the reality of the situation.
Sometimes, wisdom lies in not saying every thought which crosses your mind.
- See a particularly attractive member of the opposite sex? For most people, it isn’t a good idea to hit your spouse with an elbow and say, “Daaaaaaamn! Lookit that!”
- Crazy day making you feel frustrated beyond belief and you just want out? Keep it to yourself. It’ll pass.
- Think your spouse is totally overreacting to something? STHU or you’re gonna make it worse.
- Did the cute coworker flirt with you today? Or the server at the restaurant? That’s fine. Tell your friend over beer. But don’t say, “Hey honey! You should have seen how the (waitress with big boobs/waiter with huge muscles) was hovering over me and making googly eyes!” That’s just stupid.
It’s not a matter of lying . . . it’s a matter being smart.
Take example #1 above: we don’t die when we get married. Other people don’t change in physical appearance when we get married, suddenly becoming uniformly ugly. We don’t lose our eyes or sex drive when we get married. So it’s perfectly natural to see someone else and still think, “Daaaaaaamn!”
No problem . . . your spouse does it, too (whether you think they do or not).
But that doesn’t mean you have to rub their nose in it. That’s just mean.
One corollary to this which Mrs. NJ and I have used successfully in our relationship is:
Don’t ask a question to which you don’t actually want to know the answer.
Ever play the quasi-20 Questions game with a new paramour? You know, the one where you ask all the stereotypical questions which are largely potential time bombs just waiting to blow up in your face?
- So, have you ever been in real love before?
- Was [insert ex here] better than me at [insert activity or situation here, usually sexual]?
- How many lovers have you had?
Et cetera. I can be a pretty ugly scene when one insecure partner decides to start finding ways to compare themselves to the Ghosts of Relationships Past.
Luckily, I had played this dangerous game a few too many times in my past before meeting Mrs. NJ. The first time something like this came up, we talked about the larger picture and came up with the rule above.
We decided that if someone asked a question like that, the askee would ask if the asker really wanted to know the answer. (Not really as in intensely but as in are you sure.)
If the asker persisted, the askee was indemnified for answering truthfully.
It didn’t always work as sometime curiosity occasionally overcame common sense* but it did help avoid many awkward and potential hurtful situations.
Practical Application. Think before you speak. Just because you thought of something doesn’t mean you have to say it. Just because something happened, doesn’t mean you have to tell them about it.
Flipside. Use common sense here.* If it’s something that is going to actually affect your relationship negatively if it isn’t known, say it. (E.g. your spouse’s new friend is hitting on you and they won’t quit despite warnings? Yeah . . . you might wanna mention that.)
Upshot. I am absolutely stunned sometimes when I hear some of the stupid sh*t people tell each other. They’ve bought into the bullshit that “I am 100% totally honest with my partner all the time every time no matter what because that’s what true love is and nothing else is love and only by telling my love everything that comes into my (vacuous) little head can I prove to them tha. . . ” aw shut up already!
Talking to your spouse about something that will bother them, add nothing positive to your relationship, and potentially have a negative affect to your efforts to live in peace and harmony . . . that’s just stupid.
Plan for Week 40.
Red = a negative deviation | Green = a positive deviation | Blue = a note