Marriage Tip #11

My friend Robert Martin, who recently lost his wife, asked if he could share a tip and having gone through this with a best friend before i can echo so much of this:

Treasure EVERY moment… I, unfortunately, sit in a place where my other half is no longer around to exercise tips 1-10. And there is much regret that I’m wrestling with. Time that we BOTH wasted in our lives together that could have been spent in treasured time together. Don’t let it pass you by. Don’t come to a place where you’ve run out of time to do all those things you had always planned but never did.

Every smile, every kiss, every hug, every word, every wink, every moment “in the sack”, every “Good morning”, every “Good night”, every “I love you”…

And… Every tear, every moment spent lifting each other up, every growing moment, every struggle together, every passion-filled discussion, every annoying quirk…

Don’t miss out. It’s all worth it. And you will feel it when it’s not there. Yes, even the arguments because they were proof we cared, deeply, how the other thought. And when that person is gone, you would trade every time afterwards for one more moment with them.

Treasure it all. Because this life if not nearly long enough to spend with that ONE that completes you. And if you miss a moment, you’ll never get it back.

Treasure it all. Covet deeply more time together. Jealously seek each other and store up those moments
Because, some day, the memories may be all you have. And those treasures you stored up will need to sustain you until you can see each other again on the other side.

[Robert Martin]


Marriage Tip #12

Change your hurtful/annoying behaviour.

Saying “Sorry!” is cheap. Being sorry means that you will do what you can to make sure you don’t hurt the person in the same way again.

Marriage seems to be this melting pot which can bring out the absolute best and absolute worst of you. Again, because it’s made up of different people, each one is going to be completely different. [So examine each tip and see if it relates to you and if not it is more than okay to move on to the next one.]

When you’re dating, you get to present your significant other with a ‘Best of Hits’ album – you can ‘turn it on’ for two hours or even a weekend. But the moment you are married and living together there is nowhere to hide. You are going to witness each other at your absolute lowest. And that is likely to suck a lot.

But a huge part of a successful marriage is how you deal with those inevitable low moments. Do you ignore them or sweep them under the rug or expect the other person to ‘deal with it!’ Or do you decide to work on your behaviour and attitude and actions.

i mentioned in a previous tip how Val loves to go for walks and often my verbal response, body language or sigh quotient when she asks is enough to ruin the experience for her when we do go. i have had to work on that and sounding excited and ready when she asks [not so much cos the idea of walking excites me often, but because i know how good of a thing it is for her and us, so it is genuine excitement not a faked pretence].

One of our biggest struggles in the first year or so [or nine, it does like to visit from time to time] was playing games together. Or more specifically losing games. Or even winning them sometimes. It is possible to lose a game with such an attitude that makes the person who won feel awful about winning. This was quite a huge source of tension for these two super competitive people and we have worked on it a lot. There are some couple friends who we refuse to play games with because of how they are with each other when a game is not going well.

But the point i want to make here is that saying “Sorry!” and then doing it again the next time makes a mockery of the “Sorry!” When you do something or say something that hurts your person, or even just irritates them, you can choose to work on that behaviour and live differently.

This should definitely be a two-way thing. And it doesn’t just mean changing everything about yourself to make your person happy [subtle, complicated nuance in here – Good Luck! We are still trying to figure some of this stuff out!]

Here is a rule i think is super helpful within this broader question. If one of you doesn’t really care which way the toilet roll goes [the correct way is over just by the way] and the other one has sleepless nights when it is the ‘wrong’ way [under!] you should always defer to the one who really cares about it. Because it is no big deal to the other person. But you will find issues where you both care a whole lot and depending on the extent of that you may want to refer back to the counselling tip Tip #3]

Hurtful or annoying can take center stage and start to convince you of all sorts of untrue and evil things about your partner. So it is important to revisit the fact that you deeply love each other and then figure out together how best to move on. But choosing to work on your things that make your person feel ‘less than’ in some way, goes a long way towards crafting a marriage that works well for both of you.


Marriage Tip #13

Major on the big issues. Give energy to the small ones.

It’s amazing [and this is probably just us? Nope? i see those hands!] how easy it can be to make huge issues out of things that are really quite small – toilet seats or toothpaste caps or clothes on the floor. And if you are using up all your energy or positive relationship capital on the small things, you may find when something big comes along it will take you down.

Which is why i encourage you to give energy to the smaller issues because they are often the things that are much easier to solve. Take two minutes right now to think about one thing that irritates your partner but is not such a big deal to you – something you do, or maybe something you don’t do. Can you commit to working at that thing for the rest of the week and trying to change the habit you currently have?

This step involves a regular standing in front of the mirror and asking yourself [or actually having the conversation with your spouse-person on one of those Sunday walks – they will illuminate it for you much quicker] what do i do and what don’t i do that irritates my person. Is there something i can easily change.

If it’s a bad habit like leaving shoes in the lounge after work and your wife is constantly having to pick them up and bring them to the bedroom why not write yourself a note [or stick an alarm on your phone] – sometimes we have to be really rigid and formulaic to work at developing a new positive habit. Notes work really well for me – on the floor of my man cave or on my computer keyboard so that i won’t miss them. Do it right three or four times and a new habit develops.

The benefit of changing something small that irritates your person is that not only does it stop the bad feeling/thinking/experience for them, but it also adds in a positive one because when they notice that you have made an effort they will likely feel loved and heard and seen.

Hopefully as you work on the small things you will be building up strong relational bonds so that when a bigger marriage issue does come up, the trust and the love have been well established and you will have the strength to face it well together.

Does this one resonate at all or am i just speaking of something we have found? Do you have an example of a small thing that you changed that made a difference in your marriage?


Marriage Tip #14

Stick your hand down a toilet.

Okay, there might be a better way of introducing this tip, but in essence that’s where i’m going [yes, yes, i get how this completely would have worked better as tip NUMBER TWO but let’s try act grownup here]

Because my wife is sitting on a plane as i type this flying back to South Africa and i did just that.

Somehow – and i’m not sure how this happened [except maybe cos she notices/cares more] Val became designated toilet cleaner. i know that it’s not something that she particularly enjoys and maybe cos i don’t tend to see her doing it, it just kinda happened and continued to happen.

One might suggest that within the context of our relevant employment contexts that, in the last two years in particular, i have tended towards doing more of the general home chores, but a lot of that gets balanced out by not having to clean a toilet.

The more general main point of this particular tip though is to jump in and do things you know your partner doesn’t dig so much when you get a chance. One way i absolutely know Val will feel loved is if she arrives home and doesn’t have a dirty toilet to welcome her. And so it was a super easy one for me to grab the sponge and the cleaning materials and get down on my knees and do that particular task. It’s not her job that i’m doing. It’s something around the house that needs to be done and in that sense it is both of our jobs.

But some people really hate doing the dishes – if you don’t hate doing them, jump in and lead the way or take it over completely. Some people hate laundry or dusting or making the bed or the food or whatever. If you have a chance to take a duty that your person really doesn’t enjoy, that right there is an opportunity to show them love.

In the ideal marriage scenario, there is hopefully some sort of balance in this area. Keeping lists is seldom helpful [i did three things and you only did two things] and maybe i’ll speak about that more in its own tip. But sometimes one person’s job demands more time and another has more free time and you can work the balance accordingly.

This goes back to serving one another in love as probably most of these tips do, but this feels like an easy one to be on the lookout. You know [or are getting to know] your person and so you quickly identify the things that really take away from who they are as a person. When you get the opportunity to remove one of those from them, all the better.

And sometimes just stick your hand in that toilet…

How do you find this in your marriage? Do you have an example of an activity that your spouse has ‘taken away from you’ as a sign of their love for you or ‘getting’ you? Share some stories…


Marriage Tip #15

Ask for what you need/want. Don’t make the other person guess.

This might seem quite obvious and probably only relates to some of you, but we discovered that this can save you from a lot of conflict.

Unmet assumption and expectation can be the cause of a lot of fights or upset but often it happens with one person being totally oblivious to what the other person has wanted to hear or see done.

i don’t think i need to say too much more about this, excepting that if you’re married, do a little self-reflection. Because this can be one of those things you absolutely don’t see until you do, and it could be causing a lot of unnecessary conflict.

Do you assume? Do you have expectations of your person but make them guess what they are? Stop doing that and verbalise. It’s not a game, it’s a relationship. You shouldn’t be trying to trick your partner into having to guess the right answer to keep you happy.

Any stories on this one? i can’t think of specific examples but i know this is something that used to cause us a fair amount of pain…


[To move to the next 5 tips, click here]

[If you missed out on some tips you can head to the start of the series by clicking here]