Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflections on Marriage, Year One: Take Pride In Being A Good Spouse


I've been happily married for one year today. We're probably still in the bubble of bliss that often comes with marriage, and as such I realize that I might not be in the best position to give marital advice, but I'm going to do it anyway.

There are lots of good books on how to have a good marriage. I recommend ones that are based on scientific research. These books have a lot of good advice that I won't repeat. I'll just give my one piece of advice that I came up with myself.

Take pride in being a good spouse.


What this means is you make being a good spouse one of your goals in life. That you measure some of your self-worth according to how well you're doing it. That you give yourself credit when you do something good, or something beyond the call of duty.  Most people do this with some aspects of their lives already: work, art, volunteering. I think it's worth making a conscious effort to do this for your marriage too.

For example, if my beloved casually notes that she's left something home, I make a consideration concerning whether or not I can bring it to her. We all make considerations like this, based on how urgent another's need is, how costly it is to us to fulfill that need (in terms of time, money, or whatever). What I try to do differently is I try to be better than other husbands. I want my her to be touched at how kind I was. I want her to gush about how good I am to her to her friends. I take pride in this.

I also occasionally ask her how I can be a better spouse for her. There are three tricks to doing this correctly. First, don't do it when your spouse is particularly thrilled with you, or pissed off at you. Pick a neutral time and give him or her time to think about it. The second is not to get defensive about what is said. You asked, so just take what you can from the response. Third, don't allow him or her to ask the question right back. Tell him or her that you don't want them to ever think you're asking so that you will have an opportunity to make suggestions to them. If they want to ask the same question, they should do it at another time.

I hope I don't need to say that  this can also be applied to any human relationship: boss, employee, parent, child, friend.

Giving in human relationships is often a great investment that pays back handsomely.

That is, unless the person makes you feel like you've lost a pint of plasma whenever you're with them. This requires other measures.

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