30 (33) Tips to Stay Married 30 (33) Years: Repeat it Back

“Quite obviously you don’t think alike,” Kirk said, “or both of you would have offered that remark simultaneously and in the same words.”

“True but not relevant, Captain, if I may so observe,” said Spock Two, “Even if we thought exactly alike at the moment of creation of the replicate, from then on our experiences differ slightly —beginning, of course, with the simple difference that we occupy different positions in space-time. This will create a divergence in our thinking which will inevitably widen as time goes on.”

“The difference, however, may remain trivial for some significant time to come.” said Spock One.

“We are already disagreeing, are we not?” Spoke Two said coldly, ‘That is already a nontrivial difference.”

James Blish Spock Must Die 1970

This was a piece of advice that came up in conversation with a couple who have been married 47 years who my wife and I was visiting. I was so impressed with this piece of advice that it is our final piece of advice.

“When you have something to convey to your partner, when you’ve told them, ask him or her to repeat back what they understood you to say, not what they heard you say but what they understood you to say.”

No matter what the culture or academics say men and women are different but more than that PEOPLE are different and understand things differently. You can have five eye witnesses to an event and each will have a different spin on what they saw.

People in a marriage are no different, they have different backgrounds, different experiences and different way of looking at things, they can see and hear the same thing and come back with totally different interpretations of it.

So when you say something that’s really important don’t assume he or she thinks you mean what YOU think you mean. Ask them to say how they took it.

This has the potential to save days of potential arguments.

My thanks to Mar Mar and Mike for this input. I wish I had heard it 30 years earlier.

The 30 (33) tips so far

30 (32) Tips to Stay Married 30 (32) Years. The Seven Second Delay

Miranda: Ummm that was incredible. Was it good for you?

Fletcher: I’ve had better.

Liar Liar 1997

Of all the tips you have read so far this is the one that the two of us have the had the most trouble keeping.

On Radio there is a kill switch or if you know you are dealing with something that can cause grief you will have a seven second delay to allow the engineer, to keep something off the air that will get you in trouble. Marriage is the one other place where that can be most useful.

A seven second delay between the time you think something and the time you decide to say it aloud can be one of the best ways to keep a marriage strong.

The most obvious application is during an argument when someone will blurt out something that they instantly wish they could take back, or in a social setting when one might embarrass one’s spouse but believe it or not it’s OUTSIDE of such situations that this rule is most applicable.

A lifetime of watching sitcoms has had a bad effect in the sense that the idea that a conversation ends with a “zinger” might seem to be the norm, but the reality is that while that a good thing if your goal is to get a laugh from millions of viewers if your goal is a good relationship such a statement to your spouse is more likely to cause grief and not just grief the type of grief that doesn’t get expressed right away and is stored ready to be remembered as a grievance at a time of trouble perhaps even at a critical time.

This is your spouse not your “straight man” and there’s a reason why you haven’t quit your day job to go on tour.

It might take some practice, but getting that kill switch “installed” in your head will pay dividends for years to come.

The 30 (32) tips so far

30 (32) Tips to Stay Married 30 (32) Years #31 Have your Own Money

Basil Fawlty: Yes yes, it’s 95 even if I give her ten, I’m still ten up. Polly for the 1st time in my life I’m ahead, I’m winning ah HA HA HA [Mrs. Richards enters] Ah Mrs. Richards how lovely to see you. You’re beautiful vaze that you bought yesterday has just arrived. Now remind me the money that you have there, is it yours or mine?

Mrs. Richards: I told you, it’s mine.

Basil Fawlty: But you’re still  £10 short?

Mrs. Richards: Yes I am!

Basil Fawlty: Polly give Mrs. Richards this would you?

Mrs. Richards: What’s that? [indicating the cash in his hand]

Basil Fawlty: This is mine!

Fawlty Towers Communications Problems 1979

Money is often a cause of trouble in a marriage and one easy way to avoid this is to have your own.

Don’t misunderstand. We don’t mean separate finances, or a separate credit card where you can build thousands of dollars of debt unbeknownst to your spouse (that’s a recipe for disaster). We mean a small amount for personal use.

Each spouse should have some spending money on hand or available for smaller purchases, without feeling like a child asking for an allowance. You want to buy some clothes, books, coffee, comic books, whatever? Set aside a small amount that neither one has to account for. You can choose to spend it, spend it on each other or save it up. It is discretionary and disposable income, and it does not have to be a lot.

By designating an amount as “your spending money” either by keeping some cash back from your check or putting it in an extra bank account if you want something buy something say $50-$200 you don’t have to go begging to your spouse for it or have questions raised when the credit card statement comes in.

DaWife has expanded on this. She has a “fix it” fund that she puts a regular part of her check in, for repairs that need to be done. Last year those included a new shed and fence and this year she’s saving for a patio.

The amounts or what it’s used for (or saved for) doesn’t matter. Having that independence a few dollars provides is meaningful and can help dodge a lot of potential friction over the years.

The 30 (32) tips so far

30 (32) Tips to Stay Married 30 (32) Years #30 The Last Word is Fools Gold

Captain Kirk: Bones. [starts to collapse.] No, no, I’m all right

Dr. McCoy: If you keep arguing with your kindly family doctor, you’re going to spend your next ten days right here. If you co-operate, you’ll be out in two.

Mr. Spock: Doctor, I’ll return to my station now.

Dr. McCoy: You ARE at your station, Mister Spock.

Captain Kirk: Doctor McCoy, I believe you’re enjoying all this.

Mr. Spock: Indeed, Captain. I’ve never seen him look so happy.

Dr. McCoy: Shut up! (turns to Kirk) Shh. Shh! (turns to camera) Well, what do you know? I finally got the last word.

Star Trek: Journey to Babel 1967

Dr. McCoy’s joy not withstanding there are very few things less valuable in a marriage than the last word in an argument.

Arguments in a marriage are unavoidable and any argument has the potential to cause trouble far beyond the day of the fight. We’ve already talked about having an escape plan and knowing what hill to die on but of the advice on arguments this is likely the hardest to follow.

Whether you are having a small spat or a knock down drag out fight, in the midst of a fight the last word is a temptation greater than any other. In the mind of a combatant it’s the equivalent of holding the field of battle when the guns have stopped, and if the ‘last word’ was actually that you might be able to make that argument, but the reality is quite different.

In a marital argument the ‘last word’ usually generates a response from your spouse who is also looking for a ‘last word’, thus deprived of your prize you immediately come back with your own ‘last word’ and a fight that might have been on it’s last legs becomes like the battle of Verdun which started as a battle of attrition but escalated with both sides kept throwing in men to the slaughter for now real purpose.

Furthermore even if you manage to grab that valuable last word you will find yourself in close quarters with the same spouse the next day who steaming from that last sting might have thought of a few new words that won’t be so plesant.

The last word is fools gold, be a wise prospector and learn to reject it.

The 30 (32) tips so far

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years: #29 Expect Change

Alex Jensen: …You’re cute. You’re funny. Maybe you’re getting hit on and you don’t even know it.
Leonard Hofstadter: Really?
Alex Jensen: Yep, pretty sure.

The Big Bang Theory The 43 Peculiarity 2012

If there is one thing that constant in the world it’s change.

Everything changes, styles, people, things. Yet some people have the idea that marriage will somehow be different?

Let me give an example: There is an old joke that if a couple puts a nickel in a jar every time they have sex during the 1st two years of marriage and then starts taking one out every time after that 2nd year that jar won’t be empty for many many years.

People’s desires their needs and their sexual drives. While there are no hard and fast rules about this, this is something you need to be prepared for as a couple and make allowances, particularly in situations like tip # 17 Make sure your “escape plan” for a fight doesn’t include going somewhere where you will find yourself anywhere that a person might be expected to be picked up, particularly if said location involves drinking.

Likewise you might have friends of the opposite sex at work but if the sexual situation has changed at home you might want to be a tad more careful how you carry yourself.

And that’s only one type of change, financial situations change, health changes, where you live changes, responsibilities change, where and how you live changes. Some changes might just affect you, others just your spouse, but ALL of these changes, even positive ones are going to affect your relationship and many of them will not be under your control, they just will be.

Being ready willing and able to deal with change will have a huge impact if your marriage is going to last 3 years let alone 30.

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years: #28 Togetherness The Default but not Mandatory

My mother always told us that a person gets married to be with someone and she’s was very right. When you are married you are together, through think and through thin, though the tough times and the easy ones.

So it is with various social and other events. In such situations the default position should be to be beside your wife or your husband.

But note this is the DEFAULT position. There are going to be some rare events and occasions, from concerts to visits where one of you might be absolutely delighted to be while the other may be at best indifferent and at worst absolutely disgusted to be there.

As the old saying goes, one bad apple can spoil a whole bunch and one person unhappy and unwilling can ruin the pleasure of a thing that one may have looked forward to for weeks or even months.

If your wife or husband is set on something that you really don’t want to do, or somewhere you really don’t want to go, let them go with friends or other family and enjoy themselves and above all don’t force yourself someplace where you will be a killjoy out of a misplaced sense of duty. Don’t get in the way of a happy day. Do something you like instead. You can hear all about things when they get home.

Contrariwise if you are set on something that you know your spouse doesn’t like or has no interest in, let them stay home or do something else. No amount of you wanting someone to enjoy or be excited by something will make it so. Dragging an unwilling participant with you is a recipe for disappointment. You can share that joy when you get home.

Now again this should be the exception from the default position not the rule but the wise use of this exception will make a lot of difference in the long run.

The rules to date:

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years #27 Take Culture With a Grain of Salt

Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real.”

CS Lewis The Screwtape Letters Letter #1

If there is one thing that you can’t avoid these days it’s unsolicited advice.

In the old days it would come from friends, acquaintance and relatives, now it comes from everywhere in the culture.

TV, Movies, Talk shows, podcasts, and social media are constantly telling you how you should live, how you should eat, how you should have sex etc etc etc. Furthermore in today’s cancel culture a lot of this is given in terms not just of advice, but as a command, do this OR ELSE.

Now of course both you and your spouse live in the culture, the place and the time where you are so while this bombardment can’t be avoided completely it can be ignored and some of it might even make sense or have merit but all of it, the advice and the culture should be taken in the context of what we said yesterday: No source of advice, not even this post can beat the experience of each day you have together.

The demands of culture are transitory. Even just a few years of marriage will outlast the fads of the day. Once you are talking lustrums (5 years) or decades you will realize just how hollow they truly are.

Take it all with a grain of salt.

The Tips So far”

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years: #26 Remember, You Know Your Spouse Best

Mr. Spock: Mother, how can you have lived on Vulcan so long, married a Vulcan, raised a son on Vulcan, without understanding what it means to be a Vulcan

Star Trek Journey to Babel 1967

It is axiomatic that the more you do something, or someone the more familiar you become with it. This is true with your spouse as well.

It seems almost too obvious to mention but every day you are married you are building up your personal database on your spouse. The longer you live with a person the better you learn their habits, their likes their dislikes, the type of things that set them off and the type of things that make them smile.

This knowledge is a vital tool in your quest for a long successful marriage particularly. No amount of advice, from any source (even this post) is more important than the 1st hand knowledge that you will acquire on a daily basis simply by living together.

Pay attention to this info, make a mental note of it, take it to heart. If you do then not only will your ability to navigate the shoals of life together but it will make the decisions you make together easier to come by.

That simple experience that you get every day is a unique advantage in life, take advantage of it.

The 30 tips so far

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years: #25 Take Lucy’s Advice on Starting (or ending) the Day Right

Last year DaWife and I went to see the Red Sox sweep the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta and after the series took a run to EWTN to meet up with a lady by the name of Lucy who is familiar to EWTN viewers as the lady who is at the daily mass each morning wearing a white alb.

I interviewed her for my Interviews with Immigrants series but she also took the time to speak to me and my wife and gave us a bit of advice.

Lucy told us to make sure that every single day we tell each other that we love each other and thank each other for being our spouse.

Now this might seem a rather trifling thing but I think it’s not, particularly if it’s at the start of the day.

As we already noted first impressions matter, when the 1st impression of the day is anger, it’s easy for anger to come from it.

But when the 1st impression of the day is positive a different direction beings.

I think Lucy’s advice is worth including here with one small caveat.

You can consider either starting OR ending the day with that expression of love and gratitude.

A day that starts well has a great chance of ending well but a day that ends well can make the difference for the day that will follow.

And remember none of us are promised tomorrow, so if you start or end the day with that expression of love and gratitude if that last day comes unexpectedly, you will not have to regret failing to say those words when you had the chance.

So a hat tip to Lucy for the one Tip that came from outside our marriage

The 30 tips to date:

30 Tips to Stay Married 30 (31) Years: #24 Don’t start The Day Wrong

Old Lodge Skins: Am I still in this world?

Little Big Man: Yes Grandfather

Old Lodge Skins: Egh. I was afraid of that.

Little Big Man 1970

There are going to be days that you start angry.

Maybe you had a bad day at work, maybe you got up 1st and saw your spouse or one of the kids left something out that they weren’t supposed to or maybe you just woke up in a pissy mood.

The surest way to make sure things stay that way is to pass that bad start off.

It’s axiomatic that 1st impressions are very important, that’s not just when it comes to meeting people for the 1st time but it also applies to individual days.

If when you see your spouse the 1st things out of your mouth are a scold, that start is going to frame the rest of the day for the entire family and if it happens often it has the potential to make a lot of trouble in the long run.

Life can be really tough, don’t make the day tougher by starting it the wrong way.

(Yes it’s been another long wait between tips but sometimes the tips come to mind and sometimes they don’t)

The 30 tips so far