Sometimes it helps to learn what not to do from others. I’ve written about a poor Facebook pickup attempt before, but this is even juicier. A former beta coworker (now married with children) posted this on Facebook a while back, promoting it as a ‘great read’. He was right, but not in the way he intended. The article, entitled ‘16 Ways I Blew My Marriage‘, is a 16 point list of what you should do to the contrary – with the right calibration and attitude – to not only sustain a marriage or relationship but make it flourish. As a lot of these points are misguided, I felt it was my duty to set the record straight.
As you can guess, the title gives it away – pedestalizing the ex-wife as the one who made the right decisions is the scent of beta. What’s even more interesting is the commentary in the article: it’s primarily female. It’s as if this was written by a woman, for women. They all nod their heads in agreement, show the list to their herby husbands, then proceed to cuckold them during an innocent GNO (Girl’s Night Out). This is going to be long, so let’s dig in.
1. Don’t stop holding her hand.
When I first dated the woman I ended up marrying, I always held her hand. In the car. While walking. At meals. At movies. It didn’t matter where. Over time, I stopped. I made up excuses like my hand was too hot or it made me sweat or I wasn’t comfortable with it in public. Truth was, I stopped holding hands because I stopped wanting to put in the effort to be close to my wife. No other reason.
Correction: stop being so needy that you require constant, public affirmation of her desire for you. She may even hold your hand out of obligation, but it won’t have any emotion behind it. He ruined #1 by holding her hand too much. Out in public, let women you’re dating/are in a relationship with initiate the kino. Let her come to you. She’ll enjoy showing the competition you’re off the market and you’ll enjoy the ego boost.
2. Don’t stop trying to be attractive.
Obviously when I was working to woo her, I would do myself up as attractively as I possibly could every time I saw her. I kept perfectly groomed. I always smelled good. I held in my farts until she wasn’t around. For some reason, marriage made me feel like I could stop doing all that. I would get all properly groomed, smelling good, and dressed up any time we went out somewhere or I went out by myself, but I rarely, if ever, cared about making myself attractive just for her.
This I agree with, though a certain level of comfort and thereby reduced competition anxiety is inevitable the longer you’re involved. You should look and smell good always as you never know who you’ll run into. But do it for yourself, not just for her. As for holding back farts or excusing yourself, that’s just etiquette. If you let yourself go, she’ll do the same.
3. Don’t always point out her weaknesses.
For some reason, somewhere along the way, I always ended up feeling like it was my place to tell her where she was weak and where she could do better. I sure as heck didn’t do that while we were dating. No, when I dated her I only built her up, only told her how amazing she was, and easily looked past all of her flaws. After we got married though, she sometimes couldn’t even cook eggs without me telling her how she might be able to improve.
Taken to an extreme this can be damaging but in controlled bits and in the right moments, it’s mandatory. Read the third sentence: ‘when I only told her how amazing she was’. No playful teasing. No Agree & Amplify. No knocking her ego down from the stratosphere. No game. Is it any wonder the marriage is no more?
4. Don’t stop cooking for her.
I knew how to woo a girl, for sure. And the ticket was usually a night in, cooking a nice meal and having a romantic evening. So why is it then, that I didn’t do that for her after we got married? Sure, I’d throw some canned soup in the microwave or fry up some chimichangas once in a while, but I rarely if ever went out of my way to sweep her off her feet after we were married by steaming crab legs, or making fancy pasta, or setting up a candlelit table.
Imagine yourself in an apron. Now, julienne your balls and throw them in the soup. Actually the problem here isn’t the cooking per se, but rather the effort expended to ‘woo’ a girl and the incongruent behavior that follows. It’s the same as the guy who stops working out after getting a girlfriend. If you enjoy cooking, by all means show off your skills, but like #2 do it for yourself. If it’s truly a hobby/passion/habit, you won’t stop doing it. And if it’s not, there’s no reason to do it in the first place (at least not regularly).
But maybe that’s just me. My mother always cooked when I was growing up. She never complained and actually enjoyed it. She cleaned and somewhat enjoyed that too – or at least wasn’t as averse to it as men are. And while she did spend more time at home than my dad, she also worked.
Men in the kitchen, women in the workforce. Goodbye America!
5. Don’t yell at your spouse.
I’m not talking about the angry kind of yelling. I’m talking about the lazy kind of yelling. The kind of yelling you do when you don’t want to get up from your television show or you don’t want to go ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS to ask her if she’s seen your keys. It really doesn’t take that much effort to go find her, and yelling (by nature) sounds demanding and authoritative.
Another byproduct of complacency. ‘Lazy yelling’ is a mood killer (I’ve been guilty of this), but the reason it happens in the first place is spending too much time together and removing all tension (a prerequisite for desire). If you maintain your own set of hobbies and interests and get away when you need to, you’ll enjoy each other’s company all the more.
Ninon de l’Enclos, a French courtesan and author, said ‘love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion’. Think about that.
6. Don’t call names.
I always felt I was the king of not calling names, but I wasn’t. I may not have called her stupid, or idiot, or any of the other names she’d sometimes call me, but I would tell her she was stubborn, or that she was impossible, or that she was so hard to deal with. Names are names, and calling them will drive bigger wedges in communication than just about anything else.
There’s an art to name calling, just like there’s an art to game. In game, finesse is the difference between smooth and creepy. In name calling, it’s the difference between diffusing a situation while getting her wet and turning a minor fight into a long term grudge. Don’t call her stupid, call her Special Ed (in a playful tone). Pet names? Sure thing, sugartits. Lovechop. Applebutt. Really, any delicious food + physical feature = instant mental redirection. Call her names, but do it the right way and she’ll love you for it.
7. Don’t be stingy with your money.
As the main bread earner, I was always so stingy with the money. I’d whine about the cost of her shampoo or that she didn’t order water at restaurants, or that she’d spend so much money on things like pedicures or hair dye jobs. But seriously. I always had just as many if not more things that I spent my money on, and in the end, the money was spent, we were just fine, and the only thing my bitching and moaning did was bring undo stress to our relationship.
Again, it’s a matter of degree. Forcing her to order water at restaurants is cheap, but trusting her with your credit card and a day at the mall is asking for trouble. Although shared finances are typically reserved for marriage, it would behoove one to set some ground rules before it’s too late and you’re forced to backpedal. If it’s your money, you can be as stingy with it as you want. If she’s a stay at home wife/mother, she better be compensating in other ways. Unless you get off on a Bored Housewife arrangement.
8. Don’t argue in front of the kids.
There was never any argument that was so important or pressing that we couldn’t wait to have it until the kids weren’t there. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or super-shrink to know why fighting in front of the kids is a dangerous and selfish way of doing things.
Children aren’t dumb. They’ll eavesdrop behind your closed door anyway. A little drama is healthy for a relationship; it’s when the bickering becomes routine that you should be concerned. Bigger problems ruined his marriage.
9. Don’t encourage each other to skip working out.
I always thought it was love to tell my spouse, “I don’t care if you don’t take care of yourself. I don’t care if you don’t exercise. I don’t care if you let yourself go.” But that was lying, and it was lying when she said it to me because the truth is, we did care and I wish that we would have always told each other how sexy and attractive the other was any time we’d go workout or do something to become healthier.
Not only that, but you should encourage each other to continue exercising. Complacency to a degree is natural, but a wife letting herself go is a visual reminder – 24/7 – of how little respect she has for you. And while it is important for both sexes to remain fit, out of shape men are less repulsive than out of shape women due to a difference in valuation (men primarily seek looks; women seek a combination of metrics of which looks is just one).
Actually, this is a bigger issue of lifestyle. Single = hit the gym. Involved = sit on the couch. It’s a tale as old as time and indicative of a lack of health prioritization. If you don’t exercise just as much when single as you do when hitched, you haven’t made it a lifestyle. Unfortunately most of the Western world is ok with being clinically obese, so this comes as no surprise.
Furthermore, as a man it’s your duty to lead. If you stay in tip top shape, your significant other will either follow suit or become so insecure the relationship will end sooner than later (which is a good thing). And know this: having a hot body will make you the topic of conversation on the regular, among other health benefits.
10. Don’t poop with the bathroom door open.
I don’t know why, but at some point I started thinking it was okay to poop with the bathroom door open, and so did she. First of all, it’s gross. Second of all, it stinks everything up. Third of all, there is literally no way to make pooping attractive, which means that every time she saw me do it, she, at least in some little way, would have thought I was less attractive.
That’s just nasty. I lived with two girlfriends in the past and have never done this. As with #9, she will mirror your actions over time. If you feel it’s ok to shit with the door open, you’re not going to have a healthy relationship.
11. Don’t stop kissing her.
It always got to a point when I’d more or less stop kissing her. Usually it was because things were stressful and there was tension in our relationship, and so I’d make it worse by refusing to kiss her. This of course would lead to her feeling rejected. Which would of course lead to arguments about it. Other times I had my own issues with germs and whatnot.
There’s no reason to reward poor behavior. If there’s ‘stress’ or ‘tension’ or you’re fighting, sending mixed signals via signs of affection will only hurt you in the long run, by, you know – ruining your marriage. There’s nothing wrong with affection – it’s the glue of relationships – but it has to be consistent. If there’s an argument and you distance yourselves, maintain that distance until she comes around.
Too much of anything is bad. If you’ve ever been on ‘I love you terms’ with a woman, you know the difference between the first few confessions and the perfunctory ‘love ya too’ at the end of 10th phone call before noon.
12. Don’t stop having fun together.
Age shouldn’t matter. Physical ability shouldn’t matter. Couples should never stop having fun with each other, and I really wish I wouldn’t have gotten into so many ruts in which we didn’t really go out and do anything. And, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when the fun is missing, and the social part of life is missing, so also goes missing the ability to be fully content with each other.
One of the sinister downsides to shacked up long term relationships is boredom creep. It becomes increasingly preferable to veg out on the couch and watch some stupid show than to see the world. This is one of the few points I agree with. The best way to ‘maintain’ fun is to have your own hobbies in which you can participate. If you’re in a sport, she can come watch you play. If she’s into music, you can watch her perform. However, men and women innately enjoy different things, so finding an overlap (if it’s not already there) once you’re committed can be tough.
13. Don’t pressure each other.
Pressuring each other about anything is always a recipe for resentment. I always felt so pressured to make more money. I always felt so pressured to not slip in my religion. I always felt so pressured to feel certain ways about things when I felt the opposite. And I usually carried a lot of resentment. Looking back, I can think of just as many times that I pressured her, so I know it was a two-way street.
Notice the self-flagellation. He doesn’t mention a single thing he pressured her about. This is typical female nagging within the confines of an LTR, particularly if you begin to slip up. Felt pressured to make more money? I wonder if it had anything to do with her spending habits (see #7). Once again we come to a question of degree. A little pressure on certain matters is good. If she’s slipping up on the exercise, a backhanded compliment will get the point across. Constant pressure on the other hand is a sign of an exit waiting to happen. If you’re consistently dissatisfied with a particular trait in your partner, you either didn’t screen properly at the onset or he/she presented a good enough advertisement for you to make the purchase and now the gig is up.
14. Don’t label each other with negative labels.
Sometimes the easiest phrases to say in my marriage started with one of three things. Either, “you should have,” “you aren’t,” or “you didn’t.” Inevitably after each of those seemed to come something negative. And since when have negative labels ever helped anyone? They certainly never helped her. Or me. Instead, they seemed to make the action that sparked the label worsen in big ways.
Defaulting to verbal accosting is an easy out, but a faulty one. Remember: actions over words, always. The author claims the solution is to replace negative labels with positive comments, which sounds good in theory but falls apart in execution. You can’t reward bad behavior, so rather than putting the blame on her for an indiscretion, show your disapproval through actions.
I once dated and lived with a girl who had a habit of leaving clothes all over the floor, everywhere. Rather than chastise her (and knowing how much time she spent watching mind-numbing shows on the couch), I would simply gather all her crap and toss it on the couch, right before the episodes began. She got the hint.
15. Don’t skip out on things that are important to her.
It was so easy in marriage to veto so many of the things she enjoyed doing. My reasoning, “we can find things we both enjoy.” That’s lame. There will always be things she enjoys that I will never enjoy, and that’s no reason not to support her in them. Sometimes the only thing she needs is to know that I’m there.
Again, there’s a fine line to this. If she’s into Mimosa Sundays with her gossiping girlfriends, there’s no reason for you to join. Ever. She has her hobbies, you have yours. Maintaining some distance is mandatory when you live together, otherwise you’ll become increasingly annoyed of the ‘other’ breathing down your neck in everything you do.
If you don’t have at least a short list of things you ‘both enjoy’ (beyond eating and fucking), perhaps you didn’t choose wisely to begin with.
16. Don’t emotionally distance yourself after a fight.
I never got to experience the power of make-up sex because any time my wife was mean or we got in a fight, I’d completely distance myself from her, usually for several days. Communication would shut down and I’d avoid contact at all cost. This never let things get worked out, and eventually after it had happened enough times I’d explode unnecessarily.
Correction: he never got to experience the power of make-up sex because he never stood his ground, because she never felt the temporarily loss and the heartbreak it causes, both of which are necessary for the reconciliation to have full effect. In short, she didn’t care if she lost him. And when your woman stops caring, it’s time to go.
Although long term relationships (and marriage by extension) have an additional set of rules for success, the basic tenets of game still apply. ‘Letting your guard down’ and ‘finally being yourself’ implies incongruent behavior at the beginning of the relationship. This later unveiling of the ‘real’ you is a recipe for disaster. So is the assumption that once the knot is tied the game is over.
It’s never over.