I don’t have many discernable skills. I say this not out of false modesty but from a position of self-awareness. A quick inventory reveals the primary areas in which I excel. (1) I can explain accounting and finance in plain English, (2) I throw a heck of a meeting, and (3) I’m able to catch fish fairly regularly. I also sing adequately enough to take part in our church choir, although the best way to describe my participation is to say I’m a number nine hitter on an excellent baseball team. You’re better off if you don’t ask me to fix your plumbing, create a PowerPoint, or hit the winning basket.
However, I never stop trying. I know how to set a goal and work whatever steps are necessary for achievement. I’m relentless while striving to accomplish objectives I find important.
I think my never-give-up personality is present in my efforts as a husband and has produced mostly positive results. I recently checked in with Kathy and she confirmed I’ve been doing a good job as a spouse. I’m happy to hear she’s satisfied because, on December 28th, we will celebrate our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. I’d hate to find out I’ve been missing the mark this late in the game.
Anyway, given my personality and somewhat successful track record, I thought our anniversary month would be a good time to offer some tips to new husbands. I’m assuming you’ll follow the basics—be faithful, communicate, and support her through the tough times. In addition, though, I’m offering four items to help insure a long and happy union.
First, never stop working to make the team. Assuming your spouse is content is a potential kiss of death. No matter what is going on, bring home flowers, go on a date, or watch a movie together. Provide her with hot beverages. Celebrate your anniversary. Once you have children, honor your wife on Mother’s Day. Keep striving for the roster spot.
Second, check-in occasionally and see how you’re doing. I regularly ask Kathy if I’m “meeting expectations.” Granted, she looks at me like I’m nuts, but she hasn’t answered no yet. Of course, these efforts sometimes go too far. I once wondered if she’d be happier if I had a different physical appearance or a certain skillset. Kathy’s response succinctly communicated her frustration. “You’re the only person I know who’s been happily married for twenty years, has three kids, and still think he’s the underdog. Hon, you won.”
Third, practice the “twenty-four-hour rule.” Kathy and I learned this one in our pre-marriage classes required by the church. Once an event, comment, or other slight is more than twenty-four hours old, neither of us is allowed to revisit the issue. You either hash things out or forget the transgression. Over the course of our years together, both of us have successfully invoked the rule several times.
Fourth, gift consultants are extremely useful. Neighbors, co-workers, your spouse’s siblings, or her friends are always willing to help. I’ll illustrate the benefits of this approach with one example. As I was wondering what to do for our seventeenth wedding anniversary, a woman at work offered specific input. “Get her seventeen roses. Mix up the colors. Also, and this is very important,” before she continued, my colleague squared up and looked me straight in the eyes, “they need to be in a clear vase.” When I presented the gift to Kathy, her first comment was she liked the vase. So, my friends, don’t be too proud to ask for help.
Now, the four suggestions above are practical and should help build a strong foundation and loving relationship. In addition, though, I’d like to help you avoid the action or comment that will erode marital goodwill in a split second. In lieu of talking in generalities, I’ll offer three real-life examples.
- It is never, under any circumstances, at any time, for any reason, in any scenario, acceptable to refer to your wife as a “tank.” You may think you’re offering a compliment because your wife, who’s carrying your third child, is weathering the incredible physical toll pregnancy creates for her body. You’re not. It’s possible that somewhere in your male-oriented, George Patton admiring mind, you think you’re offering a term of endearment celebrating her toughness and resiliency. You’re not. All you’re doing is painting a picture a woman doesn’t want to see. As a bonus, I’ll add an additional pointer—don’t make this comment in front of your sister-in-law.
- Let me offer a hypothetical scenario. You’ve been married, say, eleven years. Your wife is thirty-six years old. She comes downstairs in the morning, dressed for work, and looking like a million bucks. There are numerous remarks you could make in the moment. Perhaps “you look great,” “pretty dress,” or “nice shoes.” These are all appropriate comments sure to make your wife feel appreciated and prepared for the day ahead. What you should NEVER do is notice her ponytail and remark, “I thought you were past that.” For the record, I’ve never seen my wife wearing a ponytail. However, I know the woman involved. If science could harness her in-the-moment rage and convert it to electricity, the lights would never go off.
- Certain individuals, of which I am one, tend to overthink and frequently retreat into a distracting mental “rabbit hole.” These musings sometimes create frustration or even anger over real or imagined issues unconnected to anyone else in the room. If you’re a person who tends to wander down this path, you need to make an extra effort to stay focused on the conversation around you, especially if the only two people present are you and your wife. For example, when embroiled in one of these psychological melodramas, there is the distinct possibility your spouse will say “I love you” and your response will be “what do you mean by that?” Fortunately, when I made this comment Kathy and I had been married thirty-five years. She was fully aware of my tendency for distraction. I’m confident she accepted my apology and revised response right away. In fact, I’m pretty sure Kathy thought it was funny. I don’t think she looked at me like the woman in a Lifetime movie who just discovered she married a serial killer.
A few minutes ago, I considered if any of Kathy’s past actions qualified for this list. There was nothing I could remember. She’s steady, consistent, gracious, and forgiving. That’s the way relationships work, though, right? Opposites attract. One’s a planner, one’s spontaneous. One’s shy, one’s outgoing. One’s normal, the other’s a wackjob. This is the way it’s supposed to be, right? Right?
I don’t know how she does it either.
Steven Rogers’ novel Into the Room is available in paperback and on Kindle. If you’d like to order a copy, please visit Amazon or his website: https://steven-rogers.com/
December News from Steve
I’m offering, for the first time, a new option in purchasing “Into the Room.” For $16 I can mail you a signed copy of the book, along with a personalized message, anywhere in the continental United States. If you’re purchasing the book as a gift, the inscription can be customized to address the recipient. For additional information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow five to six days for delivery.
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