How to make marriage work

Marriage is hard.  It’s a lot of work, and many couples don’t foresee how much marriage won’t live up to their expectations.  The old saying is

Women expect that marriage will change their husbands – Men expect that marriage will NOT change their wives.

Both of those expectations are unrealistic.  Marriage is taking two people, two families, and turning them into a single unit.  Things will have to change.  People will have to adapt.  Women, being ‘always right’ – tend to expect that their new husband will adapt to the lifestyle that she has decided to be their future.  Husbands, being the doting, ever-pleasing men that they are, try very hard to meet his new wife’s expectations.  Eventually, there gets to be a point where enough is enough.  Unfortunately, much of the time, this turns into a battle in divorce court because someone has been ‘let down’.

Face it – there is no perfect person.  There is no perfect Union.  The ones that seem perfect are built on love, trust, and compromise.  It’s about picking your battles.  It’s about deciding to let that one thing slide because she let that thing that you did last week slide – and she’ll let something slide later.

Of course, there is a difference between ‘picking your battles’ and being a spineless rug that gets walked on every moment of every day.  Picking your battles also means picking the things that really matter to you.  Is your Friday Night poker game with the guys something that you feel is important to your overall sanity?  Has she decided that Fridays are the nights that you sit at home and watch romantic comedies together?  Speak up!  Why not Saturday Movie Night?

As in any battle, strategy is important.  You don’t want to walk into a battle with only the fight in mind.  You want to walk into the battle with a white flag and truce agreement in your head.  Are you willing to concede to every OTHER Friday?  Can you switch Poker Night to another evening?  Will you promise to buy her flowers if you win the big hand?

In fact, I don’t really like the phrase ‘Pick your Battle’.  That has predetermined that there is going to be a fight.  Deciding to ‘pick this battle’ already gets you into attack/defense mode – rather than ‘speak like a human being to the person that you love’ mode.  Let me give an example:

Picking your Battle sounds like this.  “Why do we have to watch this stupid movie?  I want to go play poker with the guys, and you’ve got me chained to the couch watching another Meg Ryan movie.  Should I just tear up my ‘man card’ and get it overwith?”

Seriously, does that sound like it will work out for you in any way?  Let me tell you – it wouldn’t work out at all in my house.   If my husband were to pull this, I’ve got about 7 arguments queued up in my head to smash him to the floor and put him back in his place.  He’ll watch that movie and LIKE IT.  In other words – nobody wins.  The movie is no longer enjoyable to me, because I’m focused on insisting that my husband like it, and my husband has officially lost another piece of his man card.  (This is assuming that the wife would win… which, of course, is a given)  🙂

What *would* work is this:

“Honey, I know you really want to watch this movie, and I’d love to watch it with you, but the guys are accusing me of stealing their money since I haven’t given them a chance to win it back from me since we played last time.  Do you mind if we watch the movie tomorrow so that I can remind them that I’m the best poker player in the world?  If I win again, I’ll bring you a surprise for Movie Night tomorrow!”

See how much better that is?  What angle does she have to turn you into the bastard with it?  You are giving her what she wants (if not on the day she wants it) and not accusing her of stealing your manhood – which can sometimes be seen as a challenge.  Also, by asserting your place as the best poker player in the world, it validates her choice of husband.  All of the other wives will wonder why their husbands can’t beat her husband in poker… the silent competition among wives will lead to your wife’s victory.  (I’m not sure I’m allowed to divulge any more than that about our secret, silent competition – rest assured, it’s a good thing when she wins).

The next important thing to remember with this compromise is to give her some opportunities for her to treat herself to something she’d like.  Does she want a day away from the kids so she can go get a mani/pedi?  Does she need a night out with the girls?  However, it is just as important to not keep score.  If you have it in your head that you’ve only gone to poker night twice, but she’s had three nights out and two mani/pedis… you’ve already lost.


Once upon a time, I worked for a divorce attorney.  Her famous saying was ‘you are done negotiating when nobody is happy.’  Conversely, it would follow that you are doing well in marriage if both of you are happy (duh!).  Both of you can’t be happy if only one person is getting their way.  Compromise is pretty much the only way to maintain your sanity… and your marriage.

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About the Author: Abby Dryer's goal in life is to bridge the communication gap between men and women. She finds herself giving lots of marital advice to her guy friends whose wives don’t want to have to explain *everything* to their husbands. “Women are hard to understand. I’m a woman, and *I* don’t even get us sometimes! Goodhusbanding is a great guide to help men understand their women, and hopefully communicate with a little more confidence, because that’s what works… communication!”

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