I was reading Good Housekeeping magazine (no I don't subscribe, my mom does and I just read it every month... so that means I can still maintain a little bit of my 'I'm still young and hip' dream personality). There is an article called "The Happiness Experiment" where the author determines 10 ways to achieve marital bliss.
Here's her count:
1. Write each other a New Year's resolution. Its a wish list of your partner's improvements. Or a personal honey-do list.
2. Begin each encounter with a smile.
3. It feels good to look good.
4. Write each other love notes.
5. Give the gift of eye contact.
6. Grumpiness is contagious.
7. Try not to interrupt.
8. Generous compliments lighten the heart.
9. Control your tone.
10. Celebrate more.
While I think the author may be onto something here, there are a few things that I think shouldn't make the list. They are general manners, eye contact, smile, don't interrupt, control your tone. Even the grumpy one isn't a marital thing. I think I received a list similar to this one when I was a checker at a local grocery store. If you want a successful relationship with anyone (be it husband or customer), numbers 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9 are key. So, no offense to Valerie Frankel who wrote the article, I have come up with a few of my own. Marital bliss... here we come.
1. Write each other a New Year's resolution. I like this one, so I am keeping it. Mark... here's yours. I want you to resolve to keep your nose and ear hair trimmed before I have to tell you. I want you to tell me when you don't want to get up with the baby (and I reserve the right to say I don't care) instead of just doing it and acting tired and grouchy later. I also want you to do three totally unexpected things for me a year. I don't want to tell you when or what to do... but you used to leave me love post-its and now... nothing. It doesn't have to be monetary, but I want three special somethings a year.
2. Ask how your day was and actually mean it... and actually answer. Mark walks in the door and immediately its a list of things we have to do. On a given night its "Ok, its 6p, we have dinner ready at 6:15, get Jack because he's crying, Tabbi has Girl Scouts at 6:30 and Will wants to play outside." What it should be is "Hi Mark (because I don't call anyone Honey), how was your day?" And when he answers, I will actually listen. On the flip side, Mark does often ask how my day was and more often than not, I roll my eyes and say "How do you think it was." After all, my days are pretty similar. But, I vow to actually answer and come up with a Will, Jack and Tabbi story so he can really hear how my day was... good or bad.
3. It feels good to look good. I like this one too, but I am going to change it. She means go to the gym and be healthy for each other. I say bah. Bah to the gym and bah to good health. Here's my meaning. I will dress up for you. When Mark and I go out, I change out of the spit up and plum juice covered long sleeve tee, into the clean long sleeve tee. When I go out with the girls, I get out my clothes from my former life and actually enjoy being fashionable with a dash of sexy. Why do I do it for my hetero girl friends and not my husband? I will look good for you.
4. Write each other love notes. Mark used to do this for me, back in our "we actually do things for each other phase." He would leave me post it notes on my car or in my desk drawer that were as simple as "I heart you." But it meant a lot to get it. So, Valerie Frankel, I respect and include this commandment in my list too.
5. Take-out speaks volumes. In a very wise movie "House Sitter," Goldie Hawn describes true love as a husband bringing home Chinese food on a Thursday night because he knows his wife won't feel like cooking. Amen, sister!!! Whomever does the cooking, male or female, would be thrilled by an unprompted night off. On your way home, call her and say "don't touch that stove," and bring home something delicious and unexpected. A way to a woman's heart isn't through food, but through the absence of having to prepare it that night!!!
6. Watch each others dumb tv shows if that is your only alone time. Mark and I have drastically different opinions of good tv. For him its whatever is on either Food Network or TLC. For me, its a good, totally annoying reality tv show. Ace of Cakes versus MTV's Real World. But, when the kids are all in bed (9:30 at night) we sit down to watch our Tivoed programs and often do so in separate rooms so we can each watch our own shows. But since that is our only alone time, we ought to do it together. I know, other relationship experts would say turn off the tv and romance each other. But give me a break. In the real world (no, not the MTV one) who wants to get all romantic on a Wednesday night after cleaning up 4,000 toys and washing 500 dishes. Sometimes you just want to be together and exert no effort whatsoever. So, I vow to sit quietly through American Chopper to be with Mark and he can sit quietly through Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Because just being together in the same room will be enough.
7. Tell me when I have a booger in my nose. Another brilliant movie, "Sex in the City," has a scene where Miranda is told by her husband that she has latte foam on her lip. To me, that is what love is. Tell me when I have a booger, broccoli in my teeth, or my hair is sticking up. I love you and trust you to not let me look stupid and I will do the same for you.
8. Be unspeakably kind to one another. This goes along the same idea of Valerie's compliments, but I take it a step further. Do compliment each other, but really mean it. Don't just say the obligatory "you look nice" because I finally put on something other than my long sleeve tee. Actually mean what you say. And, take it a step further than that even. Do things for each other. Last night I had this in mind, and I made Mark a lunch for today. He usually takes Lean Cuisines to work and commented that he didn't like his lunch yesterday. So, last night I packed him flank steak sandwiches, mac and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, an apple, a soda and Pecan Sandies cookies. Its dumb, but I felt good going out of my way to give him something a little more special than his Lean Cuisine.
9. Communicate, even when you really don't want to. Mark and I are different from most couples in that we don't often fight. When we do, its a doozie, but we are pretty good at talking about things. Most people call it bickering, but I can honestly just say to him "when you do (fill in the blank) it really ticks me off." And he will explain, or accept it and work to not do it anymore. We don't hold things in, they don't fester and huge blow ups don't occur like they do for some of my friends. Truly, the last fight I remember was right before we got married and it was over whether or not someone could choke on water or whether it would be called drowning. I still say drowning, but why dredge up that fight again.
10. Make sure the world knows you are in love. God knows, I don't mean public displays of affection. I am hard pressed to do private ones. But, you can see in couples when they are truly in love, and everyone should strive to put out that vibe. Here's my example... my grandma would get my grandpa a cookie and a cup of coffee every night. He didn't ask for it and she didn't make a production of it. She carried it in to him and he would say "thank you, mother." And to this day it is one of the sweetest encounters I have witnessed to date. It was so special, and so small, but it oozed love and affection, way more than I can portray by writing it here. They were one of those couples together for over 50 years that love radiated off of. We should all be so lucky, and we should never strive for anything less.
Ok, so those are my Top 10 things to do to improve your marriage. Now that I've got that taken care of, I am going to tackle health care, the economy and world peace. Stay tuned.