When I was first married at age twenty-one I knew almost everything there was to know about marriage. Today, a few marriages and more than fifty years later, I have come to realize that I don’t know as much now as I did then.
But I do know this: Marriage is a team sport. It might not “take two to Tango,” because you could dance with an imaginary partner. But it does take two to enjoy a marriage, and both of you have to be real. Here are some of the rules of the marriage game as I now know it.
- Each partner has to work at making a marriage work. Solo is a no go.
- It’s not automatic and you get better with practice. When I watched the World Ice Skating Championships recently I was struck by the amount of dedication and constant practice needed for every competitor to achieve that level. Two hours a day or two days a week won’t get you to the top in any sport. Marriage is no exception.
- Get coaching. Your friends, parents, or a good therapist can help you. They’ve been there. Do you think the best players in baseball or basketball are “naturals”? And even if they are, their game can be improved substantially by advice from an experienced expert.
- Give before you take. Fifty years ago I was lazy. Today when I see that my wife has left a sack of groceries next to her car in the garage I pick up the bag and carry it into the kitchen. Fifty years ago I might have reminded her that she left the groceries in the garage and they were getting warm.
- Be lavish with sincere compliments. This is like planting a garden. The yield on your seeds will amaze you.
- Say “I love you” every time you feel it.
- Each partner has to believe that he or she is being treated fairly most of the time. Ultimatums kill relationships, even when you’re right. I should say, especially when you’re right.
- Share your hopes and fears. Especially your fears. This will always bring you closer.
- “In sickness and in health” is true. Take care of your partner. This is a great bonding experience, just as taking care of your children is a great bonding experience.
- Be honest, even when it is difficult. Especially when it is difficult. And treat your partner’s honesty with gratitude and respect.
- As Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” Charity toward your partner will get you everywhere. Malice is a dead end.
There you are – the Fox rules for a successful marriage, which will bring intimacy and joy to both of you every day of your life.
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