3 things I wish I knew before I got married. #3 could have saved a lot of heartache.

Copy of 3 thingsI don’t do a lot of “what if” thinking.

Most of the time it’s not productive.

But “what if” blogging can help people who happen to stumble on this website while planning their wedding or preparing to propose.

Maybe one of these 3 things I wish I knew before I got married will help you no matter where you are in your relationship.

1. Your marriage will only be as good as you make it.

How many articles do you read a week about your favorite sports team? How many sit-coms did you watch this week? Medical dramas? House Hunters?

How much time have you spent at mlbtraderumors.com this week?

Now tell me how many words you’ve read about having a healthy marriage this week.  (“week” was word 126 of this post if that helps…).

What does it tell you if you spend more time comparing the per-square cost of toilet paper at Costco than you do learning about how to be a good husband?

The more you read, the more people you talk with about marriage, the more healthy marriage podcasts or shows you listen to or watch, the better a husband you’re going to be.  You will learn great lessons. They will be repeated. Reinforced. And eventually applied.

The less you do the worse it will be.

Do yourself a favor and carve out at least an hour per week of alone time to learn about how you can be a better spouse.

2. It doesn’t matter who emptied the dishwasher last.

I spent the first 5 years of marriage counting pretty much everything each of us did.

I’m pretty sure it’s because I worked so much that I felt the need to justify my existence at home considering how little I was there….

And when I emptied the dishwasher the whole world knew about it.

But it didn’t make anything easier. If anything it caused more frustration, arguing, and resentment around the house.

If you empty the dishwasher that’s great. But it’s nothing to celebrate.

It’s just something you did. You contributed to the household. Congratulations!

3. Her family is your family.

I’m blessed that I come from a great family. My wife’s family is large, about twice as big as mine (at least in the U.S. – don’t get me started counting the Pavlidi (is that the plural of Pavlidis?) in Greece….). And they’re great, too.

For the first several years we were together we argued about “family time.”

On Christmas, spending 1/2 the time with my family and the other 1/2 with hers didn’t work out because her parents had divorced and remarried when she was young.

So we had three full houses to visit.

It frustrated me because I thought it was “fair” to divide the time up 1/2, 1/2 between my wife and me.

She thought it wasn’t fair because then her parents would each only get 1/4.

She thought it was “fair” to divide the time 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

I didn’t think it was fair because then we’d be spending 2/3 of the time with her family.

Yes, we argued about stupid things like that.

At one point I even “offered” 40%, 30%, 30%.

I thought that made me the righteous one…

It didn’t sound as stupid back then… at least to me it didn’t…

After a few years of arguing about this (seriously…) 3 things about this caused me to think and act differently.

First, it doesn’t really matter how much time you spend with a particular person on one particular day. Even holidays.

What matters most is how you treat them every day. So who really cares if we spend 2/3 of the time with “her family” and only 1/3 with mine, or whatever?

Second, they’re not going anywhere.

They are her mom, dad, sister, brother, cousins, whatever. It just so happens that they’re all really nice. But even if they were jerks, they’re probably not going anywhere. She’s going to want to spend time with them. And I happen to enjoy spending time with them, too. In our case, not only are they not going anywhere, but I’m actually happy about that.

Third, her family blessed our marriage. They welcomed me to the family. They love me. They support me. They support us.

Sounds like family to me.

And while I’ve always loved spending time with her side of the family, it was “her family” for a while and I felt the need to “defend” time with “my family.”

Once I accepted those two things, it didn’t matter what percent of time we spent with whom. We see everyone. They know we love them. They’re all family.

I was pretty much arguing for the sake of arguing after a while. To win, so to speak.

Man, how many stupid fights I could have avoided if I had just realized that six years ago….

So there you go. 3 things I wish I could have told Young Nick as he got down on one knee to propose that brisk April evening in New York City.

What do you wish you knew before you got married?

Is there anything you argue about that’s probably just an exercise in winning an argument at this point?  Maybe it’s time to let it go.  

Congratulations, you’ve now read 888 words about improving your marriage today!

How are you going to apply those words to improving your relationship?

Is a Better Marriage Possible?

Is a Better Marriage Possible

Today’s marriage lesson hidden in plain sight comes to you from the great business mind of Seth Godin.

If you don’t know Seth Godin’s writing, he’s the business marketing expert.

He’s so well-regarded, that he writes a blog on typepad that millions of people read. No flashy graphics. Just a yellow (or is it orange?) pic of his head.

No fancy technology. Just words on a screen.

No catchy web address. Just sethgodin.typepad.com.

He kills it with his content.

Like when he asked if better is possible.

“The easiest and safest thing to do is accept what you’ve been ‘given’, to assume that you are unchangeable, and the cards you’ve been dealt are all that are available. When you assume this, all the responsibility for outcomes disappears, and you can relax,” Seth explained (we’re on a first name basis… he just doesn’t know it yet…).

This might be the best take on marriage I’ve seen in weeks.

How many elevator-ride or small-talk conversations have I heard with a husband talking about “as good as it gets” or a wife saying “but that’s marriage for ya”?

What they really were saying was “I give up. It’s too hard to do more. It’s much easier to be miserable, pretend I can’t do anything about it, and find other people who agree to me so we can just complain to each other every day instead of putting in the hard work to make things better.”

I felt that way for a while. I thought that I was only a small part of our happiness at home and that whatever we did was subject to “how the world works these days.”

Seth’s post is so good I almost want to copy and past the whole thing here for you. (But that might get me sued so I won’t…)

But think about this:

Imagine if you took every second you spent complaining or thinking about how hard marriage is and spent it thinking about ways you could improve your marriage?

I’m not talking about the time you spend playing with your kids.

I’m not talking about the time you spend resting.

I’m not even talking about the time you spend watching the post-post game analysis after the Red Sox’ latest loss, although I would argue that this time is prime for repurposing into more productive activities.  (Yes, there’s a post-game show and a post-post game show….)

I’m just talking about the time you spent thinking or complaining about “your situation.”

If you take just the time you spend saying “why is marriage so hard” and replace it with “what can I do today to improve something about my marriage” your marriage can improve quickly.

Add in the post-post game time and you’re really cooking with gas…

As Seth, explains:

Better might be difficult, better might involve overcoming unfair barriers, but better is definitely possible. And the belief that it’s possible is a gift.

Believe that a better marriage is possible.

Because it is. If you look for opportunities to improve it.

What can you do today to make your marriage better?

7 quick and easy ways to show your wife you love her. #3 is a no brainer.

Ways to Say ILY (1)Horseback riding along the beach? Giddy-up!

One of those clear-bottomed cabins in Bora Bora over the water? Sign me up.

2-week Mediterranean cruise? Yes please.

Dinner at a fancy restaurant? Yum!

All great adventures.

But those take time. And a lot of money.

Time and money that most people don’t have.

So here are 7 suggestions for you to show your wife some love without breaking the bank.

These are 7 things you can do today.

Each of them takes no money and very little time. Only one of them takes you away from your kids.

(DISCLAIMER: If your wife brings up going on a cruise and you suggest one of these things instead as a suitable substitute, you may want to quickly duck and cover. These aren’t meant to be “substitutes.” They’re “in-between-stitutes.” As in, these are things to do “in between” events. These are things to do in your “real-world.” You spend way more time “in between” fancy or “big” events than you ever will on cruises or a horse. Don’t waste that time just waiting for the next big thing.  Hat tip to Jeff Goins for writing an entire book about this concept!)

Before reading this list though, I want you to promise that you’re going to do one of them today.

Deal? Great.

Here you go:

  1. Leave a post-it note on her phone that says something you love about her.
  2. Send her a text message that says nothing but how much you can’t wait to kiss her when you see her next.
  3. Write her a hand-written note about 3 ways she makes you happy.
  4. Finish some little chore that she’s been stressing about.
  5. Call or email someone who she misses. Ask that person to schedule a time to get dinner with your wife while you take care of the house and kids. Give them a few options of times that should work. Then ask that person to reach out to your wife to schedule it.
  6. Write her a short poem. Keep it simple. Even something like “Roses are red; Violets are Blue; How did I get so lucky to marry you” would suffice. Make it fun or personal.
  7. Take a walk with her. And hold hands. There’s a power to holding hands. An energy. It’s soothing. It connects you. Initiate it.

Simple, right? What’s your excuse now?

Let me know which one you did in the comments and how it went!

And leave some other suggestions in the comments while you’re at it, will ya!?!

I need all the help I can get!

10 Habits Of Happy Couples? I fail #2 miserably.

HabitsIf you’re anything like me, you’ve wasted way too much time on those viral video sites about something amazing happening three minutes into a video or a five year old “out breakdancing a professional street performer.”

Most of the time, it’s interesting but not life changing. Every once in a while though, one of those sites gives you something useful other than a lesson on how to draft a blog post title…

And when it’s about marriage or “not being a crappy husband,” it inevitably ends up in my inbox. Yeah… I’m now known by friends and family as the one who needs and is most receptive to advice in the area.

That’s ok. There are worse things to be known for, right Lindsay Lohan?

Well a couple of weeks ago we struck gold with 10 Habits of Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist, “international speaker” (sounds fancy…), and best-selling author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, and 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall in Love Again.

“Dude’s got some street cred’,” if you ask me. :)

Let’s see how I stack up in the Happy Couple Habit Counter (See what I did there with the Hs and Cs? No charge for that creativity. But feel free to send over some bitcoins if you enjoyed it that much.  Email me at nick@aterriblehusband.com and I’ll send you my account info… )

1. Go to bed at the same time. Pass. We generally are in bed awake at the same time and fall asleep around the same time. But we don’t get into bed together at the same time every night. Maybe it’s time to try this.

2. Cultivate common interests. Fail. We suck at this. I like sports. She likes “not watching sports.” She likes the beach. I like “not being at the beach.” I like “rustic stuff like being in the woods.” She likes “places where there are no bugs.” We both like fruit picking. But I generally like to do mine at the super market. Plus, how much fruit can 4 people eat?!?! Need to work on this. I guess apple picking is sort of like hiking in the woods but with a cover charge and overpriced fruit. Maybe there’s hope.

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side. Pass. We’re usually pretty good at walking together and holding hands, although we can’t agree on hand-holding technique. She’s a finger-wrapper and I’m a fingers together and hands angled guy. Having fingers in between my fingers is just uncomfortable… (Are we the only couple with finger placement incompatibility?)

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode. Barely Pass. You know the title of this blog, right? Let’s just say we’re working on this. Not with any of the “big things,” but years of putting the family on the back burner aren’t just forgotten overnight…

5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong. Pass. Pretty good at this and getting better.

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work. Fail. I’m 1 for 5 on a good week. Definitely something to work on. As it is, walking into the house after work is a pretty hectic event. Kids running at me. Wife’s tired. I’m beat up after a long day of work and fighting traffic. A pause and a hug are probably just what the doctor would order in that moment. I’m going to work hard on this.

7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning. Pass. When she’s awake we’re 9 for 10.

8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel. Pass. We’re pretty good with this too.

9. Do a “weather” check during the day, calling your wife during the day to see how she’s doing. Pass. 4 times per week at least.

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner. Pass, at least. I am. I think she is. I’m kind of afraid to ask…

So there you have it. Not a report card that I would want. I had originally given me actual letter grades but that was ugly… lots of Bs and Cs. Only a couple As.

So I changed it to pass/fail so I could feel better and so you can let me know how you did in the comments!

Here’s the article again in case you want to check it out.