Thursday, April 5, 2007

How to Stay Married

When we got married, I had no idea how hard it was to stay married. Twenty-odd years later (and some of those years were odd) we are still hitched. But no matter how hard we try, there are still misunderstandings and sometimes it seems like no progress in meeting in the middle has been made.

But when I got horses I learned a there are a few ways of behaving that help make things work. You can't lie to a horse. You're either being truthful or you're confusing the animal with mixed signals and horses are bigger than we are. The truth and clarity are the only things that work.

Once I learned how to train horses, working with my husband got better. For me, the following rules work.


Negative reinforcement is only a last resort. Positive reinforcement works much better. So make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.

Reward the slightest try. Make sure that you compliment your partner about how they picked up one sock, so the next time they'll pick up the pair.

If you get mad, stop, get off the horse (or away from the argument) and hit yourself in the head. You just can't work things out if you're mad. And don't go to bed mad. It starts out the next day poorly.

Tell your partner when they do something you don't like. As soon as possible, and as nicely as possible.

Ask, don't assume. And don't be put off if your offer is rejected. If it is a command and not negotiable, consider the consequences.

Remember two can live more cheaply together than apart. Marriage is both a business relationship and an emotional one. It's not called show art.

Offer to help with the task your spouse is doing when you're finished with what you had to do. Even if you're tired, sometimes that's the best way to avoid your spouse feeling like a slave when they cook/clean/fold laundry/mow the yard/etc.

Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired, and focus on one thing at a time.

Make sure the animals are fed and cared for before you eat.

Go on a date occasionally. It helps you to remember why it was you got married in the first place.

Don't tolerate anyone who runs down your spouse.