October 27, 2011 By Chuck AllenIt may be hard to believe but those cute little critters you call pets are actually monsters. Well, they could become monsters – if you let Read More »
October 24, 2011 By Chuck AllenAh, vacation! It sounds so relaxing and fun. Images of lying on the beach or screaming on roller coasters dance in our minds. Packing is no Read More »
October 20, 2011 By Chuck AllenFighting back often means hunting down the monster. Most people assume that hunting begins with gathering the right equipment. Even in horror flicks the main character Read More »
October 17, 2011 By Chuck AllenWhy are all shows about marriage comedies? Whether it’s movies or television, if the main story is about marriage, comedy will abound. Sure, there are married Read More »
September 22, 2011 By Chuck AllenOne of the goals of this blog is to provide advice for men who are considering marriage. Women have strange rituals such as teas and showers Read More »
It may be hard to believe but those cute little critters you call pets are actually monsters. Well, they could become monsters – if you let them. And to make them even scarier, most people do not realize when their little cutsie-wutsie has made the transformation into marriage monster.
When people plan for marriage they sometimes talk about things such as how many kids they want to have, what kind of jobs they want and where they want to live. Rarely do they ask the critical question: What’s your critter tendency factor?
The critter tendency factor says a lot about a couple’s compatibility. There are several ways to label it, but essentially there are four different types of critter tendencies. They can be described by the individuals initial thought about animals. When you first see an animal, is your desire to:
1. See it
2. Hold it
3. Feed it
4. Have it move in with you
If you’re married to a #3 or #4 then you probably recognized it immediately. If you’re still staring at the list wondering what the difference is then you’re probably a #3 or #4 yourself. By the time people reach stage 4 they have often lost the ability to differentiate between people and animals.
Before we go any further I should also point out that this is a continuous scale with people falling in various degrees of each stage. For example, some #1 individuals’ response could be better described as “see it and shoot it”. This is not a new category, but is just an extreme of the one category very near zero. You will also find some people who are on the border between #1 and #2 as they will occasionally pet animals, but not every animal they encounter. So remember this is a scale, not contest.
If a #1 marries a #4 then problems are inevitable. You might as well build a separate house or find some other compromise because if either partner gets their way entirely, the other will be quite miserable. Here is a sample conversation between one of these couples:
“Can’t we get another dog? Poochie looks so sad and doesn’t have anyone to play with?”
“What about the rabbit or the cat or the hamster?”
“You know dogs can’t play with those animals! Poochie would eat them all.”
“I know.” (Insert evil grin here.)
“Don’t be mean! You know you love hippity-hop. So can we look at puppies now?”
“I know, why don’t we build a special place for all the animals to live. Oh wait, that place already exists. It’s called a zoo!”
(The conversation goes downhill from here.)
But even couples where both partners fall in various stages of #2 and #3 can end up having problems. Just because someone likes to pet the neighbors dog does not mean they want one for themselves. It’s the difference between baby sitting for friends and having your own baby – definitely not the same thing.
And that space between #3 and #4 can be a huge gap. Feeding a pet (owning it) that stays outside is far different from having a pet sleep in the bed next to you. One is like having a best friend that hangs around a lot. The other is like taking that friend along on every date.
Keep one thing in mind, though. No matter how cute or precious that little critter is, it’s not worth losing your marriage over. It’s really not. So learn to compromise in a way that recognizes both partners critter tendency factor. (Even if I just made that term up.)
Ah, vacation! It sounds so relaxing and fun. Images of lying on the beach or screaming on roller coasters dance in our minds. Packing is no fun, but we do it with joy because of the adventures that lie ahead. We fill bags with clothes, coolers with ice and our head with unrealistic expectations.
If you are like most couples you have one partner that prefers to do most of the driving. This is normal and healthy, so don’t let it bother you when you meet those odd couples who share the duties evenly.
For the sake of your marriage I highly recommend that the driving partner review all maps and directions thoroughly prior to departure. Even with the best planning, however, the time will come where the non-driving partner will be called upon to read the map and navigate. This is a true marriage monster.
Even if the past hour of the trip has been filled with loving chatter and bonding, an evil mist fills the vehicle once the map is unfolded or the GPS settings are adjusted. Somehow my wife transforms from someone who loves me into an evil alien whose sole aim in life is to confuse me and get me lost. Consider this example of a road trip transfomation:
Conversation before the navigation duties:
“I’m really tired. I guess I should have gotten more sleep last night.”
“I’m sorry, honey. Do you want me to get you a drink out of the cooler? Some caffeine might help.”
“Thanks, Dear. That would be great. By the way, those sandwiches you made for lunch were fantastic.”
“Awe. I’m glad you liked them. I cut the edges off just like your grandma used to do.”
Navigation crisis arises. Map/GPS is consulted:
“What road was that we just passed?”
“I don’t know. The map says…”
“I didn’t ask what the map said. I asked what road we just passed.”
“I wasn’t looking.”
“You weren’t looking? How can you tell me where to turn if you don’t look at the road names.”
“Well, I saw that it started with a ‘p’ and the map shows a Partridge Drive. Maybe that was it?”
“Oh wait. We just passed a Wal-Mart. This map doesn’t show a Wal-Mart anywhere around here.”
[Muttered swears have been removed to keep this site clean.]
“Ok. That is Piedmont that we just passed. Do you see that on the map?”
“Piedmont? That starts with ‘p’….”
“Yes. Yes, it does.”
At this point it is easy to assume that aliens have taken over my wife and that she is, in fact, the monster. Conversely, she probably assumes the same of me. Some marriage books recommend playing a quick game of “rock, paper, scissors” (also known as “Ro-Sham-Bo”) to determine who gets to be the monster.
The key, however, is to remember that there was a reason the two of you started this trip together. At some point in your relationship this alien sitting next to you was the person with whom you most wanted to travel. A few wrong turns and a long pause to read the map for yourself is not the end of the world. Most importantly, it need not be the end of your relationship. A deep breath and an apology for losing your temper might be the best weapon in this case.
Fighting back often means hunting down the monster. Most people assume that hunting begins with gathering the right equipment. Even in horror flicks the main character usually stops to gather guns, ammo, silver crosses, baseball caps and a thermos of coffee. These items are retrieved from the basement, or the basement of a parent/friend/neighbor who conveniently stockpiles such items.
Hunting down the monster, though, begins with understanding the enemy. Sun Tzu in the Art of War puts it this way “know your enemies and know yourself”. We don’t cover the knowing yourself part in this series. That involves a Zen master surrounded by ninja warriors and is beyond our scope.
Knowing the enemy often sounds like the easy part. It’s not until we waste our time fighting the mechanical creature pillaging the city that we realize they are actually controlled remotely by the mad scientist. He’s the real villain. Misdirection is everywhere leading us to think we know who we’re fighting when we really don’t.
The same thing is true with marriage. We often assume the villain is the gorgeous new coworker or our spouse’s new hobby. We create monsters out of all sorts of things and begin fighting them. It’s rather silly in some cases, like Don Quixote fighting the windmills. If you’re like me and you haven’t actually read that book, imagine Luke Skywalker fighting R2D2 or the Ghostbusters crew trying to capture taxi cabs. In either case we have pointless and meaningless battles.
In some marriages the spouses assume each other to be the monster. If your marriage took place in a Las Vegas chapel of which you remember very little, you might want to consider that an option. Otherwise, it’s probably not the case. Despite the fact that your husband is covered with hair or has fungus-infested toenails, he is not a monster. Even though your wife’s cooking may resemble a witches brew, she is not the monster.
So if you want to amass a great monster-hunting arsenal, go right ahead. Feel free to strap ammunition to your chest and tie a bandana around your head like Gizmo in the movie Gremlins. Grab some trail mix and a survival knife, if you still have one. (But I’m warning you, the waterproof matches probably won’t work any longer.) Gather your tools because in the next few posts we’re going to take on some of the worst of the marriage monsters.
Why are all shows about marriage comedies? Whether it’s movies or television, if the main story is about marriage, comedy will abound. Sure, there are married couples in horror or action movies, but their relationship usually has little to do with the story. It seems marriage has been relegated to situational comedies and romantic comedies.
No wonder so many young people rush into marriage expecting everything to be happy and fun. Even the bad marriages in sitcoms are entertaining. The shock is understandable, then, when they wake up one day and wonder how they began living with a monster. Monsters aren’t as much fun.
So I propose a different view of marriage. Marriage is a horror flick. There are monsters and villains to be battled.
If they are ignored they will wreak havoc and mayhem. They will build robotic creatures and pillage metropolitan areas. They will wear horribly unfashionable striped sweaters while terrorizing your dreams. They will lurk in the closet while suspenseful music plays in the background, waiting to pounce when you least expect it. They will randomly hide your stuff so that you can’t find anything. Oh, wait, the hiding stuff is not done by a monster. That’s usually done by the wife. I guess I got carried away.
The main point, though, is that we need the right expectations. More time will be spent dealing with monsters than sitting around the kitchen table cracking one liners at each other. Books and movies are not as good when we confuse the genre. If you don’t believe me, convince your wife to watch Monty Python with the expectation that it is the newest soap opera. Or trick your husband into watching Steel Magnolias under the pretense that it is an action thriller in a southern setting. In either case the person with the wrong expectation is going to be disappointed or, at the very least, confused for a while. Those two words – disappointed and confused – could be used to describe a lot of married people starting in about year two or three.
The question facing you is the same question facing every main character in a horror flick: are you ready to act? All the minor characters have been eaten, killed or maimed. The main character may have even experienced some loss or injury from the villain or monster, but what makes them different is that they take action. They fight back.
What do you think? In our next post we’ll talk about monster hunting. Is horror a better genre for marriage? Do you have any horror stories?
One of the goals of this blog is to provide advice for men who are considering marriage. Women have strange rituals such as teas and showers where they pass along bits of advice and tell stories. Men usually just shake hands and say “Congratulations.” Then they walk away shaking their head.
So today’s post aims to provide three tips regarding one of the first topics encountered when considering marriage: diamonds.
1. Your responsibility with diamonds does not end at the engagement ring.
Some men don’t put much effort into buying the engagement ring because they figure it’s the only time they will have to buy a diamond. False! The engagement ring gets you by until the wedding. After that there will be earrings to purchase followed by anniversary bands. And don’t forget necklaces or those strange things called pendants. (Pendants are apparently where you put diamonds when you run out of fingers and ears.)
2. The 4 C’s – Color, Carat, Clarity and Cut
When you first go shopping for the engagement ring salespeople will try to intimidate you with information about “The 4 C’s”. I’m convinced this is just a bartering tool, but you will likely still have to listen to a lecture or two before you are allowed to buy a diamond. They will rattle on about color, carat, clarity and cut. The four C’s you really need to be aware of, though, are cuteness, cost, cost and cost. Cuteness can only be determined by watching the reaction in your wife’s eyes. Once you find one that passes that test, it’s all about the cost. As far as cost goes, just remember there is a reason this blog is called “Marriage is Fun” instead of “Marriage is Cheap”.
3. The “You can trade up” myth
When buying the diamond you will eventually encounter information something to the effect of, “You can buy this stone today and next year if you want a bigger stone you can trade up.” This sounds like an excellent deal as it allows you to get the diamond you can afford now and the diamond she wants later. The problem is that the diamond you give her today will have sentimental value next year. Then you are either stuck with this diamond or you’re buying another one. It’s a hard fact. There is no easy choice when buying a diamond.
After all this advice you may be wanting to see my wife’s diamond collection. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a collection. I think she’s working on a post about “Finding a Man Who Will Actually Buy Diamonds”.
But seriously: Diamonds have long been given as gifts because they are valuable. But there are many ways to show your spouse they are valuable. Giving them our time or attention is a good start. Do we take the time to do that every day?
What about you? What are some things you do to show your spouse they are valuable?
Buying a car can be a fun – and stressful – activity for a couple. On the one hand you have the excitement of a new automobile. On the other you have the expense of a new automobile. Any time you mix excitement with expense you have the formula for a nasty argument.
But that is not my only concern with buying an automobile. I thought after my wife and I bought a minivan that we could navigate anything. But watching a commercial the other day I noticed something. New cars today can:
- Present you with a map of your destination
- Tell you if you make a wrong turn
- Keep telling you about your wrong turn until you correct your mistake
- Alert you if you are falling asleep
- Alert you if there is a car in the lane you’re about to merge into
- Slow you down if you get too close to something ahead of you
- Remind you that you are still going the wrong way
I’m guessing that some of you can already see why this is a problem. If my car can do all of this, what is my wife going to do? Take away these tasks and we might have to… talk, or something.
But seriously: Life is filled with stressful events such as buying an automobile (or dealing with a bad driver.) The real question is how do we handle those times? Does pressure make your relationship stronger? Or does it tear it apart? You can’t always choose the pressure situations, but you can choose how it affects your relationship.
Do you have any funny stories about buying a car? Or a backseat driving spouse? What do you do to help your relationship through stressful times?
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Date Night”? A romantic dinner? An quiet evening at home? An action comedy starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey? Something you vaguely remember from before your marriage?
Date Night can mean a lot of different things, but it is an important part of growing together. Dating allows a couple to share conversations and experiences that otherwise get lost in the day-to-day hassle. And while there are no Date Night rules, today’s post attempts to implement a few to clarify things a bit.
What constitutes a date night?
- Attending a sports event does not count as a date unless you are both equally avid fans. (Matching face paint is pretty cool, though.)
- While dates do not have to be expensive, catching the free food samples at places like Sam’s Club or Costco does not count as dinner.
- Shopping is not a valid date night activity. Shopping is torture.
- Any event or trip that includes changing diapers or doing homework does not qualify as a date night.
- Both partners must be present to qualify as a date night. (Poker night with the guys while she goes shopping is not a date night.)
- If one of you is on your cell phone most of the evening, it’s not a date night.
- Folding laundry together does not count as a date night.
But seriously: Do you make time for you and your spouse to be alone together? Are we sometimes guilty of making time for everyone else except our spouse?
What did we miss? Anything else that should not be allowed to count as a Date Night?
In celebration of the return of the Marriage is Fun blog, we are giving away marriage tips. Today’s tip: Fight more.
Yes, you heard that right, fight more. Think about it. Chances are everyone reading this knows of at least one older couple who, despite their constant bickering, has made it to their 40th or 50th wedding anniversary. In fact, how many couples do you know that have been married that long that don’t fuss at each other? Coincidence? We don’t think so.
Fighting has a therapeutic quality. It stimulates the brain and improves circulation. As evidence of our theory here is a list of notable “fighting” couples who seem (or seemed) happy enough:
- Fred and Ethel on “I Love Lucy”
- Napoleon Bonaparte & Josephine
- He-man & She-Ra
- The Undertaker & Sara Callaway
- Sigfried and Roy
Ok. That didn’t work so well.
But seriously: Fighting is important, but only if you’re fighting for your marriage. If you’re fighting each other then you’re wasting your time. Fighting for your marriage may mean being careful about your opposite sex friendships or doing something special for your spouse. Maybe it’s as simple as saying you’re sorry for losing your cool during that last “conversation”. Whatever it means in your situation, are you willing to do it? Your marriage is worth fighting for.
What do you think? Do you know couples who have given up? That no longer are willing to work or fight for their marriage? How do you fight for your marriage?
If there is one rule that I believe is important in marriage it is the privacy rule. That rule states that there is no privacy in marriage. This is hard for some people to accept, but marriage is the type of relationship that requires transparency.
Secret cell phones or credit cards are a good way to destroy your marriage. That cache of shoes that he doesn’t know about? Not a good idea. If you get nervous when your spouse looks over your shoulder while your on the computer, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing. And while privacy sounds like such a basic right and something that should never be compromised, there is no secret worth losing your marriage over.
Every rule has exceptions, though. The following are some notable exceptions where privacy may be allowed within a marriage.
1. The candy cache – If there is a sweet tooth in your relationship, allow them the simple pleasure of hiding candy. In our marriage this is my wife. I’m convinced she has candy hidden throughout the house. Some of this candy will likely be found by future generations when they renovate part of the house. Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon some of it. Her usual response? “Oh, I forgot I put that there.”
2. Childhood collections – This item is for the men. I think one of the first things pre-marital counselors should tell a newly engaged man is “hide your collectibles”. It doesn’t matter if the collection is baseball cards, action figures, comic books or bottle caps. If it can’t be worn there is a high chance the wife will try to throw it out. The best way to avoid that confrontation (one that the man will eventually lose anyway) is to keep the collection’s existence a secret.
But seriously: Do you routinely keep secrets from your spouse? Do you value your privacy more than you value your relationship? Marriage is all about striking a balance and finding what works for you. Just make sure that what works is what works for both of you and promotes an atmosphere of openness and honesty.
What do you think? Are there other exceptions that should be allowed?
It’s that time of year again when people turn their attention towards vacation/holiday plans. Visions of beaches and guided tours fill our heads and trick us into forgetting the heat and hassles of the last trip. For many couples this is the premier event of the year; requiring careful budgeting and saving. For others this may be the only time when they get to eat more than two meals in a row together. In almost every case, it’s a big deal, which puts pressure on the relationship to make it more special than ever before.
Unfortunately, though, many men embark on vacation planning with the same strategy that we employ for almost everything else: avoidance. Oddly enough, we are also surprised with the result when things turn to chaos. So today’s post aims to provide husbands with a vacation planning guide.
To keep it simple we’ve narrowed it down to two basic options:
- Don’t! – If you value your marriage, your best bet may be to let your wife plan the vacation. The upside to this strategy is that you cannot be blamed for any of the trip’s problems. The fact that the hotel smells like a month-old wet towel? Not your fault. The fact that it is actually 30 miles away from the beach even though it’s named “Beachside Motel”? Not your fault either. As an added bonus, you can point out to your wife how these things happen and are not really the fault of the person planning the trip. (Or you can gloat, but we don’t recommend that.)
- Surprise her – If the thought of surrendering control to you wife is too much for you then your next best option is to surprise her. By choosing to surprise her, you take the risk of being held responsible for all trip problems, but you avoid the disagreements during the planning stage. You get to pick every little detail without second guessing a single one! And, if you spin it right, you can get points for being spontaneous. Simply point out that you did all of this “for her”. (And don’t let her know it took you six months to figure out the details.)
But seriously: vacation planning, and even vacations themselves, can be stressful. Whatever your preference of destination, make sure the trip is about spending time together. Even if the hotel is horrible or you end up sick from the dinner special, you will look back on these times with fondness if you focus on each other instead of the problems.
What about you? Do you have any horrible vacation stories?