Friday, July 23, 2010

Marriage: Where's the Instruction Manual?

I was chatting with one of my employees about married life yesterday.  He and his wife were married about a month before my wife and I.  The difference is we were 27 & 29 and they were 20 & 22 when the vows were exchanged.  I'm sure in 10 years that age gap will seem inconsequential, but I was certainly not the same person I was at 22 as I was at 27 so maybe it won't.

He asked why there wasn't a self help type book for how husbands can make the right decisions in marriage.  He said we should write one and make a killing because so many men need included.  Sounds like a winner right?  Kinda like a book on how to run a marathon written by someone who's never even done a 5K. 

The spark of this conversation was a customer issue that we were dealing with.  A couple rented a car from an employee at one of my stores.  When they returned it, another employee was working and it just happened to be her second day on her own.  The renter's wife chewed my ear off because of how incompetent my new employee was.  And I'll leave it there (because that was the only pertinent piece of info).  This lady was bat crap crazy and loud and hoppin' mad!  The problem was a broken printer not an employee's competence level.  But the new girl just didn't know how to diffuse the situation like a seasoned employee would have.  

I asked her to come in and see the employee referenced in the marriage conversation.  There were several options to "fix" her problem, the simplest was NOT what the customer wanted.  The others either entirely inconvenienced us or half way inconvenienced both customer and us.  Both of the latter would have taken a TON of time before the problem was resolved (weeks, not minutes).  

When the couple arrived my employee explained the options.  Hubby listened attentively and chose the simplest and immediate solution.  Bat Crap was silent the entire time.  The woman's behavior over the phone before led us to believe she obviously wore the pants in the household and was a true force to reckon.  In the presence of her husband, he obviously ruled that roost.  

Back to our conversation.  I remarked that's how it works in my house too.  My wife certainly has a lot to say about every choice and we will go back and forth and she often  wins.  But she will not challenge me if I've made a final decision, especially not in front of someone else.  There is a give and take to every relationship like this.  But someone has to have the trump card and sexist as it may be, I do believe it should be the husband. 

He agreed and said his wife lets him make all the decisions.  And then when something goes horribly wrong it's his fault.  He then proceeded to tell me about his wife dropping her iPhone earlier in the week and shattering the screen.  This cost them $50 to fix.  He didn't say a word for two days.  Then the seed of superiority he suppressed burst into a full grown tree right out of him.  He pointed out that if he had done the same thing she would have harangued  him forever about being so stupid and costing them money etc.  This enlightenment was not met with even the slightest glimmer of appreciation.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he immediately saw the error of his ways.

I told him about how my wife loves to point out when I'm wrong or have made a mistake.  But I'm a total prick for pointing out if she is or does.  This is when he decided we need a help guide for marriage.

I said that for men, marriage success can't be taught by another male (or female for that matter).  Women are all entirely different and each have varying degrees of reaction to every incident they encounter with their partner.  You can't teach intuition and experience.  You can only warn and hope others take heed.  That's what Maxim is for. 

Men are like dogs in need of training.  We only know our boundaries based on how we were punished or praised as we crossed or respected them.  You piss on the carpet and have your nose rubbed in it, you're not likely to recreate the scenario.  But some people never learn right?  Not necessarily, sometimes the scenario is out of our control.  Those situations receive lesser punishments or worse depending on who made them out of our control.  Others are repeat offenders intentionally because they realize the punishment is not as bad as not having the experience.  But, I digress into specific generalizations.

There is far less thought put in to keeping a happy home from the husbands side of the house.  We learn to keep in step with our partner.  The exact opposite of a dance while at home.  You dance, in public.  When dancing, the man always leads.  The key thing to remember about dancing is that, the whole point is to always make the woman look beautiful.  She minds your step by being a split second behind you.  You know what makes her shine and throw in the occasional spin to twirl her dress and hair. 

Mixing my metaphors in a way with dog training and dance, but the important things to take away are that tit for tat always comes at the price of someone's sacrifice of pride.  That and I'm only three years in, so before you take these words as gold, you'd probably do best to find an older dancing dog to hit up for advice.


  1. Old dog here. Decide what you really care about (where you WANT to make decisions), what she cares about (she decides), and what you both care about.

    When she owns an area, let yourself be led. Hopefully, she'll do the same. But don't set yourself up for disappointment. It's not give and take. It's give and give. Sappy, but it's the taking (usually in the form of complaining about unmet expectations) that always leads to trouble.

    I'll state the obvious: folks who might struggle over $50 repairs shouldn't own iPhones in the first place. Even more off-topic... this is a trend I've really noticed lately -- expensive phones in the hands of folks who shouldn't be able to afford them.

  2. Oh. And here's my marriage instruction manual:

    People don't change.

    Well, they do. Sometimes. Maybe YOU can change. But you can't risk everything on hoping someone else will.

  3. Well, Old Dog, this is exactly why I opened my naive-er? attempt at an analysis open to someone with more experience. Sappy or not, Give & Give makes more sense even in something as simple as the ole Flies & Honey/Vinegar Analogy.

    As for the off topic expensive phone in the hands of folks who shouldn't own one, more off topic (in the same direction though)check out this video interpretation of an Electronics Store salesman interacting with an avid iPhone user. It is soooo the reality with these things.

    Oh and absolutely, people change, it's just usually you who has done it and suddenly THEY seem off. Thanks SG, I really appreciate the advice/insight.