Expect fairness

Marriage is about compromise. It’s about sharing. It’s about giving up what you want to please your spouse. Most importantly, it’s about fairness. Any relationship where one person routinely gives up everything for the other or expects the other to do all the work is doomed to fail. Only by balancing the load amongst both partners can a marriage last. This applies to every aspect of a marriage. Whether it’s household chores, managing money, picking what movie to go see, everything needs to be fair and balance out. I’m not saying you need to keep a tally and keep track of every time one person gets to do what they want at the expense of the other person, but the goal should be to achieve roughly equal equanimity in the relationship. Few things will sour a relationship more than saying, “Why should I do the dishes when I did them last night?” A good marriage is where one person goes out of their way to do more than is expected of them, not because they want to tip the scales in their favor but because they want to make life easier for the other person. A great marriage is where one person goes out of their way to do more than is expected of them and the other person responds in kind at a later date without any prompting! The trick to expecting fairness is, ironically enough, to not expect it. If your spouse thinks you are doing something because you are counting on the action being repaid, then they’ll lose any motivation to respond in kind. If your spouse thinks you are doing something simply out of the goodness of your heart and a desire to make their life easier, then they will want to respond with a similar gesture some point in the future. Marriage is about expecting fairness without demanding it. By doing good things simply for the sake of doing them you will find that fairness naturally flows forth.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Be chivalrous without being chauvinist

Don’t believe what you hear about this being an age of equality where women don’t want to be treated any differently than men. No matter how successful a woman may become at work, no matter how professional she may be, all woman want to be treated like a lady, at least in their personal lives. Doing this is not all that terribly difficult, in fact, because the bar has been set so low by all the jerks out there who don’t know how to treat a lady properly, it is remarkably easy to stand out as a true gentleman. We’ll start with the basics:

1. Hold the door for her. This is as easy as it gets. Don’t make a big deal out of it and don’t shove her out of the way as you race to get to the door, but as you get within, say, 50 feet or so of the door, just start slowly positioning yourself so that when you do get to the door you’ll already be in a position to hold it open. When you do open the door, don’t say anything stupid like, “After you my dear.” Just hold the door open, place your hand on her back as she walks by you, and then follow her inside. If there are people behind her, feel free to hold the door for them too, it’ll just make you feel classier. Note: If there’s a long line of people that you are now stuck holding the door for, look for either the sucker in the group or the gentleman and pawn the door off on them.

2. Always give her the best seat and wait until she’s seated before sitting down. This is another easy one. When the waiter takes you to the table make sure she’s walking ahead of you that way she can pick whichever seat she wants. Perhaps she likes having her back to the rest of the room or maybe she wants to sit so she can see the entire restaurant, either way, save yourself the trouble of figuring it out by letting her go first. Finally, don’t sit down until she’s comfortable. Don’t awkwardly linger by your chair while she gets situated, just give it a few seconds before plopping your ass down. I know your feet are tired but guess what, she’s wearing high heels so show your appreciation for the pain she’s putting herself through by letting her sit down first.

3. Stand up when she leaves the table. This is a little tricky. Old fashion style will tell you that every time a woman stands up at a table all the men need to stand up as well, both when she leaves and returns to the table. Personally, I think this is a bit overkill because I guarantee that unless you’re at a formal fraternity ball you’ll be the only person in the room doing this, which could have the reverse effect of making your wife feel uncomfortable. I recommend that you preserve the spirit of this action by putting down your fork, stop eating or drinking, slightly push back your chair as she gets up and make a slight standing motion. This will get you points by showing that you are acknowledging her getting up without the undue embarrassment of garnering the entire room’s attention. Same goes for when she comes back. On the other hand, if your wife has a taste for old fashion style and enjoys being the center of attention, feel free to stand, just make sure you commit yourself, otherwise you’ll look like a kid wearing his father’s tuxedo at a fraternity formal.

4. Opening and closing the car door. This is another bit of a throw back to an age where men did the driving and woman yelled at them for not stopping to ask directions. (It actually originates from the age of horses and carriages where the woman needed a hand climbing up on the horse or getting into the carriage) This obviously is no longer the case as women now drive just as much as men and men now have GPS to ignore instead of their wives. (And car doors are much lower to the ground) I recommend you only open and close the car door if you are going out to a nice dinner and are dressed up. Old fashion customs go great with elegant dresses; they are less appropriate for jeans and a low cut top. If you do decide to open the door for her, be cool about it. Take your time walking around the front of the car, hold out your hand to help her out of the car (more symbolic than necessary) and then gently close the door behind her. Same goes with opening the car door. Open it while standing to the side, offer your hand to help her in, and gently close the door, making sure to check that her dress is FULLY IN the car. Nothing ruins an evening faster than catching her brand new dress in the car door. As with the standing up custom at restaurants, if you’re going to commit to this one, commit to it! Act like you do this all the time and you’ll come off looking suave and debonair. Act like you do this once a year and you’ll look like you’re playing dress up.

These are just a few of the different types of chivalrous customs that used to be standard practice but that are now relatively rare. There are plenty of other customs out there but the trick to all of them is to be subtle! A little goes a long way and if you put too much effort into any of these you’ll end up looking out of place and awkward, which is far worse than doing nothing at all. Just think ahead, be smooth, and you’ll end up looking like a gallant gentleman who knows how to treat his wife like a lady.

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Don’t take her for granted

When a married man starts to take his wife for granted he makes her feel unappreciated and unloved.  This can be a real problem as the moment a partner starts to feel that they are no longer loved they lose their motivation to put any effort into the marriage, which in turn angers the other partner, causing the other partner to grow more distant, and so on and so on.  The simple way to avoid this problem is, like most solutions, simply to not let it become a problem in the first place.  By continually reminding your wife that you appreciate all she does for you (and I guarantee she does more than you think) she will continue to feel validated, thereby ensuring she continues to do all those things that help your marriage run smoothly.  Showing your appreciation doesn’t need to take the form of any dramatic gesture (although it doesn’t hurt), it can be as simple as thanking her each time she makes dinner or does the dishes, publicly complementing her in front of your friends (“You should try [insert name of spouse and favorite dish here]!  It’s fantastic!)  Taking the time, even if it’s just a few seconds, to show her that you are appreciative of the time she puts into making your relationship work will go a long way to ensuring that she feels appreciated and loved.  No one wants to do the dishes, clean the house, or any of the other countless chores that need to be done, but those chores become a lot less of a burden if the person knows that their efforts are being noticed and valued.

Become her Cary Grant

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The leading man's leading man, this is who you should strive to be...within reason!

In you’ve never seen nor heard of Cary Grant, stop what you are doing right now and go and rent a couple good Cary Grant movies, because this is the man against which ALL OTHER MEN ARE JUDGED!!!  Even if your wife has never heard of Cary Grant, believe me when I say that this is the man she wants you to be.  Cary Grant was an actor who worked throughout the 1930’s to the 1960’s and he is considered to be the epitome of the Hollywood leading man.  Every other leading man in Hollywood from George Clooney to Brad Pitt is inevitably compared to Cary Grant.  Charming, unbelievably handsome, witty, Cary Grant personified every single trait that women associate with a good husband.  It is no exaggeration to say that our idea of what defines a man was in many ways solidified by Cary Grant.  If you want to ensure a long and happy marriage, you need to identify what characteristics of Cary Grant you can emulate and then work your hardest to embody those characteristics as often as possible.  Now, there is an important caveat here because there were two sides to Cary Grant – the screwball romantic comedy Cary Grant and the drama/thriller/straight comedy Cary Grant.  Do not be the screwball romantic comedy Cary Grant.  I say this because the screwball romantic comedy Cary Grant was always the butt of every joke and was characterized by indecisiveness, wimpishness, and plain old buffoonery, and while entertaining to watch, these are bad traits to try and emulate.  Good examples of which Cary Grant not to be include Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, My Favorite Wife and Bringing up Baby.  While these are great movies and worth watching, they are not indicative of the sort of husband you want to be.  You want to be the drama/thriller/straight comedy Cary Grant.  This Cary Grant was defined as romantic, intelligent, worldly, daring, capable, and reliable.  Good examples include North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief and Philadelphia Story.  Just remember that while you should strive to emulate Cary Grant as often as possible, keep in mind that he was an actor who off the screen had a rather sordid personal history so don’t kill yourself trying to live up to his standard.  The character of Cary Grant was more of an idealistic version of what a man can be, rather than an attainable goal.  After all, even Cary Grant once remarked, “Not even Cary Grant can be Cary Grant all the time.”

Learn how to serve drinks

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A scene from "The Thin Man." Now that man knew how to mix a drink (and he got Myrna Loy as a result!)

Few things are more enjoyable or charming for a woman than coming home from a long, hard day at work, walking in the door, and finding you in the kitchen busily preparing her favorite drink. It conjures to mind images of 1940s glamour where every house came with a fully equipped bar and every man knew how to make his wife a good stiff drink. Now when I say ‘fix her a drink’ I don’t mean reaching into the fridge for whatever leftover beer you’ve got lying around. Any schmoe can crack open a beer, but it takes a loving husband to take the time to learn how to mix a cocktail. And no, that jungle juice crap you made in college does not count as a cocktail! A good cocktail, aside from helping your wife relax, serves the important purpose of showing your wife that you have moved on from the days when knowing how to fill a red plastic cup from a keg without too much foam was considered the height of class. Learning how to make a few simple cocktails will send a message to your wife that your sense of charm is maturing in a way that is appropriate for a married man. If your wife prefers beer to alcohol, fear not, just make sure that you buy good beer and serve it to her in a glass that you keep in the freezer, thereby ensuring the beer is nice and cold for her to enjoy. Regardless of what she prefers, the point is to make sure you serve it to her in a way that shows her that you are a sophisticated and caring guy, who just happens to know how to make a killer cocktail.

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Always pour her wine first

Most women prefer wine over either beer or hard alcohol, in part for the taste but more so for the sophistication.  Women feel more cultured drinking a glass of wine than a beer and they feel that it’s more socially acceptable for a woman to drink a bottle of wine than a six-pack.  Add to that the fewer perceived calories and other ‘health benefits’ and it’s no wonder women prefer wine.  You can take advantage of this by educating yourself on the basics of wine and learning such basic skills as properly opening a bottle, decanting and how to order a bottle in a restaurant.  Doing so will give her the impression that you are highly cultured and sophisticated, which will increase her sense of attachment to you, especially when you go out with some friends to a nice restaurant and she can proudly hand you the wine menu and say, “Honey, why don’t you take care of the wine.”  Keep in mind that what she’s really saying to everyone at the table is, “My husband is more sophisticated than anyone else sitting here, so suck on that!”  

Now, if you’ve been guzzling cheep beer for the last five years you might find wine to be somewhat intimidating.  Fear not!  While wine can become infinitely complex, the basics are all you really need to learn.  Just familiarize yourself with the basic different pairings (white wine goes with fish and chicken, red goes with meat) and the major different types of grapes that are out there (pinot noir = light and fruity, cabernet sauvignon = heavier and fuller, merlot = middle of the road, shiraz/syrah = spicy) and the major different regions (France=old and heavy, Italy=old and heavy, Australia=young and spicy, California=young and flavorful) and the differences between them.  You don’t need to learn every single label, just know that if you’re having steak you want a heavy red from France, or if you’re having chicken you want a light white from Italy, etc.  If in doubt, ask the waiter what they recommend but make sure to lay out some boundaries, such as, “Can you recommend a good French wine to go with the Filet?”  This take the pressure off you having to decipher the menu but you still get credit for knowing something about wine.  As for ordering wine at restaurants, here are the basic steps:  

Ask everyone at the table what they are going to be eating, take the average (provided the foods are somewhat similiar otherwise you’re better off each getting your own glass), look on the wine menu, find the particular type of grape that will go well with what everyone is having, and pick the one that falls in the middle of the price range.  You don’t want to go with the cheapest but don’t pick the most expensive either.  Now comes the ordering part.  The hardest part about this is you have to walk a fine line between sophistication and total douche bag.  You have to take the tasting seriously enough to show the waiter you respect him and the restaurant, but at the same time you need to make sure you don’t give off the impression that you are a wine snob and are looking to show off your extensive knowledge of viticulture.  Here are the basic steps:  After the waiter brings the bottle he will hold it out for your inspection.  Look at the label, take no more than 3 seconds to make sure it’s what you ordered and give the waiter a slight, yet masculine, nod of the head.  He will then uncork the bottle and will place the cork on the table in front of you (not all restaurants do this, but if they do, it’s a good sign that you either have a really good waiter and/or are in a really nice restaurant).  Take the cork, wave it in front of your nose a couple times and smell it.  Provided it doesn’t smell like vinegar, place it back on the table and give the waiter another nod.  He will then pour you a very small amount of wine.  Place your fingers on the base of the glass and gently swirl the wine inside the glass.  DO NOT OVER SWIRL!!  Nothing will ruin your hard earned credibility like sloshing wine all over the table.  The point of swirling is to aerate the wine, which allows the wine to ‘open up.’  After a few brisk, yet controlled, swirls, lift the glass to your mouth and tilt it so your nose is inside the glass but not so far that you spill wine all over your shirt.  Pause for one second and then inhale the wine’s aroma.  Assuming you’re satisfied with what you smell, go ahead and take a sip but do not swallow.  Let the wine linger in your mouth for a second, swish it once or twice (keep in mind it’s wine, not Listerine!) so you can absorb the flavors, then swallow.  Assuming the wine doesn’t make you vomit, go ahead and put your glass back down on the table and give the waiter another nod.  He will then pour glasses for everyone at the table, starting with the ladies, and ending with you.  After he’s done pouring your glass, look him in the eye and say, “Thank you.”  While the whole process is quite simple, you can see how it’s very easy to end up looking like a total dick if you overplay your part.  Learn to walk that fine line and I guarantee you will forever own the coveted position of ‘sophisticated wine guy.’ 

One more thing:  Whenever you buy a bottle of wine for your wife try and default to a medium to heavy red.  These wines are loaded with what are called tannins, which have the wonderful effect of stimulating a woman’s libido far more than any other type of alcohol.  A well earned reward for the one hour you spent on the internet learning about wine.

The grass may be greener on the other side but you still need to mow it

It is a common misconception that single guys have a better sex life than married guys.  We are constantly bombarded with images of single guys having these great sex lives that it’s easy to start believing that all of those commercials and TV shows are actually indicative of a real single person’s life.  As such, it becomes easy to start thinking that if you were single you would be hooking up with total hotties every night and each one of them would be unbelievably awesome in bed.  Don’t buy into it.  Aside from the fact that those commercials are all trying to sell you cheap beer, hooking up requires a fair amount of effort, and the results are less desirable than those you can achieve with your wife.  Great sex is a result of time and understanding of what your partner likes.  If you do it right, sex with your spouse will become more intense as time goes on because you will become more attuned to each others desires.  One night stands may carry with them the thrill of experiencing something new, but let’s not kid ourselves, there really is very little ‘new’ out there, at least in the circles most of us occupy.  Furthermore, single life carries its own set of commitments, often for far less sex.  The ratio of the total amount of time single guys spend trying to get laid to the actual number of times they have sex is far greater than the same ratio for married guys.  I’m not saying the single sex life doesn’t hold appeal, I’m just saying that the next time you see a hot girl sitting across from you on the metro and you start thinking about how you wish you weren’t married, remind yourself that 1) you’re probably not smooth enough to pick her up anyways, and 2) she may be hot, but as the old saying goes, someone out there is still sick of her shit.

Avoid disparaging remarks about your wife

If you get a bunch of married guys together and get a few drinks in them I guarantee they will start up a game of one-upsmanship about who has the most annoying spouse.  Most likely this isn’t because their spouse is annoying, it’s because they want to beat the other guys.  The best way to avoid this trap is to not get involved in the first place.  If people start talking about how their wives annoy them, just sit there, drink you beer, politely laugh when appropriate, and don’t play along.  If someone tries to call you out you can either deflect the question or simply say you don’t like talking about your wife behind her back.  Don’t be a douche bag when you say it and be prepared to take some shit, but those are better options than giving in because once you start down that road, there really is no good way to stop.  I’m not saying you should be the buzz kill of the group; just ask yourself if impressing your friends is more important than honoring your wife.