HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
June 4, 2007, Herald Journal

Helpful advice for newlyweds

By IVAN RACONTEUR

June is traditionally a month of weddings, and a time when young people are intoxicated by visions of connubial bliss.

Unfortunately, marriage does not come with an instruction book.

As a recovering ex-married person, I can understand the trouble this may cause, so, as a public service to those who may be on the brink of matrimony, I offer these tips based upon a lifetime of observing human nature.

I address my comments mainly to the young men, since women rarely listen anyway.

Your honeymoon may be the happiest time of your life, but things will change after the nuptial knot has been tied.

One of the reasons for this is that women are compulsive improvers.

A woman will spend her life looking for the perfect guy, and as soon as she catches him, she will begin to try to change him.

Once a woman is married, her mission immediately changes from “self improvement” to “spouse improvement.”

It doesn’t matter if you are content with yourself the way you are. Your new bride will think of plenty of helpful suggestions about things that you can improve. She probably started making her list the night you met.

One of the most difficult adjustments men have to make when they get married has to do with language.

Women communicate in very different ways, and they expect us to understand Womanspeak even though we have never received the manual.

Here are some examples.

If a woman says, “We should remember to take out the garbage” (you can substitute any other task that might apply), do not be fooled. She has no intention of taking out the garbage. What she is saying is that she wants YOU to take out the garbage.

This is a difficult concept to grasp, because as guys, we tend to understand things literally. We hear the word “we” and we automatically assume it means more than one person. Once we are married though, we have to learn that “we” often means “you.”

Another tricky expression is “I don’t care.” If a guy says this, it probably means he does not have an opinion on the subject. If a woman says this, it means “I really do care, but if you can’t figure out what I want, I am certainly not going to tell you, you insensitive beast.”

A related term is “nothing.”

If you notice that your bride has begun slamming doors and generally hurling pots, pans, and other stray objects around the house, you may deduce that something is bothering her.

If you ask her what is wrong, and she says, “nothing,” it doesn’t mean that nothing is wrong, it means that it is up to you to figure out what is provoking her.

This can be a challenge, because the source of the problem may not be something that happened in the last day, or even the last week.

It could be a casual comment you made a month or two ago.

It is important to remember that anything you say or do goes down in the Big Book.

Every woman has one, and in it, she records every word you utter and every misdeed you may commit. These things can later be dredged up and used against you when you least expect it.

Communication can trip us up in other ways, too. If a woman comes to us with a problem, our natural response it to try to fix it. That’s what guys do, we fix things. When it comes to dealing with women, we need to learn to resist this. Women don’t want us to fix the problem, they just want us to listen to them talk about it. This is therapeutic for them, and any attempt on our part to try to actually solve the problem will only make things worse.

To achieve a peaceful marriage, a man must be ready with the correct response for any situation.

Those who have studied psychology or been through boot camp understand the concept of conditioned response. You need to train yourself to respond with “Yes Dear” whenever your wife addresses you. Don’t think about it, just do it. It must become automatic. A woman wants to know that she is in charge, and the “yes dear” response will reassure her that you are paying attention.

Another key to a successful marriage is the apology. You must be prepared to apologize and do it quickly and sincerely.

Some newly married guys make the mistake of trying to understand what they have done wrong, or, worse yet, of trying to defend themselves. It won’t make the slightest difference. Once a woman decides you are guilty of something, she won’t let trifles like facts get in the way, so you might as well apologize right away and get it over with.

There are different rules for women and for men, and you will need to accept this if you want harmony in the home.

One example of this is the night out.

A “girls’ night out,” or a “girls’ weekend” falls under the heading of mental health.

Women say they need these breaks to maintain their mental and emotional well-being.

They may include shopping, spa treatments, dining out, and strange rituals that we are better off not knowing about.

On the other hand, a “guys’ night out” falls under the heading of general mischief.

If you suggest that you would like to have a night out with the guys, your bride will immediately assume that you are up to no good.

When a woman has a few drinks with the girls, it is therapy. When a man has a few drinks with they guys, it is carousing.

A girls’ night out is automatic, but a guys’ night out requires negotiation.

You may have to agree to several unpleasant things in exchange for a few hours of freedom. This may not make sense, but it is the way things are.

There is one final subject that must be addressed. I hesitate to bring it up on the grounds that it may seem indelicate, but it is too important to ignore.

The subject is toilet seats.

Men might be tempted to dismiss this as trivial, but a view of history shows that women take toilet seats very seriously. Once they got suffrage, the next big issue that women took on was toilet seats.

Women believe that the only acceptable position is seat down, and one of the quickest ways of provoking your new bride is to leave a seat up.

I am always amazed when I hear stories about women who have fallen into the fixture in question. Invariably they blame the men in their lives for this. One might think that the obvious solution would be for women to look before they alight, but they are not receptive to this advice.

The most successful solution seems to be for all parties to negotiate a policy whereby toilet seats and lids are always left in the down position. In this way, everyone is equally inconvenienced.

Readers may assume that I am somehow against the institution of marriage, but this is not the case.

I only suggest that anyone who is contemplating a stroll down the aisle should do so with a realistic understanding of what they are getting into.

This understanding may help to make your walk to eternity a smooth one.