Advice to a Soon To Be Married Man

1. Pray. The prototypical advice, really. Men (and women, too) jest that marriage is hell—partners are (or become) incorrigible and impossible to communicate with. But cheeky humor aside, I suggest praying, even though I’m agnostic on the existence of god and relatively to hostile to formal religious traditions. I use pray in a loose, secular manner. But still. I think it’s important to have a space and time to voice queries/concerns and/or vent with no holds barred. Blogging, like I do, is nice. But there’s inevitable censorship, especially vis-a-vis my marriage. Prayer (especially for me, since I don’t think any divine entity can hear the thoughts in my head) or meditation (perhaps this is more in vogue now) can be the quiet space to humbly admit one’s one faults. And ask for help. I don’t believe Zeus will ride chariot through the heavenly clouds, or part the rising sea, so “asking” may seem odd. But I think the spirit of asking is one of humility and honesty, and in my marital spats, that’s the only head space that successfully neutralizes marital mini-wars. I think quote prayer also trains the awareness. Especially if it’s repetitive, or frequent. We shine light on our subconscious blind spots until they become conscious. We develop a pattern and practice of humility, and openness. And start to look at our flawed marital selves gently and with compassion. Our at least that’ the goal. I’m not there yet. But I’m realizing quote prayer seems like one hell of a winning idea.

2. Read female-focused magazines.

3. Keep a house calendar. Fast-paced lives pull partners in opposite directions at 60mph. A team calendar is a baseline tool to stay invested in each other’s lives.

4. See a shrink. Or at least don’t be bashful about it, if you’re leaning that way. Kate and I went to marital counseling during our first six months of marriage. At the time, I didn’t even think about the stigma attached to the mental health move. As if it implied a rocky relational start. In the few months of seeing Kathy, we gained valuable skills, including the language to discuss our preferences, emotions, fears, worries, or reactions that may ignite or annoy our partner.

5. Communicate honestly with in-laws. Brutal honesty tends to exist within the marriage. Often, though, that’s where the honesty stops. Two plus years in, I’m learning that perhaps I unnecessarily censored myself around in-laws in order to be liked. Of course, over time everybody shows their cards. So the short-term facade just delays the inevitable. I also think suppressing beef with in-laws builds bomb-like pressure, which tends to explode in the marriage, as one partner is naturally inclined to defend his/her family. The mature path, in my opinion, is to communicate directly with in-laws, investing in them as relationships independent of your spouse. I haven’t done this as much as I’ve liked. And to the extent that I haven’t, I’ve regretted it.

6. Flag loose rocks. By this I mean, identify times of day or situations where marital conversations are more likely to sour. For me and Kate, hunger, exhaustion, and time-crunches are fertile ground for fighting. Postpone discussion, or at least have your antennas up.

7. Sex. Studies seem to suggest that sex lubricates the wheels of marriage that tend to get rusty in the day to day grind. Studies also show that millennials are having less and less sex. We’re busier and busier, and less and less happy. Physical intimacy, then. A massage while sinking into a Netflix movie? A hug from behind while one person chops onions, garlic and ginger for chana dal. In my experience, the mood-setting investment is much less for these small acts of intimacy. And therefore, they can occur more frequently. And the adage a little goes a long way is true. At least for me.

8. Special stuff. Try downloading the 36 Questions To Fall In Love App. Early on, we did this while eating dinner one night. I can’t remember if we stared into each other’s eyes for four minutes at the end of the 36 questions, as protocol suggests. If we didn’t, we should.

9. Keep a journal so you can make your own list and send to me.