5 Rules for a Real(istic) Marriage

Earlier this week it was Dan and my 3rd wedding anniversary. We commemorated the day by waking up, grabbing our cell phones to scroll Facebook, and then saying to each other – “oh look, today is our anniversary…according to Facebook anyway.”

Trust me, it was really romantic.

Wedding Photo by Ben Krebs

This is the space I had originally reserved for some slightly sarcastic but actually kind of sweet insight about how anniversaries aren’t important to us because we celebrate our love every day…blah blah blah.



Because really…who does that? We celebrate toddlers taking shits on the toilet and a backup jar of Nutella in the bottom of the pantry every day, not our marriage.

Potty Training

So instead, in honor of our anniversary this week, I give you: 5 Rules for a Real(istic) Marriage (not to be confused with rules for a happy marriage or wedded bliss or anything else sappy like that).

Without further ado…

  1. When You’re REALLY Pissed Off, Go to Bed

Someone (my mom?) once told me, the key to a successful marriage is to never go to bed angry. Well, that’s sweet and all but when you’re already getting like 5 hours of sleep max thanks to a small wild animal child, the last thing you need is to lose another hour of sleep re-hashing the same fight you’ve already been having for the past 3 hours. So, no, you do not need to work it out before bed. Instead, hit the hay (build the great wall of China down the middle of the mattress if you have to), sleep it off, and when you wake up in the morning either a) forget about it, or b) [earmuffs, (eyemuffs?) dad!] use the fact that your significant other woke up with a boner as leverage to get your way.

2. Never Compromise

When you google “Rules of a Happy Marriage” (and let me tell you, Google is VERY well versed in the rules of marriage) the first thing that shows up is “Agree to Disagree.” Here is what I have to say about that. BULLSHEEEEET.

Compromise in marriage, as in a politics, is basically a “Kindergarten teacher approved” way of saying that nobody gets what they want. This, in my experience, leads to far more unhappiness and resentment than one person giving in every time, ideally not the same person. Instead of compromising (especially on things like whether or not to have another child…because that could be very, well, complicated) try giving in once in a while. As long as your partner does the same, it tends to work out. Or not. But it’s worth a try. Especially when you’re the one that usually wins.

3. Everything is Negotiable

A few months ago I decided I wanted to paint our living room white. When I told Dan he literally snorted. I couldn’t tell what was more amusing to him, the fact that I wanted to paint the walls in a house with a 2-year-old white, or the fact that I thought he might actually assist me with painting.

I was prepared though.

“I’ll give you 3 (we’ll just say massages for the purposes of this blog post) if you paint the living room,” I said.

“Three? This room is like 400 square feet. It’s gonna be at least six,” he responded.

“I could pay a professional to paint it for less than the time it would take me to give you six massages,” I said. “How about four.”


“Four + a morning to sleep in.”

“Four + a morning to sleep in + a six pack.”

“Fine. Done. I’m going to buy paint.”

And that, my friends, is how it’s done. There is nothing in our household that isn’t negotiable. Sleep, sex, “massages” – you name it. And while it may sound harsh to have to negotiate with your spouse for basic needs like sleep and private bathroom time – I’m telling you, it works. Dan gets a massage, I get a white living room, Mia gets happy parents who have once again sidestepped a major brawl – EVERYBODY WINS. 

BM Cloud White


4. Hold Onto Your Veto Cards

I have this rule about politicians that dictates who I will and won’t vote for. It goes something like this: I will only vote for someone who is smarter than I am. Here in Maine we have a governor who is not only dumber than I am, but I’m pretty sure dumber than Harley, and also that giant turd she just took in the backyard. His name is Paul LePage and if you google him, you’ll see that he’s made national news more than a few times for doing things like threatening to remove his office from the statehouse because of a dispute over a television, denouncing a state senator for always trying to “give it to the people without Vaseline” and comparing the enforcement of Obamacare to the Holocaust. (Believe me, there’s more.)

One of his more recent policy “proclamations” was that he would veto any and every bill that came through his office that was sponsored by a Democrat. His track record on enforcing this bill was at 100%, until recently when he got his calendar mixed up and forgot to stamp a bunch of vetoes before the bills took affect. Whoops. In an effort to rectify his counting error, he took the case to Maine’s Supreme Court, who told him, in so many words, to fuck off – leading to even his own party members calling for him to resign.

The point of all this is that you should always be judicious with your veto cards. You can only use so many before your constituents (spouse) start to stop taking you seriously.

When your husband tells you he’s going to hang his Coors Light LED light-up sign in your bedroom, you use the veto card. But when he asks to display the Red Sox poster from his high school bedroom in the living room, you hang it in the darkest corner and just deal. Or you negotiate.

Save your vetoes for the serious stuff, because believe me, you’re gonna need them.

5. Timing is Everything

Last but definitely not least is a reminder that the old adage “timing is everything” could not be more true when it comes to marriage. And I’m not talking about when to pop the question or have kids or anything like that. I’m talking about when to remind your spouse you’re going out for drinks with the girls this weekend, and how long you can get away with watching The Bachelorette on the iPad in the bathroom before your husband or toddler comes looking for you.

I’m pretty sure that perfect timing is different for every relationship – but beware of cliches like “ask after sex” because THEY WILL CATCH ON AND CALL YOU OUT ON IT. You’ve got to be a little more stealth like “ask after a couple drinks and a foot massage.” Other strategies such as “just before the Giants score a touchdown” and “in the middle of the Fantasy Football Podcast” have also been shown to be effective.


Ok peeps – did I miss anything? What are your fool-proof strategies for maintaining a realistically happy marriage?


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