The Secret To My Success...Cheating
I’m sorry to say that this might just be my last submission to the Lakewood Observer. Not because I have nothing more to say, and definitely not because I no longer have an interest in saying it, but because, for the first time ever, I actually fear the repercussions from addressing the subject central to my topic. Yes, I’ve written articles critical of powerful politicians, poked fun at a few religions, and used liberal doses of sarcasm and sacrilege to make my point. But this time, it’s personal. And the risk is a fate worse than death…it’s life, with an angry wife.
The trouble started with an innocent breakfast meeting with a few men from my church. As the discussion focused on the problems of divorce and the trials of marriage, a challenge was issued, taken from the book of Proverbs (27:17): “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The goal was to have the men of the congregation both find a mentor and be a mentor in an effort not only to help them improve their own relationships, but to strengthen others as well. The concept was actually the underlying principle in the recent independent movie Courageous, which I highly recommend.
The major hurdle in this effort is finding someone to share your life stories with, both the good and the bad. After all, if you can’t find a mentor you can trust, there’s no way you’ll feel comfortable opening up to the potential criticism that might be necessary to correct any character flaws. And without a willingness to be accountable to someone else, how can you expect to have someone accept being accountable to you? Humility is the key. And a humble appreciation of your own shortcomings definitely helps. But I truly believe that if your desire for a lasting marriage is stronger than your ego, the benefits of this glorified male-bonding are enormous.
While I would never try to pass off my own marriage as perfect, having just celebrated 18 years with my wife, I think I can honestly categorize our relationship as better than average. And as evidence of this, all I have to do is count the number of times people have told either myself or my wife, “You guys are so lucky.” Quite frankly, that statement makes my blood boil and in the spirit of the challenge that’s been posed to me, I’ll be more than happy to tell you why.
My marriage isn’t strong today because of luck. It’s strong because I work my butt off to make it that way. It only looks flawless now because when I was getting married, I got a lot of good advice from my own personal mentor, my grandfather, who gave me two very important words of wisdom about marriage. First, everything worth having takes effort, and a relationship is no different. So work hard at your marriage, sacrifice your time, put your partner first and learn to listen more than you speak. But second, if hard work isn’t enough, don’t be afraid to cheat.
Yes, he said “cheat”, but it’s not what you think. I’m not advocating infidelity, but here’s where I am risking considerable outrage to help you men out there. Cheat by finding ways to cut the corners to being a “good” spouse, until you figure out how to do it naturally. I’m not going to give you all of my secrets (a good marital magician has to keep a couple of tricks up his sleeve), but in the spirit of fulfilling my goal to mentor others, here are a few to get you started.
Flowers: Is there anything a woman likes more than getting flowers? Only getting them for no apparent reason. Telling your wife you love her on your anniversary isn’t enough. Well, it’s enough for guys, but women have a slightly higher standard, so here’s what I recommend: at the beginning of the year, look at your calendar and pick two or three random dates not affiliated with any event or holiday, then leave yourself a reminder to buy her flowers on that day. If you’re really lazy, find yourself a florist who will send the reminder to you automatically. And if you want extra points, send them to her in a public place, and make sure the delivery is in the morning, so that the rest of her day is filled with saying, “No, it’s not my birthday.” Trust me, her smile will last much longer than the blooms on the flowers you buy.
Gifts: As a man who hates to shop, gift giving was always my greatest potential weakness. And given that the secret to giving good gifts is to be a good listener, most men are similarly handicapped. But having good communication with your spouse takes time to develop, so to fill the gap until then, here’s what you do: the laundry. Seriously. Do the laundry. If not just to help out around the house, it will give you access to my second trick to being “that guy”. Here’s the deal: the next time she’s out of the house, go through her closet. Find one of her favorite outfits, whatever she wears most often, and grab it. No, this isn’t a J. Edgar Hoover moment, it's pure gold. All you have to do is look at the label. Take the outfit back to the store where she got it, walk yourself up to the counter, and ask the salesperson to help you find something similar. They’ll have everything they need to know about your wife, including her size, and you’ll get to give a gift with an infinitely greater chance of success.
Remember, nothing takes the place of committing to the hard work that’ll make your relationship better, but as my Pop used to say, if at first you don’t succeed, cheat a little, and eventually you’ll figure the rest out. Now, if I could just find a mentor to help me learn the rest of the tricks of the trade. Happy Anniversary, Kathryn.