I have a theory about advice. Other than the obvious “If I didn’t ask for it, you can safely assume I either don’t want it or have no intentions of following it,” it’s been my experience that regardless of the topic (parenting, marriage, sex, careers), most advice is fairly generic. Sort of common sense, with a splash of bumper-sticker cliche to give it some weight. “Be patient. This too shall pass.” Or “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”
Relationship advice, like all others, can be sorted into two groups. The good and the stupid.
Good relationship advice includes:
- Don’t try to change or fix each other. What you married is what you get. If you don’t want to be married to a person with those faults, don’t date a person with those faults. It significantly reduces the chances of falling in love with that person. And it would save years of stress for everyone involved if you could figure that out before the wedding.
- Pick your battles. Is it worth fighting about, or are you just cranky because you accidentally dropped your new iPod into the toilet? If it’s worth going to the mat, then roll up your sleeves and get into the trenches. But if you’re just in a pissy mood, breath and let it pass. Pour yourself a generous glass of wine. Then sip it silently.
- Make the marriage a priority. You put significant time and energy into building your career, maintaining your health, raising your children, and being there whenever good friends call with needs, but your marriage is supposed to take care of itself?
- Talk to each other. Every once in a while, put down your cell phones, turn off the TV, and talk to each other. The subject matter is less important than the intent. It’s a connection between the two of you. And when one of you is talking, the other should be listening.
- Have fun together. Laugh. Get goofy. Lighten up. As my mother always said, “In fifty years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter.” Life is short. Eat the doughnut.
Stupid relationship advice:
- You can always get divorced. Great marriages never leave this option on the table. Once introduced into a relationship, it’s now a possibility whenever the marriage hits a speed bump. If this is your emotional safety net, keep it handy, because you’ll be using it someday.
- Better to say nothing than to start a fight. That’s called the Silent Treatment. What are we, like, twelve? It’s juvenile and works more like gas on a fire. More often than not, now you have two fights pending.
- Marry for money. As they say, “Love don’t last. Money do.” “They” are idiots. I know so many happy women who’ve done that. Oh wait. Actually, I don’t know any.
- Never go to bed mad. Because it’s way better to continue your alcohol-induced brawl until one of you cries “Uncle.” Or shoots the other one.
- If the sex gets predicable or loses its intensity, bail. And miss all the fun of rekindling? Not on your life.
Every now and then, advice comes to you that is epiphany-level awesome, causing actual changes in your behavior and leaving you wondering why you didn’t think of it yourself, years ago. Or it’s so bad, you’re stupefied as to how the person dispensing it ever found a job, got married, or talked anyone into reproducing with them.
The Winners of Laugh Lines’ Best and Worst Relationship Advice, Ever.
I was watching “Hot in Cleveland” on Netflix, starring Betty White, one of my favorite comedy actresses. This is exactly the kind of show that usually sends Hubs running down the hall for a solo evening on eBay, searching out cheap sports team t-shirts (50 cents, free shipping…don’t ask). But tonight he decided the couch looked comfy enough to sacrifice what he calls “30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” So he settled in to find out why Ms. White is such a phenomenon.
About halfway through the episode, she was advising her co-stars about middle-age sex. She looked into the eyes of her group, with a straight face, and stated, “The jockey should always sit straight up on the horse. Otherwise, your breasts fall over to the sides and get lost in your back fat.”
Hubs was laughing so hard, he fell off the couch, and now wants to order the entire series. The visual of Betty “sitting straight up, on top” is permanently seared into our brains. Then I had a flashback to when I was a young girl and my mother had me walk up and down the stairs with books balanced on my head to improve my posture. I’m not sure this is what she had in mind, but I’m thinking of sending her a Thank You note.
Worst Advice (The donor shall remain anonymous, for reasons that will become immediately evident):
“Whenever your marriage gets a bit stale or you’re going through a rocky time, go out and have a fling. It will remind you that you’re still beautiful and desirable. You’ll take that increased self-confidence home to your husband. You’ll also be in a better mood and not as irritable. And even better, great sex makes you want more of it, which is a win-win for both of you.”
Since Hubs doesn’t loan out his golf clubs, I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and assume he’s not going to be on board with this particular plan for lasting marital bliss. Any conversation that starts with me saying “Gee, honey, I just got back from boinking my dentist. I’m feeling super hot and sexy right now. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I did it for us,” has about as much chance of turning out well as the time I accidentally backed over the neighbor’s prize-winning cat’s tail, resulting in a unfortunate left hook and instantly tanking the little hairball’s blue-ribbon streak.
So what did I learn from this particular nugget of wisdom? If you can’t give good advice, give really, really, reeeeally bad advice, and you’ll still win an award. And thanks, Betty. I’m going to get some books and start working on my posture again. Apparently I’m at the age where this matters.