This psychologist’s secret to a happy marriage

First, a few updates from last post:

1) The cauliflower pizza crust was meh, perhaps because the toppings were too moist or because I lost my cooking groove after The Incident. We renamed dinner a “vegetable plate” and enjoyed it nonetheless.

2) Yes, you too can burn off plastic that has hardened on a stove element without further disaster, because anything I can do, you can do better.

3) J. has left for work, somehow trusting I will not burn down the house. With this in mind, I turned the stove on only to complete #2, above.

4) J. has not, as yet, hired a sickiesitter (only old people have “caregivers”) to supervise me during the day.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, I thought I might share my insights on a successful marriage, gleaned from years of therapy with couples. Sadly, couples often seek therapy when at least one spouse has reached the point of no return. There ain’t no fixing that. Sometimes my job is supporting a decision to separate. That’s me, the home wrecker.

I know I’m in trouble when a couple comes in and one member blames the other for all relationship problems rather than considering his or her contribution. Herein lies Lesson #1: Both people play a role in the breakdown of a relationship. Couples are better to stop trying to change one another and learn to accept their partner as he or she is.

This leads us to Principle #2: Celebrate your differences. Dear friends bestowed this wisdom upon us years ago, and thank God they did. J. regularly proclaims she’s celebrating our differences as she slams shut the various kitchen cupboards I have left ajar, for example.

Despite our knowledge of this principle, we did not weather The Incident as well as we might have. J. and I have long celebrated our cooking differences by agreeing that one person cooks while the other vacates the kitchen, and refrains from back seat cooking. This is not as simple as it sounds.

To J., my cooking style is a combination of whirling dervish and Pig Pen. Yes, my kitchen chaos makes her anxious. Although I contributed nothing to J.’s stress yesterday (this is not a good way for a couple-wise person to speak, ever, so yes, I am educating through irony here), I did make one critical error: I cooked while J. was home. I well know that J. prefers not to experience my kitchen chaos first hand. Thus, I save my binge cooking for when she is out, leaving no evidence of my inevitable kitchen disaster in my wake, except, perhaps, the scrumptious fruits–or vegetables–of my labour, and an overflowing rack of washed dishes.

If Principles 1 and 2 fail, there is always Principle #3: Blame the dog. Jelly would do anything to keep her parents happy; she’s told me as much. She doesn’t want to live in a single-parent home.

Come to think of it, Jelly never puts her toys away after she’s finished playing with them. Ever stepped on one of those plastic dog bones? Stray Lego doesn’t compare.

Basset hound lying in bed with several dog toys



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