John Henderson writes a letter to his former self, to be delivered before he says, “I do.”
June 4th, 1999
Everyone is saying it aren’t they? Then, they tell you just how hard marriage is! No one congratulates you before you run a marathon, they wait for you to finish. But today, it seems that the congratulations are a little premature. Let’s be honest, you aren’t sure that you will make it long enough to deserve the congratulations are you?
Here is some real advice. Just like a marathon there are tips and tricks that will make your marriage better. But you will never understand the tips until we kill some of the clichés people are offering you as advice. They have the best intentions, but you have to ignore some of it, because some of it is bunk.
#1—Never go to bed angry.
This one is like saying, “always wake up happy”, or “you can live on love”, or “rainbows and puppies and flowers and pom-poms”. They all have the same ability to help you through the tough times. You should write this one down, put little hearts and rainbow stickers around it and hang it on your empty refrigerator in your nasty kitchen in your first apartment in the crummy neighborhood. There will be days you go to bed angry. You may not be angry at her. You may be frustrated at the situation, you may be sad (yes, you get sad) that you can’t provide more for her. You may be angry at her! Here is the truth, make sure you tell her you love her each night, and remember this day. It probably won’t make you less angry every time, but it will make her feel important.
#2—You’re a lucky guy.
Don’t believe this, because if you do, you will screw the whole thing up! You are not lucky. You worked hard to meet, date, and propose to her. You became a better man, and as a result, she fell in love with the best version of you. If you think this is a result of luck, you will quit working. You earned this wedding. You will have to continue to earn your marriage. She deserves to be married to a close resemblance of the person she fell in love with. Don’t ever stop dating your wife.
#3—Never spend the night apart.
This advice came from men who slipped up while they were away. The real tip here is be faithful. You will have unbelievable opportunities that require you spend the night away. Be strong enough, faithful enough and true enough to go after good things for your family. Don’t hide from opportunities. Just put barriers between you and a mistake. There is no need for you to have dinner with another woman. You don’t need to be in a bar or a dance club without her. Take measures, while you are gone, to be the man she deserves. Make every conversation, interaction and situation something you would be proud for her to see.
Now that the cruft (look up Cruft Hall if you aren’t familiar) is gone, here is the real advice that nobody is giving you. This is the advice that will make a difference, which you will never see on a crafty piece of wood, hanging in the kitchen of a couple who don’t even speak to each other anymore.
#1—You love her because she’s the opposite of you.
She fills a void that is missing in your life; the giant hole in your personality that you will never repair or escape. For you it is a peace and a calm that comes from someone who isn’t a hard driving personality. This peacefulness comes with a price. Her to-do list is much shorter than what you expect. In fact, many days she doesn’t have a to-do list, even if you wish she did. She is okay with fewer results from your kids, your investments, your business and life than you. Don’t expect her to expect what you do, and be glad that she doesn’t. If she did, she may not have agreed to marry you!
#2—She doesn’t understand your words, she understands how she thinks you feel.
That’s right. She understands what she thinks you mean. The actual Webster’s Dictionary meaning of the words you speak don’t mean anything. If you smile when you are shopping for curtains, she thinks you’re happy. If you frown when you say “I love you,” she thinks you’re mad. Time to learn how to communicate.
#3—Things that aren’t important to you, mean the world to her.
The ROI of your latest advertising campaign means nothing to her compared to flowers. Important is a lot like delicious, it is not the same for everyone. Don’t do things you like for her. Do things she likes for her. If you can learn to ignore what you think, just a few minutes a day, and learn what she likes, it’s like ninja research. You can become Super Husband, just by paying closer attention.
#4—You have no idea.
I know you think you love her, and you are right. You love her with as much capacity as you have. But you loving her is like a toddler walking. It is a good thing, and everyone is proud, but wait until you have been through fire together. Wait until the years of hard work on your career pay off. Wait until the pain of miscarriage and the joy of children set in. When you can look at a young couple, just married and in trouble, and say, “we have been there, you’ll be okay, here’s how,” you will understand just how much you love her.
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