“Making Marriage (Like) Work”

So I followed nikkos’ dating advice and I actually got married. Now what? Help me nikkos!

I saw this article in the Washington Post and figured, hey, if any readers actually take my dating advice, and wonder of wonders, actually find someone they love and get hitched, they’ll need some good marriage advice too.

At first, I thought the headline writer was, like, um, you know, making a point about, like, something else. But no, they really mean that men should treat their marriage in the same manner we treat our jobs (or, how we’re supposed to treat our jobs, you know, with energy, care and strategy. Or something.).

The article brings us the wisdom of Dr. Scott Haltzman, psychiatrist, professor, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Men” and the companion website.

Dr. Haltzman offers 8 tips to “win your wife’s heart forever.”

Without further ado…

1. Make Marriage Your Job.
Premise: Guys have skills and habits developed at work that can be successfully applied to marriage.
Details: If men are to accept marriage as a job, they need a job description. Here’s Haltzman’s: Love, honor and respect her; be sexually and emotionally faithful; listen without being judgmental; support her ambitions; try to understand how she is different emotionally; be honest at all times and keep promises; share in child care and domestic work; be as attentive, fun-loving and adoring as you were during courtship; and be affectionate. This is no part-time gig.

Holy shit! This guy wasn’t kidding! This does sound like hard-ass job. And a full-time one at that. So far, so good.

2. Know Your Wife.
Premise: You think you know your wife, but you haven’t really been paying attention. Do your research.
Details: Citing the old therapists’ joke (there are two times men don’t understand women: (1) before marriage and (2) after marriage), Haltzman urges guys to do what guys do: Collect data. Observe her in mundane situations where she reveals herself: at the sidelines at a kid’s game; when she’s with her best friend; at a restaurant or coffee shop; and before, during and after sex. Here is where you will discover who she really is, not who she says she is. For detail and accuracy, Haltzman recommends creating a “Daily Observation Chart” (!) to record her activities. He appears to be serious about this.

This type of “black op” is best handled by professionals. To reach your local NSA representative, simply pick up your phone, dial a number (any number is fine) and say the words “Dirka, dirka, Muhammed, Jihad, Pepperoni” and the NSA will dispatch FBI agents to your location just as fast as possible. If the agents do not arrive in thirty minutes or less, your first hour of spousal surveillance is free. In addition, the FBI will helpfully create a “Daily Observation Chart,” not unlike that of a wild animal researcher, in order to provide scientific data that will allow you to determine just how much fun your wife is having when you are not around.

3. Be Home Now.
Premise: Guys evolved as prowlers and hunters, not home-tenders. But to make a marriage work, you’ve got to spend a lot of time around the cave.
Details: “To . . . build a lasting marriage, you have to be there, in person, day by day, Mr. Regular, at home, in the building — and that’s that.” And why don’t more guys do this? Saltzman says men need to be honest about why they often leave the cave, returning only to feed, sleep and lie with their mate: to avoid conflict, loss of control, domestic responsibilities, intimacy or . . . having to grow up. But if men are sufficiently present at home — and attentive while present — the payoff is “direct and bountiful . . . love, friendship, support, emotional nourishment, peace of mind, fun, intimacy and sexual satisfaction.”

What? When married I will be expected to show up at home, like, every day? Her home? Men everywhere want to know: How much time do we need to spend at home just to get the “sexual satisfaction” part? We can do without the rest.

4. Expect Conflict; Deal With It.
Premise: Fights are inevitable, but you can control them.
Details: “You can . . . stop the mounting tensions in their tracks,” Saltzman says, not by doing what guys are inclined to do (dig in and fight to the death) but by using various higher cerebral strategies. For instance, take advantage of a woman’s natural inclination to nurture by softening your tone. And stymie escalation by not letting emotion drive something you say or do.

Ahh, finally some good advice: quietly pretend like you give a shit. This isn’t being dishonest; this is a “higher cerebral strategy.” Also, “fight to the death” may be a poor choice of words in regards to domestic issues. Just sayin’.

5. Learn to Listen.
Premise: Listening does not come naturally to male humans, who are more inclined to act. But it can be learned, to great benefit.
Details: Stand still while she talks. Turn off the TV. Look directly at her. Use verbal nods to show that you’re listening. If it’s important, seek clarification. If not, just let her talk.

“Just let her talk.” Priceless.

6. Aim to Please.
Premise: “In the workplace . . . men are masters of relationship-building.” So: Bring this skill home.
Details: Treat your wife at least as well as you would a valuable client, co-worker or employee: Greet her warmly, ask how she is, see what she needs and how you can help. Do thoughtful favors, anticipate desires and entertain and offer gifts as appropriate.

OK, the premise sucks…and it goes downhill from there. Treat your wife as you would a valuable client? Look, if your wife could be entertained by an expensive dinner, a fine cigar, box seats to a sporting event and a trip to the titty bar, you wouldn’t need the fucking book. You would, in fact, have the healthiest marriage on the planet.

7. Understand the Truth About Sex.
Premise: Men. Women. They’re different!
Details: In response to the old women-want-slow-intimacy/men-want-to-get-down-to-business conflict, Saltzman planks out a by-the-numbers program consisting of five “gears” that men need to move through, sort of like a sporty transmission. First gear is holding hands, kissing, etc. Second gear gets more emotional and private. Third is playful. Fourth is getting awfully close, and fifth is where guys usually wanted to be from the beginning. Attend to the earlier stages, the author says, and the fifth is more likely — and better.

To recap, this is advice for married people. If you are still stuck somewhere between 1st and 4th gear, you’re reading the wrong fucking book.

8. Introduce yourself.
Premise: Enough about her. Time to let her know “this is who I am, this is what I need.”
Details: Take inventory of who you are, Haltzman says, which is something that can get lost in the shuffle of a busy married life. Then, assuming you’ve mastered the seven “secrets” above, your efforts to meet your own needs — doing stuff together that you like, hanging with the guys, taking occasional solo sorties, playing sports, cultivating personal interests and hobbies — won’t be greeted as if they are threats or acts of abandonment.

I see. Pretending to listen, pretending to know who your wife is and pretending to care are all part and parcel of a strategy whose ultimate objective is NOT spending time with her.

2 Comments so far

  1. Elizabeth (unregistered) on January 25th, 2006 @ 11:58 am

    This notion that men want to “roam away from the cave” and that women have a “natural instinct to nurture” really pisses me off.

    Maybe MSN and Dr. Haltzman and whoever else could give out decent advice if they didn’t operate on the assumption that everyone with a vagina has the same wants and needs and instincts and everyone with a penis has the same wants and needs and instincts – and that there’s no reconciling the two. It’s like everyone has accepted sitcom archetypes as absolute truth.

    That’s wonky. And insulting. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but didn’t we move past this coerced gender role bullshit already?


    I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    It is funny and I did laugh, especially at the comments. I just feel bad for the people who read these articles and think they just got some great advice.

  2. steven (unregistered) on January 26th, 2006 @ 8:23 am

    Daily Observation Chart? Come on. Marriage isn’t a science. Dirka, dirka is right.

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