Whether you have been married one day or a hundred or ten thousand and five (don’t worry, I did the math for you – that’s twenty seven years and some – you’re welcome), how to improve your marriage is a question couples want an answer to. Why? Because no matter where they stand, as long as they stand next to each other, they actually want to know precisely that – How to improve your marriage.
If you are like me, sometimes, when I think of how to do something right, it’s getting the answer to how not to do it. What not to do. So I do that today and my question for you is: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE DOGHOUSE? Yep, for real. I did just ask that question. Have YOU ever been in the doghouse?
Or, alternately, should I just say: When was the last time you were in the doghouse?
What does ‘being in the doghouse’ look like in your household?
Understanding that it’s a commercial, of course, that wants to give you ideas about what not to purchase and give to your significant other. It’s all funny and cute. It made you laugh. It made me laugh too, I’ll admit it. It’s all fun and games. Until it’s not.
Sometimes you might be there due to a misunderstanding. Other times, it’s completely legit – generally speaking anyway. Sometimes you might not have a single clue how you ended up there. All of a sudden you are being drug by the collar and asked to crawl in. That’s because nobody ever told you that you should have NEVER purchased a vacuum cleaner as an anniversary or Christmas gift.
Not every man or woman will end up in the doghouse for purchasing an electronic device for their spouse. I know both women and men that would LOVE a vacuum cleaner for a present. Particularly if it’s some fancy-shmancy vacuum cleaner that they dream of doing all the work for them.
Several years ago, we even purchased one for a wedding we attended. It ended up being a group gift for one of my husband’s best friends from college. The couple specifically asked for one. Unashamedly, openly and directly they asked for a robot vacuum cleaner. One of those that runs around your entire house while you are gone and cleans the floors for you. What an amazing gift.
I am sure you have seen something similar on other wedding registries. And if it wasn’t a vacuum cleaner, then it was a kitchen machine of some sort. Or an appliance for their workroom. Whatever it was – none of us wasted more than a second thinking about it. It’s a given – it’s there so we can purchase it. And we know that the folks that requested it will love it when they un-wrap that gift. Guaranteed. You might have had one of these on your own registry or wish list.
Granted, you might argue here – I can already hear some of you saying:- BUT – it’s different if this happens between the couple. Particularly if it’s on their birthday. Or anniversary. Or whatever other important day of the year.
I would beg to differ. With all due respect — is it? Is it really?
You will agree with me if I say that we all have expectations. Expectations of what our married life should look like, expectations of what we want for our favorite holiday, hopes for how our birthdays should be celebrated or our anniversary trips planned.
I believe the disconnect happens when expectations meet reality.
In fact, here is what my question really is: If we assume that there is some unwritten law – but the law itself differs from household to household, and nobody says anything ever – how would you then know what to do? How on earth are you and I supposed to figure it out? Why do we stop asking each other things, just as bluntly and openly as we did before, the day we put our wedding gifts away? Why is that no longer ok?
Did something change? Is there some secret ritual in which each of the newlyweds unwraps their purple colored Predictibility-of-the-future shades?
When was the last time that you asked your partner what you want? Have you ever?
Are you better at it or is your spouse?
Returning to the doghouse theme, allow me to point out one more thing. At some point, particularly if you have spent days or weeks in the doghouse – then what do you do? How do you get out of it? And – if you are the one that sent your spouse there – what do you do to help your spouse get out of the mess they got themselves into? Anything? Do you just observe? Are you on standby until they figure it out?
If you think about it, while your spouse is in the doghouse, they are no use to anyone. You are left to fend for yourself, whether that’s with the house, or the pets, or the job, or the kids. They can’t do you any good while they are there.
So you both lose.
Can you help them win?