In this era of Dr John Gray (“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus“) and the Peas couple (“Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps“) I am but a small fry to dole out tips for marital happiness. But I have been married (to the same woman) for nearly two decades, I do have some observations, some experiences, some after thoughts, some regrets; a wee bit of wisdom which I would like to share with anyone who cares to read.
PS 1: This piece is a work of imagination. Any resemblance to a person or a place is purely coincidental.
PS2: I have my wife’s approval for posting this piece on my blog.
Rule One: About her Relationship with her friends
Never, ever, get trapped in a discussion about her friends, however provocative the topic may be. The W’s friend may be a vamp in one instance and an angel in the other. Let the W’s perspective change (it always will), not your focus on the W’s happiness. Just do not offer any opinions, keep your mouth shut. Period!
This is typically how the conversation between you and her would go:
W (the wife): I think X (the friend) is useless.
Y (you, the husband): hmm
W: I will teach her a lesson
Y: You should. (go back to your book/ TV remote/ laptop/ staring into the infinite, whatever!
W: I will
Y: You should! (sound emphatic)
A few days later:
W: You know what, X showed up and had a long chat with me. What fun!
Y: Uh.. uh.. wonderful! (try to look interested)
W: She even got me a something (suit material/ trinkets/ sandals etc.) from her holiday.
Y: Wonderful! (stay interested-looking)
A few more days later:
W: I think F (the friend) is useless.
Y: Really? (maintain a concerned tone of voice.. never ever sound weary or bored.
And then let the conversation be dictated by W.
Rule 2: About voicing your views about her friends
Voicing that you think her friends are pretty/ attractive/ sexy or whatever is sure to land you in trouble. Not that she (the wife) does not know, she is likely to be acutely aware of this. Perhaps she knows it better than you do. You just keep your thoughts to yourself.
Or better still, do not have these thoughts at all. Wives have their own way of ferreting out your thoughts.
Never comment on:
- Their friends’ dresses
- Or their looks
- Or their physique
- Or their demeanour
- Or, or, God help you, they are sexy.
Rule Three: About the wife’s mysterious “hmmmms”
Always beware of her hmmmms. I do not know how many have encountered these mysterious hmmmms, but whenever you do, beware! They could mean anything from an expression of wistfulness to a question to a complaint .… to just being an aid to chat-continuity. You may ignore her hmmmms and counter it with silence at your own peril.
You want to know the response to her hmmmm? You should do another hmmmm, with a very concerned tone of voice. And then steady your eyes on hers, with some dexterous eyebrow movement, as if eliciting an answer. Of course she will not respond and she will expect you to speak out. Which you should.
Some suggested interjections at this juncture are: “What happened?” “Kya hua?”. “Kee holo?” “Enna ma”? Never ever say what you can do for her, in whatever language. You shall never hear the end of this then. Starting from the day when the two of you got married, whether it was 6 months ago or 60 years ago! I should know, my parents have been married now for more than 60 years!
Rule Four: About her questions on some weighty matters
Very often you would be accosted with her question about her weight. “Do you think I have gained weight over the last few days”? The answer to this is rather tricky, and specific to the wife who questions. This is a perilous track, tread on it very, very carefully. Many a marital relation have been strengthened or weakened on this momentous question. There is a corollary to this question, which I find it easier to address here. “Do you think I have lost weight?” This is popped to the unsuspecting husband by the wife who is a full THREE days into evening walks. Never mind if these walks are gentle strolls in the park at a leisurely speed of 1 km per hour, punctuated by stops every 100 meters to catch up with her friends. A walk is a walk. Especially if the accessories have been shopped for newly, a new pair of sneakers, a new pair of slacks and a T shirt.
You must always say, “Yes!” with a pretty studied tone of voice. If you are emphatic, it will be construed to be flippant and derogatory. If too cursory then you are accused of being indifferent. You have to figure out for yourself what the right voice modulation is. Suffice it to say that you must always agree, yes she has lost weight.
If you think you are left off the hook with your answer, brace yourself for the lethal one: “Where do you think I have lost weight from?” Now this is one hell of a question requiring careful thinking. “Dunno” is NEVER the answer. Weigh the question, but only for a very short time. Strike back with your answer, quick. Now this too is dependant on what you have sensed is her pain (=gain) area. So be prepared!
Rule Five: About maid-servants
Discussions on maid servants and the attached woes are best handled by agreeing to whatever the wife has to say. Never EVER get involved in deciding upon a maid’s appointment. Or the maid’s salary. Or her work timings. Or her disappointments. Maid-management is strictly a wife’s domain, and keep it that way; do not even as much a proffer a suggestion. If you try and act helpful you will always be told to shut up. Like: “Are you around to handle the maid-servants? What do you know about about maid-servants?” True. You do not know a bit about the maid-servants, and keep the discussion on those lines. Stay SHUT.
Unless, of course, the maid has seduced your married driver. On whom you have slightly better control. Take charge then, sack the driver!
Rule Six: About Lessons in History
One great difference between a husband and a wife is that a wife is an undisputed expert in history. Never mind if she is a D. Litt in English Literature. The husband is never the history expert. Even if he is a Ph. D. in Ancient History. She knows exactly what happened, when. Pleasant or unpleasant. The husband rarely does, which he discovers ever so often at his own peril.
The pleasant ones: The basic ones first. Never forget the birthdays and anniversaries. Period. And this includes yours, hers and sundry other relatives. The husbands who are advanced practitioners of this do not forget the gift they bought for their wives for which occasion. Sample this discussion:
W (after dressing up for a party): “ How do I look today?”
H (also dressed for the party): “You look good.” (smart answer, but that won’t get you far.)
W (quizzical smile on her face): “hmmmmm”
H (innocent chap is content with keeping quiet, says nothing)
W (after a longish pause as you are buckling your belt): “Achha, tell me how does the dress look?”
H: Um, uhh, pretty good. (he thinks the questions are over)
H (about to fetch the car keys before he steps out of the house.)
W: “Remember you bought this?”
H: “Uh, uhh, really?” (he had indeed bought this dress for her in a weak moment of his a few years ago.)
Mr husband, the unsuspecting, has just been instrumental in unleashing a torrent of history lessons for himself.
“What do you know?”
“What have you ever known?”
“You will never know”
The hapless husband is reduced to a bundle of nerves. This is a no-win situation. Which is resolved by yet another gift from some other travel/ occasion. Which is fuel for yet another round of such discussions.
No-win and endless.
There are multiple examples of unpleasant ones, all those who have been married or in a relationship would know. Like:
“ Remember the last time we went to buy the pressure cooker (that was some 57 years ago) and you forgot your wallet.”
“Remember how kid-the-elder cried through the night and you slept through it.”
And those how-can-you-forgets:
“How can you forget what I did for your cousins twice removed when they came visiting us.”
“How can you forget that dinner I made for your colleagues?” (You can forget, as that was 12 years ago. You can forget, at your own peril)
These discussions, as the aforementioned ones, are no-win and endless.
Practical advice: You can never be good in history. Perish the thought. Just reconcile yourself to this fact.
Rule Seven: About the perils of shopping
There are many. Be aware that any joint shopping expedition is bound to lead to, to put it mildly, disagreements. Always. But the good thing is that eventually this results in agreements. You agreeing with her. Always!
If you go to buy a pink raincoat for your little daughter, be prepared to return with a blue shower curtain. That is still understandable: the domain is the same, protection from water. Consider this: You go to buy a humble toothbrush for yourself, and what you have delivered home instead is a spanking new frost-free 365L refrigerator.
Find it familiar?
Such rules are the some of the fundamentals on which a strong marital bond is based on.
Forget the rules at your own peril!