Posted by: N.S. Palmer | March 19, 2014

Rules for Relationships

By N.S. Palmer

My rules for relationships. Take them with a grain of salt because I’m currently single:

  1. Keep the romance alive. Don’t miss chances to remind each other of why you got married in the first place (unless it was a shotgun wedding). Surprise your spouse with something that he/she especially likes.
  2. Don’t be afraid to disagree, but focus on the issues and don’t be a blamer.
  3. Don’t be a grudge collector. Forgive and forget. And don’t forget to forget. If you keep remembering something that made you angry, it will keep making you angry. Let go of it and get on with things.
  4. If you need or want something, you should usually say so. That includes in the bedroom.
  5. Be available when your spouse needs you, but also remember that everyone needs space once in a while.
  6. Speaking of space, if the house is big enough, each spouse should have his or her own “private domain,” a room that (except in emergencies) no one else enters unless invited. However, accept in advance that there’s no way to keep the kids from snooping around once or twice.
  7. If you have a private domain, don’t spend all of your time there. If you do that, you’re neglecting your responsibilities to spouse and family, and you might as well be single. They need you and you need them, up close and in person, not sitting off in your own room doing Heaven knows what.
  8. Agree on standard practices in advance: who does what and when, date nights, and so forth.
  9. If you’re unhappy or angry about something, say so. But always remember that you’re talking to someone you love. Be kind.
  10. Likewise, if you’re happy about something or just want to say “I love you,” don’t be shy. Do it.
  11. On a regular basis, do things together as a family. You’re not just separate individuals. You’re a part of something bigger. Schedule some kind of family time at least once a week. “Hello / goodbye” in the kitchen on the way to work or school isn’t enough.
  12. Make friends with your in-laws. They are your family and you are a part of their family. Be so wonderful that they have to realize you’re “good enough for their son/daughter” (but don’t insist that they say it).
  13. (Women only): Remember that men don’t understand subtlety. If you want us to know something, you usually need to tell us in plain language.
  14. (Men only) Remember that women don’t always directly say what they mean and what they want. Make an effort to stay alert for subtlety. If you think that you’re missing some subtext, ask them.
  15. Accept the fact that your spouse is imperfect and so are you. You won’t always do everything right. In particular, there’s no way in the world to be a perfect parent. You’re going to screw it up. Just do the best you can and try not to screw it up too badly.

Copyright 2014 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.

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