A step-cousin-in-law of mine is getting married, so I thought I would devote this column to him, and offer some advice on maintaining a happy marriage. I will use, for absolutely no reason at all, the sayings of the 5th century BC Chinese philosopher Confucius. I suppose it’s not a bad idea, considering the power China will wield in the coming years, to get in their good graces. (Are you reading this, President Hu Jintao?)
“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”
It’s a common belief of married men that they are always in the wrong in any argument. This is not precisely true — it’s not that they’re always wrong, it’s that they’re never right. It’s a subtle difference, I know, but central. Take the advice of Confucius and disregard any injury your wife may inflict. Instead of fighting back when she says you look like a slob, why not respond with, “My you look lovely this evening.” Passive aggression works every time.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Marriage is not a journey of revenge, and I am not suggesting anything akin to murder-suicide. Really, I’m not. I’m suggesting that if you feel in any way slighted by your new bride, refrain from revenging your “honor.” The time it takes to dig two graves will help you put a bit of distance between you and your anger, and, if you don’t end up committing murder, you can use the two newly dug graves for flower beds. She’ll like that.
“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
This should be interpreted sexually. I’ll say nothing more.
“Have no friends not equal to yourself.”
A woman often judges a man by his friends, even after marriage. So look around at all the buddies you’ve been carrying along since high school. If they don’t measure up, drop them like the U.S. credit rating. You’ll eventually have to make the choice between your wife or your friends. If you choose the woman, make sure your friends are up to snuff.
“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”
This is really true, in all senses. Straying from the path of faithfulness will result in pain beyond measure. I do not speak from experience as I am the most faithful and sincere husband that was ever made or married. There are some who would say not to expect the same from your wife, but I disagree. Of course, I live in a fantasy world.
“When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.”
Your wife will expect you to abandon all your faults, so why fear it? Take your faults out for a drive to the country and let them out of the car. It’s the most humane thing to do, for you, for your marriage and for the faults. Faults are like wild animals in that they need to be set free.
“He who will not economize will have to agonize.”
This is truly the best piece of advice for a happy marriage. Money troubles are the cause of much strife, but don’t take the word “economize” too literally. It does not refer to getting hair or nails done, or birthday presents, anniversary gifts, flowers on Valentine’s Day or anything else that she wants. Ever.
And, when in doubt, look to the wisdom of the ancients. I hear Genghis Khan said some right-on things about fatherhood. Maybe not.
Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster