Six secrets

While driving home this evening, I was listening to the radio which was presenting a short review of the book 'Six Secrets of a Lasting Relationship'. Evidently feeling that the average listener would drive into a wall if there was any form of suspense, the host proceeded to reveal the 'six secrets' without preamble:

1. Talk TO your spouse, not AT them.

The way to tell this --for those unaware of the difference between a conversation and a monologue-- was revealed to be body language. If you are accidentally engaged in a single-sided diatribe, your spouse will be tense. On the other hand, if information is being exchanged by both parties, they will relax. 

Now arguably, your spouse is liable to have an emotion response range rather greater than the average poodle, so declaring when they will or will not feel relaxed seems rather arrogant. On the other hand, there's no denying that considering the other individual in any form at all can only be a positive step. I concluded that this book was starting at the basics and turned my attention to secret #2:

2. Don't assume you know what they are thinking before getting all the facts.

The example given was that you might think your spouse did not like visiting your parents because they LOATHED THEM BEYOND ANY OTHER CREATURE ON EARTH whereas in fact, they felt intimidated. The DJ went on to emphasise that there was a difference between these two states, although he made no intimation as to which one was preferable. I vaguely thought the first might be easier to deal with by way of being emotionally straight forward and relieving you of the embarrassment of endless reruns of baby photos. However....

... we had to talk to our partner and remember we're not an X-man with psychic powers. Got it. What's next?

3. Don't say things like 'you always listen to your mother's advice over mine'.

Here, we were told you are not only accusing your spouse of hurting your feelings but of doing it on purpose. Again, our helpful radio translator was there with the warning that this is WORSE than hurting someone accidentally. 

So no random accusations that make you sound like a pre-schooler. Next!

4. Don't be late.

Remember, your spouse's time is as valuable as yours.

Did I mention that this advice was presented entirely from the point of view of the man? I'm nicely generalising it here, but the radio presenter almost always used 'she' and 'her' when talking about the wronged spouse. While faintly amusing from my perspective, it left me wondering about the state of the (male) DJ's own personal life. This concern escalated several orders of magnitude for secret #5:

5. Don't bad mouth your spouse behind their back.... not even to your boyfriend or girlfriend.

.... does anyone else think that if you are talking to your BOYFRIEND or GIRLFRIEND, the exact contents of what you are saying is unlikely to impact your marriage significantly? I'm assuming this was a slip on the behalf of the DJ, since he made no suggestion that a useful tip to a successful relationship would be to NOT SEE ANYONE ELSE. He just ploughed right on with secret #6, which I've entirely forgotten since it seemed negligible after the revelations in point #5.

As I pulled into my driveway, I reviewed the secrets to long lasting happiness that I had learnt: talk to your partner, recall you're not omniscient, restrain from accusing them of intentionally trying to cause you irreparable emotional damage and don't describe them as a puke-ridden cockroach on facebook.

But having a spare girlfriend on the side is no big deal. So long as you're not late for dinner.