Sunday Snippet: Jim Noonan on Marriage

“But in order for a marriage to work, all disputes have to end the same way. They must end with a compromise. For every god-awful romantic comedy she drags me to, she’s more than willing to cozy up and watch some football. That’s marriage, plain and simple. On that particular day, she won.”

It’s said a man enters a marriage fully expecting that his wife will never change, whereas a woman enters a marriage fully expecting that her husband will definitely change. She’ll stay the girl he always knew and he’ll finally grow up and be a man.

Neither is wholly correct, of course, as reality usually settles somewhere in between. Major life events, like moving in together or changing careers, will always have an impact on your relationship. And the task falls on both of you to adapt to the new situation. And to keep adapting to one another. Maybe she was right after all.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to grooms at weddings is “happy wife, happy life.” Everyone might say that with a lighthearted chuckle, but you get the suspicion that some of these people might actually believe it to be true. While a husband should certainly care about his wife’s happiness, this line of reasoning is incomplete and can lead to a resentful relationship. That’s not happy or healthy for anyone.

Instead, a partnership founded on mutual respect, admiration and positive regard is one that can lead to a long and happy marriage. You need both partners not only to care for one another, but also to recognize that neither partner needs to sacrifice his or her own happiness in order to appease the other. You give, you take and you compromise. You meet somewhere in between.

The passage above comes from the book Life Between Naps, a collection of episodes from the life of Jim Noonan. The book is subtitled as “stories from a full-time unemployed, stay-at-home dad,” which gave me the impression that most of these stories would have to do with the challenges and triumphs of parenthood.

I’m about halfway through Life Between Naps and I’ve only now encountered the first dad-related tale. It involves his newborn and the consumption of a housefly. To be fair, the book is positioned as a collection of essays “about a man and his ridiculous understanding of what it means to be a parent and husband.” And the first half of the book has explored his life as a husband.

That simple insight about the key to a happy marriage can just as easily extend to all the other relationships in your life, both personal and professional. Any one-sided relationship can lead to resentment, especially if one party feels like they are always playing second fiddle, like their wants and needs are unimportant. Compromise. Show that you care. Give a little. Strive for the the win-win.

And we’ll all be happier for it.