Eleven years in, Aaron Traister tells us the highly unusual ways he learned to be a good husband. P.S. There's useful info for women in here too.
Work with what you've got (source: MacGyver)
Forget the Cosbys and the Keatons. In terms of TV role models, MacGyver made the big impression. His message: You gotta use what you have instead of lamenting what you don't. MacGyver could defuse a bomb with a paper clip and cook a 12-pound ham with nothing but a sheet of tinfoil and pair of old socks. I think about him when my wife, Karel, and I talk about money. We may not have as much as we want, but we can turn a $30 gift card to Outback Steakhouse into a romantic night on the town. We might not be able to afford a trip to the water park, but we have a hose and a Slip 'N Slide, and after the kids go to bed we have a bottle of merlot to go with it (they don't let you bring wine to the water park). We might not have the house of our dreams, but we have a home we love. We get to live in it together, with our kids, and that's what matters.
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Believe in what bonds you (source: Bill and Hillary Clinton)
Everyone thought that Al and Tipper Gore were the squeaky-clean couple that would last a lifetime, but in a bizarre turn of events, the Gores are no more and it's the Clintons who have been married for almost 40 years. We've witnessed their highs (usually occurring on the campaign trail at places like McDonald's) and very public lows (you know what happened). As a young dating dude in the late '90s, it was eye-opening to learn that people stay together and separate for a million different reasons. And sometimes it's the weirdos you invite to dinner who spend the entire night arguing who turn out to have the surprisingly durable marriage. Over time, I've seen that the Clintons share something bigger than what was, in retrospect, a gigantic but passing disturbance: They both possess unbridled ambition. That love of power seems to have transformed the man who couldn't keep it in his pants into his wife's biggest supporter, someone who truly loves and respects her. Understand each other's goals and long-term desires, and you'd be surprised what you can get through.
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Get busy in the kitchen (source: Jamie Oliver cookbooks)
Jamie Oliver is a pale, gangly dude who waxes poetic about carrots, yet women go crazy for him. Women like my wife. However, I can't hate this man, because his easy meals are actually good and he gave me the confidence to get in the kitchen with Karel. Cooking together after work is a million times better than unwinding on the Internet. You're sharing a steamy space and you wind up with food. I've got everything I need right here, thanks.
Show your love in your own crazy ways (source: Mom and Dad)
Our parents are our first relationship role models, successful or otherwise. I was over at my parents' house the other day and saw an old baby-formula container on their counter, full of M&M's. When pressed, my mother admitted that she fills it up so that when my dad gets light-headed or dizzy, he can just "pop a few M&M's" to get straightened out. My dad has type 2 diabetes. My mom is managing my father's diabetes with M&M's portioned out into an old baby-formula container. yhyuykooooooooooooiuuuuuuu (that's what it looks like when the reality of what you've just typed is so ridiculous that you have no choice but to smash your head against the keyboard). I guess even the worst decisions can be motivated by love: She doesn't want him to get dizzy, she knows he'll forget to eat lunch, so she gives him his "medicine." It's not perfect-but then again, neither is marriage.
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Keep trying to get it right (source: your partner)
Really, this is the most important person you learn about marriage from. There are the little things your spouse teaches you, like "Put the toilet seat down" or "Don't bother me while I'm watching Doctor Who," but there are also the larger lessons. It took me a long time to learn how to fight. I tried fighting like my parents did, but that didn't work because Karel doesn't respond well to yelling. I tried burying it deep down so I wouldn't yell, but that didn't solve anything because I went mute. So now I've developed a very monotone delivery when I'm mad. It's not like Karel enjoys my fighting voice (I basically sound like a robot), but she doesn't tune it out. We don't scare the kids, we don't scare each other-hey, it works for us. I could only have learned to fight like a robot from being married to Karel, and I'm sure she's learned equally valuable lessons from me. I'll ask her what they are just as soon as Doctor Who is over.