3 Lessons Learned From a 38-Year Relationship

Excerpted from FROM THIS DAY FORWARD

We've learned to be considerate of the small things

SR: At one point during this period Cokie said to me, "You're getting better when I ask you to do things. If I ask you to take the kids or run an errand, you're happy to do it. But you don't think of these things yourself." I've learned that's a common pattern. Guys think they're helping out, but taking responsibility, worrying about decisions, is another whole leap.

CR: You still don't think about these things. You'll arrange for a house sitter when we're going on vacation, but you don't know what to tell the sitter because you don't know where the thermostats are. So there's a lot that the woman just does. No matter how enlightened we all become, we still just do it, it's so much easier in the long run. We know that we'll do it right. And we'd just as soon not ask.

SR: But it's not just that. In many marriages women say they want help, but they don't want their turf invaded, whether it's the kitchen or the nursery or whatever. So when they do accept the help, they fuss about, well, it's not done exactly the way I do it. A friend recently told me the story of a married couple where the woman got ill and the man was taking over a lot of the household tasks while she recovered.

As the woman told it, "The real present my husband gave me was not only doing all of these things around the house, but doing them the way he knew I would do them." This was an interesting insight. So often men don't think about that, which is insensitive. Or women get angry at them for not doing things exactly the night way, which isn't always fair either.

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