Recently, I heard of these 10 Rules of Marriage at a homily in church. I am not sure when these rules were written or by whom. A quick search on the internet produces the above. As a responsible and good couple therapist, I like to offer my response to each of this rule based on what I know to be effective in working with my couples and the evidence-based practices.
Here are the 10 Rules:
#1 Never both be angry at the same time.
If this is possible, yes it is good to not be angry at the same time. What I do recommend to my couples is to be mindful of their own anger meter. Typically, one raises an issue when he or she can no longer tolerate it and at this point, the individual is usually quite angry, say at level 8 or 9. At this juncture, unless your partner has excellent temperament and will not react to your intense anger the probability of having a meaningful conversation is very low. A better practice is to ensure that you are calm and have a good idea of what sort of outcome you'd like to have from the dialogue.
#2. Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.
As a blanket statement, I would say yes. Yelling masks the message that you are conveying because all your partner hear is the anger and frustration. The message gets lost in there. Nobody enjoys to be yelled at. If you don't like to be yell at, practise the same courtesy towards your partner.
#3. If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your spouse.
I don't agree with this statement entirely. No one wins in an argument. Either both win or both lose. Argument happens because you have different point of views. At its core, it is about communicating why you have such belief to your partner. Also, being kind is more important than being right. However, if the matter is important to you, have the patience to explain and communicate your point of view so that your partner can understand you.
#4. If you have to criticize, do it lovingly.
I would say yes. If your partner's behaviour is causing you pain then there is a need to address it. Instead of putting the blame or criticizing your partner, identify your needs that are not being met and express that needs instead. Share positive action that your partner can do so that your needs can be met. Don't expect your partner to be a mind-reader.
#5. Never bring up mistakes from the past
I will qualify this and say that only if it has been addressed adequately. What this means is that the hurt party is satisfied that he/she is listened to and validated and able to close the chapter and move on. While what is past is past, it is important for you to understand the hurt and pain that had been inflicted on your partner such that he or she is still clinging on to it today. In my experience, this happens when the hurt has not been acknowledged and the behaviour has not changed significantly.
#6. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
I appreciate the sentiment in this rule but I don't think it should be taken literally. What this statement mean is essentially to prioritise each other. It doesn't mean that you should only care about each other and neglect your work or your children or friends. This is not realistic. One should not neglect oneself, say your mental well-being for your partner. It is also unhealthy where your world only consists of each other.
#7. Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.
This one really gets my goat because some of the couples told me that they stayed up for an argument till the wee hours of the morning because they don't want to sleep with an argument unsettled! A rule like this is detrimental because people can take it literally. There are 2 types of issues; one is a solvable problem and the other is perpetual problem. For the former, if you can find a way to resolve it by all means do it. The perpetual problem by definition is not solvable. The right approach to it is to have ongoing dialogue so that you can understand each other's position and why it matters so much. As a guideline, if you can't resolve a conflict within 1-2 hours, it is unlikely that you can resolve it in 4-5 hours. This is not an effective way of dealing with it. My suggestion is to acknowledge that the issue is still there, commit to addressing it at a later time and express care and assurance to your partner that even though you disagree on the issue you still love and care for each other deeply. Sleep is important! Sometimes after a good night rest, you might have a different perspective on the issue.
#8. At least once a day say a kind word or compliment your partner.
This is works well if your partner's love language is word of affirmation. If not, the kind word and compliment will not mean anything. The broader idea here is to show appreciation to your partner regularly. It need not be a compliment per say. You can do something nice (act of service), linger for a long kiss (physical touch), arrange for a date night (quality time), or buy a small gift (gift). Being polite and careful with your words is always a positive habit as it shows that you cherish your partner. What's more important is to cultivate the attitude of gratitude and express your appreciation. One can never get an overdose of appreciation.
#9. When you have done something wrong, admit it and ask for forgiveness.
Yes to this. Also the best apology is a changed behaviour. There is no point saying sorry repeatedly and not make effort in rectifying the behaviour. Everyone will make a mistake and to apologise for it is to be accountable.
#10. It takes two to make a quarrel, and the one in the wrong is usually the one who does the most talking.
This is a terrible rule if you could even call this a rule. By this logic, those who stonewall will never be wrong because they don't talk. Yes, it takes two to quarrel. The one who confronts the issues cares about it so much that he/she wants to put himself/herself in difficult emotions in order to address it. You cannot penalise the one who makes the effort to care for the marriage. Generally speaking, no one wants to create trouble and engages in long argument for the sake of nothing. It is emotionally draining and exhausting. At the very least, trust that your partner has a good reason when he/she brings up an issue to discuss.
I hope that this has given more clarity and context for these rules. Don't rely on blanket rules like these. What I will recommend is for you to have a conversation with your partner and you set your own marriage rules that you want to abide by.
All the very best!
- I will cherish you
- Invest in what matters
- Marriage Rules
- Being Two for Three
- Cultivate generosity in your relationship
- 6-second kiss
- Aim for 5:1
- Bite-size tip: remember your love story
- Treat your spouse as you would your best friend
- Warning signs of an ailing relationship
- On finding "the one" (version 2)
- Cultivate generosity in your relationship