what’s the secret to a happy marriage?

The Secret To A Happy Marriage: “Yes, Dear.”

Growing up, I often heard my father refer to “the magic words.” Maybe he was hoping to coax a please out of me. Though I tended to be a smart-ass and responded, “Open Sesame!” What my father meant, more often than not, were the two magic words that always opened doors for him (or at least prevented them from being slammed): yes, dear.

I heard him say it to my mother all the time. “And it made me crazy!” My mother recently told me.
“Crazy happy, right? I mean, that’s my wish come true.”
“No, I hated it. It was your father’s way of checking out. He didn’t even need to talk about it, hear it, anything. He could just say, ‘Yes, dear, whatever you want,’ and then continue watching golf.”
“Okay, but you got your way. I mean, you didn’t have to argue about things. You could do things the way you wanted. Make plans for the both of you, arrange whatever you wanted. What bliss.”

But it wasn’t. “Getting her way” meant having an involved partner who was just as excited as she was. What I take for granted each time I wish Phil would just be easier is that at least he’s involved. At least he gives a shit. Maybe that’s what people are looking for, someone to care just as much as they do–even if it means not getting their way… [more after the jump]

A YEAR AGO: A Piece of Strange & Good Old Fashioned Animal Husbandry
2 YEARS AGO: Ruby Red
3 YEARS AGO: Love Sweet Love
4 YEARS AGO: Say Cheese
5 YEARS AGO: Role Playing

But to be fair, if you’re always getting your own way, you won’t mind the occasional objection and will look forward to opportunities that turn “own way” into our way. But when everything has to be “ours,” it becomes a nightmare. I don’t think I’d mind compromise as much as I do if I was with someone less opinionated… about everything. Then I might want more “our” instead of “own.” Hell, I can prove it:

I remember being engaged to the Wasband, who told me he’d come along to register, but only if it was important to me. “You’re the girl. Get whatever plates you like. I’ll go register when it involves golf clubs.” Then I’d pout.

“No, they should be our dishes. I want you to want to go.” I totally pulled a Phil.

I then complained to my father. “Shouldn’t Gabe want to go register? Is this something I should take personally?”
“Absolutely not, Stephanie. No guy wants to go spend the day shopping for silverware. He doesn’t want to compare the weight of this spoon to that one, and does it go with these plates, and what about that… what did you call it?”
“Yeah, right. No man wants to do that stuff. That’s for you ladies to enjoy. You ask your girlfriends, you go decorate and pick out placemats and napkins. All men need are a big TV screen, a comfortable place to sit, and a desk we don’t want you to clean or rearrange.”

None of that advice is true about Phil. Except when it comes to trying to neaten his “piles.” Holy office hell. But that’s an entry for another time. Here’s a slice of life, current time:

Tonight Phil and I were at the bar, and a gentleman across the way mentioned that “All men learn it sooner or later. Some go way too long. But sooner or later, every man gets to that place where he knows it’s just easier if he responds, ‘Yes, dear.'”
I turned to Phil. “Ya, see. Why can’t you attend that class?”
The bartender pipes up. “My father, I’ll never forget it, said to me, ‘Son, you can be right, or you can be happy. But you can’t have both, so take your pick.'”
“Oooh, another good one. Phil, honey, wanna borrow my pen?” He raised an eyebrow.

Nothing. Not even the faintest, “Yes, dear.” Come to think of it, I don’t even think he cracked a smile. I knew there would be no point in pushing things further. I can have conversations with him whether or not he’s actually there. They happen in my head.

Me: So, what’s wrong with just letting a woman get her way most of the time?
Me as Phil: Because with you it never stops. There’s always something else. It never ends.
Me: And you think by disagreeing on every little thing you’re slowing me down? That all the other things about which I want my way will disappear if you fight me every step of the way?
Me as Phil: It’s working right now. I’ve just saved myself from having to discuss our next vacation, the next couple we’re going to have over, the next menu idea you want to plan, the next…
Me: Why do we even bother talking then?

But none of this is said. Instead, Phil just shakes his head. And I know (of course I do) what he’s thinking. “I’m never going to be one of those men who says, ‘Yes, dear.'” And all I can do is roll my eyes and think, “Yes, dear.”

Finally, I turn to him and say, “You need to get laid.” At which point, he downs his drink, smiles, and asks for the check.



  1. You guys went out on a date, only for you to openly mock him in front of two other men? And you wonder why he wasn’t even smiling?

    Jesus. I frankly think you’re lucky he didn’t just get up and leave you there.

    1. I’m pretty sure Stephanie’s rapport with Phil had very little to do with mocking him. It sounds to me that it was the type of teasing that is very blatantly founded on love. Maybe I seek a different type of relationship with men than others do, but that type of dynamic seems pretty sexy to me. No wonder it led to the bedroom…

  2. Last night, I dreamt that I was screaming at Phil about something he had or hadn’t done. I was very pissed off at him, possibly on your behalf, but that detail didn’t make it to waking. There was snow on the ground and a garage, and damn, dream Phil sure can argue. I’m very tired this morning.

  3. My mom hates “yes dear” because she finds it patronizing…. A little too Donna Reed-era maybe. Trying to be a cute husband cliché. it’s almost always said sarcastically. Who wants to be treated with sarcasm when it’s about something thats important to you?

  4. Men are so f’n easy. It’s all about getting laid. My hubby always has an attitude if he hasn’t gotten laid in a while. By a while I mean like 4 days!! My stock in our daily lives goes way down if I’m not putting out. If I’m being a good wife, there is peace in the household. It’s quite simple. And I kinda hate it. I’m looking for Ghandi. Something more than sports and sex. But do I get Ghandi? No, I get Mr. Pig. I know Ghandi is in there, but I feel like I’ve lost him. I wish he would pick up a book and read, or write a song on the piano, or just say something not self-centered. Sorry, I just had to vent today!

    1. So TRUE! And mine won’t admit that’s why he’s such a bear, but it’s so obvious!
      It’s a biological necessity with them – how romantic.

  5. Well maybe if I spelled Gandhi right, I might find him. Just one of those days.

  6. GAH! Who are these women dating, who get all the “yes dear’s”? I think it’s horrible and unromantic, and disrespectful to all, to reduce everyone to these tired cliches.

    My boyfriend – err, husband to be (can’t get used to saying that) has an amazing talent for dealing with me. I’m exceptionally difficult and contrary, and I am NOT emotional (at least, not that I show.) And he doesn’t “yes, dear” me. In fact, he’s one of the few men I’ve dated who doesn’t and that’s probably why I’m marrying him.

    On the other hand, NOT being with a “yes, dear” kinda guy doesn’t mean arguing all the time, like you guys do. There’s a happy medium, a point where you can find an amount of give and take that everyone’s happy with. If you get so worn out that you wish he’d just “yes, dear,” then… I don’t know. That doesn’t sound like a happy situation to me.

  7. My brother once told me that the key to his happy marriage (mind you, this was after one week!)
    were three phrases…”Yes, Dear” “I’m sorry” and
    “I’ll never do it again”

  8. I totally get this. I was with someone for two years who had an opinion about EVERYTHING and thought his way was the best way! Sometimes I think he just liked to argue because that’s what his parents did. Finally, it was too much and I was too tired, I had to end it. When I met my husband it felt just right, enough work to make it exciting, but not too much to make me think, is this really worth it?

  9. See, the “yes dear” thing bothers me. My husband doesn’t ever say that and I think if he did I would hate it! It would make me feel like he wasn’t listening to me and I would be left feeling a little insulted. And I agree with Nikki, it feels unromantic and disrespectful.

    On the other hand though I can be very stubborn, it would be nice to get my way all the time but I wish it could happen from pleasantly discussing thing together! lol I don’t look for fights but “yes dear” would probably instigate a fight from the way I see it.

    Good post!

  10. I’m definitely guilty of resorting to the ‘yes dear’ on more than one occasion. Like when he asks my opinion on what grass seed is the best for our lawn or will I walk the dog everyday because the seeds have to sprout. In return, I like to think that I get my own yes dears back when I come home after an expensive shopping trip or decide I want cupcakes for dinner. We both have so many opinions so much of the time, an occasional yes dear is like a breath of fresh air once in a while. I say take it when you can get it!

  11. My husband doesn’t say “Yes Dear”…his phrase of choice when I corner him for an answer….”you’ve obviously put alot more thought into this than I have”
    …and then he smiles and leaves me to it.
    Gah, I love him!

  12. If my husband ever yes dears me, I may actually resort to physical violence.

    Agreeing with me is fine. I expect and appreciate that.

    But yes dear is pretty damn condescending.

  13. Married 12 years … do NOT like “yes, dear”. But I think the point here is not the actual phrase, but the idea of giving in. In my situation, they are not the same. “Yes, dear” usually comes with an attitude of being patronized, and is almost always answered with the same … and a dirty look.

  14. I’ve never, and will never say “I wish I could get my way all the time.” I’ve had that and I had zero respect for him for it. Plus, he lacked personality of his own, so anything I said was fine.

    It pains me when people say things that generalize men like “men are so f’n easy.” Or rather, damn, do I feel lucky. My about-to-be-husband needs far more than “just getting laid” to be happy. And by “far more,” I mean that in a good way. He doesn’t get grumpy if we haven’t had sex for a few days (rare though that is) – he needs affection & conversation & plain old pleasant times.

    1. Nikki talk to us about your sex life when you have been married a few years and have had a few kids ok?

      Hubby and I were like rabbits before we married 17 years ago. Trust me, things slow. Keeping things active in the bedroom does a world of good.

  15. I’m not sure I understand why everything has to be a zero-sum game. Your way or his way, a “yes, dear” or nothing at all. My husband doesn’t “yes, dear” me and we don’t agree on everything. But I suppose the reason we work things out without too much bother is because we don’t CARE about everything like it’s the end of the world. If I like a plate pattern and he doesn’t, we wait til we find one we both like. If that doesn’t exist, then the decision goes to whoever cares the most about it. We just don’t get too chuffed about the small stuff, cuz at the end of the day, they’re just THINGS. And sometimes, I just care more about having a happy husband than I do about the stemware.

    And in the real issues that do matter to us, we’d much rather discuss things than simply cave in – cuz caving in only breeds resentment (we’ve been there before). We might fight about things, but at the end of it all, we try to apologize for anything we might have said/done that was out of line or misconstrued, because the last thing we want to do is hurt each other. I’m not saying we’re saints here. I’m just saying that if we are pushed up against the choice between being happy and being right, we choose happy. Cuz ego has no place in love.

    P.S. I agree with Nikki. I have been with a man who always let me have my way and I did not respect him. I left him because I was bored to tears.

    1. FINALLY someone has put a finger on what has been bothering me all that time. don’t blow everything so out of proportion and you’ll have a much more peaceful life. thank you, Jade.

  16. As much as my wife thinks that she wants me to be a “Yes Man”, should would so miss fighting with me. Even when I say yes, she continues to fight to get her way (that’s crazy!).

  17. I’d like to quote your own words in your “How NOT to steal on online dating profile” post:

    “An emotionally available man who doesn’t acquiesce because it’s easier than confrontation has a spot beside me.”

    You can’t have it both ways. Compromise often stinks but it’s the nature of healthy relationships.

  18. You want your way. period. And you want him to be as excited about your brilliant choices and ideas as you are. Not gonna happen. He wants you to accept his superior cognitive skills and accept his choices with submission and respect. Not gonna happen.

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