Updated on 02.07.12

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Marriage Advice Edition

Trent Hamm

If I had to give someone advice on how to keep a marriage in good shape, here’s what it would be.

Every day, do two things. One, tell your spouse that you love them and tell them something specific about them that you love. Two, spend half an hour doing something that helps them in some way and expect no compliments or comment from it – do it just because you care about that person. This works better if you focus on something that you know will really matter to your partner. For instance, if your partner loathes doing the dishes, just do them without comment once or twice a week.

Do these two things every day and you’ll be surprised how much better your relationship goes.

Money Lessons Learned from Traveling Well For me, money is better spent on experiences than stuff. (@ saving advice)

Can Money Buy Freedom? It can do that only in a limited sense. On some level, you have to choose to be free from the things that worry you. You can be rich and still be depely worried (and controlled by) lots of things. (@ get rich slowly)

Beware the Entrepreneur’s Recoil If you succeed at something, you tend to become more risk-averse and that often leads to undoing what made you succeed in the first place. (@ jonathan fields)

How to Get the Most from Your Gym Membership & Avoid Burning Out I usually have two things that keep me from really hitting a home run at a gym. The first is the soreness that comes from a period of not exercising. It goes away in a few weeks, but it’s hard to get through. The second is injury and convincing myself to return to the routine after recovering from a minor injury. (@ len penzo)

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  1. Johanna says:

    “For instance, if your partner loathes doing the dishes, just do them without comment once or twice a week.”

    If your partner “loathes” doing the dishes (and you, presumably, don’t mind it so much), why aren’t you doing the dishes without comment EVERY DAY? Shouldn’t you be dividing up the household tasks in a way that results in the minimum amount of loathing from both of you?

  2. Raya says:

    Good advice, Trent. Action speaks louder than words.

    I wonder how many men practice the first part, though :)

  3. Izabelle says:

    If your partner loathes doing the dishes, invest in a dishwasher :)

  4. Maureen says:

    Agree with Johanna.

  5. Adam P says:

    Lol..your for example is kinda crazy. Why aren’t you doing the dishes at least 50% of the time at a minimum..and then an additional 1 or 2 times a week if your partner/spouse LOATHES doing it?

    Maybe you meant 1 or 2 times a week extra to your share of the work is what you meant. Cause this comes off like you meant to say that your partner does all the cleaning and you jump in once a week to rinse a fork under the tap to stop the b!tching.

  6. Tom says:

    Doing the dishes may be a bad example due to the frequency, but cut the guy some slack. Doing something for your significant other, without a “hey look at what I did!” attitude, is fine advice.

  7. valleycat1 says:

    If your partner loathes doing the dishes, your partner needs to grow up. Dirty dishes are a fact of life unless you’re willing to pay for & eat from disposables the rest of your life.

    To me, saying & hearing I love you every single day eventually can render it a habit where it’s said without much meaning. Demonstrate “I love you” every day by your actions, respect and empathy and by meaning it when you actually say it at whatever frequency works for you.

  8. Gretchen says:

    Because one assumes the women should do all the chores, Tom?

    Of course.

    Do all of what your partner loathes and they will do what you loathe.
    Overlap? Split the difference or get a maid.

  9. CNP76 says:

    I second the maid! It may not be the most frugal thing to do but OMG does it save headache and argument about who does what.

  10. Izabelle says:

    Compared to the cost of a divorce lawyer (or, for that matter, the cost of a bout of gastroenteritis from a filthy home), one could argue that the maid is a frugal choice…

  11. Michelle says:

    This marriage advice seems like a no-brainer to me. If it doesn’t occur to you to help out your best friend once in awhile, than you mustn’t be a very nice person.

  12. Mister E says:

    Personally I don’t have a lot of patience for anyone who LOATHES any mundane chore. I mean, it’s DISHES, put on your big boy or girl pants and get your hands wet.

    But having said that, the general advice to help your partner out is undeniably good.

    As far as coming up with specific things that you love about each other every day.. Meh.. My wife is my lover, my partner, and my best friend, amongst other things. I love her every day, and most of the time I even LIKE her too! We work together and help each other out and do nice things for one another “just because”, on a daily basis. But sitting around and musing about each other’s good qualities isn’t somthing that happens often between us, and I think that’s ok, we’re just not that poetic I guess.

  13. kc says:

    @Mister E +1,000,000

  14. Riki says:

    Saying I love you is very important but different people definitely have different styles for communicating their love. I’m a person who says it every day but my partner doesn’t say it unless he’s really moved by something. He also hates it when people say it out of habit so he worried that’s what I was doing.

    It took us a while to figure out how to understand each others “I love yous” but we’re there now. I learned to hear it in his actions and now when I hear him say it, I know it’s heartfelt and meaningful. He learned that even though I say it often, it’s not out of obligation or habit. So, I guess my point is that you have to learn to understand how your partner communicates love. (Then again, he often jokes that he has learned to “speak Riki” over the years so maybe we have more communication challenges than the average couple.)

  15. tentaculistic says:

    I think that if someone took this advice even once a WEEK or even MONTH, then your marriage or partnership will go strong! “I love you” can get pretty mundane, but “I love the way you are kind to strangers” or “I love how your nose crinkles when you laugh” (or whatever specific thing) will stick with you.

  16. Evita says:

    #12 Mister E +1
    I could not have said it better.
    After 20+ years with the same guy, I guess I find media-driven “marital advice” a tiny bit silly, if well-intentioned. Personally, I don’t need daily validation of his sentiments or of my good qualities….
    But each couple is different.

  17. Andrew says:

    Mister E is absolutely correct.

    If you feel you have to come up with something specific you love about someone every single day, how long will it be before you’re grasping at straws?

    “Honey, I love your toenails!”
    “Darling, I adore your choice of anti-diarrhea medication!”

    Give it a rest and it will actually mean something.

  18. Tracy says:

    I find it weird to conflate loathing a particular chore with being childish. Loathing’s an emotion, not an action or behavior.

    I do like this so much “I love her every day, and most of the time I even LIKE her too!”

    Some of my warmest, closest-held memories of my grandmother are her telling me “I like you so much” and it always meant far more than “I love you’s” because the love part – that’s part biological and genetic but the liking, that’s all person.

  19. Suzanne says:

    Injury comes from doing too much too fast as well as poor form when performing the exercises. Look at soreness as a positive thing…that you moved your body and woke up your muscles. Stretching after working out that will alleviate soreness a bit (Advil helps).
    Eating a good diet is only part of the healthy equation…doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, but doing SOMETHING to get your heart rate up and your muscles going is always beneficial!

  20. Gretchen says:

    If you are sore from exercise, 1: stop having to start over and or
    2: do less in the beginning.

    You shouldn’t hurt for serveral weeks.

  21. valleycat1 says:

    What keeps me from continuing my gym membership is that in the past I could go at times it wasn’t crowded and get in & out in a reasonable amount of time. Now my schedule has changed & I would either be there at the most crowded times, or miss sleep by going extremely early in the a.m. (around here the gyms are really busy by 5:30 am, & I have to be at work at 7am) or after dinner (which for me would be after 8pm).

  22. Sam says:


    “Because one assumes the women should do all the chores, Tom?

    Of course.”

    Where in Tom’s comment does he say anything even remotely close to that? It seems to me that Tom is saying that dishes may have been a bad example, but cut Trent some slack because the sentiment was good.

  23. Tamara says:

    I will straight up say I loathe doing dishes. I grew up in a family of 6 and my chore was washing dishes…by hand…every day. So I have a built-in negative reaction to it.

    My exboyfriend and I had a good system, he’d wash the dishes and I’d change the catbox for our (4!) cats – yes, I absolutely preferred cat duty to dish duty! Of course now I’m single so I have the dishes AND the catbox (but only 2 cats now).

    I don’t think Trent tried hard enough with this entry, though. Everyone knows the real way to make a marriage last is to buy your beloved a yellow Neon.

  24. Des says:

    Hating chores and being childish are not at all the same. Hating chores and putting them off, or throwing a hissy-fit while you do them – that is being childish. Being a grown-up means doing things you don’t like because they are good for you or they are your responsibility. It does not mean you magically like all chores. I had to explain this to my 6 year old the other day – he was under the mistaken impression that grown-ups must really love cleaning since they do it all the time. It was a paradigm shift for him to realize that, no, we hate it as much as he does but we do it anyway, without complaint.

    @Tamara – Ha! That is the exact same system DH and I have, only I do the dishes and he takes the cat box. I fully LOATHE cleaning the litter box :)

  25. Des says:

    A little soreness feels good – its a reminder that I did something good for myself the day before. Soreness that is very painful, or prevents you from regular daily activity means you overdid it – the spirit was willing but the body is weak :) Sometimes, it takes more self-control to know your limits and to go slowly than to go all out at the gym. Remember, the tortoise ultimately won the race. You can also work around a minor injury. If you hurt your leg, just focus on your arms, and visa versa. Going for an easy swim can also be a safe alternative, if your gym has one. The most important thing it to form and maintain the habit. As you noted, re-starting after a time off is the hardest part and is best avoided altogether.

  26. Raya says:

    I tell mom I love her every day and she tells me she loves me. I never grow tired of it.

    I don’t think I could say “I love you” if I didn’t mean it.

    Of course it doesn’t go just for mom, it’s the same for each one of the people I love.

    “I love you” – I wouldn’t mind hearing it daily.
    Unless of course I myself don’t love the person who says it. Then it would be irritating.

  27. Tom says:

    Thanks, Sam, that is exactly what I meant.

  28. Joanna says:

    “I love you” is too automatic. We say it 100 time a day. It’s a prerequisite to goodbyes and no longer contains much thought.

    But when my spouse looks at me and says, “I like you so much!”, I melt.

    Maybe we have it backwards.

  29. Raya says:

    Not a hundred times a day. Just once :)

  30. Kathleen says:

    Raya, I’m with you… My husband and I say “I love you” every day because we DO love each other. Even when we don’t feel lovey dovey, we love each other. Isn’t that part of a strong marriage?

  31. Gretchen says:

    My interepretation of Tom’s (and Trent’s!) comments is that you are doing your spouse a favor by doing said hated chores.

    no, you are doing something that needs to be done in order to keep a house moving.

    Dishes are a bad example, though, I will agree on that.

  32. Sam says:


    I still don’t understand where your comment about women being expected to do all the chores comes in.

    Sometimes my husband does the dishes (my chore) for me without asking and I think it’s so sweet of him. Sometimes I take the trash out (his chore) and he is always so appreciative. Are both of these chores part of keeping the household going? Sure. But they are also typically done by one person and when the other steps in and does it to be loving it’s a nice gesture and a reminder of our love and commitment to one another. I think that’s what Trent is getting at here.

  33. Tom says:

    I can give an example from my house of what Trent is talking about. My wife stays at home with our daughter and I work from 7-4. I’m also responsible to put out the trash cans on garbage day and recycling day (two separate days on different schedules, but that’s besides the point). Every now and then, I’ll come home from work and the cans have already been taken back to the backyard where we store them. My wife happened to go outside and move them for me. An annoying task that she did for me selflessly, and I genuinely appreciate it.
    This is my interpretation of what Trent was saying.

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