How much counterintuitive advice do you get?
MY HUSBAND and I have solicited marriage tips from our friends in lieu of wedding gifts. Since we haven't specified a problem on which we need the advice, we've gotten a bunch of broad-spectrum do's and don'ts.
Quite a few have said, "Never go to bed angry," which you've probably heard from an aunt or a radio shrink
One, however, argued that, since people get angry during fights, it would be better to wait until the morning to finish heated discussions.
Well, everything in moderation, I suppose.
Lots of folks have told us that marriage is hard and good work, and that we should be kind to each other.
Two different guys have told me that we should look for evidence of lovingness in our partner's actions, even if it's hidden.
It's good to articulate that sort of common sense, to make it easier to remember in hard times.
We've only gotten a couple of extremely weird responses to our request.
Upon hearing a guy sing the praises of honesty, a woman chimed in to say, "But if you cheat on your spouse, don't tell him just to make yourself feel better."
The rest of the folks at the table suggested that a person in that situation had already disregarded another, more crucial bit of advice.
I asked my husband's great-uncle, a psychiatrist, for his advice as we were finishing a family meal.
The clink of spoons slowed as my new in-laws finished my husband's homemade strawberry ice cream and awaited the uncle's words.
He pondered the question, and then advised us to remember that a human's sexuality changes over time, starting in utero and throughout adulthood.
But I want the weird, offbeat advice.
I want people to tell me things I don't already know and have never considered.
So I went looking to roll my own advice from the conventional wisdom of other parts of my life, hoping to shine new light onto old insights.
In personal finances, the pros say: You get greater rewards for taking greater risks. How could that apply to marriages?
Well, marriage itself is a risky proposition; I've just bet that I'll want to spend the rest of my life with this person, and that circumstances and my mind won't change.
And within marriage, big changes feel risky, just as putting money in the stock market feels risky.
But if you keep your money under your mattress, inflation will eat away at it; if fear keeps you from moving, having a kid, or trying new communication techniques, then your relationship could stagnate.
From my job, doing sales and customer service (read: I spend enough time on the phone that I'm glad my office springs for headsets), I am slowly learning not to get frustrated over things I can't control.
Some prospective customers are jerks, or wish, in the words of my boss, that the product came with an attached clam steamer.
Given that my husband and I are of different religions and races, and I'm not taking his name, and we don't plan on having kids anytime soon, we'll probably hear some insensitive nonsense from acquaintances and strangers, so I'll have to maintain some of my on-the-job patience.
At work, it hurts to have a user unfairly judge the software as lacking. Of course that's frustrating, whether someone's unfairly judging me or my work or my relationship.
When you feel invested in your company or your product or your marriage, attacks on it can feel personal.
But even if the other person isn't treating me politely, I don't have to let that person affect my dignity.
The tradeoffs of trying to fight that unfair judgment might not be worth it.
I've tried to derive some lessons from politics, but everything I think up seems dreary or banal. Should my husband or myself be The Decider? My answer: That's an absurd question.
Bush has ruined "decisiveness" for me, and I have to actively remind myself that it's often a virtue.
But I sure hope neither my husband nor myself ever says, in seriousness, "I'm the decider." I married a democrat, not a tyrant.
If you have counterintuitive marriage advice for me, especially if you've borne it out through experience or if you've found transferable insights in politics, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll publish selected wisdom in a future column.
Sumana Harihareswara writes weekly for Bay Area Living.