The Unwritten Rules of Marriage

By Janey Womeldorf

The Unwritten Rules of Marriage

In marriage, certain rules go without saying: Love, fidelity, honesty and respect. However, it is the second set of rules – the unwritten ones – that cause havoc or harmony behind closed doors.

The first unwritten rule reveals itself months into the marriage – usually around the time the happy couple, or should I say she, is finally sending out thank-you cards.

Her husband appears at the door. “Need any help there?” he asks insincerely.

“Don’t worry, (which he isn’t), I’ve got this,” she instructs lovingly while flexing her stiff, cramping fingers. With zero hesitation, he disappears, eager to get back to where he really wants to be anyway. This, more often than not, will be the garage, which from this point on shall be known as the “man cave.” The man cave is his sanctuary where he will devote countless hours organizing, re-organizing and re-re-organizing his tools so that at a moments notice, he can arise from its depths, his tool holster loaded, ready to save his damsel-in-distress from the enemy leak.

Meanwhile, she dutifully returns to the task at hand, ignoring the stage-one arthritis developing in her fingers. Short scribbles of thanks replace beautifully-crafted messages and relieved, she licks the last envelope, blissfully unaware that she has just sealed her fate regarding marriage’s first unwritten rule: “I also promise to remember, shop for, write and mail all cards and gifts for both mine and your family as long as we both shall live.”

Unfortunately, these same set of rules will also dictate that the kitchen is to the bride, as the man cave is to the groom. He will assume this to be obvious, regardless of her cooking ability, unless she stipulates otherwise. Sometimes, opposites attract, which often means that a woman who cannot/doesn’t cook is naturally drawn to the man who can. However, for everybody else…

A man will never wake up thinking, “What shall I do for dinner tonight?” Men will help clean up and do dishes but leave anything with caked-on grime to soak overnight, safe in the knowledge that it will miraculously disappear by morning. A man rarely needs to try new recipes or deviate from the trusted – that is us – so save yourself the trouble, master eight dishes, rotate them often, and make him take you out for dinner when you don’t want to cook.

As the weeks turn into months, modesty and dignity creep out of the fairy-tale and loving acts like saving “long-distance” bathroom calls until our beloved moves out of ear-shot become a distant memory. The honeymoon period is over and previously-unnoticed quirky behavior and questionable bathroom habits rise to the surface. Some couples follow pristine hygiene rules in this area; however, for everybody else…

The man will continue to use his bath towel, oblivious to the damp stench that would make any woman keel over, until the woman changes it. The woman shall under no circumstances, ever attempt to use her man’s razor. Any woman caught shaving her legs, or worse, her armpits, which she will be the moment he spots the rogue hair sticking from his razor head, shall face his wrath. Only in the direst of emergencies – of which there are none – shall a couple be permitted to use each other’s toothbrush.

The toilet seat. Fortunately, this is not a problem in our household, thanks to my husband’s former room-mate. One wintry evening, after a hefty bar session, my husband awoke in the middle of the night desperate to answer nature’s call. He groped his way into their shared bathroom and sleepily sat down on what he assumed would be the toilet seat. As his naked skin connected with the icy-cold rim, he almost fell into the toilet, courtesy of the wet, slippery souvenir his room-mate had left there. The grossness of the situation jolted him to safety, scarred him forever and trained him to put the toilet seat down, long before I ever entered the picture.

Soap: A sliver to a woman means ten more showers to a man. Admittedly, I used to be like this but changed my ways when the soap disappeared once during a shower. Confused and puzzled, I gave up my search and dried off. About 30 minutes later, as I put on my bra, I discovered the sliver stuck in the small of my back. I pried it off, finished dressing and now consider the soap’s life to be over once it breaks in two.

You will go through the toothpaste stages – the correct way to squeeze and whether to roll up the tube. You will switch to the pump as a compromise then return to the cheaper tube, realizing that you no longer care, you’re just thankful you have teeth to clean. And finally, a woman will never want to finish her book in the bathroom, on the toilet.

Unwritten rules don’t just pertain to the bathroom; they infiltrate every room of the love nest, most notably in the area of tidiness. When it comes to putting things away, some couples enjoy zombie-like neatness; however, for everybody else…

Men know if they ignore an item long enough, it will re-appear days later, clean and folded in their drawer. Just because he puts stuff away in his man-cave, it does not mean he will do the same in the house. Likewise, just because her kitchen is organized, it doesn’t mean her closet will be. And on that note, men get the small one; women get the big one – case closed.

My husband and I recently celebrated 21 wonderful years and now laugh at the things that once seemed important. Every couple is different and so are their rules, especially the unwritten ones, but ultimately, what really matters is not where you squeeze the tube but that your breath is fresh when you say “I love you.” My husband’s quirks are as invisible to me now as mine are to him and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him – except let him use my toothbrush.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close