I have a great marriage. Really I do. I’m thirteen years into til-death-do-us-part and I can say with all honesty that I love my husband more today than I did the day I promised we’d spend all of eternity in side-by-side cemetery plots.
And yet... he doesn’t always get the best of me.
It’s the nature of marriage, I suppose, but I know that I can do better. And frankly he deserves better for putting up with me day after day. So this year, instead of vowing to sculpt six-pack abs (yeah, right) or forsake Diet Coke (who am I kidding?) I am going to make my husband the direct beneficiary of my self-improvement efforts. Starting on January 1, I will make every attempt to:
... treat him like a child. I tell my daughters daily how smart and talented and funny and fabulous they are. I hug and kiss them every chance I get. The last words they hear before they go to sleep is how very much I love them. When they screw up, I forgive them—easily and completely. Never have the words “but they know how I feel about them” passed my lips.
... treat him like a stranger. I smile at strangers all day long. I ask cashiers how their days are going, hold doors open graciously and compliment people I don’t know on their shoes or their eyes. When I’m angry or annoyed, I certainly don’t grumble and storm around the mall or the gym waiting for someone to ask me what’s wrong.
... treat him like an employee. I wouldn’t hire a personal assistant and say “figure out what needs to be done and do it;” I would outline my expectations with clear, thoughtful direction. If the job wasn’t getting done, I’d address this fact calmly and with a plan for fixing it. I would do all of this without calling my employee “a selfish asshole who never listens to me.”
... treat him like a boss. When one of my editors tells me something I don’t necessarily want to hear or asks something of me that I feel is too much, not even one time have I thrown a fit, slammed a door or hurled an insult. I listen calmly, react respectfully and it always works out.
... treat him like a gynecologist. (Not in that way.) When I tell her that this hurts or that itches, she gives me the precise pill or potion I need to fix it. I understand that if I went in there and said “I’m not well” she wouldn’t have the vaguest idea how to help me.
... treat him like a gynecologist. (In that way.) Well, honestly. She tells me to get undressed and hop up on her table, and I do it on command, even when the room is freezing or my head hurts or I feel fat that day. My husband should be so lucky.
... treat him like a cab driver. I get in, I tell him where I need to go, and then I shut the hell up and let the guy do his job. I don’t map out his route for him or remind him to turn on his blinker. I trust that he knows what he’s doing, and he gets me there every single time.
... treat him like Modern Family. When Modern Family is on, it has my undivided attention. I don’t check my email or peruse eBay or play Scramble with Friends. If the phone rings, I don’t answer it. If your hair isn’t on fire or you’re not bleeding from the mouth and you interrupt me during it, you’re going to be in trouble. Doesn’t the man I married deserve that kind of respect?
... treat him like a dog. I don’t give my dog long, complicated instructions or laborious explanations for why I’d like him to do something. Instead I rely exclusively on the direct, straightforward language I know he can understand: Sit, stay, come, drop, down, shake. I do this because it works.
... treat him like a dog some more. I lavish my pup with praise for returning a tennis ball... every time. I roll down the car windows for him even though it whips my hair into a rat’s nest. When I walk in the door, I give him a good rubbing. I toss him treats just for being cute. I tell him all the time that he’s such-a-good-boy. I’ll bet my husband wouldn’t mind a piece of that action.
Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer, TED speaker and the author of five books including If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married (Berkley Books, 2011). Find her at JennaMcCarthy.com, Twitter and Google +.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.