Unwritten Rules Of Marriage

by Nalini Karunaratne

Marriage is an agreement between two individuals. On the one hand, it follows some obvious rules based on loyalty, honesty, respect, trust and so on, and on the other hand, there are some non-obvious, unspoken or unwritten rules on the same or similar issues, which must also be adhered to, for success as a married couple. With unconventional marriages being more popular and fast becoming the norm today, little or no thought is spent by the couple on either the obvious or the non-obvious rules of marriage. The road to a happy and successful marriage is far from easy, an as today’s divorce statistics demonstrate all too well, many couples opt not to complete the journey.

The non-obvious or unwritten rules of marriage are generally the expectations each person has of the other and generally based on each other’s behavior patterns. Let’s delve a little more into this unspoken topic…

Much has been spoken and written about the important areas of communication and conflict resolution in marriage. However, there are also some practical unwritten rules that should be taken into consideration in these important areas. For instance, when communicating, nod and agree whenever you do. It may be a very simple thing, but when you do so, it makes the conversation more comfortable and pleasant. Then, always express your point of view as clearly as you can in order to avoid any misunderstanding. 

When in an argument or conflict always try to talk softly and resist the temptation to raise the level of your voice. It will only provoke greater conflict. If you sense that the issue causing the conflict is important to your spouse, give in and know when to stop talking. Never say, “I told you so”, as it invariably increases the displeasure. Don’t threaten divorce every time there is a conflict even over a minor disagreement. Watch your speech carefully and refrain from using the word ‘divorce’ unless you intend and mean it 100%. Empty threats only remove your credibility, so don’t threaten anything you are not prepared to follow through. Never keep a record of wrongs, learn to forgive and forget. Remember that when you fight, it’s the two of you versus the problem and never the two of you against each other. When you have a conflict never use the ‘silent treatment’ and stop talking at all with your spouse. It’s the most damaging way of resolving a conflict. Finally, refrain from bringing others in to solve a conflict. In the event of a serious dispute that both find difficult to resolve, go to a marriage counselor.

There are many aspects of loyalty in marriage, which are governed by unwritten rules. Don’t keep secrets that will have a negative effect on your marriage from your spouse. You can keep each other’s individual secrets which you are not inclined to share if it has no bearing on your marriage. In short, use your discretion on what should and should not be shared. Don’t discuss your spouse when he/she is absent, especially about intimate details. And, of course, no cheating, keep your body and mind pure. 

Relationships with parents and ‘in-laws’ tend to disrupt many marriages and there are a few unwritten rules that can help. Refrain from criticizing your in-laws and keep your opinions of the family you have joined to yourself. Even when your spouse criticizes his parents, don’t add fuel to it. On the other hand, when rifts and strains appear in these relationships, strive to mend them, instead of further aggravating them. You will score in your spouse’s estimation, even secretly. Always keep parental obligations and visits and never leave long intervals in fulfilling them. Never try to avoid or dodge them on slight trivialities and omissions. Give parents and in-laws needs priority when they are ageing and need your support. Endeavour to make your spouse’s family, your family as far as is possible even though it may prove difficult and challenging in some cases. Remember that whatever you do, you are working towards improving your marriage.

Some unwritten rules in marriage in the area of finance will help to increase the much needed togetherness that is essential for a happy marriage. The ‘yours and mine’ concept as opposed to the ‘ours’ is very common concept today. It can prove to be a subtle destroyer in a marriage. It is generally seen in the use of bank accounts and other financial investments and hereditary assets. When an extravagant spender teams up with a careful one, this is justified as a natural and practical safeguard. But what it implies indirectly is a lack of trust that can be damaging. Joint financial accounts made with discretion, support a better relationship. Any financial planning for the future should also be done after discussion, jointly as a team rather than individually.

Finally, there are some general unwritten rules that can also be helpful. In the context of today’s living, household chores must always be shared. Personal hygiene must always be given primary importance. The today’s fast-paced lifestyle, the need for one’s own space and a time alone must never be denied. The couple must be sensitive to the emotional and sexual needs of each other. Social behavior must be discussed when either partner has been upset by it. Refraining from discussing it can lead to a reoccurrence that can result in disharmony. Not having a TV in the bedroom has been of great help to some couples who find it an intrusion into their times of togetherness.

A happy marriage is built on always working as a team and not in competition and never taking each other for granted. The law is compromise. It should always be give and take. Sometimes the best option might not allow that, but the best understanding and the general need for each other to be happy will always balance it out. Follow the golden rule for a happy and successful marriage – treat