How Do You Make a Marriage Work?


Ask Naked Pink and Blue

Why Ask Naked?

In a discussion with my husband whereby he was reminding me that the “tone” of my voice (the one that involuntarily comes out when I am frustrated, angry and resentful) was not conducive to eliciting the “prince charming helper” response that I was looking for from him, I asked him:

“How do I get you to hear me? In my mind I have asked for this help [fill in the blank here- empty the garbage, help the kids, don’t put your shoes on the bed,] a million times without emotion, but the truth is – you don’t hear me until I am what you would consider a hysterical Biatch! How do I ask you so that you hear me the first time?”

Without skipping a beat he said, “Ask Naked.” The fact that he did not hesitate and the fact that he was mostly not kidding captured a lot. Ask Naked? Perfect.

Let me get this out of the way right from the get go: My husband is awesome. I love him. We have a great relationship and I am almost afraid to print it because I don’t want to jinx it, but now 18 years into our marriage I am feeling the courage to be a little brazen in proclaiming what we have to the world. It’s the real deal. That being said, I will also acknowledge that there are times we drive each other up the wall. UP…THE…WALL. The tensions and rewards in a committed relationship are fascinating to me. I can mull about relationship issues for hours. In fact, I have.

It was during one of these “mulling sessions” that the concept for this blog was born. A girlfriend and I spent many hours talking to each other and others about our husbands and we came to believe that many issues in committed relationships are largely universal. As this realization unfolded and we started learning hilarious anecdotal solutions to challenges from friends in other relationships, we thought someone needs to write a book with all these ideas. We talked about it for years. Then it occurred to us that better than a book with a few ideas – a blog that could solicit insights from relationships from everywhere and anywhere could be an amazing and entertaining resource!

Our hope is that Ask Naked is a place for real people in real relationships to voice insights and life experiences regarding a dynamic that is ever elusive, frustrating, exhilarating, and mysterious: The romantic relationship.

We are (and aren’t you?) less interested in the “expert analysis” and MUCH more interested in what everyone is REALLY doing! The information we want to gather is from real people, in the real world, soaring, muddling and crashing through relationships. What do REAL couples do about housework? money? sex? gift giving? in-laws? valentine’s day? children? remote controls? anniversaries? religion? What really works? What really doesn’t?

Sometimes there is no better way to diffuse frustration than to recognize that it is a universal and inevitable dynamic – not to be taken personally. Sometimes, there are simple solutions to seemingly impossible impasses (wait until you hear the creative solutions from some of our sources on the topic of housework – like the “3 Strike” rule!). Our goal is to create a community where we can share our real and possibly unconventional solutions with hopes that we can find gems that will help us all navigate the relationship road.

What does it take to be in a happy relationship?

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Housework and the Three Strike Rule

houseworkIf only housework could ever be completely done. If only that blissful moment when you sink into your couch and everything is in its place, clean, and smells good – could last longer than a nanosecond. If only everyone could live with a partner who was in total agreement about what housework should be done, how it should be done, when it should be done, and by whom it should be done!

It inevitably seems like one person in the relationship is much more keen on clean than the other. One person feels burdened with fighting the tide of living in a barn like animals, and the other obliviously benefits from their partner’s work. Tiring, endless, thankless, housework which includes things like never-ending dishes, garbage, that kitchen desk that is a magnet for disorganization and requires purging every week, the mail, the dirt tracked in by the dog, the laundry . . .

Is it possible for two people to have the exact same standards for neatness? And even when they are pretty compatible – aren’t there are always times when attention to neatness ebbs and flows depending on what’s going on, and isn’t that ebb and flow hard to synch with each other?

Just like having different values in purchases (see the MONEY post), we often place different values on what needs to be done around the house. Often times – one person in the relationship – can’t even see the chaos that offends the other, and therefore is incapable of appreciating that it even needs to be cleaned. This can make for tough moments.

For example- dishes in the sink. Not a problem for some – but to their significant others – dishes left in the sink is akin to throwing down the gauntlet. You might as well throw darts at their head. How can these people live peacefully together?

We have a friend who has a disability that prevents her from doing some things. In her home, a window sheds light on the stairwell. The window is very high. The windowsill gets dusty and she can’t reach it without a ladder. First, she will ask her husband to help her clean the window. He might acknowledge the request and agree to do it, but then passively ignore the problem (not because he is a bad guy – he just doesn’t “get it” and the dirty window is not something he can appreciate as an eyesore). She will ask her husband a second time to take care of it, and again, he will fail to do it. When she asks him the third time and he still can’t hear her (maybe because she is not naked?) and the windowsill does not get cleaned – she hires someone to come in and clean it.

Yes, she will hire someone to come into her house for 20 minutes and clean a windowsill. It’s called “The Three Strike Rule.”

She doesn’t get mad. She doesn’t live with a dirty window. And her husband, who clearly sees no need, does not have to climb a ladder and dust. Problem solved.

How do couples decide what is a fair standard of cleanliness and how to maintain that standard? It’s not fair for the neat freak to impose his/her standards on the person who wants to relax in his/her own home (maybe with underwear on the floor and glasses in the sink). At the same time it’s not fair for the neat freak to not be able to enjoy his/her vision of a civilized home.

Assuming there is no absolute standard of a clean and neat home (or is there?), what does it take to be in a happy relationship?


manipulationHere is a question I have had for a long time: Is manipulation in a relationship good or bad?

I know some people who believe that manipulation is great and a necessary part of a successful relationship. I think it is sinister.

The “believers in manipulation” will argue that people in relationships who exercise manipulation are happiest. They will give examples like, “If my spouse cajoles me and compliments me into thinking that I really do want to do the dishes and I happily do the dishes as a result of their manipulation – isn’t it a win-win for everyone?”

I have a friend who understands that her husband is much more likely to do something if he believes it is his idea. She has mastered the art of subtly planting ideas in his consciousness and patiently waiting until he announces the idea as his own. She then compliments him on his brilliant idea and agrees wholeheartedly with his suggestion (ex. let’s buy new furniture for the living room, let’s go on vacation to Florida, let’s move back East to be near your parents). Seriously, who has the time and patience for that kind of craziness?

I am not sure if it is a matter of semantics or a fundamental difference in philosophy. The most generous definition I can concede regarding manipulation is being able to appreciate what motivates the other person or what “language” the other person can hear and then, when communicating your needs to that person, using that language. If that’s the case, is it really so bad to spend time and energy manipulating the other person? In other words, might it not be appropriate to find ways to convince the other person that what you want is in their self interest? Is it just lazy and selfish NOT to do that in a relationship?

The problem is I feel like manipulative communication is disingenuous. Rather than directly and honestly communicating your true emotion or desire, when you manipulate someone you refrain from raw candor. When you manipulate someone you package your message in a way that gets you what you want but doesn’t necessarily let the other person know how you truly feel or what you believe. I think, when you are dealing with your spouse, that is dishonest and weird. I don’t just want to achieve my desired end game – I want my spouse to know what I am thinking and feeling in the process! Is that bad?

What does it take to be in a happy relationship?