(Author's note: The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility, set to be released in September by Dogwood Publishing. Between now and then, I'm going to be posting occasional excerpts in this space. Once it comes out, you're all invited to the launch party at Books for Less in Buford.)
One of the most significant issues in any marriage, aside from who gets to take the first shower, is who's in charge. The traditional view is that the husband is the head of the household and that the wife is subservient to him. This is an excellent position for you to take, as long as your wife doesn't know about it.
A supposedly more modern and enlightened view is that marriage is a 50-50 proposition, with equal give and take on both sides. Others might argue that marriage must be, not 50-50, but 100-100, with both partners giving all their attention and resources to make the marriage work. This is particularly attractive if your wife has more resources than you to begin with.
My advice is that you find some way to share the responsibility in your marriage. That way, when things go south, you can also share the blame. With a little practice, you can even become adept at shifting the majority of the blame onto your wife, by saying things like, "I only went along with that because I knew it was what you wanted." This both gets you off the hook and makes you seem deceptively selfless.
Of course, if you're reading this book, you and your wife have probably resolved the control issue long ago. If you hadn't, then you wouldn't still be a family man. You'd be a Single Dad, which is another book, and one I hope never to write.And anyway, everyone knows that in any family the real power lies with the one who makes the most noise -- usually an infant or a teenager (i.e., a really large infant). Just ask yourself who has the most influence over the really important decisions in your life, such as:
... where you go, and when
... when you go to sleep, and how much sleep you get
... what you watch on television
... what kind of breakfast cereal you buy
If you answered "myself" to any of these, put this book down immediately, go out and get married, have a child or two, then resume reading.
The point is that no real family man has control over his own destiny. But it is vital that he and his wife appear to be in control. Nothing is more devastating to the tender young psyche of a child than to find out that he or she is actually running the show. That's just the sort of traumatic realization that can cause a child to become a psychopathic killer, or perhaps a U.S. senator.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer, college professor, and family man. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.