Photo: ThinkstockBy Amy Shearn
The Button to the Right of "On"
I know no joy like the joy of crossing something off my gargantuan list, because once I strike an item through, it leaves my brain entirely, like a web browser cleared of its cookies. Well, I just escaped a very trying period during which every night, my husband, who stays up later than I do, would say, "Don't worry, I will start the dishwasher," sparing us both the swishy noise it makes. I would cross it off my list, erase it from my mind browser and go to bed with a clear head--only to wake up to a dishwasher full of dirty dishes marinating in milk and spaghetti sauce. Why did he insist on torturing me in this way? After all, starting the dishwasher was no problem: I could easily push that button and cross it off my list on good authority. Why did he want to destroy my sense of well-being in this obviously malicious way? Then we realized the machine had a timer. Yes, some genius at Cut-Rate-Canadian-Tiny-Size-Dishwasher Company had thought to include a marriage-saver button. Now I set the timer to start in the middle of the night, when the gentle whirring will double as a nice white-noise machine, and I can cross the chore off my list. And my children won't have to split Christmas between two households.
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Photo: ThinkstockA Chili Recipe Without Green Pepper
Don't sacrifice your dreams. Don't back down from your beliefs. But those ingredients you can't ever convince him to like? Swap green peppers for red in your award-winning chili and transform dinner into a subtle proclamation of love and understanding.
Photo: ThinkstockA Google Calendar
No one should be expected to remember by 6 p.m. a plan that was relayed to them at a sleepy 6 a.m. Try a coworkerly approach: Share a Google calendar, with all the important events clearly noted. Then, if nothing else, it's all written down, and you have evidence when your partner protests that he was half-asleep when you reminded him about cousin Cathy's coed baby shower. Not that it would ever come to that. But just in case it does.
Photo: ThinkstockA Backup Dessert
The key to happiness: one fruity, one chocolaty.
Photo: ThinkstockA Freaky Friday--or Tuesday
It's easy to think that the person who mows the lawn (fresh air and sunshine!) has it easier than the person who takes the car to get washed (oh, the drudgery). If only we could trade places with our partners once in a while, to really understand what it's like to have that terrible boss, or to be home with those tyrant children, or to have to shave facial hair. We may not be able to magically switch bodies on command, but you and your partner can swap tasks once in a while. Do you usually weed the garden, complaining bitterly that your partner, who is inside chopping herbs, has the easier job? Change it up at least once a week, in some small way.
Photo: ThinkstockThe Updated Medicine-Cabinet Love Note
Instagramming a photo of a heart-shaped rock and tagging your beloved is cute. But what's even better (and will inspire fewer gagging sounds from your friends) is sharing a couples app like Avocado, which offers private photo books and messaging, plus your own personalized emoticons, which are about the most contemporary expression of love imaginable. It's like a portable date night!
Photo: ThinkstockA Hair Stopper for the Shower Drain
Photo: ThinkstockYour Own Personal Four-Word Bumper Sticker
Can we give you a phrase that sums up everything you need to know about life and love? We wish. An inspiring quote you'll want to tattoo over your heart? Yeah, keep lookin'. How about the abbreviated mantra that will prevent you from getting in your own way? Why, we have just the thing: "More spaghetti, less waffle." This was a certain husband's way of reminding himself that for many women, life is like spaghetti (all connected and tangled) and that for many men, life is like waffles (everything separate). So when his wife, who is definitely team spaghetti, grows frustrated with him, he tells himself "less waffle, more spaghetti." All it takes is seven syllables to go beyond simply listening to actually hearing what someone else is trying to say.
Photo: ThinkstockTwo of Everything (or At Least Some Things) You want to share everything with your partner: your heart, your hopes and dreams, your ham and cheese sandwich. Of course you do. But just because you love each other doesn't mean you are suddenly the same person, or compatible in every single way possible. Two bathrooms (or, if that's not possible, two sinks) can save your sanity. His slobbiness is much less likely to become an issue if it's contained to his own closet, and your color-coded wardrobe gets to cloister itself in an entirely separate space. Maybe split-sheet bedding or a "couples comforter" will prevent accusations of blanket-hogging--and enable you to get enough sleep so that you're not cranky with each other. If it's between doing something the conventional way and doing something in a way that makes you not want to wring each others' necks, I'm going to vote for the not-neck-wringing every time.
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Photo: ThinkstockBy Amy Shearn