Rules for a Happy Significant Relationship

It’s Rules time again: those idjts who wrote the first Rules have written a new volume specifically for marriage. It’s worse than the first one: I can’t decide if it’s more insulting to men or to women, as it seems to assume that everyone is a blathering idiot incapable of real communication. Near as I can tell the moral of the story is that a romantic relationship is about making a man happy and securing an income, and that a smart woman preserves that relationship and finds all her fulfillment on the phone with her girlfriends and mother. I will write up a more in-depth critique later.

For now, the book got me thinking about what I actually think matters in a relationship, and as I have almost 1500 posts and am expecting my Clique Invitation any day now, I thought I’d throw myself out there and just say what I think for debate and discussion. Obviously, I’m interested in reading any others that people wish to add, or defending any that people think are wrong headed.
Manda JO’s Rules for a Happy Significant Relationship

  1. You choose to be with this person everyday. You can choose to leave. If something is not going to change, you have to decide if it’s worth leaving over. If it’s not, choose to stay, and choose to shut up about it. It is reasonable to spend a decent period of time making this decision (say, a year), but it shouldn’t be dragged out longer than that.

  2. You chose to be with an individual, not a gender. Spend at least as much time paying attention to their actual behavior and reactions as you do reading up on what their behavior and reactions are supposed to be. Corollary: Never, ever, ever, listen to someone who claims to know what your SO is really thinking.

  3. You chose to be with an adult. It’s not your job to punish them. Their behavior never justifies yours. If you believe in a higher power, leave the punishment to them. If you don’t, remember that you haven’t done anything to deserve not being a starving, handless, HIV-positive child in Sierra Leone, so there is no need to punish the other person for whatever they may have done. You must always treat them with kindness and respect. If they do not return that kindness and respect, it’s a good idea to leave, but you must do so in a kind and respectful manner.

  4. You chose to be with a reasonable person. If they have some sort of complaint, it is likely valid. That doesn’t mean there isn’t another point of view, but they did not just wake up and decide to make up some shit so they could rag on you.

  5. You chose to be with a good person. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Never attribute to meanness what can be explained by poor phrasing, poor timing, or poor understanding. Furthermore, do not pounce on the possibility of "meanness " in order to free yourself to punish your SO, as detailed in #3 above.

  6. You cannot ever prove love. Just because someone loves you today, doesn’t mean they will love you tomorrow. There’s plenty of people who sold everything they owned, turned their back on family and friends, humiliated themselves in public all because of the strength of their feelings for someone, and a year later didn’t even like them anymore. Corollary: Don’t get in the habit of bringing things to a crisis in the hopes that that will solve everything “once and for all.” Zits are not good analogies for relationships.

  7. Do not mistake pain for intensity : strife and drama are not the inevitable byproducts of emotion. Some people enjoy drama, and as long as they marry each other, that’s fine. Misery is not normal and is not the inevitable price you pay for not being lonely.

  8. It is your job to make your wants and needs known. Trust that the SO is doing the same, and always take them at their word. Be ever vigilant about falling into any other pattern.

  9. Don’t worry about your SO’s motives. The hardest thing in a relationship is wanting someone to want what you want, not because you want it, but just because they do. Be willing to accept the gift of doing what you want sometimes: don’t make the other person pretend that it isn’t a gift so that you don’t have to feel guilty. Make sure you return the gift without grumbling, but without guile.

  10. Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to. Refuse to answer questions that shouldn’t have been asked (even if the actual answer is innocuous).

Hear, hear.

You are a voice of wisdom, Manda

I think this thread will not receive the views or longevity that the OP deserves. You rock.

Very well written! (AFAIK, you are already in the clique, but that’s only the impression I’ve gotten :))

I’d also like to add an additional point. We’ll call it 3b.
If it’s objectionable, please say so.

3b) Because you have chosen to be with an adult, allow them to make their own decisions. This does not mean that you may not express your opinion, rather, respect that the other person is an adult and is capable of making choices.

**Manda Jo for President! **

Ahem, if I may…
#7, an addendum: Most of people’s problems are self induced
( drinking, drugs, money, relationships, food/weight issues, career, mechanical situations & etc. You know, the negative cyclical pattern stuff. if bad things keep happening to you …well…its not the world against you…its you against yourself.

There are three types of people in life: sheep, shepards and sheepdogs. Strive to be the latter two. Most, if you haven’t grasped this by now, are the first.

#10, an addendum: When people ask you their opinion what they are really asking is for you to agree with them. Don’t get your hopes up on anything else otherwise.

Beautiful, Manda JO, and very true. Too many people get into the emotion of a relationship, and so they cut and run at the first sign that something’s different, and so they deprive themselves of what could have been a wonderful, healthy relationship had they just done the work. Which is a shame.


We should make this thread one of those sticky ones and hang it at the top of MPSIMS. And whenever anyone starts a thread asking for relationship “advice,” we can make like Arnold Winkelried over in ATMB and tell them

10 is a beaut…Covers all that idiotic “Does my ass look fat in this?” & “Am I the best you’ve ever been with?” crapola that you KNOW is just gonna come around & bite you in the ass at the end.


To: Pygmalion
From: Athena

This message supercedes previous communication from Aphrodite re: current project.

Instructions follow:

Put down the goddamned chisel, you sad little control freak.

Manda JO, I think you might just be the wisest person I know (in a weird, internet-type way, of course). I am printing your list off because oddly enough, though I think I knew most of that stuff, reading it was a sort of revelation. #7 especially.

The only thing I would add, which I think your list hit on but never fully addressed, is that you choose to be with an honest person. Someone who lies or plays head games with you is not worth being with, especially when it’s early on in a relationship. You can’t dupe or trick a person into caring for you.

One more thing: I think too many people get caught up in this heady, romantisized, orgasmic view of “love,” and then get let down when “love” doesn’t follow through with their ideal. In my experience, love is nothing more than a term for several combined emotions: tenderness, familiarity, empathy, respect, trust, and kindness.

Wow, thanks for all the kind words, guys. I find this sort of thing endlessly facinating to talk about: on one hand it’s amazing that people can function together at all, and on the other hand it is amazing how unbelivably hard they make it. My husband, who is a fairly bright guy, says that #9 is confusing ,so I thought I would give an illustration:

What I am getting at here is that this conversation will posion a relationship:
Person1: Do you want Chinese?

Person2: Not particularly, but if you do, I’ll eat it. It’s no big deal.

Person1: No, if you don’t want it, don’t worry about it. I can eatpizza. (Thinks to self we never get to do what I want!.

This is an issue for big things as well:

Person1: I want to move three states over for grad school. How do you feel about that?

Person2: Well, I like my job, and my friends and family are here, but it’s the next step in your career, so let’s go for it.

Person1: No, I don’t want to do it if it isn’t what you want.

Five years pass

Person1: I gave up my carreer for you!

In both these situations, the issue is that person1 dosen’t want to owe person2 a favor: they refuse to take any sort of gift, either because of pride or because they fear having to return the favor. It limits a relationship to only doing the small set of things both people want, and always results in resenting the other person for not feeling the way you want them to feel. The conversation should go

Person1: Do you want to go to my mother’s for Xmas this year?

Person2: Actually, I’d rather be covered in paper cuts and diped in lemon juice, but we went to my mother’s last year, so that’s fair.

Person1: Thank you.

This post is in no way a reaction to the fact that this thread dropped to the second page. That would be pitiful.

Bravo, Bravo.

This is wonderful. Should be required reading for anyone who attempts a relatiohship.

Unless, of course, the person making the claim is, in fact, your SO.

applause This boils down many years and many dollar’s worth of couple’s therapy. So when is the book coming out?


It seems like the ability to graciously accept a favor is something of a lost art in general. Maybe I just hang out with louts.

Also, though I’ve made no secret of it in the past, I’ll say again that I’m totally in the Manda JO fan club. I forgot to mention it in my first post, 'cause I was too busy being all clever.

**** bumpity bump****

MandaJO, that’s just wonderful. Thanks so much for posting that. I’ve bookmarked it and am planning to give it to several friends.


Not to say that it doesn’t happen this way, but I think you’re overlooking the flip side of this coin: Both people simultaneously decide to give in to the other:

Person1: You want chinese?
Person2: Not really, but if you want to we can go
Person1: (In deference to p2’s wishes) No, we can do something else
Person2: (In deference to p1’s wisher) No, really, we can get chinese.

This used to cause a lot of stress in my relationship with the missus. Really, it’s amazing how stressful it can be when two people are trying to accomodate each other something.

We instituted the “three strike” rule:

P1: Want chinese?
P2: No, but we can if you want to
Start three strike rule
P1: You’re sure?
P2: Yep.
p1: You’re sure you’re sure?
P2: Still sure.
P1: Last chance
P2: Still sure.

And that’s it. Works marvelously.