Marriage Rules

Marriage Rules. We Have Them.

My husband and I created new rules for our relationship last month.

We’ve always had rules. When you tend towards high drama and using people to feel better about yourself, you need rules to have a healthy relationship. Or, at least, we do.

We came up with our first rule while sitting outside the house that Scott rented with his 3 med school roommates. We were 24 years old and had been dating a month. The rule was: We couldn’t break up.

Now, it wasn’t that we had to be TOGETHER FOREVER. It’s just that we couldn’t use I’m breaking up with you as a tool in our fights — to up the ante. This rule morphed into not using the word divorce as a way to plunge the knife a little deeper in our marriage fights.

We added a few other rules about yelling and name-calling and the like, and, for a long time, these rules paid off. They were fantastic. We fought fair. We loved hard. We respected the power of words.

Then we stopped. Well, I stopped. Or he stopped. We took turns stopping. And we kept reminding ourselves of the rules.


Until we realized that we needed new rules. We’re now 32 years old and have been married 7.5 years. We have 2 kids, 2 jobs, 3 cats and 1 house with a yard that was once tended to by a master gardener (who cries every time she drives by her former house. probably.).

It’s hanging in our kitchen.


Then I realized that a willingness to have rules is why I love our marriage.

And the people who don’t know we’re weird, don’t know us at all. And probably won’t like us much anyway.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

29 thoughts to “Marriage Rules. We Have Them.”

  1. Love that number 1 is number 1. All the rest should fall into place after that. Well, except for baths, but maybe.

  2. Love it, love it! It’s kinda like posting the rules in a classroom: you do it so that no one “forgets” the rules. You guys rock! 🙂

  3. You should find someone to cross-stitch them into a lovely pillow for your couch or wall hanging.
    But really – it’s good to check in every once in a while as you are right, things change.

  4. We have rules too. Actually, I have rules to help keep me from freaking out. Number one is don’t keep score. Unfortunately that’s the hardest one to keep.

    Maybe I need to put it on the fridge for a constant reminder.

  5. I think rules are a healthy foundation for any marriage. We use different terminology, but it’s the same basic concept.

    Some of our rules sound silly, ie: Empty your pockets before putting your pants in the hamper so I don’t inadvertently wash your paycheck.

    Some are more serious, ie: You have to tell me what you’re thinking because I’m not a mind reader (my husband lives in his head, a LOT).

    I think the fact that you have them posted makes you a Marriage Rockstar.

  6. *sigh* We really need rules. It’s like the Wild West in our house.

    If the Wild West had chore charts and mistake jars and a color-coded calendar.

    We had rules when we first got together, but, like you said, they have a way of slipping under the pile of life.

  7. We had a real pretty one from Home Interiors. It was brass mounted on polished wood and engraved in Black Old English.

    My favorite rules was “Do not yell at each other unless the house is on fire.”

    If memory serves, she threw it at me one night.

  8. Freshman year of college we were required to write roommate contracts, and I think that was awesome. You guys are even more awesome for having rules for your marriage. I want to do that someday (you know, when I’m married).

  9. OMG this is us “1 house with a yard that was once tended to by a master gardener (who cries every time she drives by her former house. probably.).”

    Thank you.

  10. I guess my marriage is weird too because we definitely have rules like never using the D word in a fight and remembering to be kind to one another 🙂 We haven’t gone so far as to write rules down or post them….BUT we totally should and I am pondering stealing your rules and posting them in my house verbatim except switching out Emily for Alex, and adding “make coffee for Emily each morning” 😉 Your Rules 3 through 5, in particular, ring true for me. I’ve found that I have to remind myself that it isn’t about keeping score. He may not do everything I dream of around the house right when I want him to do it, but he does do a lot, he is a great father, a great husband, and I need to give him credit for what he does do. I certainly wouldn’t want him to point out all of my flaws or everything I don’t do around the house!

  11. The “big rules” – No lying, no screwing other people, no bringing up each other’s pasts.

    The “other rules” – no running out of toilet paper, keep cell phones on all the time, no dog in any of the beds, no kids in mom and dad’s bed after 8pm, no nudity in front of daddy ( i live with 4 women, this applies to the 3 daughters).

  12. Yea, I’m just going to print your list and put it in my kitchen. Thanks for doing our marriage work for us. Two thumbs up for Dad doing bath on weekends (if only we bathed our children as regularly as you do).

  13. I love that your list of rules includes both “giving rather than getting” and “set morning alarm for Alex.”

    It includes both “stop keeping score” and “Dad does bath Tue, Thurs, Weekend”

    These are our kind of rules.

  14. Number 5 would be hard because it’s a little vague and when you’re feeling selfishly ungiving, you can twist the meaning to suit you. Now our rule we have going on this week while on vacation is very clear. We alternate changing poopy diapers.

    I’m next. Sigh.

  15. Some of our rules sound silly, ie: Empty your pockets before putting your pants in the hamper so I don’t inadvertently wash your paycheck. Unfortunately that’s the hardest one to keep. Thanks for doing our marriage work for us. They are very similar to yours!

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