An Experiment in Husbanding.

Can Marriage Be Life’s Greatest Asset?

(Read time: 7 minutes)

3 years ago, a Jewish Rabbi named Shalom Arush changed my life forever. And who wouldn’t love a guy with a name like Shalom Arush, especially when he looks like this…

shalomarush

He tells a story about a young couple that sat in front of him in the midst of a typical marital crisis. The woman spoke first.

She, like many modern wives, felt that her husband didn’t have the time for her and the kids, and no matter how many ways she would ask, he still never came home from work on time.

The man countered…

Rabbi, believe me that I don’t waste time. My schedule is simply jammed from morning until night and urgent situations needing my attention are a commonplace. Is this my fault? And, in the end, my overtime is for the sake of my wife and my kids. I wouldn’t come home late unless there was a legitimate reason to.

The Rabbi politely let him finish before responding.

“You’re dead wrong. All of your problems (financial, relational, marital…etc) are because your marriage isn’t your highest priority. The gains that a spouse will feel on both a spiritual and MATERIAL level defy description, once they make their marriage first place.”

The Rabbi had lost me with such a disorienting claim. He had lost me because the claim protests my deeper (and mostly subconscious) persuasion that success as an entrepreneur, or any professional, requires that career takes the throne of my priorities and remain there for, at the very least, a couple of years.

Yet, seeing as my recent pattern of caring about work over marriage had produced little more than paying bills and a miserable wife, I figured giving the Shalom’s derailing hypothesis a test drive couldn’t hurt.

Putting Jewish Rabbis to the test.

I made Shalom’s claim my hypothesis and put the scientific method to good use.

THE TIMELINE.

31 days seemed to be enough of a period to get a substantial read on the accuracy of the hypothesis as any.

THE HYPOTHESIS.

This would be a claim to be tested through the introduction of independent variables &  dependent variables, and measured against one another. I took this straight from Shalom.

“If one was to make their spouse feel more important than any other part of their life, they would experience benefits in all other areas of their life.”

THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLE.

These were the experimental efforts introduced into my marriage that were expected to produce an additional result. In my case, I did the same 4 things everyday to intentionally communicate to my wife that she was more important to me than my career.

One. I would tell her I loved her and one thing I love about her as the absolute FIRST thing I did each day.

Two. I would reach out to her 2-3 times during my work day via call, text, email, FB post or a lunch date.

Three. On the way home from work, I would mentally transition out of work-mode to be able to make her and her day my one focus when home.

Four. I would intentionally emotionally connect with her at least once a day. This often took on the face of a conversation alone, praying together or sex.

I would then rate my efforts day by day on a scale from 1-10. A perfect ten in these PRIORITY POINTS indicated that I executed all four variables with sincerity (as opposed to obligation). My score would drop from there depending on my lack of execution or intentionality. Sadly, you will soon see I have consistency issues.

THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE.

These were the dynamics that are expected to change with the introduction of the independent variable. In my case, I measured 5 different areas of my life on a scale from 1-10 every night before I went to bed.

Quality of Life. A score of 10 indicated general happiness & hopefulness about life. A day of stress, pessimism & short-sightedness was given a 1.

Peace in the home. A score of 10 indicated a day of complete serenity in our home, complete with no fights, no meltdowns & no complaining. A 1, on the contrary, alluded to a consistent presence of conflict. You know, ‘the nights on the couch’ kind of days.

Marital Enjoyment. A 10 was given when my wife and I wanted to be and enjoyed being around each other. A 1 was a day spent wanting to stay at work to avoid her and a deep interest in hiding when home.

Career Flow & Productivity. 10 was awarded for a focused & productive day at work. A 1, indicating an A.D.D & unproductive one.

Child’s Behavior. I gave the day a 10 when my 1.5 year old son wouldn’t exhibit any unwanted behavior such as meltdowns or tantrums. A 1 was reserved for the days my son would randomly walk into the room, melt to the floor and fluctuate between crying to screaming for the next 10 minutes.

To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences demonstrating the eerily direct relationship that making my wife priority number one has with every other layer of my life.

The Results, by the numbers (and obnoxiously colorful graph).

Notice that the way every other color component of the graph above seems to follow the blue line. This implies that my life experience is heavily influenced by the level of intention with which I invest in to my wife. Simply put, when I gave my wife priority number one, every layer of my life profited.

The data doesn’t lie, and apparently neither does the Rabbi.

The Results, by the experiences.

The perks of this newfound priority structure were tangible.

From nights on the couch to expedited conflict. Previous to the last 31 days, it was a weekly exhibition for my wife and I to let our tempers escalate to a level ten and then stubbornly make them remain there for hours as if the emotional efforts of the first one to back down were in vain. Yet, as my wife felt more important to me, I began observing our conflict, though still very much in existence, rarely hit an eight. And even when the tempers did flare, the time allowed for them to hang around seemed to dramatically decrease.

From rants to enjoying the moments. For the most part of the previous year, every time my wife finally got my attention, she had so much resentment and frustration pent up, that we would spend the little focused time we had trying to work through the comment i made 6 days ago. Over the 31 days, she seemed to spend less time making sure I was acutely aware of our relational deficiencies, and subsequently, we spent more time actually enjoying our moments.

From a bottomless love tank to empowerment. Previously, when my wife’s basic emotional needs werent consistently being met, she was far more inclined to pull me away from things I loved and that refueled me. This made for a perpetual cycle of her needing me in 5th gear when I didn’t have the gas in my tank. However, I began witnessing the most bizarre behavior from this previously needy wife. She started asking if I wanted to watch football or grab a cigar with the boys. It was as if the more important she felt to me, the more she championed things that allowed me to relax or made me come alive.

From competing to contributing. My marriage – and it’s constant conflict – went from being the greatest resistance to my productivity to becoming one of my career’s most valuable assets. On the days my wife genuinely felt valued, she advocated for me to invest deeply into my work. It was as if she stopped competing for my attention with my career, and ‘joined my team’ to partner in my career with me. Remarkably, prioritizing my wife OVER my work became a way to invite her IN TO my work.

Having the closest person in my life champion me in my career pursuits has been the most professionally empowering thing I’ve experienced.

And finally, the Conclusion.

When given it’s rightful place in our priorities, Marriage can go from being just another thing we have to maintain to becoming the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.

THEN, THERE’S THE FINE PRINT.

1. Every marriage has it’s own uncontrollable variables. Though I believe the principle to be universal, the investment of making our spouse a priority will return differently to everyone in both practical outcomes and timeline.

2. This 31 day experiment alluded to the return on investment being overnight. And though, in my case, there was very tangible return that was noticed quickly, this is generally not the case.

3. This experiment implies for a man to take 100% of the marriage’s responsibility on his shoulders. However, a healthy marriage isn’t simply the result of a man making his wife a priority – as much as it is two people taking 100% of the responsibility for their relationship and making each other their priority.

(Due to a URL redirect catastrophe and an apparent vendetta Facebook has against bloggers, over 400 “likes” were deleted from this post. That said, feel free to LIKE it again, regardless if you have in the past or not.)

  • http://www.mallorypaige.wordpress.com Mallory

    Ty, I love this!!! I’ve been really thinking about marriage lately, how women and men are so different and how we can choose to “activate” the best parts of each other. In my house, this happens when the woman feels truly loved and the man feels fully respected. Of course, this is difficult to do…especially when pregnancy hormones are involved…however, when we do make that effort, there is such a difference that all aspects of our lives are positively influenced.

    Good stuff, Ty. Good stuff. :)

    Are you familiar with Caroline Leaf’s stuff?

  • http://www.tylerwardis.com TYLERWARDIS

    Thanks Mal! Analee’s reading Caroline’s stuff right now and loving it. Would you recommend anything beyond “Who Switched Off My Brain?”

  • Toby

    Tyler, this is so great!

  • http://Www.eilas.com Laurel Pankratz

    Tyler, this is great. I commend you for being so diligent in this researched. It’s great for analytical minds to see tangible evidence of how we know God has designed marriage. I fully see this in my life as well, as a working wife/mom. Thank you!

  • http://www.Twitter.com/RLJacksonTweets Richard Lee

    Ty,
    Amazing stuff. This is really insightful and honest. Love it. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://e-zign.com Terrell Thornhill

    Ok… so Janine and I work most days literally side-by-side and I notice she’s reading your blog making affirmation noises like women do when they are trying to bait a reaction. Ok… I’ll bite. What’s this all about?

    Other than being a fan of the info graphic, I found commonality in the following: “My wife spent less time making sure I was very aware of our relational deficiencies, which is an extremely natural conversation for women to lead. Subsequently, she spent more time in the moment – making our marriage experience far more enjoyable.”

    That statement is very reassuring and is usually the gateway into what Janine and I call “the Cycle.” And if your theory is correct, I will officially owe you a cigar and a coffee of your choice.

    You are a genius, sir.

  • Mandy ingram

    Tyler ,
    Great work my friend !!!!
    And i applaud you for choosing to take great strides in your amazing relationship with analee and create such things that will impact your relationship and create behavior patters that will last throughout your marriage. Most couples choose to wait until it gets really tough and then try to figure out why it unravels . Knowing your wife needs quality time is a huge achievement into learning what her soul longs for to feel complete in your relationship. Each marriage is kinda like a jigsaw puzzle and each couple has to be dedicated to truly finding out what unlocks those walls and rooms for each of us . Im an acts of service girl so when i came home from taking the kids to school at 7:30 the other day chuck had vacuumed , mopped , did the dishes , took out the trash and cleaned the house . Amazing right ?? But why ? Some would say its because its dirty , no thats a typical day with 3 kids , some would say because I’m lazy , nope if they knew me theres no way they would say that . Or maybe its because as a man he should help with these kids and the house because he lives here to right !!! No all wrong !! Maybe because he’s trying to score points , wrong again .
    When you love your God and you have a heart full of jesus you want and desire to love your wife the way that God loves and adore you !!!! Thats the goal for each of us daily in a marriage !!! Great article ty !!!!!

  • http://www.tylerwardis.com TYLERWARDIS

    Im always down for a free cigar and coffee. :)

  • http://www.tylerwardis.com TYLERWARDIS

    Thanks Mandy… You got yourself a good one!

  • http://www.tylerwardis.com TYLERWARDIS

    Thanks Richard…Just taking cues from the Jackson family. :)

  • Pingback: Good Fathering has Little to Do with Fathering. | tylerwardis()

  • MARRIED DUDE

    I commend your effort and investment of time and energy into not only your marriage but this experiment. However, I think you’re making some serious inferences and conclusions from this very small data set and this experiment which has a lot of ‘noise’ in it. This and your other article have one issue which is that women need to commit to these same principles. Why is it that we’re always seeing articles, movies, shows, and commentary on how men should be better husbands, what about wives? Your theory implies that happy wife = happy life, while this may be true, is marriage about complete servitude to your wife else everything is miserable? Doesn’t that imply that women are essentially ‘blackmailing’ the relationship? Yes, the role of a wife and women in general has changed quite a bit in the last 20, 30 years, however, I don’t think women have found the balance between being equals in society and the workplace and their roles in the home and their duty to their husband/family, vice versa

  • http://www.timandolive.com Tim Chan

    Great experiment. This reminds me of what Tim & Kathy Keller says in their book “The Meaning of Marriage”: When you lose your feelings of love for your spouse, act like you love them, and the feelings of love will follow.

    My wife often feels like she has to compete with my work as well – I guess it’s a sign that they are not feeling prioritized.

  • Amanda

    In a world where the mere definition of marriage is deteriorating it is great to see an article championing marriage. Well done!

  • Tom Cutts

    I especially appreciate the effort to “track” the results of the effort to prioritize your relationship with your wife. You example is quite helpful. It is not enough to make it a goal to do something, there needs to be some measurement of the results to make the effort effective. Thank you, Tyler

  • Jay

    Great work Tyler. Question for you – why do you think the points fell off on the 30th and 31st day, while it stayed pretty even from the 10th – 20th+ days? Maybe I am missing something…

  • Zeke

    This was a good experiment, but it was overly simplistic. I have tried something similar but without the results. I think the results have a lot to do with meeting your partners needs. In your case it seems an I love you/why I love you and calls would meet your wifes needs, and I think this goes back to what is illustrated in the 5 love languages, your wife needs appreaciation, and you showed her appreaciation. it worked out. The thing that I have struggled with is that it is not as easy to show my wife the love in the way she wants because its not natural to me. Either that or she is just too hard to please

  • http://Facebook dougndc

    Now is all we need to multiply the number of engaged, loving husbands is to, offer an all expense paid cruise for two, to get the competitive guys investing in true love. I guess it would also make true love more comon instead of an illusive dream for most. I dream of a cruise.

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    I love this idea Doug. :)

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    ZEKE (@fa04809cb20c9e978aee1e461ce0a11e:disqus:) I completely agree with this. Two things…See #1 in the Fine Print. AND, I’m actually developing a section to accompany this a book project called “The Lean Marriage.” The mentality is that there isnt a one size fits all and to approach investing in your spouse experimentally, learning how to best do so over time.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment…

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    @71f2c1b39075fbcb2eaf64eb5f39a43d:disqus You’re not missing anything other than my inconsistency. :)
    I simply didnt execute the independent variables those days.

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    Certainly was with my wife! And, I love the Keller’s thoughts on marriage. Great book.

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    @4d3ebde0505c657e4fb5c8f432b0f4a8:disqus – Though Rabbi Shalom Arush would not, I would agree with you. See Fine print #3. Hope it helps.

  • Frau Wulf

    Well done, Tyler! I truly agree with this. And can say from my own experience – when you give the wings to your wife to fly, she becomes the wind under yours.

  • LeightonA

    Thoroughly encouraged my man. Love your writing texture. Clear, concise, honest. Big fan!

    I have found it increasingly easy to fall into an ‘all about me’ lifestyle, post wedding ceremony– a reality I was NOT expecting. And the only reason I am aware of this is because the one I share a bed with is an honest no bullshit woman who DEMANDS my full undivided attention (HUGE BLESSING).

    The life-line to every aspect of this earthly life truly is the prosperity of marriage.

    Bomb of a post, Ward

  • http://tylerwardis.com/ tyler ward

    thx @60a611ab1da15c11dad0cf3217bbb830:disqus. And cheers to marrying honest no bull women. :)

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