My Wedding Gift to Ramit Sethi
For over a decade you’ve helped countless people launch successful businesses, take control of their finances, and begin living their version of a rich life. You’ve created a community of fanboys (and girls) because you give away most of your very best information, resources, and tools for free.
I know you recently got married to your beautiful bride, Cass. (Badhaee ho!)
As a thank you for giving so many people (including myself) the tools to crush it at life, I want to repay the favor.
Just like managing finances, entrepreneurship, getting swole, and sticking-it-to-the-man are your jam… marriage is mine. You can consider this article my (belated) wedding gift to you.
I doubt you’re worried about your marriage failing. (Most people aren’t when they’re in the honeymoon phase.) But here’s the reality of modern-day marriages:
Every year there are roughly 50% the number of divorces in the United States as there are marriages… and that statistic doesn’t account for the people who remain married and miserable
Roughly half of all first-time divorces happen within the first seven years of marriage.
On average, couples wait 6 years after experiencing a major issue before seeking outside help.
I know you always bet on the statistics, Ramit. And there are loads of statistics that show that the odds of you and Cass staying together are not that great… and the odds of you staying together and being happy are even less promising.
But you took the gamble anyway! You bet on love… and for that, I applaud you.
My goal in the rest of this article is to give you what you’ve given so many of us - some real, practical, research-backed advice that will spell out the work you need to do to make your marriage crazy-successful.
I promise not to include any of the cliché advice newlyweds always get from well-meaning strangers, and aunts attempting to sound wise like “You have to speak her love language,” “You’ve gotta put your wife’s needs before your own,” or “Marriage just requires a lot of hard work.”
That shizzle just ain't helpful.
I’ve spent the last several years traveling the United States, interviewing the world’s top relationship experts, and some of the most incredible, dynamic, passionate, and happily married couples. My goal has been to uncover what the most epic marriages have that everyone else misses out on… here’s what I learned:
Stay Married For The Right Reasons
People get and stay married for a lot of reasons. Companionship, sex, social or familial norms, they like being taken care of, they feel like they make a great team, a desire to care for someone, the infamous “for the kids” excuse, or any combination of these and countless other reasons.
In his incredible book, Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch says, “We get married for the wrong reasons because we haven’t matured enough for the right reasons to exist yet. Struggling with the wrong reasons for getting married can produce the right reasons to stay married.”
Any blissfully happy couple worth their salt will tell you in their own words that at the very core of their relationship is a commitment to growth.
Dr. Schnarch often describes marriage as a “human growth machine.” Here’s a beautiful summary explaining why:
“Marriage is more elegant than we dare believe. It can bring you bliss, but it’s harder than many people recognize.
“Going forward will cost you. Progress and personal growth always do. It may cost cherished beliefs you thought could protect you or show you a way out. It will cost you the “self” you’ve been to become who you want to be. You may already be facing similar choices -- not because your marriage is flawed, but because it’s part of marriage’s natural process.”
When you adopt the mindset that the ultimate purpose of marriage is personal growth, suddenly your struggles develop purpose and meaning.
So, during in the moments when she’s frustrated with you for working so much that she doesn’t feel like a priority, you can view this conversation as an opportunity to to connect with and love your wife. You can appreciate her for helping you live a more balanced life, and keep your relationship a priority rather than getting upset that she’s taking all your hard work for granted like you might assume.
Or, when she accidentally throws away the $300 in gift cards you were planning to spend on your upcoming vacation, you’ll see it as an opportunity to practice patience and kindness instead lashing out in frustration for a silly mistake.
Then when she finds the missing gift cards in your back pocket three days later while doing your laundry, you’ll see it as an opportunity to be humble and ask for forgiveness… and you’ll learn that maybe your wife is not as careless as you sometimes think she is
Yeah, you guessed it… I definitely learned from those experiences.
There’s a lesson in every struggle, and an opportunity to become a better man in every obstacle. Developing this growth-mindset early on in your marriage will set you up to create the kind of love most people only dream of.
It’s All About Incremental Gains
You strike me as the kind of guy that despises mediocrity. I’ve followed you long enough to see your #gainz in the gym and in your business.
My guess is that you’ll take this same mentality into your marriage. You want to be the kind of husband that makes Cass wake up every single day and think, “Holy crap… I’m married to Ramit freakin’ Sethi! How did I get so lucky?
The secret to being the kind of husband that has your wife pining after you for years to come lies within what Einstein calls “mankind’s greatest invention:” Compound interest. (Not a foreign concept to you, obviously.)
Legendary marriage researcher and mathematician, John Gottman says, “It’s small things done often that make the difference.”
What are the “small things” Gottman is talking about?
Well, from his research Gottman developed a mathematical model he uses to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. Using this model he found the most influential factor in whether or not a couple would become masters love… or end up in complete disaster.
It’s called The Magic Ratio.
What it boils down to is that the happiest and most successful couples on the planet have a 20:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. And during times of conflict, that ratio drops to 5:1.
The lower the ratio becomes, the less likely a couple is to survive, let alone thrive.
So if you want to follow the 90/10 rule, and invest a small amount of effort and get a disproportionate positive ROI, I recommend you focus on finding ways to fill your day with positive interactions.
A great way to do this is to create habits around the 4 transition periods in your day - when you wake up, when you leave for the day, when you come home, and when you go to bed. Here are some suggestions:
Make her coffee when you wake up in the morning
Write a short love note on the mirror when you get out of the shower
Never leave the house without giving her a passionate kiss (6 seconds or longer)
Ask her, “What’s one thing I can do today to make you feel loved?”
Set a reminder on you calendar to call or text her in the middle of your day
When one of you gets home, give her a long hug and another passionate kiss (6 seconds or longer)
Get rid of all distractions and ask her about her day. Give her 5-10 minutes to connect and decompress. (Remember to listen, don’t fix anything unless she asks.)
Throw a mini celebration for her every time she walks through the door
Always do the dishes together… while listening to your favorite music.
Give her a foot massage
Tell her the 3 things you loved most about her in the last 24 hours
Spend some time cuddling before bed
When she reaches out to you physically, socially or emotionally… respond to her bids for connection
You get the idea.
There will obviously be days when you don’t feel like doing any of this stuff. You might feel lonely, frustrated, or tired. You might be experiencing some serious burnout.
In moments where you’re just not feeling like it, remember, you don’t think or feel your way into a new way of acting… you act your way into a new way of thinking and feeling. In the moments when you’re struggling to feel love towards your wife the best thing you can do is take loving action.
The best lovers are action-takers. They don’t sit around waiting to feel like it first.
Connection in the Midst of Conflict
Conflict is normal for any couple. As a matter of fact, it’s abnormal to not have conflict.
What most people don’t realize is that there are different types of conflict. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that an unironic 69% of conflict within marriage is unresolvable. These are the conflicts caused by unique personalities, temperaments, preferences, and upbringings. (She’s a night owl, you’re an early bird. You’re chronically late, and she’s adamant that you arrive on time. She is cluttery, and you like you have a place for everything, and everything in its place. She likes to go out, but you’re a homebody.)
Perpetual conflicts are the conflicts you can’t escape. You’ll learn to navigate and compromise around them for the rest of your life together… and sometimes it won’t be pretty.
There will be moments when Cass is upset with you over something that seems completely irrational to you (and vice versa). You’ll feel the pull to get defensive, attack back, or just completely shut down. In that moment when you feel yourself starting to react to what feels like an unfair accusation, or when she bumps into one of your figurative sensitive spots, remember what Dr. Sue Johnson says in her book, Hold Me Tight.
[Arguing] couples are trying hard to make sense of their distress, but their formulations are missing the mark. Their explanations are just the tip of the iceberg, the superficial tangible crest of a big block of trouble… So what is the “real problem” that lies underneath?...
Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need, when I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, rely on me? The anger, the criticism, the demands are really cries to their lovers, calls to stir their hearts, to draw their mates back in emotionally and reestablish a sense of safe connection.
When it seems like there’s more to a disagreement than what you’re really arguing about, when you feel overwhelmed or defensive, when, for the life of you, you can’t figure out why she’s upset… remember she’s seeking connection.
Reach out, give her a hug, and say, “There’s something here I’m missing. Help me understand.”
If you can take this gentle and compassionate approach to your conflicts, you will be giving your wife one of the most generous gifts you can give her. You’re reaffirming that she’s safe with you, that she can count on you, and that when things get tough, you’re not going anywhere.
Your moments of conflict can be an opportunity for your deepest connection.
There’s more, but…
Obviously this isn’t the end-all-be-all guide to marriage. It’s just scratching the surface. But I’m coming up on 2k words, and despite knowing that you like a good, long article, I don’t want to push my luck.
I honestly hope you love being married. We need more blissfully happy couples to show others how amazing partnership can be when done properly.
I’m in your corner rooting for you, and if there’s ever anything I can do to help, I’m an email away.
Regardless of whether or not your name is Ramit, if you’re reading this and you want to take these insights and turn them into action, I designed a 7-day love challenge that I promise will give you crazy-awesome, tangible results in your relationship. You can get it here:
Here’s what Allison said about the challenge just last week:
"I've loved this week and feel empowered to take my marriage from mediocre to epic. I've learned that the difference lies in me! I think I've always known that and known that I can't change my spouse but because I have this need to control I expect him to change because I am. If I am, you should cycle. I am left feeling discouraged and let down. This course has broken barriers for me in that I now feel like I can change myself and it's ok. I'm not giving something up or sacrificing. I am growing! I am out of my comfort zone and changing and I am seeing my spouse with new eyes and have significant new respect and love for him."