Choose Your Twenty Wisely…

Choose Your Twenty Wisely…

Went to the beach with this crew.

Four women at the beach for a long weekend with no kids – yeah, you know we talked a lot. The topic of marriage came up. One bit of marriage advice that several of us said we heard and followed went something like this:

If you can enjoy each other eighty percent of the time and ignore the twenty percent of the time you’re not pleased with each other you’re doing fine. 

And, for the most part, I think that is very true – with a disclaimer. A buyer beware if you will – a caveat emptor as Mrs Dunar, my high school Latin teacher, used to say. I would add that you need to choose VERY CAREFULLY which twenty percent you’re going to ignore.

I say all that because I could have saved both me and Billy a lot of grief had I had a bit more of a backbone when we first got married. I’m not sure it’s even that I lacked a backbone. It’s more like I thought I was being helpful by ignoring every single thing he did – even the things that he could have changed without too much trouble that would have been very beneficial to the marriage. Issues we could have conquered had I just spoken up.

So with the thought of ‘choose which twenty percent you’ll ignore carefully’ here is an example from my journal in 2005. We’d been married for five years and James, our oldest, was two at the time. As you’ll, see we hadn’t quite gotten the whole communication thing down yet.

In case the picture doesn’t show up here is what my journal entry says:

May 8, 2005

Today was Mother’s Day – whatever that means. As usual, no card no gift and no dinner out. Just like Valentine’s. This Christmas he bought my one and only one gift at four pm on Christmas Eve. For my birthday he bought it on my birthday. I told him it bother’s me but he doesn’t change. He doesn’t see what’s wrong with it. It’s stupid to be upset. We’ve got people starving to death and I’m upset about not getting enough recognition.


Okay, yes, it’s true. Billy used to have really questionable gift giving skills. It wasn’t his strong suit early on in the marriage.

The first time that happened, the first time he missed a holiday, it was on him. The second time, well that was on him too. But y’all, by that third holiday, the person to blame was ME. We had been married FIVE years at that point. Why in the world didn’t I just say ‘Billy, it’s Mother’s Day! I want a card and dinner out.’ He isn’t a mind reader. And let me tell you I bet you anything I was martyring the heck out of all that. ‘Oh well, Valentine’s Day came and went and he didn’t get me anything. Poor me. I guess that’s okay…’  There was probably a lot of ‘what’s wrong?‘ from him and a lot of ‘oh nothing‘ from me.

When what I should have said was ‘hey, it really bothers me when you don’t spend time on my gift. It makes me think you don’t think enough about me to get me something.‘ Instead I just stuffed those feelings down and refused to confront him.

Martyrdom does not make for a great marriage.

And yes, I did say in the journal entry that I had talked to him about it but I hadn’t really. What I had done was tell him it bothered me that he didn’t wrap my presents. That ain’t the same thing.


Pictured: two people that were not masters of communication early in their marriage.

The thing is I really did think ‘well, it’s not a big deal so just ignore it‘ but the fact is marriage – my marriage – is kind of one of the very biggest deals in my whole life. It’s a HUGE deal. So, do anything but just ignore stuff that bothers you terribly.

He chews funny? Ignore it. He makes a weird noise when he swallows? Ignore it. He brushes his teeth for too long. Ignore it. These are, by the way, all things I really did complain about it my journals when I first got married. I was SO mature.

Bottom line: learning to be good at marriage takes two people willing to change, willing to do the work, and willing to check your spouses Pinterest boards for gift ideas. One of those things may not be as important as the other. Or maybe it is!

Learn from my mistakes and choose your twenty very carefully.



  1. Mom says:


  2. Amy says:

    Marriage cured me of my passive aggressive tendencies. But it took two years. And I think your 80/20 rule is just about right!! 😊

  3. Kathryn says:

    👊🏻👏🏻🙌🏻 Yes! Also, “learn how to argue.”

  4. Alice Warson says:

    Can’t relate. 20%????. You said 80% good?. Can’t relate.

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