Cover image for How to be a husband
Title:
How to be a husband
Author:
Dowling, Tim, 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), [2015]

©2014
Physical Description:
274 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"A riotously funny book about how to be a good husband (not like he would know) by Tim Dowling, star columnist for The Guardian. Think Nick Hornby meets Dave Barry--with a hint of Modern Family"--
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399172939
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

While this book is indeed titled How to Be a Husband, please do not mistake it for a self-help book. Tim Dowling--columnist for The Guardian, husband, father of three, a person who once got into a shark tank for money--does not purport to have any pearls of wisdom about wedded life. What he does have is more than twenty years of marriage experience, and plenty of hilarious advice for what not to do in almost every conjugal situation.

            With the sharp wit that has made his Guardian columns a weekly must-read, Dowling explores what it means to be a good husband in the twenty-first century. The bar has been raised dramatically in the last hundred years: back in the day, every time you went out for cigarettes, it was simply expected that you came back. Now, every time you're sent out for espresso pods and tampons, it is expected that you come back with the right sort. And being a father doesn't seem to command much innate respect these days, either. When his first child was born, Dowling imagined himself eliciting a natural awe as the distant, authoritative figurehead; he did not anticipate his children hijacking his Twitter account to post heartfelt admissions of loserdom like "Hi, I suck at everything I try in life."

            Still, two decades of wedded bliss is nothing to sneeze at, particularly from a couple who agreed to get married with the resigned determination of two people plotting to bury a body in the woods. How to Be a Husband is a wickedly funny guide to surviving the era of "The End of Men" (hint: it involves DIY), and an unexpectedly poignant memoir about love, marriage, and staying together until death doth you part.


Author Notes

TIM DOWLING is an American journalist for  The Guardian . He writes a weekly column for  Weekend  magazine. He lives with his wife and three sons in London.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this witty collection, Dowling, a London resident and columnist for the Guardian, offers wry observations on marriage and fatherhood that are sure to resonate with readers on both sides of the pond. Drawing on over 20 years as a husband, Dowling opens with his courtship of his wife-to-be ("When we met... we had no shared interests beyond smoking and drinking") and their wedding, and then goes beyond to offer a series of anecdotes, tales, and observations. A gifted storyteller, he is quick to point out his own foibles during shared adventures such as running out of money mid-honeymoon ("I'll be back," his wife says as she dashes to the bank, "don't eat anything") as well as the everyday drama of life with three kids in tow. Topics include advice for successful arguing (he's a big fan of the "whatever" response, since "everybody walks away with something"), how to handle manly duties such as home repair ("you cannot make the problem worse; you can only move it forward to a stage where professional intervention becomes urgently advisable"), as well as unspoken rules (such as the freedom to steal small amounts of money from each other). This lighthearted romp through married life will have many readers nodding in recognition. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

This book defies easy categorization. In it, Dowling, who writes a popular column for the British newspaper The Guardian, has collected his scattered musings on the role of the human male in modern marriage and molded them into something akin to a memoir. But because the author has chosen to hew roughly to the conventions of a self-help book to cement the mosaic together, the material is long on his personal philosophies and short on narrative. Dowling's humor is dry, self-deprecating, and ironic in the extreme, and his vignettes are absent entirely of warm, fuzzy moments. Unfortunately, his style at times demands patience from the reader; he has a penchant for explaining his tongue-in-cheek theories at a length that borders on tedious. Despite this tendency, Dowling's deadpan delivery, arresting metaphors, and blunt dissection of events for which a more reverential tone is usually held (e.g., marriage proposals, childbirth) are truly funny. VERDICT This title will appeal to middle-aged men who possess a strong sense of irony, and to their partners and wives. It combines prescient and inarguably masculine insights on matrimony with tips that-although intended to be comical-are quite practical (see "The Beginner's Essential DIY Tool Cupboard"). Readers who tolerate (or enjoy) the author's wordiness will be rewarded with a fair measure of knowing chuckles and the occasional, actual laugh; those who've yet to cohabit or reproduce may even learn something. [See Prepub Alert, 8/4/14.]-Chris Wieman, Univ. of the Sciences Libs., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

***This copy is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2015 Tim Downling 8. The Forty Guiding Principles of Gross Marital Happiness Successful cohabitation requires a couple to address many disparate and competing aims, but it may help to think your overall strategy as being analogous to Bhutan's mandated objective of Gross National Happiness. First proposed by the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan in 1972, the concept of Gross National Happiness alloyed living standards, physical and spiritual well-being, environmental impact, and stability to develop an index to measure the nation's progress. And it works pretty well in Bhutan (the land of Gross National Happiness), as long as you're not a member of the 20 percent of the population-- mainly Hindus of Nepali origin--who were expelled from the country in the 1990s. In marriage you and your partner must work together to construct a domestic operation that will make both of you as happy as possible without sacrificing the collective health, security or long-term stability of the partnership. I realize that put that way it sounds boring, which is precisely why I coined the catchy term Gross Marital Happiness. When I said this wasn't a self-help book, that was because everything I know about staying married can be boiled down to forty pretty basic insights. Actually, only thirty-seven--three of these are bollocks--but I wanted a round number. 1. Go to bed angry if you want to. It is often said that a couple should never let the sun set on an argument, but this isn't practical. Some arguments are, by their nature, two-day events: too much is at stake to set an arbitrary bedtime deadline. Faced with a stark choice between closure and a night's sleep, you're better off with the latter in almost every case. I've gone to bed angry loads of times, with no particular deleterious effects. You don't actually stay angry. It's a bit like going to bed drunk; you wake up feeling completely different, if not necessarily better. 2. Not liking cats isn't really a good enough reason to put your foot down. You have to be properly allergic, or weirdly phobic. 3. Marriages and other long-term relationships have a significant public element. Like an iceberg, the bulk of a marriage is hidden from view, but the top bit, the bit that you take out to parties and show off, should appear exemplary to outsiders: charming without being cloying; happy with- out being giddy; entertainingly spiky, but also mutually respectful. Above all, the whole thing should look effort- less. Everybody knows marriage is hard. No one wants to watch you do the work. 4. The question of whether a woman should adopt her husband's surname after marriage (or whether some doubel-barreled compound is preferable) is politically freighted, but what no one tells you before marriage is that changing your name is a huge drag. You'll need to pay for a new passport (£72) and you can be fined for driving on your old license. You'll have to inform your bank, your employer, HMRC, the insurance company, PayPal, and the Nectar card people. You'll need to take your marriage certificate to the bank to cash checks in your old name. Complications resulting from the switch will plague you for years afterward. And the benefits? There are no benefits. It's a complete waste of time. Forget principle and tradition: refuse to change your name on the grounds that you can't be arsed. 5. Even a marriage with healthy levels of communication can't make a dent in the huge stockpile of things that simply never get said. If the pair of you spent all day every day trying to express what's in your soggy little hearts, you'd never manage to get through a box set together. For purely practical reasons certain of your partner's desires, ambitions, and motivations will have to be guessed at. You should also learn to become an efficient curator of your own inner life: display the important stuff, shove the rest in storage, and rotate occasionally to keep things interesting. 6. The time-honored debate about leaving the loo seat up or down is not a genuine source of friction in marriage; only between roommates who don't like each other anyway. The real rule, simple and inarguable, is this: don't piss on the seat. If you have sons, it is your sworn duty as a father to impress the importance of this rule upon them. When it comes to maintaining a happy marriage, I can't tell you what my failure to do so has cost me. 7. The marital bond is also a kind of codependency. The stronger your marriage, the harder it is to refrain from alcohol for two days a week if one of you thinks it's a stupid idea. It's rather sweet that you feel your spouse's refusal to join in amounts to permission for you to backslide, but it's not good for you. 8. When your wife carries on the next morning on as if yesterday's argument never happened, you should interpret her behavior as a willingness to forgive and forget, and not as a sign that she actually has forgotten. The benefit of the doubt is a key aspect of Gross Marital Happiness, and even if she has forgotten there is nothing to be gained from guessing right. 9. If there is a single, immutable difference between men and women, it's that women will almost never pretend they didn't see a heap of cat sick on the stairs. 10.Or at least I used to think so. It turns out anyone can learn this tactic, and quickly become better at it than you. 11.Think of the work of your relationship less as negotiation, and more as navigation. Marriage isn't an ongoing dispute to be settled; it's a lifelong course to be plotted. Also, you should really try to enjoy the journey, because the destination sucks. 12.When it comes to questions such as "How do I look in this?" "Do sideburns suit me?" "Are these trousers all right?" and "Do you like my new hair?" everyone, male or female, appreciates something that sounds like an honest answer. This is not necessarily the same as an honest answer. 13.There is no good rejoinder to the exclamation "I am NOT your mother!" but among the especially not good ones is "Then stop buying me ugly sweaters!" Take my word for it. 14.Spending time together is an important component of Gross Marital Happiness, but it shouldn't seem important; you don't want to feel undue pressure to enjoy yourselves. One of the most solemn promises I have made to my wife is that I will never, ever take her on a minibreak. Doing normal, everyday things as a couple counts as relationship maintenance, in the same way that housework counts as exercise. Walking the dog counts. Eating breakfast together counts. Wandering aimlessly through a deserted shopping precinct together counts. Watching TV together doesn't count, unfortunately, although I'm currently appealing this. 15.One of the easiest ways to make a spouse feel needed is to seek their counsel on a particular subject, as if your spouse were your line manager. Remember: you're just after a bit of guidance or wisdom. Don't present yourself as a mess to be cleaned up, which you also shouldn't do with your line manager. 16.Buy the second-biggest bed you can afford. Even if you are now happy sleeping stacked like cordwood in what is known as a "small double" (that's four feet across) you should think about acquiring a future-proof mattress, one that can accommodate many nights of going to bed angry, strange new sleeping positions aimed at alleviating back or shoulder pain, a six- to eight-year interval in which at least one child with nits is in your bed at all times, and a late middle period where the strict rule you made about dogs on the bed breaks down. The reason you should buy the second -biggest bed you can afford is so you know there's one remaining upgrade available in case of emergency. I occasionally price up a "European super king" (6'6" X 6'6"), which would enable my wife and I to sleep in a T formation. I'll probably never buy it, but I'm glad it's out there. 17.Postal etiquette is important. If an envelope is not addressed to you, you shouldn't open it, unless you have been expressly instructed to do so for the purpose of reading its contents out loud over the phone. This includes any envelope addressed, ironically or otherwise, in the old-fashioned style of "Mrs. [Your Male Christian Name, Followed By Shared Surname], although on these occasions you can on always claim to have made an honest mistake ("I thought it was meant for me!") Exceptions to this rule include any catalog you might wish to peruse over lunch. If an envelope is addressed to both of you, it's fair game, even if your name comes second. Whenever you receive exciting or scary post--test results, medical or academic; stark-looking letters from the bank; very large checks--it's considered good form to wait and open it together. 18.It's okay to steal small amounts of money from one another. Under most circumstances it's acceptable to liberate cash from the pockets/wallet/purse of your other half while he/she sleeps or is elsewhere. The ready cash that exists in your home at any given time is a form of joint savings account, and there is a maximum amount which may be withdrawn without permission or explanation. That figure may need to be adjusted for inflation occasionally, but at the time of writing it's £10. 19.Sharing can be ugly. People misplace stuff, forget stuff, run out of stuff, and neglect to buy stuff--it's human--and in cases where you possess an identical or perfectly serviceable equivalent, you should not be difficult about handing it over to your spouse on request. This includes, but is by no means limited to, travel cards, bank cards, house keys, car keys, your mobile phone, a razor (male to female only, and don't ask for it back; you don't want it), your deodorant, and yes, on occasion, your toothbrush. You should fully expect your selflessness to be reciprocated in your time of need, even if it isn't. 20.A spouse's appalling taste in music must be pardoned, since any effort to improve it is doomed to fail. If you think your spouse's musical taste is appalling, chances are she doesn't think much of yours either. 21.If you don't have someone other than your spouse--a friend, sibling, or colleague--that you can go to a movie with at short notice, you will end up seeing only about half the movies you wanted to see before you die. 22.It is generally acknowledged that a cheap appliance is a false economy, destined to cast a pall of impermanence over your household. But the opposite is true of toasters. The cost of a toaster is in inverse proportion to the quality of toast it produces, and pricier models tend to be less robust, and are responsible for much unnecessary marital discord. A posh toaster is a false extravagance. 23.Never go out on Valentine's Day. As far as relationships go, February 14 is amateur night. Book a table for the thirteenth instead; you'll have the restaurant to yourselves. 24.Remember: marriage isn't all good. Like anything ultimately beneficial, marriage has some unwanted side effects. It can leave participants feeling hemmed in, held back, and harried. It represents an ongoing threat to one's individuality, personal privacy, fulfillment, and freedom. You will be happier once you understand that this works both ways. When you're feeling resentment, for example, it helps to bear in mind that you are also, at some level, resented. 25.Early on in marriage it's vital for a couple to agree upon an easily recognizable gesture--a raised eyebrow, say, or a discreetly pointed elbow--that will henceforth serve to mean "You see this person I am talking to? Please use his name in a sentence immediately. I have forgotten it." 26.Naturally there is a lot of disagreement in any partnership, but make certain you're on the same side when battling outside forces: unfeeling authority, intractable bureaucracy, strangers who have parked stupidly. Mindless solidarity is vital under these circumstances--fight side by side, or run away together giggling, but don't be divided. Occasionally this them-against-us attitude can lead to couples resorting to criminal behavior--like Bonnie and Clyde--but even that can be very cementing, and you know what? I'm not a cop. 27.Love is one of those emotions you occasionally have to talk yourself into. In the teeth of the shit storm of accusation and recrimination that marriage can sometimes turn into, it's vital you take time out to dwell upon all the things about your partner that are admirable, exceptional, and charming. Sometimes it's easier to do this when your partner is asleep. 28.Own your stupidity. Self-awareness is a reliably endearing trait, and over time your spouse will come to admire your willingness to recognize precisely when you have been/are being an idiot. In fact an objective grasp of your own stupidity is almost preferable to not being stupid in the first place, and it's much, much easier. 29.Being married is like sharing a basement with a fellow hostage: after five years there are very few off-putting things you won't know about one another. After ten years there are none. Don't worry too much about having revealed yourself over time to be a weak, irritating, and physically disgusting human being--the trick is to maintain a daily standard consistently above your most unattractive self. Once your partner has seen you at your worst, she'll realize how much effort you're putting in just to make yourself presentable. 30.As a periodic experiment, try pretending that everything your partner says during an argument is factually correct. It's easy to be a good listener--you just close your mouth and sit on your hands--but it can difficult to see other people's opinions the way they do--as the truth--especially when they are wrong. 31.When it comes to marriage, there is no such thing as a false sense of security. There is only security and its opposite, and nothing stays the same for long. Stop worrying that your feelings of contentment may be temporary or illusory; they're all you've got. Snatch them up and enjoy them while they last. 32.Never underestimate the tremendous healing power of sit- ting down together from time to time to speak frankly and openly about the marital difficulties facing other couples you know. 33.The Department of Health currently recommends that men should drink no more than twenty-one units of alcohol per week, and women fourteen, a consumption ratio of three to two. This does not mean you can divide a bottle of wine according to these proportions. If you're married, it's half each--guidelines be damned. 34.A little paranoia is a good thing in marriage; complacency is the more dangerous enemy. You should never feel so secure in your partnership that you are unable to imagine the whole thing falling apart over a long weekend. I can't give you an exact figure for how many sleepless nights per year you should spend worrying that you're going to die alone and unhappy if you don't get your shit together spouse-wise, but it's somewhere between five and eight. 35.Try to speak at least once during the day, every day. If nothing else, it keeps vital channels of communication open and operating. My wife has a habit of ringing me in the middle of the afternoon, wherever she is. Often there is some cryptic pretext for the call ("Measure our sofa and tell me how deep it is") but occasionally she checks in for no reason. "Anything to report?" she says. "I'm watching a YouTube compilation of dogs wearing shoes for the first time," I say. "Sounds rewarding," she says. "I mean the dogs are wearing the shoes for the first time. I've actually seen it a number of times already." "I won't keep you, then," she says. "Take the mince out of the freezer." It doesn't sound much, but on such regular exchanges of inanities are rock-solid marriages built. 36.Most marriage counselors recommend that you say five positive things to your partner to counteract every negative thing you say. If five sounds like a lot to you--and it sounds like a lot to me--that ratio at least gives you an idea of the impact of a single negative comment. Dole them out as if they were unbelievably expensive. 37.On those occasions when you cannot bring yourself to say what you feel, at least try to act as though you feel what you say. If you're going to insist that everything's fine then you should have the decency to behave as if everything is fine. 38.Every partnership is unique: don't feel the need to judge the success of yours in comparison to other relationships you see out there. For the most part, whatever you do to make it work between you is fine, even if no one else seems to handle things in quite the same way. You're even entitled to cherish your relationship's quirks and odd accommodations--just don't mention them to any psychologists you meet at dinner parties. 39.It's never too late to apologize. By which I mean, when it's obviously far too late for saying sorry to do any good at all, you still should. 40.Never bother me when I'm reading. For the sake of balance I asked my wife to contribute a Gross Marital Happiness tip of her own, and this is what she said. My guess is that sooner or later she's going to regret not taking proper advantage of this opportunity. 41.It's okay to talk about your kids when you go out to a restaurant together. You're with the only other person who's actually interested in your kids. Seize the moment. 42.In marriage it's good to express your emotions freely, bar one: surprise. Unless you've just arrived at your own surprise birthday party, looking surprised can be dangerous. It means you've either forgotten something important, or you've misjudged a situation badly. Remember: if you don't look surprised, you aren't surprised. Excerpted from How to Be a Husband by Tim Dowling All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.