It’s a touchy subject. Though it’s possible to brainwash and reprogram a human, you’re married and hopefully “all-in” with the person you put your head next to at night. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t intervene as the observant and interested party to help optimize the day-to-day life of your other half. After all, why keep all that life-hacking knowledge to yourself when you can use it to drastically improve the life of your favorite person on the planet?
I’m am an entrepreneur Dad, so my work is a combination of at-home, at-the-studio and around the country. My wife is a stay-at-home Mom; quite the oddity for the average Brooklynite. Our time together is limited, so when we do have it – I want it optimized!
This is the foundation. Healthy diets make healthy, happy people. Wherever your spouse is at a baseline, nutrition is the first line of defense in changing mood, demeanor, outlook, you name it.
My wife suffers from what we now know is Red Skin Syndrome (RSS), which is essentially a withdrawal from years of topical steroid use. In her case it translates to, at times, extreme to mild eczema symptoms. She used to joke that her skin was fine until she met me.
After some time, we realized that my granola habits influenced her to stop using the topical steroids (starting full-on withdrawal) and my Weston A. Price diet wreaked havoc on her histamines (all those fermented foods).
After extensive testing, elimination, thousands of dollars spent on oils, creams, lotions, dermatologists, etc., my wife dialed in a diet (somewhere between Paleo and Slow Carb) that works great for the whole family. Eliminating the food triggers that caused her skin to flare (coupled with a handful of natural healing aids) has made her happier and more excited for life. It was a tough couple of years getting through that.
It’s not uncommon for you and your spouse to be on different sleep schedules, but the difficulty is when you want to go to bed at the same time at night–which can be a great, simple way to get in quality bonding. I’m a morning person and typically don’t need much sleep, whereas my wife needs a lot of sleep – largely because her body has been working overtime to heal the RSS.
I suggest creating a consistent sleep schedule and doing your best to control the sleep environment. I always make a point to go to bed at the same time as my wife and we keep our bedroom temperature consistent (68 degrees) to ensure quality time and a good night’s rest. This seems to work well despite outside factors beyond our control (we live on a noisy truck route).
It’s currently on pre-order, but I’m excited to try out the Sense sleep device to pursue a quantifiable approach to our sleep performance. If you want more in-depth research on how to hack your sleep, Dave Asprey’s work is wonderful.
There’s no manual for being a SAHM (stay-at-home-Mom), so I leaned in with my managerial mind to optimize my wife’s workflow.
Last summer I noticed that when I came home from work, it would be hours until my wife and I could have any quality time together. There was dinner, putting our son to sleep and then dishes upon dishes to finish the kitchen. This hack was a simple fix outside of my wife’s paradigm.
My company is bootstrapped and I’m the breadwinner, so there’s not a lot of extra cash flying around – she is excellent at making do with what we have. However, gaining an hour or more of time together each night is invaluable to both of us. The solution was a small, tabletop dishwasher that, if nothing else, would handle a day’s worth of dish ware, cups and utensils.
Over time you should take note of the things that your spouse isn’t willing to ask for (for whatever reason) and preemptively give or buy that thing if it’s really going to make his or her life easier. In this focus, think of yourself as the “facilitator of happiness.” You don’t create it, you just help pull down the road blocks that lead to it.
Confession: I didn’t read a single marriage book before getting married. My Mother-in-Law gave us The 5 Love Languages and as a lover of lists, I read the overview page and nothing more. Until my book comes out, I think it’s the only book the Life Hacking demographic needs. If you are dialed in to what makes your spouse feel loved, you’re golden.
My wife loves quality time which, as an entrepreneur, is the hardest thing for me to give. But what I can dial in is the intensity of that quality time. To define the QT, I continually dive deep into what she really loves and cares about and give that to her as best I can.
The goal of hacking your spouse is not to manipulate or derail their autonomy, but to offer your greatest insight as a conduit for you both to have a better life together. Like most social hacks, there are some shades of gray as to how this plays out in your life, but each principle is tested and sound. You may find, as I did, that by focusing on the happiness of the person you truly love the most, your own joy is fulfilled.