The Toddler Laws in Marriage, 6 Ways to Have an Adult's Only Marriage In 2009

Relationship Design, Simplicity

Originally posted on February 6, 2008.
A two year old lives in my house (pictured above and now a three year old, but the rules still apply). While she offers a tremendous amount of joy and energy for our household, she carries with her a few laws that determine how she lives. She expects everyone else to know and abide by these laws as well. Anyone who has lived with a two year old knows the Toddler Laws:

  1. If I like it, it’s mine.
  2. If it’s in my hands, it’s mine.
  3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
  4. If I had it a while ago, it’s mine.
  5. If it’s mine, it must not ever appear to be yours in any way.
  6. If I’m doing or building something, all of the pieces are mine.
  7. If it looks like mine, it’s mine.
  8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
  9. If you’re playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
  10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

One of the most primitive drives within us is best summed up in the words “I love me”. My wife and I jokingly refer to this as, “it’s all about me.” This drive has allowed humans to survive. To remain on the top of the food chain. Freud called it the “ID.” And it still drives our consumer culture today. It impacts marriages as well, although not towards marital thriving.
Too often marriages operate more from the Toddler Laws than from love and respect. Childish marriages are everywhere. Maybe even going on in your home.
How do you break free of the Toddler Laws in marriage and enter into one that’s adults only?

  1. Give your spouse the respect another human deserves. Do you treat your neighbors better than you do your spouse? We will treat a stranger better than those we live with. This happens because we may not want to accept the natural limitations that come with a committed relationship. We blame our partner for our plight in life.
  2. Recognize your role in the process. Own up to the fact that you play a part in your marriage and take care of your end of the process. Too much time is spent trying to control our spouse. Relax, let them take charge of their life, leaving you to take charge of yours.
  3. Break it down. You can’t see the forest for the trees. This step involves just the opposite. Stop focusing on the forest and deal with the trees. Often things are not near as bad as they seem. Break the relationship down into smaller parts and address each one. You may find that the marriage is better than you thought; you just couldn’t see each part clearly.
  4. Rely on your own integrity to grow yourself up. Deep down each of us have a core being that we operate from. This part of us cares about others, ourselves, the world around us, knows right from wrong, etc. This “best in us” can handle what the world dishes out. Practice centering yourself and living more from the “best in you” and your relationship will change for the better. Guaranteed.
  5. Keep it simple. Things in life aren’t all that complicated or troublesome. Marriage is the same. Remember why you’re together in the first place and keep that in mind throughout the day. Focus on the essentials of the marriage and don’t get so caught up in the little things.
  6. Plan ahead for the week. Couples seem to wait for things to happen. This leaves too much to chance. Plan your relationship week ahead of time. Schedule time together if necessary. Enter each week with an idea of each other’s schedules. This will allow for anticipation of times together rather than waiting for chance moments. Plus, you can still look for spontaneous moments together.

When all is said and done, marriage is about growing up. To do this, you must recognize that this is what’s going on. Marriage done right is a people growing machine. As you grow, you experience more. You get more. What have you got to lose? Take off the training pants and enter an adult’s only marriage.

A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he’s married. ~ H. L. Mankin