What Makes a Happy Marriage? Here’s One Lead Dad’s Secret

I came home on Tuesday night to utter disaster. I’d been in New York City for a series of meetings to increase the reach of The Company of Dads. But what I saw when I opened the door looked like a crime scene.

Everything was taped up and sealed off with hermetic precision, like CSI meets Law & Order.

Nothing bad had happened. The kitchen was being painted. But still I didn’t expect the refrigerator and stove to be mummified. Or our dogs to be barricaded in the mud room with a plastic curtain between them and their treat jar.

I’d purposively removed myself from the painting and every other decorating decision. Not in a huff or out of anger or displeasure. I’d done so out of benign indifference – and I recommend you do the same. I know husbands who have come to the edge of divorce over drapes.

My wife has been working every day from home since Covid started – something she’d never done before February 2020. She even got rid of her office and made her firm fully remote. So, after two-and-a-half years of being at home more, she wanted to freshen up the downstairs.

When we bought our house in 2016, we negotiated to buy most of the furniture as well. It’s not that the previous owner’s taste matched ours. It’s that the previous owner was an interior decorator and plopping down our otherwise comfy furniture would have looked ridiculous in the matchy-matchy highly-stylized rooms.

We were about to have our third child, so we decided it was good enough for now.

Fast forward six years to 2022 and what was 12-year-old furniture then is falling apart now. We’d gone from shabby chic to shabby shabby.

When my wife and I talked about decorating, I answered her questions with the facts. Could we afford it? Yes. Did I want to meet the decorator? Sure. What did I think about this couch? Do you like it?

After being together for 18 years, I’ve learned – usually through making a mistake – that in good marriages there are shared values that matter: family, community, commitment, education of our kids. What color couch is not on this list. Do I like some of her choices over others? Of course. Do I want to discuss my opinion on upholstery? Not at all.

And that brings me back to my kitchen. I haven’t the faintest clue what color it’s going to be – or when the dishwasher is going to open properly. Without the painted front panel, it snaps closed like a gator’s mouth. What’s underneath the sink wrapped in a plastic tent? I’d rather not know at this point.

But one thing I do know is that our kitchen and living room are being redone and that’s going to make my wife happy.

Being a Lead Dad doesn’t mean I make all the decisions. It means I’m the go-to parent on what matters and that I try every day to be a true partner to my wife. And that means sometimes, it’s better to have no opinion on the rugs.