(I originally wrote this for Headstuff.org )
If you want your relationship to soar to the highest echelons of couple’s harmony and satisfaction, take the taxman as your role model:
When in doubt, overestimate the other person’s worth
Assume that your partner is emotionally, mentally, spiritually richer than he/she looks. It’s just that the stress of life is obscuring his/her heart of gold.
If you’ve taken too much, give back
Like the taxman, occasionally, gives you a refund if you’ve paid too much, so you should return to your partner some of the love he/she gives you (after keeping the bulk for yourself)
Give abundant reminders of deadlines
Guessing games like let’s-see-if-they-remember-our-anniversary are counterproductive for everyone: it’s in nobody’s interest that your partner misses the deadline and you end up having to fine him/her.
Pay attention to details
The taxman will never send you a bill for “about this much”. You too, as a partner, should steer clear of woolly, vague statements and stick with the specific.
If your partner is late home don’t say “he/she’s always late, because he/she’s a jerk”. This is too generic. Instead, use relevant details like “she/he’s late on the one night in the year when we’ve arranged to go out to dinner because his/her car is out of fuel as I used it last and left it almost dry.”
Infer from the specific the general
If you make one tiny mistake on your tax return, the taxman concludes that you are a fraudster and, from now on, will treat you to a full tax investigation every year.
As a partner, you too should draw general conclusions from your other half’s slips. If your partner pays you an inadvertent compliment like “good idea, darling”, you should infer that he/she thinks highly of your intelligence not just on this occasion, but all the time, and that he/she considers you one of the cleverest people he/she’s ever met, and that’s one of the reasons why he/she’s so madly in love with you.
P.S. If you are interested in proper marriage advice, you can try The All-or-Nothing Marriage, by Eli Finkel. I‘ve found it a bit technical in certain parts (I’m sure Mr Finkel doesn’t think so, I bet he’s tried very hard to shake off the jargon) but extremely interesting.