“The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.” – Albert Einstein

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Golden Rule) – Bible

My wife and I have a number of unwritten rules around the house which help us keep a modicum of order and sanity.

For example, whenever I am available I will clean up and wash the dishes. I do this to share responsibilities and because I really appreciate the time she takes and the effort she makes to prepare the meal.

I also do this because I am not a cook and she is an excellent one.

When making iced tea, I would frequently let the water in the pot boil dry. And my children still remind me periodically how a pizza I was warming up for them was burned to a crisp before I returned to check on it.

Every successful marriage has a set of rules or guidelines that help hold things together and promote harmony in the relationships. These rules may be clearly understood and explicit, or they may be very informal and implicit.

Karen O’Connor, in an article in “Today’s Christian Woman” magazine, suggests five rules that address common issues between husband and wife. I have modified them slightly to outline some guidelines each married couple should consider.

Rule 1: Share everything 100 percent-100 percent. Marriages are successful when both husband and wife put themselves into it 100 percent. For example, it may mean all finances and all household responsibilities are shared equally.

Tasks may be divvied up, but both husband and wife are equally involved in such division.

Full participation is essential when one spouse becomes incapacitated or totally consumed by some job for a limited time.

The other spouse may need to pick up and carry several more balls around the house.

In this case the 100 percent rule becomes even more important, applied by either spouse as the occasion demands.

Rule 2: Balance individuality and common interests. It is always fun to do things together as a family. Lasting memories can be created and the bonding effect is much needed.

We are all created as unique individuals, however, and that individuality should not be squelched in a marriage, although it may need to be tempered

In one family the wife, whose husband is an avid golfer, has learned to play golf so they can share these times and experiences. On the other hand, she also has a number of interests she pursues with some of her lady friends, apart from her husband.

What often brings us together are the different personalities and interests. These differences aren’t bad – just different. Harmony comes when the differences are recognized and accepted and adjusted as necessary through mutual agreement.

Rule 3: Communicate together thoroughly before making decisions. Since we are all unique – and different – full agreement may not always be achievable.

The guideline here is to agree on certain parameters that define the decision-making process.

For example, a couple may agree that financial decisions below a certain cost threshold don’t need mutual agreement.

The husband can decide on some lawn-care tools he needs without her involvement. The wife can go shopping with her friends without her husband’s participation.

However, the guidelines should always include communication and mutual consent on decisions of significance. Each spouse brings distinct insight and wisdom into the decision process.

Rule 4: Agree before going to bed to resolve disagreements at some specific time. The Bible clearly says don’t go to bed angry. It doesn’t say all disagreements should be resolved before bedtime.

One of the secrets of handling disagreements effectively is to avoid anger altogether. Disagreements can help us learn that there is usually more than one option – ours and someone else’s.

Rule 5: Spend some time together daily. Spending time together in communication with God and/or each other will always bring significant benefit to the relationship.

Additional rule: Above all, honor your spouse.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, Executive Director, FAMCO, 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.