From my earliest memory, I heard the term “baker’s dozen” and knew that it meant 13 of something. As a kid, I thought it was really cool that someone would name a dozen of something for our family. It really came alive for me when, at about age 6, I was sent into a bakery shop in Fredericksburg, Texas, with instructions from my parents to buy a dozen chocolate chip cookies to be consumed during the remainder of our road trip. Much to my delight, the kind lady on the other side of the bakery counter handed me my sack and cheerfully said, “Here you are, son, a Baker’s dozen.” I’m not sure where that 13th cookie went between the store and the waiting car outside (yea, right!), but by the time I returned to the car there were only 12 cookies in the sack. My father, who was a newspaper publisher and columnist for many decades in West Texas, wrote a column bearing that name. His column, magically, always had 13 paragraphs! Fortunately, he failed to ask me about that 13th cookie.
Anyway, when we started doing marriage stuff, we thought it only appropriate to come up with the 13 key things that we have learned about marriage—now over almost 49 years.
[For you history buffs, and to save you a trip to Wikipedia, a baker’s dozen (also a long dozen or long measure) dates to the 13th Century in one of the earliest English statutes, instituted during the reign of Henry III (1216–1272). In very lawyerly fashion, it was called the Assize of Bread and Ale. The bottom line was this: Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers (some variations say that they would sell hollow bread) could be subject to severe punishment including judicial amputation of a hand. To guard against losing a hand to an axe, a baker would give 13 for the price of 12 in order to be certain of not being known as a cheat. Specifically, the practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against “short measure,” on the basis that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen. If you want to drown in history, check out the guild codes of the Worshipful Company of Bakers in London.]
Anyway, if you’re wondering, here are the 13 suggestions that Carol and I would give to any couple seeking to build, or rebuild, a God-honoring marriage. A Baker’s Dozen:
- Find and keep a mentor couple or couples in your life from Day 1.
- Find a way for physical touch every day (rubdowns, hugs, pats, entry and exit pecks, etc.).
- Never dishonor your mate to a third party (especially your own parents, siblings, or best friends). Exceptions: when seeking help from trusted and seasoned counselors, or when your physical safety is being threatened.
- Banish the “D” word from your vocabulary.
- Never go to sleep at night without resolving your anger or having a specific plan for doing so.
- Be your partner’s strongest supporter and friend—not the Devil’s Advocate who advances the perspective of others in conflict with your partner. [A great way to do this: When you receive very good (or bad) news, make sure your partner is the first one to hear about it from you (borrowed from our dear friends, Gene and Judith Schneider, who made it well past 50 years together and taught us a lot].
- Be quick to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” and then make sure you try to repair the damage you have done.
- Learn how to experience your partner’s pain (through empathy) and then do everything possible to bring them comfort and healing.
- Get good at objectively explaining your partner’s perspective on “hot button” issues
- Be quick to ask of both your partner and other people, “What do you think about that?” when considering important decisions. (Men need to take advantage of the “helpmeet” radar system installed in every woman).
- On core issues, learn to tell the truth, but do it lovingly and at the right time. [Avoid “gushing” over the looks, skills, opinions, wisdom, or accomplishments of other people (extremely attractive people, high profile experts, etc.)]
- Never forget the power of praying together as a couple:
- For bringing healing to your partner’s soul, and
- For making decisions and obtaining Godly wisdom
- Give away to other couples the treasures that you have discovered along the way. (We have a clue from God, who did not make seedless grapes. They were seed-bearing and could reproduce–before men came along and made them sterile. We also need to reproduce the good stuff we learn.)
If you’ll bring us a dozen good Oatmeal Raisin cookies, we’ll give you a 14th tip!