February 14th, 2010
08:57 AM ET

Dear President Obama #391: Dr. Tom's guide to a happy love life

Reporter's Note: The President seems like a reasonably romantic sort. I am too. For example, I’m not wasting a lot of time on my daily letter to the White House, because we’ve got a nice fire burning and my wife is waiting for me to join her for Planet of the Apes. How’s that for romance, eh?

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

On this Valentine’s Day with love in the air (which beats snowflakes, let me tell you) I’ll be the first to admit there are many things about relationships which puzzle me. I don’t know why some couples who seem the most unlikely pairings harmonize like barbershop quartets, while sometimes “perfect couples” can crash and burn like tests car on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I don’t know why a guy with the TV clicker is “annoying,” while a woman is “discerning.” I don’t understand why seat-down trumps seat-up; after all, the second is more convenient for me. I can’t explain why my wife, an otherwise intelligent, and refined soul, ever wasted even one date on me, let alone what sort of early-onset dementia led her to accept a proposal of marriage. (For the longest time, I assumed she had lost some sort of bet…) But I have developed a few guidelines for successful relationships, and considering how busy you are “running the free world,” I thought they might prove helpful keeping your personal life in order as well.

Give gifts on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day of course, but give gifts at other times too. A kindness is always more lovely and appreciated when it is unexpected. As a rule, guys like anything that plugs into a wall; gals do not. (And…uh…don’t call them gals.) If you don’t know the difference between a “personal” gift and one that is not…learn. It’s important.

Listen more than you talk. (This is a hard one for me, and I suspect for you too…but give it a shot.) Be attentive when your mate tells you about a problem, but don’t always try to fix it; that’s a guy thing; doing so implies that you don’t think much of her abilities. If you make most of the decisions, leave some up to her. If she makes most of them, then help out and make a few yourself.

Relationships are rarely 50-50 enterprises. The power balance tilts all the time. Take your turn at the helm when you need to, and give it up when you should. Don’t do all the driving, and when she’s driving keep your mouth shut. She’s made it through a lifetime without t-boning other cars, and she’ll make it to the restaurant without you playing Junior GPS.

No matter how much you accomplish, remember that this is her life too…and no one grows up saying “I hope I can live in someone else’s shadow!” Respect her hopes and dreams, and realize she was just fine before she met you and would be just fine without you. In the best relationships, people love each other…they don’t need each other.

Have faith that sometimes even when you are certain you are right…she is.

Volunteer for the worst jobs; especially if they involve lots of nasty cleaning.

Remember that love is a process, not a trophy. It ebbs and flows, sometimes for long periods of time. Be patient.

Say “I’m sorry,” easily and honestly, but don’t be spineless.

Do not be jealous, stingy, petty or vindictive. With anyone. Forgive quickly and completely.

Let your love of your children add to the love of your wife; not replace it.

Don’t mistake a game of escaped inmate and the warden’s wife for romance; but then, don’t think every moment has to be romantic either.

Dance even if you don’t want to.

Give each other privacy.

Laugh often, and at yourself first.

Keep your fights to one subject at a time, don’t go to bed angry, and no matter what the issue is ask yourself “Is this really worth screwing up the whole weekend?”

Pick up your shoes. Don’t leave dishes lying around. Help with the laundry.

Ask for her advice and, when it is good, take it.

Accept her quirks and realize that she is accepting yours too, even if you don’t realize you have them.

When you get any kind of pet, understand from day one that the kids really aren’t going to take care of it. Don’t let it all fall to her. Do your share. Especially when it’s raining.

Never walk into the private quarters and say, “So how is my First Lady?” That’s asking for trouble.

I suppose I could come up with more, but it’s getting late and I have my own relationship to attend to. I hope the holiday treats you well. Call if you can, but…uh…not until Monday, ok?



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Lori

    That is too much to remember. Is there a simplified version?

    February 14, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  2. Nancy, BC, Canada

    Well done!!! Publish this as a book!

    February 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  3. Donna Wood

    That was the best letter to the President yet. Aint love grand? I always enjoy reading your letters to the President even when I dont necessarily agree with what your saying.

    February 14, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  4. Chi

    I've been reading u letters to the president for 2 weeks now. U r usually wise but not quite nice. Today, I guess it is because love is everywhere, you are so wise and very nice. Thank you, Dr Tom 🙂

    February 14, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  5. MissPeache

    Great job Tom! Definitely going down as one of my favs and will be emailed, facebooked and twittered around!

    February 14, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  6. Tim Gibson

    All valid points one would hope our President and society at large would take into account in building and maintaining relationships.

    February 14, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  7. Ann Marie Power

    Powerful message here, all couples should read this. Apply and it will make a relationship much happier. Thanks for sharing this.

    February 14, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  8. Catherine Ventura

    President Obama is luckier than most husband's this year. The day after Valentine's day is President's Day.

    February 14, 2010 at 9:07 am |