Is the secret to a better relationship 'training' your spouse like a handler trains an exotic animal? Could be.

It's safe to say that every marriage (or relationship) can stand to have a little improvement. Don't shake your head, you know your relationship could use some spicing up. The secret could lie in the same techniques used to train Shamu.

This weekend, I stumbled across a years-old article from the New York Times (which I later learned was turned into a book) called: 'What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage'.

Basically, the author, Amy Sutherland, says she applied techniques she learned while working on a book about exotic animal trainers on her husband. Guess what-- they worked.

It boils down to three principles:

  1. Reward the desirable behavior
  2. Ignore/Don't react to undesireable behavior
  3. Don't blame your spouse/don't take their behavior personally

For example, if I want Dave to put his laundry in the hamper, instead of on the hamper I can't nag when he doesn't, but I need to 'reward' him when he does put it away. "Hey Dave, thanks for putting your smelly socks in the basket."

I get it, that sounds a little bit painful, doesn't it?

I think I've conducted enough of a study to determine that nagging does not work. I've also effectively established that Dave (my spouse) can't read my mind, so the glaring and thinking really hard doesn't help. So I'd be willing to try just about anything if it would get him to help around the house a bit more, and - in the interest of fairness - I'm sure there are a looonnnggg list of things he'd like to see me change.

What do you think about this? Want to secretly give it a try? Email me and let me know at

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