The 3-Day Rule: My Mother-in-Law’s Secret to a Happy Marriage

The 3-Day Rule: My Mother-in-Law’s Secret to a Happy Marriage
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After a quick check over her shoulder, my mother-in-law lowered her voice to a whisper and leaned in to share her secret to a happy marriage. Her playful grin told me this was something I would want to hear, so, with a swirl of my iced tea, I turned my attention from my sons and their grandfather as they played on the rope swing under the shade of their giant oak tree. Her eyes sparkled as she said, “I call it, The 3-Day Rule.”

Her top-secret rule came up as we discussed a home improvement project my husband and I were at odds over, and I was thankful for the treasure of an experienced woman’s wisdom. My marriage dilemma was that I wanted the project done sooner than later, but my husband’s only response to my ideas was one word: “NO.” As she explained the 3-Day Rule, I saw our problem differently, and my confusion began to untangle.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

When preparing to make a pitch to my father-in-law regarding new topics, ideas, or projects, her rule required it be done gradually. “Timing is everything.” she explained. “Begin briefly mentioning your idea at a time when stress is low. Then let it sit for about three days.”

I practiced, “So instead of saying, ‘Let’s tear out the wall between the kitchen and living room!’ I could have started with, ‘Have you ever thought about what it might look like to open this room up a bit?’

She nodded. “Regardless of his response, don’t push on. Let it sit for about three days.”

Not only did I look forward to trying her rule when I got home, but understood that my approach to sensitive discussions needed a bit of renovation. I smiled. Well, wasn’t she the sneaky one? She thwarted two birds with one stone.

Putting the 3-Day Rule into Practice

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Later that evening, after dinner and the kids were in bed, I began, “You know, I can see that I came on a bit strong about my ideas for this project. I’m sorry if I’ve pushed too hard.”

I could see his body relax. I let the topic rest, and our conversation moved on to other topics. I didn’t revisit the remodel for another few days. Then, when I did, I asked, “Is there a good time to revisit plans for the remodel?” He wasn’t completely sold on the idea but didn’t say “No.”

We eventually removed the wall between our dining area and living room, allowing more light and opening up beautiful views to the front and back gardens. But our real work was accomplished with my sweet mother-in-law’s advice. Her 3-Day Rule taught me three things:

Slow Down

Most importantly, I learned about myself. I’ve always wanted to move on things quickly. I’m a ‘Can Do’ girl, especially with décor ideas, resolving an argument, or a project at work. Why do I feel this sense of urgency? A little introspection revealed that my need to move quickly is fueled by a desire to solve a problem I’m struggling with. In this case, my home felt dark and depressing, but I hadn’t expressed that to my husband. Planning my approach to what could be a difficult conversation required me to think through what I wanted and the outcome I hoped for. It gave my husband and me the space to make better choices together and helped our relationship. 

Show Respect

Second, the 3-Day Rule tore down a wall I had unwittingly built in our marriage: a lack of respect. I learned that my rushing can be perceived as pushing, and no one likes to be pushed into doing something. Slowing down allowed me to show my husband the respect he deserved. It took the pressure off and created a safe space for him to feel, think, and respond when he wasn’t tired or overwhelmed. Considering all he had on his shoulders, a job, our family, and his desires, he needed a break. The 3-Day Rule allowed him to say “Yes” on his terms.

Seek Another Perspective

Last, my mother-in-law was a priceless example to me. She didn’t scold, judge, or wag her finger and wasn’t defensive at my short-sighted treatment of her son. Instead, she wrapped her words in warmth and humor and invited me into her world. Oh, how I needed to feel included and invited into the conversation of elusive subtleties that make up a happy marriage and loving well. I felt valued when she cared enough to share the truth and offered guidance in a loving, taking-me-under-her-wing kind of way.

The Result? Loving Well

A lot can be accomplished in three days. You might want to binge-watch a Netflix series, whiten your teeth, or do a juice cleanse. Awesome. But I’m more inspired by watching the miraculous changes I see when I love others well. I’ve noticed my relationships deepen, they are less stressed, and we laugh more.

Do you have a relationship or two that would benefit from the 3-Day Rule? Give it a try! You have nothing to lose, and I guarantee you’ll experience a shift in yourself and your relationships for the better.


Ready to iron out some other areas of your marriage? This podcast episode may help: Ready to Unpack the Baggage in Your Marriage? with Rachel Hagstrom – 213

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