Functional, Productive and Happy

Occasionally I get a “Rubik’s Cube” email. A Rubik’s Cube email is an impossibly long rambling email about so many potential relationship issues that I want to set up an Excel file to track everything and sort it all out. Half the time there isn’t even a clear question, just a “so what do you think?” 
The answer to a Rubik’s Cube is always to go back to basics and start solving the puzzle. If it’s all a total jumble, everyone can figure out how to get one side of Rubik’s Cube solved. Usually people already know exactly what it is they need to do, they just need to do it. After that they can come back for help with the tricky bits.
Hi Janet,
The purpose of marriage is to have a functional, productive and happy life… not to save another person.
To have a functional, productive and happy marriage, you need two functional, productive and happy people. I’m not saying two perfect people, just two people that are standard issue adults that can hold up their end of the marriage.
My advice is for you to figure out what the functional, productive and happy version of you looks like, and start heading yourself toward that end. As you head toward that end, he’ll either (1) start calibrating himself to you and start becoming more functional, productive and happy, or (2) get worse.
If he starts calibrating to you and sorts himself out, then great! That’s a win.
If he gets worse, you can move on as a functional, productive and happy person, and be in a much better place to find a new man that is also functional, productive and happy, and have a wonderful functional, productive and happy marriage together.
At the end of the day, no matter how much you love another person, the only person you can really control is you. You can’t make them change, you can only make you be the sort of person that makes them want to change.
Hope that helps.


  1. (r)Evoluzione says:

    This is a bit challenging to parse without the original email. It's a one-sided conversation (to everyone but Janet).

    Still, there's probably some zen wisdom in there somewhere.

  2. Oh, I'd say there's quite a bit of zen wisdom there. You'd know, if you've ever been in a relationship with someone who needed "saving."

    "As you head toward that end, he'll either (1) start calibrating himself to you and start becoming more functional, productive and happy, or (2) get worse."

    I've seen it: a (shrewish, immature) woman I know was married to an irresponsible man. After more than a decade she got her act together. Within a year, he had an affair to get her to file for divorce. They were able to stay married as long as they could blame each other for their own idiocy. Once she stopped playing the game, it was all over.

  3. Wow! Terrific post today Athol. And, one of the reasons I've never posted or tried to "explain". Simply too big of a Rubik's cube to solve. Also, the conversation with Janet is not one-sided. There are a lot of us Janet's out there who got the whole thing. The reason people don't just "do what they need to do" is they sincerely love God and want to do the "right" thing. I went through years and years of christian counseling to "save" my marriage. I didn't run into one christian counselor who understood accountability. Obligation, submission and law they get. Love and personal responsibility they don't. My ex is now in a psych hospital where he would have been 20 years ago if I hadn't been holding him up. My situation is extreme and a memoir all by itself, but suffice to say I am still a woman of faith but now my beliefs have shifted and I don't believe in the same God that atheists don't believe in. A word to Janet: The reason for the paradox in you is the God you know in your heart is there (or you fear is there) isn't the same God that would hold you in a contract that is destroying your heart. The God of love would never hold the institution of marriage as more important than the individuals in the marriage. Trust your heart. It knows what to do.

  4. Great Post Athol,

    Let me just add this: "How do you eat an elephant?"

  5. Like Mrs Beeton said "First, catch you elephant".

  6. CantBeJustMe says:

    Nice. I think if more people realized, BEFORE getting married or going through relationship after relationship, that NO person can MAKE Another person happy. It's simply an ADD or SUBTRACT equation. They can add or take away from your happiness. Being "Responsible", or at least feeling responsible, for another person's happiness is an impossible task and a heavy burden until you realize it can't be done.

  7. I learned some things like this the hard way…

    1. It is not my responsibility to make my spouse appear productive and functional (so I will stop covering/lying for them)

    2. If my *spouse* looks like a train wreck, that doesn't mean that *I* look like one too (your crap only makes *you* look bad)

    3. If your spouse blames their unhappiness/problems on you, that is a cop out (some people just like to be miserable)

  8. In the end, we can only be responsible for our own happiness. How we get there is up to us as individuals. You just have to hope the person you are with wants to come along for the ride and go through it together.

    If they don't, things typically work themselves out in one form or another.

  9. Atol, thought you might enjoy this article (unrelated to today's topic):

  10. Total change of topic :P Is low libido for a 45 year old woman just simply giving a medical term to "frigid", "she just doesn't want sex" or "she just isn't into you"? She has actually had low libido (her name for it) for almost 12 years – calling it stress, etc. Otherwise a great wife.

  11. She could have a health issue that is affecting her libido, and hormones (contraceptives or other) do affect it negatively in some women (so do antidepressants and some other drugs). If it's none of those things (or something very bad like childhood abuse), then you running the MAP and balancing your Alpha-Beta mix may create more sexual interest in her. In many ways that seems counter-intuitive to the 21st century mind, but it often works. Some women are looking for their husbands to display some Alpha traits that create interest in them.

  12. GC is correct.

    Email me the history of when things changed, any medical issues and medications she is on.

  13. Just fired off an email to you- THANK YOU!

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