Today's task in The Love Dare is to establish healthy rules of engagement with my wife, for use in arguments and disagreements. This might seem odd if you've read my first twelve posts, but I'm skipping it. I know, I'm something of a sickening Love Dare perfectionist, and I need to be -- I believe my life depends on it. However, when I looked at today, realizing that Kelli and I have both reached this point in the dare, having made and revised our list of rules, then violating all of them the day after we last worked on them, I thought and Kelli agreed that we didn't need a new list -- we just need to follow the ones we've already made. We used most of the list in the book, but we threw in some that were specific to us. My most important rule is to spend time in a disagreement listening and seeking compromise, rather than looking for ways to manipulate Kelli's point of view to come into line with mine. I can be clever, devious and relentless in this regard. I've even been known to enter a disagreement clearly in the wrong, and an hour later have Kelli apologizing to me. I've agreed not to do this anymore and Kelli has gotten pretty good at sniffing it out anyway. I also tend to subtly demean and dominate her by talking over her head to make my points. I'm something of a wordsmith, if you haven't noticed, and if my position is weak, I tend to use complex language to bolster it. This usually doesn't work, and makes Kelli more angry than she was when the disagreement started. We've learned, I hope, to speak clearly, listen well, and approach our disagreements with a spirit of compromise and resolution. We've had a couple of weeks in our relationship of good communication and good work toward reconciliation, and they have been pretty much free of conflict. We've both been really engaged in repairing what's wrong in our relationship, and we've been very mindful of not causing a setback by having a "kitchen sink" fight, or one where we get far off the subject and someone feels so hurt and desperate that he or she fights with any weapon that can be found -- even the kitchen sink. In our case that metaphor usually involves some past betrayal. I know the day will come when we're comfortably reconciled and one of us will be having a bad day. The other will do something thoughtless and we will have an argument. I pray that we've learned enough about the damage we've done in the past, that on that day, we put our rules to good use and argue well. I'm not looking forward to our next fight, but it will be a very good day when the lessons we've learned about fighting fair are put to good use and we achieve genuine compromise. I think we both need to know what that feels like in real life. Today was a pretty bad day for Kelli physically. Her back was a mess and she paid for it all day. It was a good day for Rob and Kelli, however. I checked on her throughout the day, gave her encouragement, and let her know I cared. I didn't do these things because the book told me to. I did them because I've started to become the kind of husband who does these things naturally -- the kind of husband who goes through the day with his wif'e's welfare on his mind. Not too long ago, I was the husband who answered the phone with an impatient tone when Kelli would call me at work during a busy time. I would act perturbed when she would pop in to say hi at work, because I was swamped and her presence was a bother. She was such an attentive and caring wife, no matter what I did, that I took her for granted at the very least. At times, I even used her loyalty against her by acting out my old resentments by treating her badly, knowing she would never leave. Today I know how selfish and cruel I have been to Kelli. I can never be that person again. This evening was garbage night and Kelli was down for the count. I stopped by the house after work to take out the trash and give my wife a backrub -- a task I cherish. I tucked her in and gave her a very long, very effective and very tender and loving backrub. As I neared the end, gently stroking her, the encounter became very sensual and romantic. I made sure it was all about Kelli and making her feel wonderful, with no regard for my own pleasure. It was important to me that Kelli know that one of my greatest joys is watching and hearing my beloved wife respond to my caress, without any expectation or even desire for reciprocation. When I left for the evening, my wife was falling into slumber with a smile on her face and "I love you" on her lips. Right now, it just doesn't get much better than that for me.