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The Universal Light Bulb Theory in Marriage

The Universal Light Bulb Theory in Marriage

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The following is a behind-the-scenes look at a typical scenario from a typical home. If you're married, you might recognize yourself here; if you're not, you might remember something similar from your childhood.

Danielle puts her baby daughter Cheryl in her crib for the night, then walks over to the linen closet at the end of the hall. On her way, she automatically reaches out to flick on the light switch - and looks up. The hall light bulb has burned out.

"Jason?" she calls.

Jason looks up from the report he's writing in the living room. "Yes, honey?"

"As soon as you finish, could you please change the light bulb in the hall?"

"Sure, Dani, no problem. I should be finished in about ten minutes or so."


Confident that the light bulb will soon be changed, Danielle goes to the kitchen to cook dinner for two. A half hour later, Cheryl cries. On her way to give the baby a pacifier, Danielle passes the hall. She flicks on the light switch and, to her surprise, it's still burned out.

"Jason, did you finish that report?"

"Sure did."

"Could you please change the light bulb?"

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry, I forgot. I'll do it right now."

Jason goes to the supply closet to take out the step stool, intent on changing the light bulb. On his way, the phone rings. He picks it up and has a ten minute conversation with his Dad. After he hangs up the phone, he goes the fridge and takes an apple.

"Honey, did you change the light bulb?"

"I was just on my way."

Jason puts down his half eaten apple, and takes the step stool out of the closet. But the dust from the closet makes him sneeze, and he goes to get a tissue from the bedroom. As he passes Danielle's desk, he notices that the laptop battery is about to run out, so he gets the cable and plugs it in. The computer screen informs him that they have 25 new emails (ten of them flagged) and he sits down to check them out.

"Jase, the light is still out in the hall, would you..."


This exchange continues for three more days. On the fourth day, Danielle can't take it anymore and bursts out crying. Jason is dumbfounded.

"Danielle, what's wrong?"

"Wrong? YOU'RE asking ME what's WRONG?"

"Did I do something, Dani?"

"YOU'RE asking ME if you DID SOMETHING?"

"Dani, what happened?"

"HAPPENED? YOU want to know what HAPPENED?"

"Dani, is your hearing okay?"

Let's analyze Jason and Danielle's exchange for a minute by asking a few questions:
Why hasn't Jason changed the light bulb yet?
Did he intentionally ignore his wife's request?

It seems that Jason just got sidetracked. He wanted to change the light bulb, he really did. But things just kept happening.

So then why is Danielle so upset? And hey, if it's so important to her that the light bulb be changed, why doesn't she just do it herself if she sees that Jason can't get his act together?

The answer is that what's upsetting Danielle is not the light bulb, per se. If it were, she really would just change it herself. But for Danielle, it's not just a light bulb.

Welcome to The Universal Light Bulb Theory. (This phrase was coined by Rabbi Aryeh Pamensky of Toronto.)

All you husbands and wives out there, if you can understand and internalize this, you will automatically improve your marriage by at least 50%.

Here's how it works:
Everything is in the light bulb.
What does "everything" mean? It means everything that has ever come between the two of you in your relationship.

Jason, remember when you were engaged and you forgot Danielle's birthday? That's in the light bulb. Remember three years ago, when you (unintentionally!) embarrassed her when her parents were over? That's in the light bulb.
When no matter how much she begged and shook you to wake up and take Cheryl for a little while because she was just too exhausted to get up one more time? That's in the light bulb, too.

Men, realize that the reason your wives tend to get upset over things that seem insignificant to you is because for women, those "little" things really represent the relationship. In a way, it's actually a relationship test. And, for your information, this doesn't only apply to light bulbs. It applies to car-washing, picture-hanging, shelf-fixing, diaper- changing...you get the idea.

Sounds complicated, huh? It is. Women, you are much more complicated than your husbands are. It's hard for them to keep up. So men, you try to understand that there is much more to your wives' requests than meets the eye, and if there's a reason you can't respond in the affirmative, say something like "Honey, I'd love to fix that shelf for you right now. But I'm right in the middle of a really important business letter. If I forget to do it when I finish, please remind me. I don't want to push it off till tomorrow."

Well, what about the women? Shouldn't they cut their husbands a little slack?


Women, please, give your husbands a break. Sympathize with the fact that his brain doesn't work exactly like yours, and try to help him out by verbalizing what you really feel. Instead of asking him to change the light bulb for days on end and then breaking into tears, try something like this: "Can you please change the light bulb, honey? If you don't, I feel that my needs and requests are not important to you, and it makes me feel that you don't really value me. So please show me that's not the case by changing the light bulb, okay?"
You'll see, it works. He wants to make you happy. He just doesn't know that the light bulb is that important. Tell him.

Both of you will be happy that you did. Danielle and Jason sure were!

Reframing Your Marriage | The 5 Word Formula to Make Your Marriage Work - Part 2 | The 5 Word Formula to Make Your Marriage Work | The 3 Main Challenges to Marriage - Part III | The 3 Main Challenges in Marriage - Part II | The 3 Main Challenges to Marriage - Part I | See More »
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