Rules  And  Structure 

When Amy reached a point of exhaustion with me in 2000, we decided to create some rules and structure. At the time I was having a huge problem defining any work related boundaries – work spilled over into everything I did, consumed all available time, and then crept into any of the cracks that were left over, like a perfect gas.

I have an engineer brain so I respond well to structure. While the idea of having some rules and the corresponding structure seemed very “not romantic” at first, it turns out that it’s incredibly romantic, especially if you measure the results – which is what engineer brains really care about.

A lot of these ideas will show up in our  Monday Try This: topics. They’ll include things like Life Dinner, Quarterly Vacations Off The Grid, Always Answer Your Phone When Your Beloved Calls, and No TV In The Bedroom.

As always, we look forward to your suggestions – we’ll even try them out and see how we like them. Join the conversation – give us some of your favorite rules and structure to enhance your relationship.

  • I completely agree with No TV in The Bedroom, or in the Kitchen or anywhere for that matter that shared family experiences should be the priority. TV tends to reduce conversation, a critical component to a successful intimate relationship, to the bare minimum, especially when watching sports. My wife and I are online all the time, even google chatting each other across the room, however, unplugging to focus on one another and the relationship or team as we call it is a top priority. We also enjoy working out together, have planned on tackling the Chicago 2012 triathlon, and always cook together. Excellent blog, I’m really looking forward to reading and participating in the conversations.

  • I’ve implemented family time from 6 to 9pm where we focus on the kids. Our simple dinner/bath/bed time routine has become the highlight of my days. Clients get my full attention from 6am to 6pm and again from 9pm to midnight (and beyond).

    I wish I can say we stick to this 100%, but I try not to have too many work events because the greatest gift for a child is attention.

  • When my software engineer husband and I were first married (almost 25 years ago), he went through a big push time at work and it went really poorly. He would say he would be home at 8pm and instead roll in around 9:30 or that he would be home at 10 and not make it until midnight. I spent my time waiting for him thinking we could eat a late dinner together (which works at 8, but less so at 9:30) and then this lead to fights and both of us feeling bad.
    The next time time work got to a stage like this, we had a talk and decided that the issue was not as much a specific time, but the milestones of the evening (dinner, bed, or coming home at all) that were the issue. This made everything so much better as I could plan my evening and he could work without worrying.
    Now that we have three children and are starting business together, we draw from that lesson to create structure that sets boundaries between work and home that work for us.

  • Each weekend we pick either Saturday or Sunday to be a no email day..for those in the Tribe we call it Shomer Email. On the weekends its much easier to steer clear of our laptops so this rule is especially helpful b/c it stops us from checking the email on our smartphones, which are always on us.

  • rlthorman

    My boyfriend and I both work for start-ups (he is the founder/COO of his and I manage communications for mine). He is very big on structure and rules and while I will often rail against it (I want him to just know what to do), I agree it is completely necessary.

  • If you are married, go to bed with your wife or husband at the same time and wake up at the same time.

    If you go for a prolonged period without doing these two things, everything (I mean “everything”) gets thrown out of balance.

    • I couldn’t agree more strongly with this. I could easily stay up later than Amy every night, but I’ve decided to always go to be with her at the same time. While I almost always get up earlier, she always gets four minutes in the morning from me per the early Try This post we wrote about.

  • I am married and have three children. My middle one, Kaya, has down syndrome. I am also CEO of Layar. A truely rollercoaster start-up. In the last two years we grew the company to 55 people and we received more than 15 million dollar in funding.

    I am always with my family between 6pm and 8pm. During this time we do all our evening rituals. Eating together, bath, bedtime story.

    At the office everyone knows that I leave at 5pm to be home at 6pm. They also know that I am available later in the evening.


    P.S. Great that you started a place to have this conversation.

    • My dad was a very busy doctor. He didn’t travel, but when we were growing up he started his day around 7am and usually finished around 10pm. However, he was home for dinner almost every night. I can remember our 6pm – 7pm dinner time conversations like they were yesterday – we all were around the table, talked about our day, and told stories about what we learned. My dad often would go into his office after dinner (although he always left the door open and we could come hang out with him) while he “did charts” and “called patients for followup.” Those dinners are still precious to me.

  • Brad

    That was a beautiful comment about me. Thank you.

    My philosophy is kids first.
    Kids are people too.

    It was very important to both Cecelia and me that we connected with the two boys on a deep level so we understood the thinking of you guys and you understood our thinking. The best place to accomplish that in the schedule of very busy people is at dinner time.

    There were many afternoons when I quit hospital rounds only to go back after dinner to complete them.

    It turned out to be the right thing to do because both you and Daniel turned out to be wonderful and terrific people.

    I love you