Seventy percent of the time a married couple spends together—alone as a couple or with their family—takes place on the weekend. This means that calls to sponsors, and topics in AA men's meetings on Sunday nights and Mondays, typically have to do with relationship or family issues that popped up over the previous few days. It doesn't have to be that way. I'd like to share with you a nine-point checklist that, if followed thoroughly, will make your weekend with your wife and family great, instead of just bearable. Pilots have checklists before they take off to ensure safety. Surgeons have checklists before they operate to ensure success. So why shouldn't we husbands have a checklist as we go into the most delicate part of the week from a relationship standpoint? Keep in mind that relationships aren't a game of perfect. It's just about showing up, being the best possible you, and making amends when we say and do the wrong thing. Which happens On that note, I'll admit right now that I am a bit old-school, and some of the thoughts I offer up don't always go along with what people consider politically correct. I'm not striking out trying to offend anyone; I'm sharing what has worked for me as I've grown as a spouse and as a dad. I've had to learn to get out of my own way, and be honest with myself and others in the process. These are the tools for a successful relationship from my view and experience; as always in Twelve Step Land, take what you like and leave the rest. Okay, here goes. 1 - Have a plan. In a lot of family dynamics, one of the man's jobs is to be the "Minister of Fun". That means it's part of our job to develop, in advance, a possible fun-plan for the family weekend, taking into account already scheduled activities and extracurriculars. Depending on the ages of your kids, there may be little league games, practices, rehearsals, or other school- or athletic-related activities. This might all feel like work, but as The Minister, be a dad (and be a partner) who helps bring out the joy—the real purpose—in these activities. If your kids are younger, you should plan to take advantage of every opportunity you can to go out and do family things. Like what? The zoo. Children's museums. You can even throw your little kids in the car (not literally) and head over to the local firehouse and introduce them to the firefighters. Firefighters are cool guys who love kids, and this is a no-cost way to entertain your little ones. It's just a thought. The main thing is that you have a plan. Ideas. A woman loves a man with a plan because it shows that you are showing up and that you care. That doesn't mean Friday night rolls around and you get to tell everyone what they'll be doing for the next 48 hours. It just means that you are coming to the table with ideas to spend time doing fun things with your family. Develop a plan, and then collaborate on bringing the plan to life. If your wife is Minister of the Schedule, then teamwork needs to be part of your plan so that things come together. This is true whether you are planning a date night or a family-activity day. If you're not sure of what activities there might be in your area, go online or buy a book. When our kids were little, I had a guidebook to 200 activities for kids that were available in the area where we were living. We didn't do all of them, but we did a lot of stuff. You're creating happy memories, you're involved, and you're giving your wife a break from having to orchestrate everything. Remember that all week long, it’s probably your wife who keeps the family running. If your house is anything like mine, she ensures that the kids get out the door on time to preschool or regular school, that there's clean clothes in everybody's closets and drawers, and food in the pantry. Not to mention that a lot of women do all of this and have successful careers. It's a lot to do by anyone's definition. So it's time to stop thinking about the weekend as "days off." Let your wife have the days off. Figure out a plan. For family time and "alone" time for you and your wife. She'll love you for it, and so will the kids. 2 - Quit playing golf. There's nothing more quietly infuriating for a wife than seeing her husband tossing his sticks over his shoulder, heading out to the car, and vanishing for the next five or six hours. There's a great expression—"You can be a great husband, a great earner, or a great golfer—pick two." It's not just golf—it's any activity so time-consuming that your wife will think that you're putting that activity ahead of your family. When the kids get older and are spending more time with their friends than you, knock yourself out. But when they're little, it is not the time to work on your handicap. It's the time to bond with your kids, to show up, and to demonstrate to your wife through your actions that you really are the man she hoped you'd be. As the great motivator Earl Nightingale used to say, "What you're doing speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear a word you're saying." I'm not saying that you shouldn't have hobbies. It's essential that you have hobbies—things that allow you to blow off steam. Go to the range and hit a bucket or two after work. Join a bowling team. Do whatever you want to do. But just don't let it be an incredibly time-consuming activity that ends up taking you away from your wife and kids at times they need you. When my kids were young, I stumbled into triathlons, half-marathons, and ultimately marathons. It turns out that you can train for these things in about an hour a day, with the occasional long run for marathons. I never did more than four races in a year, though. This way, I was able to get out and do what I wanted to do without disrupting the natural flow of family life. Bottom line—the priority is not fitting in time for 18 holes. Just deal with it. If you are playing golf for more than half of your weekend, are you seeing your family? Just asking. 3 - Don't argue just to argue. Here's the scorecard for measuring how you do in arguments with your wife—if you win, you lose. If you tie, you lose. If you lose, you lose. Any questions? Arguing is about trying to come out on top. That’s not a healthy approach for a relationship (or a family). There's absolutely nothing to be gained by introducing anger and argument into a marriage. There's just nothing worth arguing over. Discussing, yes. Arguing, no. There’s a difference. Arguments are about control. Discussions are exchanges. If you find yourself on the brink of starting an argument all the time, or being pulled into one, then it’s probably time to check the tools you are working with. Here's a metaphor for you: Years ago, Apple laptops and computers didn't communicate especially well with PCs. It's better today, but it's still not perfect. Point is, they had to learn to speak each other's language. That's a skill. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes work. Your marriage, your family deserves the same commitment. Here I go with my old-school approach: I think men and women have different operating systems. I'm not saying anyone is better, I'm saying we're different. I'm not going to go into the reasons and causes, that's not part of the weekend checklist. But part of the checklist is making the most of the time you have with your family. To me, that means making the most of the time you have. Often that means choosing not to "go there." Commit to learning a new language, and understand it will take time. It's not something you are going to master this weekend. Until you are fluent in something else, don't rely on the language of arguing. It's not doing anything for you. As my sponsor says, you only get in trouble when you open your mouth. You cannot get in trouble if you keep your mouth shut. Try it sometime. 4 - Never question her spending. I have made many mistakes in my marriage. But the one mistake I've never made is to question a penny my wife has spent. If you don't like what your wife does with money, too bad. One of the dumbest things that couples can do is argue about money. If you think she's spending too much of the family money, just go out and make more. Keep in mind that couples that stay together and couples that break up had the same issues in their marriage. It's just that couples who stayed together minimized those issues created by finding smart workarounds, while the couples who broke up simply did not. Behind every argument (used that word on purpose) about money are issues of power and control. Just let her be. How she sees money was hardwired into her long before you met her. You're not going to change her patterns, any more than she will change yours. So make it a point of honor never to question a single penny she spends. By the way, she's the one who went through pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Maybe you can cut her a break when you think about all the things that she did that you never will. 5 - Don't just sit there—clean something. Ever heard the expression, "A woman's work is never done"? These words might feel outdated, but look around yourself, buddy. Truer words have never been spoken. Running a home presents an absolutely endless task list. If you go to work, you get to come home at night. But your wife's "office," even if she also works outside the home, is your home. As a result, everything—absolutely everything—triggers thoughts in her mind of work that has not been done. The kitchen? There are meals to be prepared, food to be purchased, dishes to be cleaned. I don't see you running to the supermarket to stock the shelves, big guy. I'm not even sure if your dishes make it to the sink. When she's in the bedroom, it's just a reminder that there's clothing to be washed and put away. In the den, while you're busily watching the game, scan the floor and you'll see a whole lot of kids' toys that aren't where they belong. Who is going to pick them up and put them away? The kids aren't. Oh, and neither are you?! No wonder she might be a little cross with you. Like I said, might be time to start learning a new language. In this case it is called cleaning. Ever been on a Navy ship? You can only get in trouble if you stop doing something. There's always something to paint or clean, or someone to salute. Take that attitude into your own home. Instead of just sitting there and idly checking your Instachat or Snapface, clean a dish. Pick stuff up and put it where it belongs. Small gestures like that are endearing because they signal your wife that you "get it"—that there's a ton of stuff to be done, and she's not the only person who has to do it. 6 - It's not your house—it's her home, and she lets you live there. I don't care if you're the primary breadwinner. You no longer live in a full-sized Man Cave because of your wife. She is the one who makes the house a home. I'm not saying you don't (or shouldn't) contribute, but I am keeping it real (as the kids like to say). You are, essentially, a regular guest in your home. Remember that when kids are born, a woman's nesting instinct takes over. This is a good thing. It's her nest, even if you bring home the twigs, straw, and other stuff the nest is made from. This means that she wants things where she wants them, and not necessarily where you want them. I know it can be frustrating, because you want your stuff where you want it. My suggestion: go colonize the garage or a part of the basement. Put down some astroturf and put in a couple of La-Z-Boys. (You can probably find them gently used for $150 on Craigslist.) Hang your tools on the wall. Have a party. Do whatever you want to do to a certain corner of your house, and spend some time there on the weekend recharging. But don't sequester yourself in your man-space. You might be saying, "That's not logical." Hey, Mr. Spock. Get over yourself. Don't let your marriage turn into a battle of facts versus feelings. You will lose every time. Here's some logic for you: How would your home run if your wife took a week off? Think about it. Right, so be a thoughtful guest. Stop allowing yourself to get pulled into issues of control. That's especially true on the weekend, when you spend the bulk of your time at home. Respect the efforts your wife goes to for you and your family. Be a good guest! 7 - Ask for help when you walk in the door. You have a higher power. You take him to work. You probably ask for help to make you a safer driver and to stop giving all the other drivers the finger. So if you have your higher power accompany you everywhere, why not ask him to come with you when you enter the house at night after work, and all through the weekend? I was told that if you bring your higher power with you, it's now two against one. You're going to need all the help you can when it comes to be a contributing member of your family. Life is stressful; families are stressful. There's always a lot going on. When my kids were small, I would take a deep breath whenever I found myself at the doorstep to my house and ask my higher power to accompany me inside. This helped me practice restraint of tongue and pen. I think you know what I'm talking about. 8 - Have your quiet time every morning, especially on the weekends when you're with your family. When I was new in sobriety, the old-timers emphasized over and over again the importance of having a quiet time first thing in the morning. This is your chance to have what they call "the most important meeting of your day"—the meeting you have with your higher power to go over your feelings, your fears, your concerns, and even your gratitude. There are dozens of different ways to structuring a quiet time. How you do it is your business. Just make sure you do it, because this will allow you to process whatever hidden emotions might be dominating your thinking. By dealing with them in this manner, you don't have to allow them to leak into your day, causing you perhaps to lash out at other people, simply because you're upset over something that happened at work the day before. I'm an early riser; and as it turned out, so is our first child. She would get up at 5:30, and we would watch the Goodnight, Moon video twice during the time that I had previously set aside for my quiet time. I mentioned this to a guy I consider very spiritual who is actually not in the program. "I don't get to meditate anymore," I told him. "I'm watching Goodnight, Moon with my daughter." "Maybe watching Goodnight, Moon with your daughter is your meditation right now," he said. You know what? He was right. Those moments always helped me make the most of my weekend time with my family. 9 - Treasure the moments. Your kids will never be this small again, and you will never be this young again! Okay, maybe your kids aren't "small" anymore. Maybe they are older. But the message is really the same: make the most of the time you have. Again, show up! That starts with today—this weekend! So don't look at the weekend as something to endure before you can get back to the safe and friendly confines of your workplace. Instead, treasure the opportunity that your higher power has given you to be a father, to be a spouse, to be a responsible man. It's not easy. If it were, every marriage would go great. You are on a journey. There will be bumps. There will also be moments of smooth sailing. Along the way, don't miss out on the beauty, happiness, and charm of being part of a family. Of developing a partnership with your wife. Of being an engaged father. Of showing up to your life. Take all the pictures and videos you can—there will be so much to capture, especially if you are starting this weekend with a plan for fun! So there you have it: Your nine-step weekend checklist to having a great Saturday and Sunday, and as a result, you have a shot at a great marriage. Your higher power brought your beautiful partner into your life. Your higher power has entrusted you with those beautiful children. Enjoy them. Make the most of the opportunity. And above all, be the best you that you can be. Your wife and kids are counting on you.