Today the manscape and I reached the five year marriage mark. Marriage is not for sissies. Just a little FYI.
I recently wrote an essay where I ventured to describe the beginning of my marriage. It was not a humor piece by any stretch of the imagination, not because I couldn’t have made it a rip-roaring tale of first year WTFs? but because there are some things that are best explained without the distraction of humor. After I lose the essay competition, I will be sure to post the piece here so that you may all have an intimate view of The First Year, but for now I’ll sum it up for you. There are as many types of marriages as there are people. There’s never a time to judge someone else’s relationship (unless someone is being abused, of course), because you can never understand what it takes for two people to get through the ups and downs. Marriages are not bad because two people fight in public or because you’ve witnessed a personal exchange of hurtful words. Marriages are a commitment to doing everything in your power to keep a promise you made: I’ll be here for you, and you’ll be here for me.
For us, the promise was made when we were tiny babes. When I walked down the aisle, I was still on the parental dole. No seriously, I think I still received an allowance check the month I got married. And then it turned quickly into real life. Real life back then was a post-graduation nightmare. We lived in a hovel, worked terrible jobs, and ate mostly white foods. Truth be told, the most difficult part of those first few years was remembering not to blame the other person for how our lives individually turned out. Cause that’s easy. You ruined me. You’re responsible for my weight, my professional failures, and the fact that our silverware doesn’t match.
But fast forward five years and you get some perspective. Just like five years from now I’ll finally get a little perspective about this year. In five years, I won’t think he’s trying to sabotage me today. For today, though, I’ll share what we’ve learned and hope that you’re perspective can be a little more timely. You’re welcome.
1. The couch is not necessarily a punishment.
You hear a lot about men being “in the dog house” or “sleeping on the couch.” I’m here to tell you one girl’s perspective, and that is that the only women who chose to put their husbands “in the dog house” are bat shit control freaks. Let’s role reverse for a second. Your husband comes home, gets mad at you for staying out too late with the girls and tells you that you’re in the dog house. Funny how that sounds like a controlling, asshole move, huh? Being capable of marriage is about being capable of communicating even when you want to smack someone over the head. Yes, you’ve been waiting all day for him to get home and you’re up to your eyeballs in children and bullshit, but take a step back. Weren’t you so excited about starting a family? Yeah….
But here the in Beaulieu House, the couch is never a punishment. It’s a delightful reprieve from sleeping in the same bed as the oven monster. I could be married to anyone else in the whole world and this would not change: I do not want to share a bed with anyone. Ever. I want the whole bed, all night, no exception. Layer on to that the phenomenon that is a man with a body temperature of 98.6 who has skin the temperature of the surface of the sun, you and better believe that me and the couch are besties with a long history of cuddles. You may ohh and awe over the fact that there is nothing the hubs wants more than sleepytime cuddles, but I need to tell you that I battle the big spoon like we locked in a life or death battle for the future of mankind. DO NOT TOUCH ME YOU SPACE EATING MAN RADIATOR! I want to starfish naked on this bed with the fan blowing the the cool side of the pillow whispering sweet nothings in my ear.
2. Duties require being dutiful.
Life maintenance is a beast. I’m stressed out by everything from brushing my teeth to dishes and laundry. It never stops. There is a never ending need to brush, wash, and clean. Sometimes we’re like Starsky and Hutch with the “chores,” but let a few days lapse and a pile start in the sink and suddenly we’re the Sharks and the Jets. And then we start playing the “you had so much free time and still couldn’t find time to do ________ game.” It’s a classic.
I can’t stop the evil dish cycle, and I can’t take away the all-consuming rage that takes over when you come home and see the dishes stacked and last nights pots and pans on the stove. (When you’re expected to make dinner…) What I can offer is something to meditate on. No one wants to do any of that stuff. Ever. No one wants to do dishes. No one wants to do laundry. No one really even wants to go to work. But we have to do all those things. And nothing is apples for apples. The better question to ask yourself moments before you decapitate your spouse is whether you’re feeling slighted about the dishes specifically or the chore balance in general. Too many times I’ve found myself in the throes of a dish war when the mister ventures outside the dishes to remind me of the myriad tasks he’s completed that I’ve ignored. (We don’t have a lawn, but lawn mowing comes to mind. I’d do three days worth of dishes to get out of mowing the lawn one time.) In this marriage, it’s the litter box. I don’t touch it, I don’t see it, I pretend it isn’t there.
Now, if your spouse is a consistently inconsiderate asshole, you need to reassess. If appealing rationally doesn’t work, withhold things. Start with refusing to cook unless the kitchen is clean. Slowly build until a moment of passion ends in crossed legs and an apology that you’re not giving up your goods because he didn’t have time for the dishes…
3. Always assume your spouse is about to win the lottery.
This is a very sensitive topic. Every couple has a different idea about how to handle the money. I’m not saying there is a right way or a wrong way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. Doesn’t matter who makes it, it belongs to the group. (You may have a super prenup that separates it all very neatly if something goes wrong, but while you’re married…) I can sing and dance all day long when my financial contribution is winning, go around buying myself delights and bringing them home for the hubs to admire (want to spit on) and splitting meals that make NO sense for my other half to afford, but that parade stops like a car accident when he wins the lottery and suddenly I’m asking for lunch money while he drives his yacht to work.
We’re on the allowance system. Not always my favorite system, but I recognize the need for some thinking that extends beyond the next six months. When the man friend comes home with a $100,000 check for his super sperm, I’m not going to be happy when it’s designated for his urban treehouse and brews with some buds.
4. Close the door.
This was all the hubs. He felt really strongly that we should remind anyone who would listen that keeping the door shut when doing your business is the simplest way to keep a spark of romance alive.
Having said that, the romance is all but buried around these parts, but it doesn’t mean I’m not mindful of the sentiment. The reason people have affairs is because it’s new and exciting. They say things like “they made me feel alive” or “I finally felt sexy.” Truth be told, your secret lover isn’t going to make you feel so sexy when he/she gets comfy enough to drop a deuce with the door open while you order room service. Poop isn’t unnatural, but watching someone do their business has a strange way of removing the masculine and feminine qualities. This is my husband, he’s tall, dark, handsome, and has the sexiest poo position you’ve ever seen. No. Doesn’t happen. Don’t know why.
I suppose it’s about finding a line between the ultimate closeness and so close that you know to worry about poo crumbs during sex…
5. Be married. And tell everyone else to fuck off.
This is complex stuff, but go with it. There are a lot of days, months, even years when marriage isn’t your focus, it’s your existence. It’s like being male or female. Even when you don’t have time to cultivate it and focus on it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not part of who you are.
There is nothing worse than newlyweds. They make you feel bad about yourself. The same way hiring an entry level employee makes you feel old and bitter. You have to remember that more often than not, they are more envious of you than you are of them. Then there are the couples that are different than you, the ones who have the perfect dinner table marriage and make you and your husband feel like you should throw in the towel and start new lives.
It’s those times you have to think back to the perfect girls in high school who ended up with total losers or the nerds that became billionaires. But mostly, you have to play it out and your head and realize that if you ever gave your husband googly eyes across the table he’d think you had mad cow.
Tomorrow we’ll wake up and and it will be five years and one day. And truthfully, it will feel the same as today. And a couple of weeks from now we may be angry about dishes, or in an intense conversation about money. And I’ll probably stick my fingers in my ears and tell him not to ruin me with the facts. But it won’t matter. What matters is that we feel like we’ve got a system. And that being together makes sense to us, no matter how stupid or weird it seems to anyone else. For me, I just need to know that he’s still on board and that we’re on the same page about babies being scary and people who call each other “babe” being weird. And when I start losing sight of what’s going on, he’ll look at me and say something like, “Caroline, I think you need to talk to your doctor about your meds. I don’t think they’re working.”