Two years ago, I wrote a post about what I’d learned in thirteen years of marriage. Today marks our fifteenth anniversary. Although I woke up with my hideous bite splint in my mouth, I was pleased to find that I was stillmarried, and that my husband still loves me and thinks I’m adorable notwithstanding moodiness, jaw clenching, and insistence on excising the little plastic windows from junk mail to recycle with the plastics.
I still feel lucky to have found the right person to spend my life with, particularly after washing up on the shoals of my early thirties alone, and (according to the popular news stories of the day) likelier to be struck by lightning than invited to the altar.
Here, then, to celebrate the day, are a few more things I’ve learned:
1. Give up the remote. If you watch TV at all, and I’ll admit that we do, control of the “clicker” is a major power struggle. Because I am a control freak, I like to sit down at the beginning of an at-home evening and set “reminders” for everything we will watch. We don’t actually sit and watch all the time; my husband works on his laptop and I do crafty things and/or jump up at commercials to get the laundry or clean some counters. The important thing (aside from my pathetic attempt to divert you from the fact that we watch TV because I often pretend we don’t) is that I almost always have the remote. If I don’t have it, he hands it to me. I’m sure that there are many times when he would like to do the choosing, or even have the ability to hit “mute” during the commercials, but he has formally ceded control. That makes me happy, which makes him happy. In return, I am careful not to choose anything involve Hallmark, Real Housewives, or Lifetime.
2. Do new stuff. Many years ago, on a trip to Maui, we were persuaded to ride bicycles down a volcano. It was absolutely terrifying for me, and I tried to get out of it even as we were being driven up in a van to see the sun rise over the volcano’s immense crater. I bucked up, we did it, and the ride down was absolutely, magically exhilarating. We still talk about it. Last summer I went to my first rock concert because my husband is a “metal head,” and tomorrow night we’re going to another one. It’s another total break from our ordinary lives, and between the performance and the people watching, we have a million things to talk about. Ruts are cliché, but ruts are real, and anything from spontaneously taking a nature walk after dinner to eating with your hands at an Ethiopian restaurant can bump you from muddy ditch to the soft, green grass of Being Interesting Again.
3. Mind the hormones. This applies, mostly, to women. Your husband is not your girlfriend, or your gay shopping friend, and he doesn’t want to be. Actually, for about ten million reasons, you don’t want him to be. While a heterosexual man can have excellent taste, care about his clothes and have the occasional manicure, he will not be interested in your makeup, your adorable hedgehog pictures, gossip, 40s movie musicals, cramps, table scapes or a host of other things. If you find exceptions, enjoy them Otherwise, give the guy a break and don’t pout when he gives you a cursory “Mhmm” in response to your magazine article about Twenty Ways to Get Glorious Curls. He wants to care, because he loves you. You shouldn’t try to make him care, because you love him.
4. Say “thank you” a lot. A little gratitude goes a long way, and taking someone for granted is almost certain to leave her sad and resentful. It is reasonable to expect that your spouse will do the things that he or she has agreed to do, or has always done as part of your household routine. It is also incredibly easy to say “thank you” for taking the dogs out in a blizzard, “thank you” for cooking dinner, “thank you” for picking the kids up at school when it’s usually your gig but you have a migraine. You really can’t say it too often. “Please” is also in frequent play around here, and I never tire of hearing it.
5. Be flexible. There are lots, and lots, and lots of things we would like done a certain way, on a certain schedule, but the reality is that living closely with another person means giving up some control. Everything can’t be your way all the time. More accurately, it can be, but only if you live alone. I like things at least to appear tidy, and my husband is…less concerned on that front. He will always pick up or vacuum if I ask him, but left to his own devices he is not a man given to an orderly desk and dresser with “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I could browbeat him into making tidy stacks of change and straightening the edges of his papers, but that makes him feel guilty and annoyed. I could perpetually tidy up after/around him, which makes me feel resentful and annoyed. I have chosen Option Three, which is that I just don’t look at the areas that bother me because they are not endangering our health, and they are not necessarily any of my business. For his part, my carnivorous husband has adjusted nicely to “Meatless Mondays,” and at least appears to accept the notion that many dishes are meant to contain meat only as a kind of garnish in addition to grain and vegetables.
Mostly, it’s a good idea to do what I did and marry someone who is patient, generous and wants to be married to you.