De-constructing a marriage

This week I passed my 38th wedding anniversary. It’s a bit of a milestone and since it happened, I’ve been asked by any number of people, “How have you stayed together this long?” My standard answer is always, automatically, “Dumb luck,” but since we are starting to pile on the years together, I’ve tried to come up with some real answers. This is what I have.

Learn the fine art of compromise. After all, wasn’t the whole country founded on compromise? And I don’t mean the kind of compromise where one person just gives in and lets the other one have their way because it’s just too much trouble. I mean, the kind of compromise where I learn to watch the Vikings on Sunday afternoons with my lips clamped together, so that I can watch NCIS New Orleans on Tuesday evenings and look at Scott Bakula, without an argument. And the true compromise comes when he finds that maybe Scott Bakula can actually act and I find that yelling at the Vikings for missing that pass is very satisfying. Compromise is critical…are you listening, United States?

Adjust your palate. He stops eating things that are ultra spicy and you stop eating things that are 90 percent sugar. It is a proven fact that the longer you are together, the more closely your taste in food will align. We both agree that nothing beats a good Chinese buffet, but that we are not extending our palates to include sushi. We can frequently be seen in the line at the McDonalds or the Burger King, but we are not likely to ever join the even longer lines at Starbucks.

Learn the fine art of holding your tongue. Roy never answers the question, “Do you think I look fat?” If he is annoyed with me, however, he will suggest, “Wear those red plaid pants of yours tonight, dear, everyone will notice you in those.” And when last spring, I was looking for mask ideas and I suggested that we could use the padded bra I had, he puffed out his manly chest and declared, “I would rather die of the virus than walk around in public with half a bra strapped to my face.” Then, this fall, he plucked the very same padded bra from the clean laundry basket, held it up to his face and declared in the voice of a man who just had a brilliant, original idea, “Hey this would make a pretty effective mask!” Did I remind him that it was my idea last spring? Of course not. I simply said solemnly, “Ooooh, and it looks very manly on you too!”

Never, never NEVER construct anything together. I don’t care if it’s changing a lightbulb in a lamp. It is never wise to do repair or construction projects as a married couple. I have made peace with the fact that I married a perfectionist when it comes to this. And he has realized that my scrawny arms and whiny attitude make a poor assistant! “Honey, I just need your help for a minute,” is a statement that brings down a feeling of doom on me every time. I know it will involve me having to hold something while he measures, mutters and stands back to observe his project. I will be pushing the sheetrock against the wall, wondering how much I could get in the divorce settlement or whether it would just be quicker to grab the hammer in his toolbelt and hit him with it.

I love my husband dearly, but I have had to come to terms with the fact that he is a man who will take three hours and two trips to the lumber yard to nail in a loose board on the garage stairs. And he has had to come to terms with the fact that he is not married to Tim the Toolman Taylor! No construction, ladies and gentlemen, unless you want to deconstruct the marriage!

By now, I’m sure that you have figured out that there are really no rules for a marriage. It just takes two people who are determined to make it work and who are willing to go forward together, warts and all. I wish I had some great words of wisdom to impart, but even after 38 years together I think I’m going to stick with my original answer, “I think God is on our side and we’ve had a lot of dumb luck!”

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