The Last One Standing Collects the Life Insurance (or, Secrets to a Happy Marriage)

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I just got my annual anniversary letter from the pastor that married The Goose and me, so I’ve been thinking about marriage today.

This morning, my good friend called for our usual chat.  I could tell by her voice that she was not happy.  When I asked what was wrong, she replied, “My husband is a dick”.  This made laugh because she has one of the happiest marriages on earth and because she chose to call him that.  Her husband worships the ground she walks on and she adores him.  But, like any other human beings, they’re going to have moments where they look at each other and say, “what the heck was I thinking?”.

I’ve heard a lot of TV talk show hosts, psychologists, preachers, therapists and professionals dispense a big bunch of nonsense about marriage. If you want a good marriage, ask someone who has done time in one.  Most of the time I feel like I have a great one.  If I were to give a piece of my mind to a newlywed, here’s what I’d say:

  1. No one tells you you’re going to look at love’s young dream one day and say “ugh”.  It happens.  The good thing is it doesn’t last.  Sometimes, it lasts a day, sometimes a month.  It comes back around.  Just do something else (not someone else) until you like your significant other again.  Read a book, organize something, build storage shelves.  One day soon, you’ll look up and they’ll be ALL THAT again plus your closets will look nice.

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  2. Don’t marry for passion. Oh, good sex never goes away.  It continues to be fun and great, but there will come a time when you won’t feel the need to pull your partner into a public bathroom for a quickie quite as often, you’ll almost never do it in the car anymore and, I know it’s hard to believe, you’ll occasionally think you’d really rather prefer that extra hour of sleep, even though it’s not nice to say so. You’ll begin to think of your back pain. One day, your husband will walk into the bathroom after the deed and you’ll notice he is still wearing black socks.  Eventually, he’ll throw a leg over yours and there will be a noise like the chirping of a cricket because your legs aren’t shaved. This is the reality of marriage. It’s not a bad thing, you’ll still do it, but you’d better have some other common interests. (Also, never, ever, ever google “naked man in black socks” when looking for a picture to post!)

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  3. You can’t always get your way and some arguments aren’t even worth winning.  When I was young, I felt like it was my duty to make sure The Goose understood my point on everything and came around to my way of thinking.  Now I think, eh, who cares?  If we thought the same way about everything, one of us would be superfluous.  How dull.  While I do believe The Goose is wrong about plenty of things, I let him believe he’s okay.  I know the truth.

     

  4. Don’t tell them everything.  Sometimes, it’s good to have secrets.  I once got a speeding ticket and never told The Goose.  In this way he was spared yelling at me and I was spared his wrath.  I paid it, it went away.  Problem solved.  The Goose would have secrets about all the junk he buys on Ebay if he were smart enough to know that the emails come to me.  Still, I let him believe.

     

  5. Shiny things don’t mean love.  The Goose fully believes that if a man is constantly bringing jewelry and flowers home, he’s up to no good.  This is partially because he is not good at presents himself, but also because it’s the reality.  True love is handling my car tag and insurance for years so that I just became aware that there is such a thing as a car tag tax after almost 30 years. It’s him filling up a warm bath for me when I don’t feel good, it’s me buying key lime pie ice cream for him and grinning in the store because I know it’ll blow his mind. This is not to say special presents aren’t good and I’m still waiting for the greenhouse that he promised me for my birthday, but it’s the day to day stuff in the trenches that counts.

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  6. NEVER discuss what goes on in the bathroom with your spouse unless you are in need of medical help.  Keep some mysteries.

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    7. Never become a “mommy” or “daddy”.  When you have kids, for crying out loud, remember you are still a person.  Don’t put little stickers on your car yacking about your kids and don’t start wearing mommy clothes and then wonder why your husband found that his secretary in a garter belt understood him.  One day, surely, these kids will move out and your spouse will still be there.  It’s a lot harder to fall back in love with a fat, balding, 50 year old man or a woman in sensible shoes and sweatpants than it is just to stay involved with them. Remember, you’re on the same side and those kids, no matter how darling you think they are, are on the other.  One day, when you least expect it, they will turn on you and snarl.  You’re going to need backup. If it takes lingerie and sit ups to keep the team together, just buck up and do it.

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    8. Learn your partner’s fighting technique.  I’m a talker and shouter, The Goose is a pouter.  I wish we’d figured this out earlier.  Now, he’ll just say “why are you raising your voice?” and I’ll yell “because I’m a girl and it feels good to be loud”.  When he pouts, I tell him to pull up his panties and get over it.  Our disagreements are cut short in this way.  After all this time, there isn’t that much to fight about anyway, but still, he is still wrong sometimes and it’s my job to point that out.  I have learned to use my inside voice and now things go much more smoothly.

    9. Sometimes, just take one for the team.  Occasionally, just admit things are your fault.  While I believe it’s always better to weasel out of a problem if possible, sometimes you can surprise your partner with a frontal assault.  Once, I just walked in and said “I backed the car into a pole at Mellow Mushroom.  I’m sorry.  I’m a big ol’ dummy.”  The Goose had nothing to say.  In the past, I have blamed scratches on the car on kids, shopping carts and objects from space.  Every now and then I say to him “I’m sorry for being so snappy.  I’m just grouchy. I am sad or worried.”  This immediately makes him feel sorry for me and, voila, I’m off the hook for acting like an ass.  It always works.

    10. The grass is almost never greener on the other side.  I never see men I think are cuter than The Goose, except possibly Johnny Depp, and only when he’s a pirate.  But, I know lots of people look around when they’re grouchy with their mate.  Listen, that hot guy you see in the bar?  He’s still a man at home, leaving hair in the drain and clothes on the floor.  That smokin’ girl with the ridiculous boob job who’s happy all the time?  At home she bitches just as much as your wife and you’re going to have to pay to replace those whoppers every 12 years.  You never know what psychosis lurks beneath a person.  Once you have determined your spouse is not a psycho, best to stick with them. At least their problems are known.  Just learn to overlook their foibles and focus on what’s great.  In time, you may not even notice the fact that your husband is incapable of cleaning up after himself or that your wife may be a pet hoarder.

My advice all the way around is, make a decision to be happy, keep your eye on the finish line and realize your spouse isn’t you, you have differences and that’s what makes it fun.  The one that lives the longest collects the life insurance, so relax and keep your blood pressure down. Sometimes arguing is fun but never say something you can’t take back.  Only once was I so mad that I said “well, maybe you just need to move away from me”.  The Goose said “absolutely not” and I almost wept with relief.  If he ever tried to leave, he’d do it with my arms wrapped around his leg, with my teeth clamped on his pants and the dogs holding on to me.

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4 thoughts on “The Last One Standing Collects the Life Insurance (or, Secrets to a Happy Marriage)

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