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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Three Secrets to a Perfect Marriage

If you put two wild animals - say, a wolverine and a badger - in a pen together, no one would expect them to survive the night.  And yet, we imagine two human beings - who are infinitely more willful, cunning, and unpredictable than any mere badger - to cohabit up to fifty years, not only in safety, but in amicable relations.

How does one survive the inevitable speed-bumps on the highway of happiness known as marriage?  Over the years lot of nonsense on this topic has been pedaled to the unsuspecting public.  For example, never go to bed angry.  Dear Lord, this would require going without sleep for weeks at a stretch.  You might as well say, "Never go to bed sleepy," or "Never eat on an empty stomach."  Another idiotic tidbit is being willing to admit when you're wrong.  The drawback is, I am never wrong, whereas Nancy frequently is.  Nancy, being hard-headed, refuses to admit that she's wrong, and when I helpfully admit that she's wrong for her, it gets us nowhere.  Yet another article advises couples to "fight fair."

Pardon me, while I put aside my computer and laugh.

Clearly whoever came up with that gem has never been in a fight.  A fight is a contest, and like any contest, the object is to win.  Anyone who fights fair must A. Be certain of winning and B. Not care about winning very much in the first place.  In any fight, any real fight, sooner or later, one of you will drag out the Nuclear Weapon.  Believe me, you don't have to live with someone very long before each of you has acquired a Nuclear Weapon which is perfectly devastating to the other.  All married couples will know what I mean.

So what are you to do?  When you fall in love, you imagine your mate is generous, wise, and loving, but then you discover she's actually just as selfish, stupid, and mean as you.  How do you work through the inevitable little difficulties?

First step, while you still have stars in your eyes, and your heart goes pitter-pat every time you hear your true love's name, and you're still calling each other "Snookums-ookums," hide all the knives.  Put firearms up in the attic where you won't be able to get to them.  Flush all the untraceable poisons down the toilet.  It's important to do this while the blush of passion is still on the rose of love because if you wait until marriage gets down to the nitty-gritty, it'll be too late.  You'll find yourself wiping down fingerprints and rehearsing your 911 call.

Next you have to tell everyone you know, especially your closest relatives and friends, how deliriously happy you are and how you have found your soul mate with whom you will want to spend eternity.  This way when the going gets tough, and it's down to who's getting custody of the dog, you'll realize you'll have to tell all those people and admit you made a terrible mistake.  I can't tell you how many times Nancy and I stayed together just because we were afraid to tell our parents.

Third, and I can't stress this enough, you have to do things together you hate.  Doing things you like is very nice for dating, but marriage requires doing stuff you hate.  This is why having a home is so important; it entails so many horrible tasks.  Crawling through a sweat-box of an attic rolling out puffy pink sheets of itchy insulation, rooting in a damp crawlspace amid camel crickets and black widows, being doused by unmentionable sludge after loosening a pipe joint, being covered in poison-ivy welts - these are the memories that are the superglue of our fractured and broken natures.  (That is the worst metaphor I've seen all week, but I'm letting it stand.)

How many times have I looked at Nancy and thought, God, I hate dealing with this right now.

But at least I have her with me.

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