My 14th wedding anniversary is this month. And now that I’m mere days away from passing the Seven Year Inch Deadline–twice over–I finally feel qualified to share the Three Relationship Tips No One Ever Tells You (or, to be honest, agrees with). But, I’m going to do it anyway. Because, like “Hooked on Phonics” says, “It worked for me!”
Tip #1: Never Compromise
My husband is a math teacher and an engineer by training. So he approaches all aspects of life like an engineer. And this is how he did the math: When you compromise, two people are left unhappy. When you don’t compromise, one person, at least, is happy. So how do we come to a final decision if compromise is off the table? At our house, the person who feels most strongly, wins.
To take a small example, my husband is obsessed with knives not being put in the kitchen sink with the rest of the dirty dishes. He is convinced that if that happens, he will stick his hand in the soapy water and instantly get sliced to ribbons, ala Jaws. I have been putting knives in sinks for close to decades now, and that has never, ever happened. I have never heard of it happening. I don’t think it will ever happen. And yet, because my husband is obsessed with the topic and treats us all to a lecture when his edict isn’t obeyed, I now leave our knives on the edge of the sink (where, for the record, I actually think they’re more dangerous. But, not as strongly as he believes otherwise).
To take a larger example, I believe it is important for our kids to learn to speak Russian and get a Jewish education. My husband isn’t particularly passionate about either subject (and can easily play Devil’s Advocate for both). But, I am. So I win. The same metric applies to every issue in between. For the record, the person who doesn’t get their way doesn’t have to formally agree with the other. He or she is perfectly welcome to continue pointing out the flaws in the plan (and to deliver an “I told you so,” should said plan fail). But, they do have to go along, not interfere, and, if it concerns the kids, keep the grumbling limited to their spouse in private, in order to present a public united front.
Tip #2: Be Completely Self-Absorbed
When we first became a couple, my non-Jewish, African-American husband and I decided that we would willfully ignore any crap that came our way. We simply wouldn’t notice it. That’s why, about a year ago, I wrote about being dis-invited from participating in a radio show on interracial marriage because mine was too happy. We know that there are people who disapprove of us. We can hear it and we can see it. But, we consciously pay it no mind. Because, here’s the truth, we really don’t care what other people think. About anything. Our personal choices, our political choices, our professional choices, our baby name choices, our child-raising…
I believe my husband is the smartest, best man I know, and he knows I’m the smartest, best (also hottest) woman he knows, and, as a result, the opinions of others just don’t carry any weight with us. Did we have friends who disapproved of our relationship? We did. Are they still our friends? No, they are not. Is that sad? Yes, it is. Did their views sway us? Not in the slightest. Because, yes, we are that self-absorbed. And that arrogant. And that’s why we’re still together. (The one time the judgments of others even come up in conversation is if we’re in the middle of a fight that feels like it might get out of hand. At which point one or the other of us will say, “You know, we can never break up. It would make too many people we dislike way too happy.” And since we can never break up, we better figure out a way to get past this. And so we do.)
Tip #3: Have Sex Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
Sometimes, I don’t want to cook dinner. I’m tired, I’m uninspired, I’d rather read a book instead. But, I do it anyway. Sometimes, I don’t want to climb out of my warm, comfy bed and get the kids ready for school, pack their lunches, and trek out into the cold for a mile long, round-trip walk in the rain or snow. But, I do it, anyway. Sometimes, I don’t want to go to my in-laws’ house, or carry home a heavy bag of groceries, or pay the bills. But, I do it anyway. Because it’s part and parcel of the whole marriage/parenthood deal.
So why should sex be any different?
There are days when “Have sex with husband” is simply another thing to check off my “To Do” list. He knows it. He doesn’t particularly care. (For those concerned that I am invading his privacy, rest assured that he knows all about what I’m writing, and his only contribution was, “Tell them that sometimes I don’t feel like having sex either! But, I always do anyway. And I am never sorry afterwards.”)
My husband does a ton of work around the house. He washes the laundry (which, in an NYC apartment building, means schlepping down to the basement several times in a single evening). He vacuums. He picks up groceries on his way home from work. He mops up when the kids throw up. He computes the taxes and fills out the documents for our school financial aid applications. He does all the tech for my enhanced ebook business. He gives up weeks of his summer vacation to visit with my parents at their house. And lets not forget the literal, painstaking nit-picking of last summer. He’s not exactly chomping at the bit to do any of those things. But, he still does them. Same marriage/parenthood deal.
Neither of us feels exploited, oppressed, or violated.
We just feel married.
For 14 years now.