You still don’t actually know us all that well, so let me tell you who we are:
Ten years ago today, I took a half-day off work and married my best friend. Our first “reception” was my office Christmas party, which I still say was better than the other thing that happened once we got our families involved – nobody knew we were going to do it until it was done, and I can’t recommend that method enough. Before I met this amazing man, ten WEEKS was a long relationship for me. I’m glitter-covered*, sarcastic proof that it’s possible to suddenly find yourself in the relationship that changes the way you relationship. (That’s a verb now. My editor is in the middle of a messy move and can’t argue with me.) We didn’t have a big fancy flower festooned wedding, nor could I have handled such a spectacle. And he married me anyway. Tricked me into it, actually, but that’s another story. Maybe for our eleventh. But on THIS anniversary, while he works late even though he knows it will only give me time to drape twinkle lights over even more things, I want to tell you what it is that has made our relationship really work over the last decade. It’s not, as he might try to convince you, his sense of humor.
ME: I realized today what the basis is for our relationship
HIM: You think I’m cute and I think I’m funny?
ME: No, sweetie… that’s what’s HINDERING our relationship
HIM: You don’t think I’m cute?
ME: I do, but your belief that you’re funny is killing us
HIM: oh… so what’s the basis then?
ME: Our mutual understanding that I’m the best thing that ever happened to you
HIM: Yeah, you are… but I’m still funny
I’m no relationship expert, but as I say I happen to have a wonderful and successful one. Some of this is due to the fact that my husband is wonderful and loving and dreamy and capable and brilliant; there’s also the fact that I’m clever and witty and endlessly patient and did I mention sexy? Because I am. He’s lucky to have me, truly.
One thing I have learned about marriage – from being in a good one – is that, like any good story, it needs tension and conflict and lighter moments and running jokes. I’ve said before (here? Elsewhere?) that fights** are what keep things fresh; fights keep you nimble. And I firmly believe that there are exactly*** five types of arguments that no couple should ever stop having.
- Stupid ones
Stupid arguments are the ones you can’t even explain to outsiders without sounding like a frothing lunatic. My husband and I have an ongoing battle for mattress real-estate: I contend that it is unfair of him to take more than 1/3 of our king sized bed for his own use when I’m the one travelling all the way over to his side to snuggle, and he insists that he not fall out of bed at 2am. Now, clearly I’m fortunate in this case, occupying the morally superior position and having logic on my side, but even if I were unlucky enough to be wrong (it could happen, someday) we would still have this argument and dozens of others like it. Why? Because we never finish it without laughing. Especially after I take the covers with me as I retreat to my “side”.
There is nothing creepier than a couple that agrees on everything. For evidence of this, I point you at those studio portraits of couples in matching outfits; or, if you like, I can introduce you to some former friends of ours – we stopped hanging out with them when they became such a couple, owing to her belief (instilled by parents who never argued in front of the kids) that when you’ve found your “soul mate” you’ll know it because you never disagree. If you and your lover have fallen into this Pit of Lame, start small and develop different musical tastes. Exposing each other to something different, even something hated, keeps you fresh and interesting as a person and as a Couple Unit. Learn to embrace your partner’s love of Nickleback, you boring bastard.
I blast Christmas music from November first until I’m legally compelled to stop, and torture my husband with show tunes from time to time in the off-season. He, in return, insists that he can’t sleep without Songza blasting dubstep at us (I don’t hate it, but it’s hardly soothing, is it?). The point is, I also managed to force him to appreciate jazz, and I can now – occasionally – impress him by naming a song he loves.
- Who’s Arguing?
This is a favorite around here, and it comes in many flavors:
- Hey, I didn’t start this – I just responded when YOU picked a fight!
- I’m not arguing, I’m just talking. You’re arguing
- I’m not arguing, I’m just correcting you because you’re wrong
The reason I count this among the most useful arguments for a couple to have is that it forces both of you to constantly replay the things you’ve just been saying. No joke here: when you’re arguing about something, anything, it’s really easy to lose track of what you’re saying and that’s when you say the shit that you shouldn’t say to someone if you want them to keep living with you and showing you their naked bits.
- Disproportionate flare-ups
Now, I don’t mean to imply that a happily married couple should routinely come to blows over which way the toilet paper should hang: that’s into batshit crazy territory, and if that’s happening you may want to consider advice from someone who’s not currently drunk. No, what I’m talking about is a good, healthy chance to purge all your frustrations in a shouting match over something so ridiculous that you don’t even need to make up afterward, because neither of you will want to admit that you were willing to rattle the windows over the subject of which direction to wrap lights around the Christmas tree (true story).
We’re shouters, both of us, and will sometimes leave the room while continuing discussion, adding distance and volume to suit.
- Public Ones
Again, this is a matter of degrees. Have some fucking decency, and don’t fight about sex in front of anyone’s parents. But go ahead and bicker about whose turn it is to drive, which bathroom is out of soap, and the name of your kid’s hockey coach in front of your friends. If they don’t ever see you argue, they’re going to think it doesn’t happen, which makes their relationship a failure in comparison. Don’t be selfish!
Public health issues aside, couples that don’t argue in public are more likely to continue that perfect façade in private. Boring, and a recipe for disaster.
My husband and I don’t keep any sort of schedule, but we do try to have at least one spat each day.
(note for amateurs: we actually woke up arguing on the morning in question – highly recommended, as it keeps a marriage fresh and exciting – and this conversation rolled in on the heels of that one. Thus we are laughing throughout)
ME: Are you serious? You’re seriously just that sort of husband?
HIM: I can’t help it!
ME: You could at least apologize
HIM: I’m sorry I’m your husband
HIM: I’m sorry I’m that sort of husband
ME: That’s NOT what you said first
HIM: No, it isn’t
ME: (smack) Stop saying bad things!
HIM: I’m trying!
So that’s been the scene in our home for the last decade. And yes, I’m looking forward to many more… provided I don’t smother him in his sleep to stop the snoring.
*But we’re not going to talk about why I’m covered with glitter right now. Partly because I honest-to-god can’t explain where it keeps coming from, but mostly because I’ve made the conscious decision that this is NOT a lifestyle or craft blog, which is why you weren’t bombarded with photos of my pumpkins at Halloween. I may still crush you under the weight of my holiday cheer, but at least I’m not showing you how I made the snowflakes. The line is there, even if you can’t see it.
**Actually, arguments. Disagreements. No namecalling or hitting without a safe-word