A few years back — okay maybe many years back— a book came out called “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” It was widely acclaimed as a breakthrough book about how relationships work between men and women and how different they are from one another. And yet I feel like every man and woman who had ever been married, for any length of time, kind of looked at it and said, “Please tell us something we didn’t already know.” Because within six minutes of saying your vows, you’ve already realized you’re not quite from the same planet.
Brand-new husband: “Let’s go say hi to my Aunt Birdie. She’s so fun.”
Brand-new wife: “And by fun, you mean gets drunk and uses every speaking opportunity to point out any deficiency you may have, to make you feel bad about yourself?”
Brand-new husband: “Yep.”
Brand-new wife: “Okay. As long as we’re clear. Also, I think I’m gonna need another drink for this.”
And let’s be honest, it would be really weird if we were that similar. Life works best when you find the yin to your yang. If you want a successful marriage, I believe you should complement each other, offer strength where your partner needs support, and learn to see the beauty in your differences. Because though I will never, ever, understand the heap of dirty laundry on the floor next to his side of the bed, I have developed the ability to walk past it and/or kick it under the bed without thinking murderous thoughts. It’s all about balance.
Not only have I come to the realization that marital compromise is a necessity if I do not wish to go to prison, I have also learned that being clear and specific about my expectations is absolutely vital. And it helps to remove any obstacles to success. So if I don’t want him to use the beach towels as bath towels, I need to remove the beach towels from the bathroom. If I don’t want laundry ON the hamper, I need to eliminate the hamper lid. If I do not want dirty socks in the middle of my dining room table, I need to burn the house down.
It’s important to communicate your needs and wants and not hope that your partner can guess what you’re thinking (though, if he really loved you, you’d think he’d figure it out — but that’s just me thinking out loud) in all situations. I have been told that my text messages are amongst the longest people have ever seen. What I hear in that sentence is that I am thorough. No one is left guessing, unlike when certain men I know (all of them) text. Things like, “I’ll be home soon” can mean anything from “I’m in the driveway” to “I’ve just started walking the Appalachian Trail.”
I often find that my spouse is not forthcoming with vital information. From the aforementioned time of arrival to driving directions, details are scarce. I never rely on him, as a passenger, to get me from point A to point B. There have been several occasions when I have been instructed to turn, seconds after I pass the road. And forget asking him for written directions. Unlike me, who will helpfully suggest more than one route — based on time of day, traffic patterns, the car you’re driving, and possibly the phases of the moon — and also provide landmarks and points of interest along the way, I’m lucky if I get the entire address — or even the correct address — from my husband. It seems he finds it odd that I wouldn’t just assume that when he says, “Park Road” he actually means “Main Street.” Go figure.
In addition to becoming besties with Google maps, I have also learned that when I am away from a situation and require more details about what is happening, my children are my only hope. Years ago, my son got hurt while I was away for the weekend. After getting a message from the gym, alerting me to the injury, I texted my husband for further clarification. The response was a curt “He’s fine.” I suspected he was holding out on me, but I let it ride. The next day, my son texted.
“Who’s my primary care doctor?”
“Why don’t you know this? Why doesn’t your father know this? Which bone is broken?”
Though he had no answer for the first two, I was able to elicit a promise from my eldest that he would let me know after the x-rays came back. And later, my youngest sent me a photo of him hobbling along on his crutches. So at least I can be thankful for my spies.
In the end, though it may be helpful to know from which planet your spouse hails, you ultimately have to live together on this one. That’s why God gave us booze. Just kidding. Really, that’s why God gave us best friends who also have husbands that think “good” is an acceptable answer to, “How was your day?” (What does “good” even mean? What are you supposed to do with that information? Was lunch good? Did you get a raise? Did someone bring in puppies? There’s so much left unanswered. TG for booze. Wait, did I say that already?) Because if you can’t beat ’em, you can at least discuss beating them with another person who understands.
If your BFF isn’t available when you need to commiserate, I suggest trying the Simone de Beauvoir Cocktail, as described in A Drink of One’s Own: Cocktails for Literary Ladies (a book I clearly need to own and about which you can learn more here). I feel like Simone would definitely understand.
1 cinnamon stick
1 fl oz brandy
1 fl oz port
1/2 fl oz honey
1/2 fl oz lemon juice
lemon peel twist to garnish
For the syrup, combine equal parts honey and water on the stovetop and add a cinnamon stick. Heat while stirring until the honey is dissolved and the mixture tastes strongly of cinnamon. Store the excess in the fridge.
In a cocktail shaker, combine the brandy, port, syrup, and lemon juice. Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled brandy snifter. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.