MultitaskingMumma recently got engaged, and today, she posted about working with her future husband on a questionnaire touching on everything from daily living practices and future plans -- the sorts of things that couples should discuss before taking the vow to spend the rest of their lives together.
Our answers matched up perfectly and we rolled with laughter as we read through questions such as:
"We will wait until after marriage to have children."
"Toilet paper must be hung a certain way every time."
Photo by Public Domain Photos.
It reminded me of a similar discussion I'd had with my ex-husband before we got married. I dug up the post and read with a combination of amusement and sadness -- there was no way that I could have known, staring up at Chihuly's Fiore di Como at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, how such a sure bet would come undone. But let's go back first, to the day immediately after we said "I do," at a little historic chapel in the City of Sin.
"Oh, thank God, I was afraid you were dead!" my friend Annabella screamed into my ear when I finally picked up my mobile phone.
"What?" I cracked an eye open. The clock read 4:42AM. Don't you just love people with no understanding of time zones?
Annabella wasn't fazed by my grogginess -- she jabbered right on, "I read that this guy got arrested when he ran over his new wife in Las Vegas, and I was like, OMG! It's Anaiis! I am so glad you're OK."
Later, when I was conscious, I found out the details of Katie Martindale and James Olwine's honeymoon gone so, so wrong: they got into a huge fight on their trip home from their Vegas wedding getaway and when the bride stormed out of the car, her new husband ran her over.
To love and to hold! To hit and to run!
Annabella wasn't the only one concerned. Robert, my new father-in-law, called Richard because he "just wanted to make sure you haven't run her over, son!"
"I'm sure it's not that people think he's a psycho or you guys have a crazy relationship," my mother assured me when I called her that afternoon from the lobby, where I sat staring at the ceiling, enamored of Dale Chihuly's massive Fiori di Como. "You just inspire very strong actions and reactions!"
I couldn’t help thinking about an article in the New York Times years ago about how the divorce rate was not as high as it was often reported and was, in fact, in decline. Is this because marriages last such a short time that people can simply annul their unions? Or is it that they just run each other over?
I didn't care whether it was 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce or 41. I felt like I do whenever I catch one of those really hot shows on the TV, like 24 or Lost: ugh, can't handle the suspense, must know what happens next, must wait 'til the whole show comes out on DVD so I can take a week off and watch all the seasons back to back.
I must know what happens. Since there was no way to do this, I would settle for our odds. So I did what we always do when we have a question: I hit up the oracle at Google.
Guess what! According to Jeffry H. Larson, professor and chairman of the Family and Marriage Therapy Program at Brigham Young University and author of the book Should We Stay Together?, the odds are slim at best.
There are several factors that predict marital dissatisfaction and marital success according to his "Marriage Triangle theory," which compares individual traits, couple traits and context. The success stuff is pretty typical: communication, common ground, understanding, blah, blah, blah.
The dissatisfaction indicators though? It's so us: high neurotic traits, impulsiveness, vulnerability to stress, anger, dysfunctional beliefs, dissimilarity, short acquaintanceship, premarital sex and promiscuity, cohabitation (if sporadic), younger age (mine), parental divorce and chronic marital conflict (his), family disapproval (both; well, at first, anyway).
"We're an equation for disaster!" I told my husband later as we sailed toward Hoover Dam on Lake Mead.
"We cancel each other out," Richard replied, pulling me close and kissing my forehead, oh-so-sweet.
But before I could get too smug about escaping the Marriage Triangle doom with our brand of creative mathematics, we had A Fight. On the way back to California from our Las Vegas wedding getaway, no less. How ironic.
I can't say how many statistics and surveys I have seen that say the number one reason couples fight is money. The number's in the hundreds, at least. Generic as it sounds, that's exactly what the bicker-fest was about.
Richard had suggested I close my account with my bank now that we had an account at his bank. It wasn't the fact that it had to be his bank, it was the word "we." I suddenly realized my husband was going to be able to see all my financial shenanigans.
It's not that I have anything to be ashamed about. I consider myself a very financially responsible person. It's the fact that, if he wanted to, he could totally see everything I'm doing. Mind you -- I'm not doing anything wrong or even suspect. It's the little things. Look, I'm the sort of girl who locks empty boxes. I like certain details to be mine and remain mine. I'm a Scorpio. For all the blogging, I'm a walking information management department.
I don't need my husband knowing I spend this much on nails ("Sculpted what? They aren't real? Whoa, what are they made of?") or that much on facials or this on teeth bleaching, that on waxes and this other amount on lasers. What happens when I get Botox? Or collagen in my lips? Or whatever tucked and pulled and plucked? He'll know then, too! What's the charm in a woman who looks fabulous if you know it's a push-up bra or silicone and injections of diluted chemical weapons and fat? That's disgusting! Who would knowingly sleep with that?!
I was beside myself. In my mind, I had already been exposed as a mere mortal with access to a good dermatologist, a mortal who needed brow waxes and whose vulva wasn't just naturally devoid of coarse shrubbery. I wasn't born in stilettos! I have my feet injected with dermal filler so it doesn't hurt when I walk in them for hours! I'm a liar! Not as advertised!
He doesn't need to know that. And I don't need to know about his procedures, either!
"STOP THE CAR!" I screamed at Richard, crying hysterically, my voice as red and puffy as my eyes.
"WHY? DO YOU WANT ME TO RUN YOU OVER?" he yelled back.
He was not always good at funny. In fact, most of the time, he was terrible at funny. But this was funny. We burst out laughing. Which enabled us to peacefully conclude that we would maintain individual accounts and have this joint one for household and couple expenses. You know, kind of like paying club dues.
It's all very reasonable now. But at the time, I'm not really sure one of us wouldn't have ended up road kill.
So when my friend Simone called me to hang out tonight and chirped, "Hey! How is married life?" I wanted to reach over the line and strangle her.
Those newlyweds who constantly gush, "OH-EM-GEE! I LOVE MY SPOUSE!!!1! I MARRIED MY BEST FRIEND!!!11!ONE! EVERYTHING IS SO FABULOUS!!!!" are on some seriously great mood-altering meds.
Because it's not fabulous. It's awkward. It's weird getting used to having someone in my space all the time. It's weird having to check with someone when making plans. It's weird having to explain simple life choices and even weirder to have to combine your future plans with those of someone else. It's weird defining even the simplest tasks and delegating responsibilities to ensure a household works as close to the way both parties would like as possible. It's deep stuff and menial stuff, but it's foundation stuff, which means you have to address it. And there is nothing fun or sexy in that, nothing.
Disagreements about how towels are to be folded can be a marriage's undoing. Or how the toilet paper is to be placed in the dispenser. Or how the bed is to be made.
I know this because Richard and I have already had to have Discussions about these issues. Except the toilet paper one -- I don't know anyone who wouldn't agree with overhand roll installation. Even the info architects at Clearwired have an entire article about the obvious superiority of overhand installation.
I mean, you can't have it origamied if it's hanging off the back end against the wall. You want your toilet paper to be origamied nice and pretty for you, don't you? Duh.
Am I seriously talking about TOILET PAPER?! Ugh! I can't stand myself right now! This is what marriage does to you, I swear to God. Totally normal, mundane things you'd never bother people about like how you like your towels folded, how you like your bed made, how you love your toilet paper origamied in every bathroom of your house, and so on, all become huge diplomatic concerns subject to discussion and negotiation. Before you know it, you're talking everyone's ears off about it, like it's some incredible bit of information. It's absurd.
"The facts of life are very grinding, so the reality of marriage is grinding," says Natalie Low, Ph.D., a psychologist and Harvard instructor who counsels couples from fairy tale endings into the real world. "There is no obvious course to follow, so couples just have to keep working."
"How is married life?" I repeated in response to Simone. "Married life's hard. Like, worse than manual labor. Very weird manual labor. On a mine field."
Richard and I got divorced after four years together. It had nothing to do with how we liked the toilet paper installed or our towels folded. But the typical scene of me rolling out of bed at 4:00PM with no will to advance my life in any way to find his socks on the floor just feet away from the hamper were signs that both he and I had long since stopped working. We took permanent vacations from our marriage, only sporadically returning to admire the origami in the bathroom.
It's been two years since my divorce, and I'm no closer to understanding how to have a three-legged race that doesn't end up with two broken ankles and several bruises and scrapes. Of course, that doesn't keep me from trying.