My wife and I were not rookies when we got married. We had already lived in sin for years. We’d shared a joint checking account and a bathroom. We’d teamed up to face lost jobs, family holidays, and whether to fix the car or buy food. So, when my wife said her vows and made all our wedding guests giggle, we knew that our relationship was strong. As long as we made ourselves keep talking to each other, then the good, happy, loving things we had shared would keep us together.
I’ve heard people say that no matter how long you live together, it won’t be the same when you get married. Those people are pretty smart. At first it wasn’t so much that we treated each other differently. It was that the entire rest of the world treated us differently. We were sucked into the super-special married people club by everyone from our parents to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who thinks it’s no big deal if you can’t get legally married is full of shit.
All of that led us to start treating each other differently. Before we got married, I was living with my sweetheart. That’s a rather mysterious thing, and it meant something unexpected almost every day, which was fantastic. Once we got married, I was living with my wife. I had a lifetime of books and TV and personal observation to know what a wife was. Despite myself, I had expectations about how a wife behaved. And my sweetie had expectations just as powerful about her new husband.
Those expectations took a surprisingly long time to figure out. Just talking about it was not helpful. Talking about the manner in which we would talk about it helped quite a bit, considering that the only thing we have in common communications-wise is that we both speak English. A sense of humor helped. Without a sense of humor, I have no doubt that I would now be in a shallow grave behind some abandoned apartment complex.
Years of marriage passed, and our expectations settled into a dependable pattern. I did not expect her to have dinner ready at five o’clock on a dining table we didn’t own at which I couldn’t sit because I wasn’t home yet. She expected me not to object when she went to a party and I stayed home to sit in a dark room and sharpen knives. Our struggles as a couple changed. We made a little more money and tried not to let me do something crazy with it. We could afford to fix the car and also buy food, but more and more of the people we loved slipped over the edge into death.
As with many people, for years one of our struggles has been with sex. It’s not that we don’t have it and not that we don’t enjoy it. It’s an issue of timing. I know that’s true for a lot of couples, especially for people who are busy. And it’s almost impossible to have the same level of interest at the same time. Add that to the fact that sex is a sensitive and emotionally-charged subject, and it becomes a problem.
We’ve recently attacked this problem by scheduling sex. I admit that’s not the most romantic thing ever, but when you live by the list and die by the list, it’s a rational approach. And it’s been a helpful approach. It’s not exactly, “Hey baby, can you put me on your calendar for some nookie this week?” But it’s not jumping out of the hall closet at you naked, either.
An odd thing happened the other day. I made the, “…put me on your calendar for some nookie…” statement to my wife, except far more urbane and passionate. She opened her iPad, checked her calendar, and suggested a day. I suggested a much closer day, but she pointed out that we’d planned to eat dinner out early that evening. Being stuffed full of food would likely prevent her from feeling too amorous, and she didn’t want to feel constrained to not eat what she wished at dinner.
I considered that statement with what I’m sure was a stupid look on my face. Part of me understood what she was saying. Part of me considered that it wasn’t as if we’d be at a fancy restaurant that we rarely visit. We were just going to eat barbeque. A lot of me empathized with one of those girls in the bedroom doorway in her negligee, trying to pull her boyfriend’s attention away from Halo 4.
I agreed with my wife’s suggestion and then thought about it for an hour or so. Then I expressed to my wife that I understood her situation, and perhaps I was being unreasonable, but I kind of felt less desirable than a barbeque sandwich. She was kind and said she understood and that she didn’t mean anything bad. She just wanted to warn me that she probably wouldn’t feel much like hanky-panky after the evening meal.
Although I told her I understood, some part of this was still bothering me. I thought about it all night and for part of the next day before I grasped the problem. She didn’t have to forego dinner. She could just enjoy half of it and take the other half home to enjoy later. Then she wouldn’t be stuffed to a prohibitively non-frisky degree.
I was in fact not as sexy as half a barbeque sandwich.
In years of marriage I have not really learned all that much. However, one thing I have learned is when I starting thinking things like, “I’m not as sexy as half a barbeque sandwich,” I need to stop what I’m doing, not talk to anybody for a while, and try to internalize the notion that I am careening through the hallways of irrationality like a baboon driving a go-cart.
What in the world am I thinking? It’s not as if an hour of sweaty bouncing around will define my value as a husband, or a human, or a primate with the ability to speak and tell knock-knock jokes. I should just enjoy my own damn barbeque sandwich, not get spun up about it, and see what happens from there. I need to take the crazy emotion out of it. From now on, whenever I think or say “sex,” I’ll just imagine I’m thinking or saying, “backgammon.” As in, “Hey baby, can you put me on your calendar for some backgammon this week?” That should help.
Looking back, I see that when we got married we were ready for hard work. We thought we knew what that work was going to be, but time fooled us. The happy, loving things have been great, but that’s not what’s kept up together. Instead, the pain-in-the-ass struggles that make us want to punch each other in the throat have kept us together. When we make it through one, it’s daunting to think about what it would have been like going through it with someone else. We have so much invested in overcoming so many obstacles together. To hell with the happy, smiley stuff.
Of course, I can’t forget all the times we’ve talked about how we’re going to talk about things. I have some new terminology to add now—instead of sex, we can say backgammon.
That seems weak, doesn’t it? Maybe “sweaty backgammon.”
By Forsaken Fotos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32825125916/