Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘marriage’

How to Fight…errr…Communicate With Your Spouse

Odd subject for Valentine’s Day?  Maybe.  But one of the biggest secrets to a successful long-term marriage is figuring out how to argue with each other without irreparably damaging the relationship.

Just to clarify, when I say “fight” or “argue”, I don’t mean the knock-down drag-out verbal battles that pop up (hopefully) very rarely in a good relationship.  I’m talking about the little debates about who’s washing the dishes, which car to buy, etc. that can pile up in any marriage.

Couples who tell me they “never argue” just don’t understand the meaning of the word.  Because I firmly believe that a couple that always agrees on everything every day for years on end is in a coma.  And comas aren’t healthy.  Come on – people disagree with each other.  It happens.  Especially when you’re sharing a bathroom.  For years.  If you can disagree without ever raising your voice, as some people claim, that’s great (and please tell me your secret!), but it’s still a debate/argument/negotiation/fight, at least for the purpose of this post. 

I’d love to give an example of the stupid things we argue over, but I can’t remember any.  Why not?  Well, for one thing, sometimes we don’t end our arguments discussing the same topic that we started with.  And that’s the dangerous part of arguing – a silly vent/rant can become a grudge match if you’re not careful.  The little quibbles over crumbs on the counter or empty toilet paper rolls can easily end up drifting to “you don’t respect me”; “you don’t appreciate me”; or, at its worst, “you don’t love me.”  Fortunately, we’ve never reached the point of doubting our love for each other, even when we’re really ticked off.  Healthy debate is an art, and it’s something married couples have to work at constantly to keep the marriage fresh and balanced.   

There are a few philosophies out there on “how to fight”.  One oldie is the idea of holding hands while you argue.  It has merit – how can you stay mad at someone you’re holding hands with?  You can’t stomp away, and there’s no point in yelling if you’re that close.  And trying to stay mad when you’re holding hands usually leads to both of you giggling uncontrollably.  The problem?  Arguments start at the drop of a hat, and once you’re angry (after tripping over his or her shoes for the fifth time this week), the last thing you want to do is walk over and hold his hand!  The hand-holding thing works best when you know a conversation might eventually get tense (“honey, I’d really like to spend our savings on a new flatscreen TV…”).  If you plan in advance, and assume the hand-holding position early on, it can help both of you stay more calm. 

And of course there’s the golden standard – “never go to bed angry.”  I’m not so sure I support this one as much as I used to.   Hubby is one of those guys who just goes to sleep when he’s tired, angry or not.  I’ve been known to poke him to keep him awake so that we can work through some conflict and I can know we’re not going to bed angry, because that’s against the rules.  Which, of course, makes him angry.  Frankly, we’ve gone to sleep mad (or at least annoyed) a few times, and it’s been just fine.  A good night’s sleep does wonders, especially if you’re arguing about something as silly as leaving the toilet seat down.  Just as it’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re holding their hand, I’ve also discovered it’s hard to be mad at someone you’re waking up with…for the 5000th time.  We tend to just give each other a bashful “love you” while brushing our teeth, and move on with our lives, because again, who can remember what started the argument in the first place?  And who has the energy to carry it into day two?

One of my favorite tips came from a recent blurb in Reader’s Digest.  It basically said to treat your spouse like a dog.  Seriously.  If you love animals, then you know how well your dog is treated, right?  After Fido chews up your favorite slippers, sure, you’re mad as hell.  But then he looks at you with those puppy-dog eyes and you know he didn’t really mean it, and you forgive him.  Uses the dining room rug as a bathroom?  Smack a rolled up newspaper in your hands and kick him outside, but you know an hour later he’ll be curled up in your lap getting his ears scratched.  Yes, I’m talking about the dog. 

But the same can work for a spouse – really.  It’s all about intentions. I don’t intend to forget to empty the trash.  Hubby doesn’t intend to leave the cupboard door open.  I don’t intend to put his favorite cotton shirt into the hot dryer.  He doesn’t intend to track mud into the living room.  And aren’t those silly things the primary irritants in a good marriage?  If I can forgive a four-legged mammal for its carelessness, then I can forgive my two-legged mammal, too.   

On Saturday, we were driving through some bad weather on the way to a wonderful Valentine’s weekend get-away.  Hubby was behind the wheel, and pulled out to pass another car in some very dicey snow conditions.  I held my breath and grabbed the door (it was admittedly an over-reaction).  He chuckled and asked me how the brakes were working on the passenger side of the car.  I glared at him, and said “I’m picturing you as a puppy right now…”  And we both laughed out loud.

And that’s the best “secret” of all – laugh.  A lot.  If you remain aware of how silly a disagreement is, and bring that silliness to the attention of your spouse, how can you really stay mad?  As soon as one of us slips up and says something like “you ALWAYS…” or “you NEVER…”, the other will just start laughing and say “Really?  Never?  Never ever?  Are you sure?”  It might start with just a smirk, but pretty soon a smile is there, and then a laugh, and then we’ve forgotten whatever stupid thing we were arguing about. 

Communication is the key.  And that includes communicating when you don’t agree.  And that’s going to happen, so you may as well figure it out now.  I’m happy to say that I think we’ve done that pretty darned well in our marriage. 

So, as we head rapidly towards our 15th wedding anniversary….Happy Valentine’s Day, my Love!

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Boys and Their Toys

Zero-turn mower (no, that's not my house in the background!) {photo: Joseph Barillari}

What is it with men and power equipment?  Have Ryobi power drills replaced swords and spears as symbols of a man’s prowess?  Do men think women are impressed when they wield a “saws-all” and cut a hole through a wall?  And you gotta love the way they swoop in when they see a woman trying to use power tools.  “Oh, let me get that, honey.”  “Honey, you’re not holding it right – let me take it.”  “You’ll never get it done that way – let me do it.” 

In fact, most wives learn pretty early on that the easiest way to get our husbands to do something that’s been on our “honey-do list” for days (weeks, months, years) is to grab a power tool ourselves and fire it up while they’re nearby.  Oh, there may be a curse word or two, but trust me, in the end, the job will be completed…by the husband. 

Disclaimer:  My own Hubby is sometimes conflicted in how to balance our roles, but to his credit, he usually falls on the more enlightened side of things.  Some of my sweeping generalities here are based on other guys I’ve known in the past or have worked with, and other womens’ husbands.  My own beloved at least tries to let me do things on my own, but he still gets twitchy when I grab the Ryobi. 

I don’t think for a minute that guys grab tools away from us because they’re all that concerned for our safety (although, I must admit, I can’t be trusted with any sharp objects, and Hubby knows it).  I just don’t think they want us to learn how much fun they are.

I lived alone for more than fifteen years, including ten years on my own horse farm (with a house that was a hundred years old).  So I had to learn how to make a few basic repairs.  Simple little things like…patching the roof, snaking the pipes, fixing the toilet, thawing out the sump pump, driving a farm tractor older than I was, bailing water out of the basement by hand…just a few little things every girl dreams of doing someday.  So Hubby took on a wife who didn’t expect him to fix everything, and a wife who had her own opinions on how to fix things.  That has occasionally led to some….uh….stress, but overall it’s been a successful match in handling day-to-day tasks.  He refers to my occasional proclamations of “I can do it myself” as my “I am woman, hear me roar” moments, but I think he quietly appreciates that we share the workload.

I’m not in love with running the snow blower, but I can certainly do it when he’s not around.  I’ll bundle up in twenty layers, and I’ll waddle into the garage and open the door.  I spend a few seconds staring at the snow-covered driveway in annoyance.  I’ll push the choke three times and start hauling away on the pull-start rope.  If it doesn’t start on the first pull, I’ll warm the air with a few four-letter words.  If it doesn’t start on the second, I’ll graduate to 5- and 7-letter words, because I know I’ve only got one pull left in me.  But once that sucker starts, I’m off!  Our driveway is three cars wide and 90 feet long.  It’s a bear to clear, but I can do it.  When I’m done, I’m tired, and aching, and usually still annoyed, but I also have a sense of accomplishment and independence that feels pretty good. 

And maybe that’s what guys love about their power tools.  They really do make you feel powerful.  That’s their little secret.  That’s why they snatch them out of our hands so quickly.  It’s not about the operator, it’s about the machine.

I discovered this recently when I finally learned how to drive the “man-machine”, which is what I’ve dubbed Hubby’s new zero-turn lawn mower.  I could drive any lawn tractor around, and I’ve had some doozies, including a big old clunker on my farm that I bought at a garage sale – it would smoke and backfire regularly, but it got me through my last couple years of farm life (before I came to my senses and sold the farm and tractor).  I was even okay driving a 1950 farm tractor and operating the bucket loader on the front.  But just because I could do it didn’t mean I loved doing it, and I was more than happy to let Hubby take over the lawn duties once we settled in suburbia.  And as long as we had a lawn tractor, even the one with the big 4-foot mower, I knew I could help out in a pinch. 

And then he got the man-machine this year.  Hubby coveted this mower for three years, because he drove one at the golf course where he worked part-time.  You sit in front of the engine, not behind it.  And you sit directly over and slightly behind the mower.  No steering wheels here – these things drive with two handles/levers/arms that operate independently of each other.  That means if you pull the left lever back, you turn left.  If you pull the left lever back, and push the right lever forward, you turn left really fast!!!  I’m talkin’ throw-you-off-the-machine fast.  The least little movement on those levers, and you are careening into the garage wall, or the car, or over the top of that little maple tree behind the shed.  Hubby is a zero-turn master.  Me…not so much.  I was more than happy to let that be a man-job.  Until we realized that I would have to mow the lawn at least a couple times while he was out of town this fall.  Uh-oh.

Hubby gave me an impatient lesson last week (I didn’t come that close to hitting the car on my way out of the garage).  I tried to ignore his protests and shouted suggestions and anguished expressions as I ran zigzags around the yard.  You see, I was thinking the man-machine needed a man’s firm hand to steer it.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the key was subtlety.  A light hand on the steering levers allowed you to move around the yard with ease.  Push them forward together, and you go faster – cool.  After a few herky-jerky attempts to mow around some shrubbery without mowing it down (Hubby’s face was priceless!), I figured out the man-machine.  And I liked it.  The neighbors were watching me, and that must have been admiration I saw in their eyes as I wheeled around and spun that mower in a (relatively) tight circle to head back the other direction.  I felt awesome!

I now know the secret of men and their toys.  The toys are fun!!  And the toys are cool!!  And they don’t really require any special “manly” skills.  Okay, men have got more practice running drills and operating zero-turn mowers than we do.  And they often have more upper arm strength to hold that power tool and its heavy detachable battery pack steadier than we can.  But the reason men love those toys is because they get a heady sense of power and accomplishment from using them.  Women should give it a try more often.  And if by chance you don’t like it, just act like you’re going to drop the tool, or bump it up against the wall, or tell him you think you stripped a screw.  He’s sure to grab the power tools away from you with a tsk-tsk and take over the task.  And he’ll be thrilled to have his toys all back to himself again.

Of Kings and Queens (mattresses, that is)

On a recent overnight trip, my husband and I ended up staying in a hotel room with two double beds.  As we’ve done for the past ten years or so, we quickly opted to sleep in separate beds.   Within minutes of crawling into my bed, I realized that I was sprawled across the entire mattress.  I was laying on my side, but my arms and legs were askew so that I was taking up as much bed surface as was physically possible.  I really think I unconsciously did that just because I could.  And it was delightful.  Don’t get me wrong – I adore my husband, and I really adore sharing a bed with him.  But I also adore having my own space once in a while. 

Until this summer, we have always shared a queen-sized bed.  At 60 inches in width, it allowed us an individual 30 inches of sleep space. 

Our Dearly Departed Very High Queen Sized Bed

That’s less than three feet for each of us.  Imagine yourself in a box that was only 30 inches wide.  Yikes.  That’s barely more than a baby crib mattress.  Of course, we cuddled a lot, and that was delightful.  I can’t think of many things that are nicer than waking up in the middle of the night wrapped in your husband’s arms. 

But we also bumped into each other.  A lot.  In a queen-sized bed, two tall people cannot sleep facing each other for long.  If you both curl up your legs at the same time, you’re bumping knees.  I’d roll over in the middle of the night and run smack into his legs, which were clearly on my side of the bed.   

That’s the other thing you start doing once the honeymoon’s over.   You start claiming territory.  “You’re on my half!”  “Are you kidding?  I’m barely clinging to the edge of the bed over here!”  “You’re lying at a diagonal!”  “That’s my pillow!”  And so on.  

I’m reminded of one night a number of years ago, when Hubby rolled over in the middle of the night (we were both sound asleep), and his arm swung over and hit me right smack between the eyes.  Not a pleasant way to be woken up, believe me.  I let out a yell and started cussing a blue streak, more from the shock than pain.  Of course, that woke him up, and he was yelling “What happened?  What’s wrong?”  By now I was laughing, crying and cursing all at once in the dark as I tried to explain to him that he’d just hit me (completely by accident, of course).  Fortunately, I didn’t end up with a black eye to have to explain, and we just laughed about it.

All that closeness creates other issues besides knocking knees and rolling into one another.  For example, there are all those noises that a human body can generate during the night.  I know the standard joke is to refer to men being the ones that snore and make, um, other sounds, but I have to be honest – I can create my own little bodily symphony at night, and I “purr” more than my husband does.  FYI – women don’t snore, we purr. 

And, as we get older, we all, men and women alike, start getting up from bed more often during the night to visit the bathroom.  It’s nothing for Hubby to be up 4 or 5 times in a night (he’s fine, and sees a doctor regularly, so don’t worry).  But every time I heard or felt him getting out of bed, I was awake, and then I needed to visit the bathroom, too.   Or sometimes it was me, in the midst of a hormonal night sweat, tossing and turning, flinging off the covers.  And then I’d wake up Hubby.  It’s a vicious cycle. 

In fact, it was that regular disruption of sleep that started the final push towards a king-sized bed this year.   There were some valid reasons for all the hesitation.   King-sized beds aren’t pretty – they’re big hulking squares that can monopolize a bedroom.   Plus, we’re a “cuddly” couple, and we weren’t sure we wanted a bed with all that real estate between us (yeah, I know :  “Aw-w-w-w-w!”). 

But we had both grown to dislike the über pillowtop queen-sized mattress set we had.  It was too high, too hot, too small, and too fluffy; so we knew we had to make up our minds so that we could have a more comfortable night’s sleep.  We finally pulled the trigger in June, and our giant square mattress arrived three days later.  And it’s heavenly.

This monster is 76” wide and 80” long.  That’s sixteen more inches of sleep space – eight inches for each of us.   Friends told us that once we got a king-sized mattress we’d wonder why we ever waited so long, and they were right.  I can lie on my side and fling my legs and arms across the mattress, and I’ll never touch Hubby.  We can each get up out of bed during the night without waking the other (usually).   He can sprawl diagonally across the bed and I’ll still have room to crawl in and go to sleep.  Our snoring/purring is eight inches further away from each other.  But we’re really not too far apart – we can reach each other pretty easily.   And the extra firm, low profile mattress set is so much more comfortable than that older, trendy pillow-top was.

Yes, it has meant buying new sheets, blankets and bedspread (we were already using king pillows), and eventually we’ll need a new bed frame (it’s just sitting on a metal frame right now).   So it hasn’t been cheap.  But it was well worth the investment.  We are both sleeping better and longer.  And we’ve discovered that having a little more real estate can make everything a little more enjoyable…

Confessions of a Grocery Store Snob

Flowers, pottery, and fruit in fancy baskets - my kind of grocery store! (© Andrew Dunn)

A few weeks ago, I finally admitted it out loud.  I’m a grocery store snob.  I absolutely love the “high-end” grocery stores, like Wegmans in the north and Harris Teeter down south.  I love their bakeries, the coffee shops, the flower shops.  I can choose from buffet lines of prepared Chinese food, Italian food, gourmet pizzas, subs and other delights.  I love the gift shops in these grocery stores, where I have purchased (very nice) birthday, anniversary and graduation gifts. 

So when my husband decided to abandon my adored store for the cheaper one down the street, I really dug in my heels.  I was not going to leave this wondrous store that I had shopped at for decades.  But the harsh reality was that the store down the street offers a major discount on gasoline with every purchase, and it’s hard to argue with filling the tank at more than a dollar per gallon off the price on the pumps. 

I decided early on that I didn’t like the new store (Price Chopper).  Instead of being greeted with a gleaming produce department overflowing with choices, the first thing to greet me in the new store is a wall of super-sweet coffee cakes, danishes, and desserts.  It’s sort of like being greeted by the tempting, good looking, dangerous guy you know is bad for you, instead of his wholesome, fresh-faced farmer cousin.  

On my first few visits to the new place, all I did was complain to Hubby as we shopped.  My store had more choices.  I liked my produce section better.  The aisles in his store were too narrow.  I didn’t like the shelving.  They didn’t have my shampoo.  I couldn’t find anything easily, so I didn’t like the layout.  It was too crowded, and I frankly didn’t like the looks of the clientele.  I didn’t even like the other cars I saw in the parking lot.  In my delusional mind, we were “slumming”.  I turned up my nose at everything. 

If I had to stop for something on my way home, I always went to my store, insisting that I could find things more quickly, and I just liked it better.  But after continual scolding from Hubby, and reminders of how much gas money I could have saved with each purchase if I’d gone to his store, I started feeling guilty.  And then I discovered something interesting one night as I shopped at my store.  There were products that I’d discovered at his store that my wonder-store didn’t carry!  How could that be?  My luxury grocery store was supposed to be perfect!  But they are also so large that they’ve pushed some popular brands off the shelves in order to sell more of their own store brands.  And I knew that – I’d even emailed them a few years ago to complain about it. 

So now that my eyes (and mind) were finally opening just a bit, I begrudgingly decided I needed to give the new store another chance.  I went shopping there alone so that I wouldn’t be influenced by my urge to disagree with Hubby (anyone who’s married knows what I mean).  Hmmm.  The first thing I noticed was that our five-year-old truck with its mis-matched fiberglass repair to the grill from where Hubby hit a deer actually looked right at home with the other vehicles in the parking lot of the new store.  In fact, I saw a fair share of very nice cars parked there (nicer than the truck, at least).     

While I still don’t like the temptation of the nasty sugar- and fat-laden junk food in the entrance way, there was a very nice produce department inside the doors.  So maybe it was like a test – walk past the junk, and be rewarded with the healthy bounty just beyond it.  And I found the fruit cocktails I’d come to love (the ones my fancy store didn’t carry).  And look – they had a bakery, too!  The stuff actually looked pretty good.  And over in the corner was a small coffee shop and dining area.  Why hadn’t I noticed that before?  The seafood area was far more impressive than at my luxury store (if a bit smellier), and I was forced to admit to myself that this store has always had a reputation for having the best meats in town. 

As I continued shopping, I tried to set aside my snobby attitude (hey, I’m not proud of it, but at least I recognize it!).  Okay, the paper products are in the first aisle instead of the last – is that really a big deal?  Of course not.  Yes, the aisles are more narrow than in my store, but it’s not that bad.  I can deal with it, although it remains my main pet peeve with the store.  I finally found their natural foods section, and it was impressive.  The frozen section appears much larger than in my store, and guess what?  There are more choices!  Hmmm again. 

And then I checked out at the register, and discovered that my shopping had just brought our gasoline discount up to a $1.20 per gallon.  My eyebrows shot up a bit, and I smiled back at the friendly checkout clerk.  I could get used to this. 

It was an eye-opener.  I have to admit that I was wrong (I hate that).  The new store is just fine, especially now that I’m more familiar with it.  It may not have a forty foot display of apples of twenty different varieties like the old store, but frankly, that much selection can be completely overwhelming.  It is more efficient to shop at Hubby’s store (dang it).  There may be a handful of products that they don’t carry that I really want, like my haircare product line. 

But then again, I can use that as an excuse to stop by the luxury shop every 5 – 6 weeks for old times sake.  Yes, it’s still very nice.  Yes, I do enjoy looking at all the pretty and exotic products they carry, but they aren’t saving me a buck a gallon on gasoline.  It is a nice place to visit, and I will do that occasionally, kinda like a tourist.  But I know now without a doubt that I am really a pathetic grocery store snob, and I really need to get over it.

Marriage = Work

Happily celebrating Christmas Eve 2009 together

Being married is work.  Hard work.  Rewarding work (usually….).  But work just the same.

I was in love with old Hollywood movies when I was a little girl.  I grew up thinking that people just had to gaze into someone else’s eyes and BAM!  – they were in love.  The bells rang, the music crescendoed, fade to black, all was happy forever after.  Often the moment of love occurred in the middle of some big conflict – “Oh you brute!  You’re an awful man!”  Then the hero would grab the heroine by the shoulders and plant a big kiss on her.  She resisted (just for a moment), then melted into his arms.  Ah…love.  It Happened One Night.  Gone With the Wind.  The Philadelphia Story.  The African Queen, When Harry Met Sally, The Proposal.  It’s apparently a very reliable plot line.

This rosy-hued image of love and marriage was reinforced by the gothic romances I was reading.  As a teenager, it was Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, where the plucky governess always ended up with the lord of the manor (who was usually a rogue she had to tame).  As I matured, so did the romance novels, and the scenes became a bit more…um…explicit.  No fade-to-black here.  There was a lot of throbbing and pulsating going on.  I made the mistake of offering a fairly tame novel to my mother back then, and she promptly pronounced it to be “smut”.  But that didn’t stop me.  Janet Daily, Katherine Woodiwiss (“A Rose in Winter”…oh, my…), and Jude Deveareaux, whose “A Knight in Shining Armor” is probably the best romance novel ever (or so I thought at the time).  

But I digress….   The point is, all those romances were about the magical qualities of falling in love, and spent very little time looking at the “ever after” part. 

Falling in love is wonderful.  Staying in love is hard work.  As the glow of the early courtship fades and familiarity begins to settle in, a couple needs to decide how they’re going to make it work long-term.  If you don’t figure that out early and commit to it, a marriage can spiral into complacency – the true opposite of love when it comes to relationships. 

Complacency is always lurking at the edges of a marriage.  Let’s face it – once you reach the point where you’re flossing and toe nail clipping in front of each other, it’s easy for passion to take a back seat.  And all those cute little quirks that were so amusing and endearing when you were dating?  Well, eventually they can become downright annoying.  Infuriating, even.  That’s when you need commitment.  When you have to look at your spouse and see what you love about them, beyond the burps and farts and forgetfulness.  There are times when I am shaking in anger at my husband, and he has those same moments with me.  But we work past them.  We talk them out (sometimes loudly, I’ll admit).  But we keep communicating until it’s settled.

Like many marriages, on paper, logically speaking, there’s absolutely no reason our marriage should work.  He’s full of Irish passion and temper.  I’m a quiet WASP.  He charges through life full speed ahead, with a take-no-prisoners attitude about everything.  I’m the worrywart who frets constantly (“what if they don’t like me”  “what if someone gets hurt” “what if we get caught?”).  I can’t bear to break any rules, right down to insisting on following “use this door” signs as if the police are waiting to arrest me if I don’t.  He lives to break the rules in every way -devil-may-care, live life for the moment.  He’s the ultimate “morning person”, leaping out of bed before dawn, ready to tackle the day.  I am the opposite of “morning person”, crawling out of bed only under duress, and I’ve been known to put the milk away in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator.  He won’t hesitate to get in someone’s face for some injustice rendered.  I am mortified at the thought of causing a scene.  He’s loud.  I’m not.  He loves crowds and parties.  I’m happy with a good book and a glass of wine.  I cry at commercials.  He laughs at me while I’m crying.  And yet it works – magically well.

After a certain number of years, good couples (the ones who WORK at it), become not only partners, but each other’s true soul mate.  And more importantly, they become keepers of the secret shared stories. 

Sixteen years ago, shortly after we’d met, my husband and I faced the ultimate test of a new relationship:  assembling an entertainment center from what seemed like 200 pieces of wood and assorted parts that came out a very large box.  We were still “courting” back then, so we were trying to be pleasant.  He was grabbing pieces and putting them together in whatever order he found them in, insisting he didn’t need the directions.  I was fretting over making a mistake, and finally, exasperated, I said through gritted teeth, “Honey, I really think we should follow the instructions they gave us.”  His response?  “Don’t ever call me ‘honey’ in that tone of voice again.”  We stared at each other for a minute, then burst into laughter.  That comment is still one of our touchstones to this day.  If we use the word “Honey” in that exaggerated  tone, it’s a flag that things might be getting tense, and will (usually) lighten the mood – “Honey, I really think you should have taken that last exit….”

That’s just one example, but all good couples have them – those secret stories that can be referred to as a way of setting a current event into perspective.  A word.  A touch.  A look.  The secret language of experience for the couples who have figured out how to navigate the paths of relationship-building.  No one but my husband and I knows why saying the word “woof” can end a heated debate with a smile.  That’s our secret.  And those secrets are precious. 

Every anniversary, we celebrate another year of shared stories, fiery debates, daily laughter, family joys and sorrows, changing waistlines, career challenges, money made and money lost, evening walks hand-in-hand, and cuddles in bed.  We know each other’s faults and gifts in detail.  We have made a commitment to be partners in spite of or because of them.  Hardly a week goes by that one of us doesn’t look at the other and say “we are so fortunate”.   At the end of the day, it’s his smile, laughter and love that are my life support. 

Fourteen years ago today we exchanged our vows on a warm Sunday afternoon.  Whew.  What a ride it’s been so far!  All that work paid off.  I can’t wait to see what the next fourteen years (and more) bring our way.  Happy anniversary, my love.

Why Women Can’t Golf With Their Husbands

Golfing In Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland (note sheep in background!)

Okay – this one is for the guys.  Ladies – feel free to forward and share it with your husbands or significant others.  This is for all those guys who are out there dreaming of retiring to a golf community in central Florida somewhere, thinking that they and their wives will join the couples’ leagues and enjoy all kinds of activities revolving around the game of golf.    

It’s sad really, because so many of them will never achieve those retirement life dreams, and they won’t even know why.   But really, it’s their own fault.  Men make it nearly impossible for many women to enjoy the golf course, at least when their husbands are on the same links.

Don’t golf?  Feel free to apply the same general principles outlined here to any activity which, if done with your spouse, is bound to lead to tension – bowling, tennis, wallpapering, etc.

It’s not too late, fellas, but there are a few things you really need to understand.  If you can figure out why we won’t golf with you now, you can make a few “adjustments” and try again.  We’re always willing to give you a mulligan or two.

 THREE REASONS WE WON’T GOLF WITH YOU

 1.        You can’t stop “helping” us. 

We know you mean well – really we do. And we try to keep that in mind…But. You. Are. Driving. Us. Crazy. 

I know it’s because of that whole Mars/Venus thing – you really can’t help yourselves.  Men want to fix things.  The end of the race is the whole point of running.  Women want to connect emotionally to everything we do.  We want to enjoy our journey to the finish line.  That means women have totally differently approaches to something like golf than men do. 

We want to think, practice, and feel our way to a better game.  To you, it’s all science.  “Flex your knees.”  “Turn your hands over.”  “Keep your elbows in.”  “Follow through.”  “Not so far back.”  “Not so far forward.”  “Don’t chop it.”  “Stop trying to kill it.”  And my personal favorite – “Keep your head down!”

By the time we get to the third or fourth hole, you’ve filled us with so many instructions that we can’t even think straight, much less hit straight.  Then you yell at us to stop “thinking so much” before we swing, when you’re the one that paralyzed us in the first place! 

And if we do hit a terrific shot, what’s your response?  “Nice!  Now swing just like that every time!”  Um, if we could do that, we’d be on the LPGA tour.

SOLUTION:  Shut up and stay out of our heads!  We’re golfing with you because we want to be with you and have fun.  Give us advice when we ask for it, but keep your lips sealed when we’re standing at the tee.  If we really need that much help, send us to a pro for lessons.  We won’t take feedback so personally when it’s coming from a professional teacher.  And if we hit a shot anywhere in or near the fairway, tell us it was a great shot.  Even if it’s in the wrong fairway.  Practice the words right now – “great shot, honey!” 

2.        You think we’re much better than we really are (or want to be).

It’s amusing sometimes, the confidence you have in us.  One minute you’re scolding us for “topping” the ball and blowing our approach to the green.  The next minute, you’re strolling across the same green and tapping a spot with your golf club – “Chip it right here, honey!”  Yeah, okay.  Do I look like Annika Sorenstam to you?  “Aim it just to the left of that pine tree out there.”  Uh-huh.  We’re happy if we’re more than 60 yards off the tee and still in view of the fairway, and now you want to confine us to a specific ten foot diameter target? 

SOLUTION:  It’s okay to give us advice, but keep it attainable.  “Try to keep it to the left” is much more acceptable than “Hit it ten yards to the left of the third pine tree and make sure you get it past that little ridge on the right.” 

3.       You can’t stop taking golf seriously.

We’re beating little white balls around a golf course with sticks, not creating world peace.   Yes, the game has to move along, and we can’t be too silly on the golf course.  But it really is acceptable to look around and enjoy the scenery once in while.  When we say “look, an eagle!,” we’re not talking about the play of the foursome on the next green.  We’re probably talking about the flying kind of eagle with feathers, up in the sky.  If we completely whiff a ball (swing and miss it), it’s okay to laugh, as long as we laugh first.  It is NOT okay to launch into a diatribe about keeping our head down, watching the ball, concentrating, and getting serious.  If a par 5 hole is frustrating us, and we’re not in a tournament, it’s okay for us to pick up our ball and just watch you play.  There are no golf gods who will strike us dead for doing so (trust me, I know this).

SOLUTION:  Lighten up.  We know golf is your life, but it’s our hobby (and sometimes barely that).  Save your competitive nature and testosterone for your leagues and tournaments, and enjoy a relaxing round of golf with your wife.  Hold our hand when we’re riding in the cart.  Smile once in a while.  Tell us how sweet our swing is.  Don’t act frustrated, even if you are.    

You may not have a wife with a 12 handicap (and if you do, congrats!).  But if someone forwarded this to you, it means you have a woman who WANTS to golf with you.  There are a lot of guys out there (and I mean A LOT) who would give their left arm to have a woman who wanted to golf and was willing to consider that golf community for a retirement destination.  Once my husband learned to lighten up (I think it was shortly after he realized that he was pushing my last button while I was carrying a long metal club), we started to actually have fun golfing together.  We’ve golfed on the South Carolina coast, watching dolphins and eagles from the course.  We’ve golfed in the Adirondack mountains, with deer strolling across the fairways.  We’ve golfed in Ireland, on the breathtaking western cliffs (in bitter cold weather!) and in beautiful Tullamore in the heart of the country. 

Come on, gents – that’s pretty cool stuff.  So…lighten up, shut up, and stop ‘helping’.  Send us to a pro, help us relax, and have fun golfing with us.

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