I have this thing I say about marriage, and I’m sure there are some perfectly nice readers out there I am about to deeply offend with this, but I’m going to share it anyway so that you can kind of understand where I’m coming from. Here it is: I believe anyone can make a mistake—particularly if they got married very young, as I did—and I think nearly anyone can find themselves divorced once. But if you’ve gone through TWO divorces, I think it may be time to stop and admit that you are just not very good at being married.
I share this to make it clear that despite the fact that I happen to be madly in love with my husband, I am also keenly aware that I have used up my Marriage Mistakes. I work hard on this marriage thing with Otto, because I fully intend to do a better job this time than I did last time. (Also, I am allergic to cats, and if we get divorced I will have to admit I’m bad at marriage and then I will have to be a crazy cat lady, which is difficult when you’re allergic and asthmatic. Just saying.)
At the same time, marriage is hard, parenting is even harder, and there are a million things that can and do get in the way a lot of the time.
And so it happens that time goes by and we are but two overworked people passing in the kitchen and asking each other “Did you pour Monkey some milk?” and “Can you pick up Chickadee today?” It’s easy to slip into the details of everyday life and forget that sometimes we need to just have FUN.
[And here is where you shall feel free to tell me that this happens to you, too, so that I don’t feel like I am struggling to maintain a C+ at best at this marriage thing while the rest of you are totally acing the class and writing mean things about me on the bathroom wall.]
Anyway, last night the kids were zooming around pre-bedtime and Otto and I were sitting on the couch. It was cold outside and cozy inside. Otto looked around.
“How about a fire?” he said. “The kids are going to bed soon. Wouldn’t a fire in the fireplace be nice?”
We’ve lived here two and a half years and have never used the fireplace. [Spoiler: This is not an OHMYGOD WE BURNED THE HOUSE DOWN story. We did actually have the chimney cleaned and inspected recently.]
“Sure,” I agreed. “That’s a great idea.”
Otto perked right up and went outside to grab some wood from the little pile we have leftover from camping.
We bid the kids goodnight and Otto commenced arranging the wood and kindling and some newspaper in the fireplace. It took a few tries to get it going, but soon there was a decent little blaze going. I complimented him on his manly MAKE FIRE skills and we curled around each other on the couch, dog inserting herself between us, chatting and enjoying having a fire on our hearth. Otto suggested that we look into buying a cord of wood so that we can have fires more regularly.
The flames started dying down and I gazed deeply into Otto’s eyes with what I hoped was a sultry look and suggested he throw one more log on the fire and come back and sit with me. He agreed and was over by the woodpile in moments. And then I heard him say, “Uhhhhhh….”
Otto is a man of understatements. I am a woman of hyperbole. Chances are excellent that Otto does not say “uhhhhhh” unless it’s a situation where I would be shrieking my head off.
“What?” I said. “WHAT??” I walked over to look.
Otto had set the wood down on an old towel, when he brought it inside, on account of we don’t have a proper wood holder and he didn’t want to make a mess. Now he swiftly gathered up the corners of the towel to enclose the remaining wood, never breaking movement, while he explained that apparently our bundle of wood contained a nest of Palmetto Bugs. [New here? I should really have a separate category to document my hatred of the Palmetto Bug.]
I had to open the door for him so that he could take the whole thing back outside, which was difficult on account of it interrupted my wailing and dousing of the entire house in bleach and roach killer.
Eventually Otto returned, and sat down on the couch again.
“No more fires!” I announced. “No cord of wood! NO MORE WOOD AT ALL! ALL DONE!”
It was kind of a mood killer, is my point.
Maybe tonight we should’ve tried again to have some quality Couple Time, but instead I baked about six dozen cookies, and Otto rearranged the pantry. Woo!
So I don’t know if I’m getting any better at marriage, but he looked pretty happy when I gave him a cookie. And I was ALL KINDS OF DELIGHTED that he didn’t bring a bundle of roaches into the house today, so, you know. Maybe this is exactly what a successful marriage looks like.
I almost built a fire today, until I had visions of the carpenter bees living in my pile of wood waking from the cold-induced slumber and banging their little heads on the glass of the buck stove. Yup. I dug out the flannel pj’s and LET. IT. GO.
Mmmm.. cookies. MUCH better than palmetto bugs.
Looks like a successful marriage to me – flexibility, adaptability, mutual respect, and a sense of humor are present and accounted for. In my book those are the essential ingredients. And there are other ways to keep warm….
My husband and I don’t have children, but we are both prone to be super-busy and forget to actually spend time to and talk with each other. Several months back, we designated every Friday “date night” and we spend it with each other completely (as opposed to just being in the same room, me doing work on the laptop and him grading papers).
That all said, I don’t have bug issues, but I do have spider issues. If my husband brought a nest of spiders into our apartment, I’m pretty sure that itself would be grounds for divorce. ;) (Obviously not really. This marriage thing is work, and I’m not up for trying to get through the dating, etc. stuff all over again.)
Two words: gas fireplace.
You’re a bigger woman than me. My husband would have been on his own getting the door open. I would have been upstairs hiding in our room, armed with a can of Raid.
On the marriage thing-we’re actually supposed to have real conversations with each other?!?!?!
I still have active goosebumps on my arm, just one arm, just one section (all the more creepy) and they keep going up and down. Oh yuck!
I’ve been married 28 years, and yeah, that sounds 100% normal to me…
Eeeeewwwwww on the bugs! Glad Otto caught it before that wood was left there overnight for them to [oh never mind, I don’t want to think about that!].
Marriage is a lot of work, but it sounds like you’re doing it right – sometimes making due with passing in the hall, other times recognizing the need to snuggle. Hubby and I need to do a bit more of that, once the craziness of the holidays slows down. Or maybe before, if we plan it right!
Buy the logs that come wrapped and boxed. 1 will burn for 4-6 hours and they are bug free.
This really should’ve come w/a disclaimer. I mean, I’m supposed to go to bed now & I have visions of roaches dancing in my head. And, ewww! I’ve got the heebee jeebees! Gah!
Hm. . . Well, I have failed according to your marriage strike out zone, and well, it’s OK with me. My first husband tried to kill me (a veteran skilled in govt. sanctioned killing who may have missed the “do not try this in your home” disclaimer)and the 2nd one tried to bankrupt me (um, a remarkably skilled con man), why in the world would I look for a third? The most exciting thing I have found in the firewood this winter was a snake. OK, it was a small, thankfully lethargic snake, but still! I might be saying – Bugs, get over it. But then I don’t have your kind of bugs, so probably I won’t say it. You could always enjoy the fire one piece of wood at a time? Leaving the pile outside until you are ready for that one more piece?
You had me at Otto rearranged the pantry.
i’ve only been married for 4 months, so i’m obviously not qualified to be called any kind of expert, but this sounds exactly like real life to me. i think you’re doing a tremendous job, mir, especially with a year that has been not.so.happy.happy.joy.joy. you have kept the train on the rails and expressed your love and appreciation for the people in your life, including the premenstrual, crazytown preteen.
you are doing life well.
I am very lucky in that my husband and I got married way too young and had NO idea how hard marriage sometimes can be. Four kids later it is SO hard to remember just to make time for each other. We both recently recognized this and are trying to do better. So sorry your relaxing evening was killed by bugs. Gah.
I’ve come to discover that what happens of television and movies looks simple and sets unreasonably high standards because this is what people are paid to do. (It takes A LOT of people to make a movie…) Anyway, that you two have a rhythm that you are comfortable with, that you are happy, still speaking, and love each other…that is real.
You’re no failure, Mir.
For occasional, romantic-atmosphere fires, we just go with a Duraflame log. No muss, no fuss, no bother! (I just wouldn’t roast a marshmallow over the chemical-laden thing)
I second gas fire place. BTW, the even have remotes and thermostats. Lovely!
eww, to the bugs. but enjoy some satisfaction that maybe some of them got burned up in the fire! we have spiders that nest in our wood and I can almost hear them screech as they burn up.
I’m with Cindy. Buy the wrapped logs and enjoy a fire. It should only take a dozen or so evenings of angst to get over the bug incident. And you are not bad at marriage. It’s best to stay connected, but that doesn’t always happen. And as long as you realize before things get to the bad/terrible, it’s FUN to reconnect.
Forget marriage and the big issues. Did he get them all out of the house?? Have you seen any stray ones??? I’d still be peeking in the corners. I’m pretty good with bugs, all except roaches. My son actually asked me the other day “Is there anything you are afraid of besides roaches?”
I think marriage is two overworked people being able to make a date night out of getting gas station coffee and then shopping for giant garbage cans.
That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Makes me feel better.
Also, that’s why in Georgia you don’t bring the whole pile of wood in. Just bring in a few logs at a time, leave the rest outside. Easier to check for bugs that way and you don’t make such a mess with the bark.
Heh. When the dh and I moved to FL, that first Christmas there we got a fake tree. Why? Because I was scared to death of what we might bring into the house with a real tree.
The first time I saw a palmetto bug slide in under a window screen was the last time we had any kind of fresh air circulating in the house.
I didn’t even last two years in Florida.
Mir, you have a way of making spiders look so much more appealing.
Crap. Mir, I admire your bond with your family. You figured out before I did that they have to love you back. Otto clearly does.
I have to firmly disagree with you on the don’t get married more than twice thing (particularly if you’re a sucker-fied romantic AND you didn’t know they had to love you back). I’m slow when it come to emotional intelligence apparently.
I married my first husband when I was 20 years old because I didn’t want to die an old maid. One day after a couple of catastrophic events, I realized I wasn’t me at all, but who everyone else wanted me to be. It got ugly as a .50 Sunday hat. I was glad to end that. (seven years)
I married number two and as I did, I knew it was a mistake. We were divorced within a year while he cozied into his new life with his new wife and new baby. (one year)
I married number three with every intention of it being forever. I was crazy about him. Although he looked a bit like the instant alien from Bugs Bunny vs. Marvin Martian fame, I gave myself to him completely. We moved from a city to a small town and no amount of counseling could bring him back from the depression that overtook him. I love him to this day, but I can’t be married to him. He and I are still friends. (five and a half years)
Then I met my final husband. What you describe sounds like an evening at our house (sans bugs). I didn’t know and feel like an idiot for not realizing it first, that they have to love you as you are.
I believe you’ve got it right. I guess the curve is a bit low because of me, but I’ll make it in this marriage. The only way he’s getting out of it or I, is if one of us dies. You too seem to have that same philosophy. You rock.
obviously anonymous and Mare: I think the thing to remember is the “not very good” number of marriages to have is x+1, x being the number of marriages you have had :)
Oh Mir, you are on dangerous grounds here.
Never think about limiting your mistakes.
It is dangerous to set boundaries around how often one can get married.
It is however a productive thought if you love Otto and it makes sense to stay married to him, to work on the marriage.
I am pleased you choose another cozy activity that had such result. Did you offer him a cookie with a sultry look?
I’ve only been married once (still am). But my dad is on his 4th. It took him that many times to get it right. I get what you are saying. Yes, if you have 2 failed marriages, 9 times out of 10 you should probably be looking at what you are doing. But clearly there are exceptions to the rule as has been pointed out.
I also think good marriages are exactly as you describe. The business of life can often get in the way until you feel like two ships passing at sea instead of two people sharing a life. The key is recognizing when that’s happening and making a point to connect again, however you may do that (screaming over palmetto bugs certainly seems like a valid option to me). My husband and I check in occasionally (how’s your love tank is our question) and if we are connecting, we make time. Sometimes it’s just turning off the tv for the night. Sometimes it more.
Most importantly, we never take our marriage for granted. Sounds like you don’t either. Take care.
Sometimes I think it is just acknowledging that marriage is hard is enough. Because those people who are like, “my marriage is wonderful, we never fight,” are lying and I want to punch them in the teeth.
I actually do have a really good marriage. But we also work really hard. And we do fight. And sometimes we take each other for granted. But yes, marriage is hard.
My husband & I have made a art of date nights — whether it’s going to Home Depot without the kids or sending them to bed a half hour early so we can have dinner & a movie together in the living room, every little bit counts if it helps you stay connected!
I actually almost kind of object to the marriage is hard stance. Surely it can be hard at times, it can be painful and require teeth-gritted endurance. But shouldn’t it feel easy and joyful and quiet far more than being like work?
Gas fireplace. Love it. :)
We just had a conversation the other day about how the only time we ‘talk’ to just each other without kids is on the phone on the drive home from work… sigh. But I have already booked a babysitter for a night out in January! Woo!
Groovecatmom got there first. I LOVE a wood fireplace, wood not so much. Cleaning up after, yuck. So we have 2 gas fireplaces. 1 is beautiful, not much heat. The other is sealed, not so pretty, but can heat the whole house if necessary.
Yeah, we have a hard time getting some fun time in. One of our tricks is to have a late dinner together when the kids go to bed on a Saturday night – something totally junky and not good for us (ie something to be found in the frozen isle since I live where we can’t get takeout) and watch a movie or catch up on our DVR.
And since we don’t have palmetto bugs here…that fortunately isn’t a problem for us :).
My husband and I have an organized date night, too. We don’t have kids yet, but it’s so easy to let life get in the way of things. I think everybody who wants their marriage to succeed has to make that kind of effort, because we all have periods where it’s just so DIFFICULT. So no fear… I’m not writing anything bad about you on the bathroom walls.
I’m sure I would be doing that if I had the guts to get remarried. :) You guys are OttoAndMir – you know if what you’re doing is enough or too much or not enough. Go with your gut! (And maybe give Otto a box of Duraflame logs for Valentine’s Day. Just sayin’.)
I was walking the dog last night and thinking about how I miss the smell of a real fire and maybe we shouldn’t have gone with gas logs. Then I read this, and I’m all, “yup.”
The marriage is hard thing? Boy howdy. We’re having a …. rough patch that I’m trying to stay convinced we’ll pull out of with some work and stick-to-it-iveness. But having a rough patch during the holidays… well, let’s just say I’d be perfectly happy to light the Hallmark store on fire. After punching it in the face and stealing its candy.
And, uh… bah, humbug.
Oh, I just love y’all.
I’m divorced and single, but all my happily married friends and sisters tell me how everyday life gets in the way of their marriages, too. (And I would like to state for the record that I VERY RARELY give into the temptation to reply, “Oh, really? Come a little closer, and I will tell you again how my ex was PASSED OUT ON THE HOSPITAL SOFA while I was giving birth to our child!”) Because I am a generous soul like that. ;)
Anyway, my point? No one’s writing anything about you on the bathroom wall. You’re in mighty fine company.
I don’t agree with the 2 marriage thing. There are instances where the woman gets lied to and she has no way of knowing. Should she stay and accept the abuse and lies just because she’s in her 2nd marriage? I’m on my 3rd year of my 3rd marriage and it couldn’t be more blessed.
Just my 2 cents for the day. Loved all the other comments though.
Oh lordy. I’m so glad I left palmetto bugs behind in Florida.
Yes, marriage is work. There are lots of times, after nearly eighteen years and now 3 teenagers, that we still have to shake ourselves awake and spend time with each other. It’s better once they’re older, but life just gets busier.
I am really glad for the bell curve or scholastic averaging or whatever they want to call it… for marriage. Because I may have a few A++ moment (a month) but they are easily outweighed by my capital-F-Fail moments. And I’m on marriage #2… but hey, better marriage through pharmacology I always say.
This post made me laugh because 1) it was funny, and 2) I could see my marriage in it as well. You’re right, that we have to work at keeping a marriage fresh – that is, step out of the “passing in the kitchen” routines that we all fall into. We have a special opportunity – our 21 y.o. daughter just moved out, so we are facing empty nest after 2 decades of defining ourselves, above all else, as parents. Yes, we’re still parents, but now we get to focus on each other for awhile. Regarding your “2 Marriages” theory, I will say that my father finally got it right on the 3rd try. Thank you for this great post.
You’re not alone; I often feel like my marriage is stuck in C+ land. But our fireplace is gas and roars to life with the flick of a switch.