to go: 998.49
and I were pretty
sure we had this marriage stuff figured out already.
exactly kids when we got
last year. Between the two of us, we brought a collective thirty-two
years of previous marital experience to the union. That's a
lot of acquired
knowledge about life in general, and about marriage in particular. Plus
were friends for three
years before we became romantically involved, we lived together for
two full years before we got engaged, and then we waited another
seven months on top of that, after the diamond was on my finger, before
we actually tied the knot. That's a lot of acquired knowledge about
each other. Plus we're smart people who know all about looking both
ways before you leap over burning buildings in a single bound until
your chickens hatch.
we're a couple of
great big annoying Know-It-Alls. Don't ever play Jeopardy with us.
how surprised are
*we* -- especially as we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, this
past weekend -- to discover that not only do we NOT have this marriage
stuff all figured out, the way we thought we did ... but that we're
constantly learning NEW
stuff, every single day?
can't speak for David.
(Well ... yes I can. And I do,
pretty much at every available opportunity.) But here are a handful of
the things that I personally have learned about marriage, this past
year. I believe that they prove that it's never too late to learn.
that it's never too
late to teach an old Know-It-All new tricks.
Ten *New* Things I've Learned About
Second Time Around)
~ By Secra ~
OK to compare your current marriage to your previous marriage.
only is it "OK" to
make the occasional comparison between your first marriage and your
second marriage, it's probably a pretty good idea ...
interested in avoiding the mistakes you made the first time
mainly what I
try to look at are the ways that *I* have changed from one marriage to
the next, and not to focus on the specific differences between
Husband #1 and Husband #2. That would be like comparing boxer shorts
for instance, wasn't always comfortable speaking up when things were
bothering her. Communication was not a strong suit in her first
marriage. For example, if her young first husband neglected to pay the
electricity bill -- say, for the third or fourth or eleventh month in a
row -- First-Time-Around Secra would be understandably upset. She would
scream and cry and throw stuff around their tiny rental house. She
would try to wangle another one-month reprieve from the electric
company. ("My baby's iron lung
depends on it!") She would call
her grandmother and her sister-in-law and her next-door neighbor and
tell them what a lousy irresponsible bastard her husband was ... and
while she's got you on the phone, can she borrow forty bucks?
She would do everything, basically, except for sitting down with her
husband and saying 'You know,
it really bothers me when they come and turn off our electricity every
month. Isn't there something we can do to stop this from happening?'
It might not have done
any good. In retrospect, she realizes that in fact it probably wouldn't
have changed things much at all, mainly because there were other
factors at play: immaturity, codependency, poor money
management skills, a mutual lack of desire to have actual
'conversations' with each other.
But speaking up might
have at least cleared the air a little.
Nowadays, of course,
Second-Time-Around Secra has no problem speaking her mind. The
difference between this marriage and the previous marriage is
communication. (As in: there actually is
some, this time around.) Communication isn't just a
cornerstone of her
marriage, or the foundation of her marriage, or the glue that holds her
marriage together. Communication is what her marriage is ALL ABOUT. And
the only way she would have known how important and wonderful and PRECIOUS
this is, really, is if she hadn't been forced to live without it
(And if the unthinkable
happens, and her new husband accidentally neglects to pay the
electricity bill? Why, Second-Time-Around Secra would simply whip out
her checkbook and pay the damn thing herself.)
for The Future is not the same thing as planning for The End.
you were to go back
in time, twenty years, and ask First-Time-Around Secra why there was no
savings account ... why there were no investments ... why there was no
retirement plan or life insurance or college fund for The Tots ... she
would look at you and say "Because
we're having enough trouble simply putting
in the fridge
Spaghetti-O's on the table every night."
that would only be
real reason why
there was no provision made for the future was because
First-Time-Around Secra didn't want to think
about the future. As much as possible, in fact, she tried to avoid
thinking about the long years stretching ahead of her, drearily, like
the endless desert plains of the Serengeti. As far as she was
concerned, the future boiled down to three things:
1. Getting old.
2. Getting old with her FIRST
of which appealed
to her very much.
Secra, on the other hand, sees the future very differently. There isn't
quite as much of it as there used to be, for one thing, and what
left of it has become incredibly precious to her. She wants to see her
children finish growing into happy, healthy, emotionally-successful
adults. She wants to enjoy grandchildren someday. She wants to do work
that she loves. She wants to help people. She wants to retire at an
absurdly young age and spend her golden years writing time-travel
novels and toodling around Port Townsend on a tandem.
she wants to do all
of this stuff with her husband, who she loves more than life itself.
she engages in active
discussions with him about ways to improve their health/prolong their
lives/provide for their retirement income. She listens to him when he
yammers on and on about mutual funds and stock options. She makes
plans. She makes lists. She takes her vitamins, and she contributes to
her 401K, and she gets on her bicycle and rides insane sweaty distances
in unflattering Spandex shorts.
she does all of this
because she wants
to ... and because she actually enjoys
thinking about the future, these days.
mean things to each other isn't funny.
actually don't love
a matter of fact, not
only do we NOT love Raymond, we're not all that crazy about anybody
else in his family, either. These people are terrible
to each other. They call each other names. They lie to each other. They
manipulate each other and insult each other and devise fresh new ways
to hurt and humiliate each other for thirty minutes, each and every
week. The handful of times David and I have watched the show, we've
looked at this abominable behavior -- at these pretend-married people
who not only don't seem to enjoy being married to each other at all,
but who clearly wish the other would get hit by a bus, first thing
tomorrow morning -- and to us it doesn't seem at all smart or
entertaining or cutting-edge witty.
just seems mean.
and his family
aren't the only sitcom characters who treat each other this way, of
course. Television has a long history of portraying dysfunctional
marriages as 'funny.' Even television commercials have been getting
into the act lately. (George and Weezie bickering in an IHOP, anyone?)
look at each other
and we think Why would you
behave that way towards someone you love?
we avoid the Raymonds
and the Jeffersons and all of the other pretend married couples on TV
who hurl terrible, hurtful, Emmy-Award-winning insults at each other,
just for laughs. And we've resolved never to speak to each other that
way, not even in jest.
not even for
doesn't always have to be *my* idea.
Turning the lights on
and off. Opening doors and windows. Adjusting
Tweaking the thermostat. Changing the channel. Choosing the background
music. Lowering or raising the volume. Picking the air freshener/the
shower curtain/the Windows desktop wallpaper.
this stuff has to be *my* idea, or else I tend to get ever-so-slightly
pissy. It's a controlling-my-environment issue, and it's
gotten me into a lot of trouble in previous relationships/previous
#1: "Jesus, it's like an OVEN
in here! Open up a WINDOW,
"Jesus, it's like a MEAT
LOCKER in here! Close the WINDOW,
The Antelope-Slayer: "Unnngh!
Gung unngh gung UGGG GUG
gung unnngh gronk GRUNG UNGHH,
With David, though, I
think I'm finally learning to surrender some of that pointless,
obsessive need for control. Not everything has to be *my* idea ...
especially the picayune stuff regarding light and temperature and
For instance ... who
cares if he suddenly decides to throw the bedroom curtains wide open in
middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon? Without checking with me first?
I mean, seriously?
What's the big deal?
(Just because *I* would
probably prefer that the curtains stay closed -- it
gets really warm in
the bedroom if you open the curtains during the middle of the day, and
then it takes a long time for things to cool down enough to fall
-- that doesn't mean that David isn't entitled to open them
up once in
a while, is it? He certainly doesn't have to ask my
permission! Even if it does
make everything look sort of dusty and gross in here, with the light
shining directly through the dirty window that way ... and even if it does
make it sort of hard to relax when things look dusty and gross in here:
all I can think about is how we really ought to move everything off the
headboard and give it a good thorough Pledge-and-Dustbusting ... )
But honestly. I mean it.
I'm more than happy to just lay here on the bed next to David, on this
lovely sunny afternoon, and quietly read my People Magazine.
With the curtains open.
With the curtains WIDE
With the curtains open ALL
With the curtains open WIDE
ENOUGH for total strangers
walking past our window, on the street outside, to peer through the
dirty glass and look at us laying here on the bed in our underwear,
reading People Magazine ...
forcryingoutloud! Go ahead and shut the curtains!"
[gasping] "Oh thank god."
OK to be wrong once in a while.
As long as being wrong
is *my* idea, I mean.
should be glad to see each other, even unexpectedly.
I used to hate it when
my first husband showed up unannounced.
Dropping by my office
without calling first. Arriving forty minutes early to pick me up from
the obstetrician/the family birthday party/the emergency room. Coming
home from work, in the middle of my precious day-off, and announcing
that he 'didn't feel well.'
(Walking past the
computer at the precise moment my online beau-du-jour was describing
his pubic hair.)
It didn't even occur to
me at the time that there might be something sad and sick and
about feeling this way: that you should be HAPPY to see your spouse,
even if you weren't expecting them at that particular moment,
frantically looking around for an exit, hoping you can duck out before
they spot you. So it's been a
revelation to discover that it's not only possible to feel happy to see
your spouse, whenever/wherever/however you may encounter them ... but
that it's possible to feel downright giddy with joy
when it happens.
(Even if the last time
you *saw* them was four and a half minutes ago, when they went into the
bathroom with the newspaper and closed the door.)
how you know it's true love.
When he does some of the
exact same stuff that made you want to run a white-hot shish kebob
skewer through your first husband's left testicle ... only now you
think it's 'cute.' ("Oh look how his nose scrunches up when
true what they say: women marry their fathers.
The first time around, I
married the *young* version of my dad: the surly, slouching young
renegade who scoffed at authority and dodged responsibility whenever
It was a disaster.
Twenty years and a whole
bunch of life experience later, I've married the *other* version of my
dad. The creative/artistic genius. The smart, funny communicator. The
proud eccentric who thumbs his nose at convention.
interesting, though: I didn't just marry my father this time around. I
also appear to have married my grandfather.
I see Grandpa Vert every
time David lays in bed and plays his guitar, singing joyously at the
top of his lungs in his big, hammy voice. I see Grandpa when David gets
up every morning, without fail, and uncomplainingly goes off to a job
he isn't crazy about, because he knows that people he loves are
depending on him. I see Grandpa when David tells the truth, even when
the truth is uncomfortable ... when he pays his bills on time, even
when he could really use a new amplifier ... when he stops to help
strangers along the side of the road ... when he treats everybody he
encounters, from former in-laws to snooty store clerks, with the same
courtesy and consideration and good humor.
But that's not all.
I married my sixth grade
teacher, apparently: the first true champion of my writing. I see Mr.
Iverson every time David sits in front of the computer and laughs out
loud over a *FootNotes* entry.
I married Mr. Witte, my
beatnik piano instructor. "How
do you get better at something?"
David/Mr. Witte exhorts me, every weekend as we're heading for The Iron
Horse Trail. "Practice,
I married Kevin Lanning,
my dear friend from high school, who taught me that it's cool for a guy
to be sensitive. I married Tom, my summer camp counselor, who praised
me for having the "hair" to belly-slide down the waterfall. I married
my sweet shy first boyfriend, John, who liked to hold my hand when we
were walking down the street. I married the nameless stranger who
stopped and helped me change my flat tire in the middle of a Seattle
thunderstorm in 1978.
I married a lot of
people, this time around.
I suppose it should
probably feel weird and crowded and vaguely incestuous, waking up in
the morning with all of these people laying in bed next to me ... but
it doesn't. Mostly it just feels like I'm married to all the men of my
dreams, rolled into one perfect package.
(One of these days, I
should probably compare notes with David and see who *he* married. I'm
probably his kindergarten teacher and I don't even know it.)
OK if his idea of Big Fun and your idea of Big Fun are different.
I earned a ton
of sympathy points at David's high school reunion on Sunday,
from wives/girlfriends/Significant Others who'd heard the rumor that it
was our first wedding anniversary and couldn't believe we were spending
it standing in the middle of Martinez Marina Park, eating cold roast
beef and looking at thirty-year-old high school yearbooks.
"He made you come to a REUNION
on your ANNIVERSARY?"
they clucked sympathetically, shooting David a look that said You
are such a big stoopid MAN.
What I didn't tell them,
of course, is that I was glad
to spend a big chunk of our special day there at
the reunion. Maybe it wasn't *my* idea of Big Fun -- maybe I would have
preferred to go hat-shopping, or to take a swing-dance lesson at the
mall, or to tour The Dollhouse Museum -- but it was important to David
that he attend ... and that *I* attend with him. (This wasn't actually
class reunion, by the way. It was for the class two grades ahead of
him. But these were the people he spent most of his time with -- and
did most of his important recreational drugs with -- so this was the
reunion that really counted, as far as he was concerned.) I
was glad to
help make this happen for him. I was glad to hang on his arm and dimple
sweetly and shake hands with 43,897,621 of his former schoolmates. I
was glad to take pictures. I was glad to watch him hug his
ex-girlfriend, and chitchat with The Famous Guy, and swap business
cards with a former rival. It was fun. It was interesting. Plus I got
to see a side of him I rarely get to see: the Young David side of him.
All of a sudden he was "Zap" Rafter again ... reliving his glory days
and swapping tales of adolescent anarchy with other middle-aged men in
It was a small sacrifice
of time and *smile molecules* that I was glad to make because I love
him so much. And next year, on our second wedding anniversary ... I'll remind
him of that.
Just before we go to The