Marriages are crumbling around me. Two friends of mine, within a year of one another, left their husbands for other men. Another married friend of mine admitted–with not a lot of compunction–that he’s had a girlfriend for years, and sorta can’t wait until his youngest child (age 12) leaves for college so he can divorce his wife. Not necessarily so he can be with his girlfriend, but just because, well, it’s not happening so much with his wife. There’s Tiger Woods with his naughty texts and surgically enhanced playthings. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins! It’s really over? Kate Winslet? Oh, no, not you too. And excuse me, but are ya kidding me Mr. Sandra Bullock?
“Mawwage,” said Peter Cooke so famously in “The Princess Bride.” “Mawwage. That bwessed event, that dweam wivvin a dweam…” Ah, that dweam wivvin a dweam. I’ve been married for almost 24 years, and know that the dweam wivvin a dweam can be fraught with drama, resentment, and occasional ennui. When a good friend decides to leave her marriage, and does-within a matter of weeks after breaking the news to her blindsided spouse-it really puts into stark relief the frailty of our own relationships. But am I just an all-day sucker? I like mawwage. I like being married to this guy I married.
Sure, it’s not always easy. Relationships need attention. Marriages need tending. And at some point some people just don’t want to put that much effort into “rekindling” their possibly stagnant relationship. The excitement has evolved from the frisson you used to feel when your knees grazed under the table to discussing what type of tile to use in the bathroom. The thought of planning “date nights” just feels like another chore. It’s no wonder the idea of having to “work on” your relationship makes you want to run for the hills. Or straight into the warm embrace of a fresh pair of arms. A pair of arms belonging to a person who possibly has never heard you fart.
But, you know, once those new arms start feeling cozy and lived in, they start leaving their dirty socks on the floor too. At some point, you’ll hear the faint sound of a fart from under the covers. Eventually, bathroom tile will be discussed. So why not take the old wagon out for another test drive? There’s still a lot of fun to be mined in your marriage. It’s not like any other friendship you have, right? And it’s kind of nice, having someone around who can help you figure out who the Kardashians are. Someone who will spend a half-hour showing you how to do a Sodoku puzzle, and then when you ask BUT WHAT IS THE POINT?? he doesn’t punch you in the nose. It’s nice, isn’t it? You can do that sort of shorthand thing, when someone whom you both find annoying does something annoying, you can look at him and only he completely understands what just happened. It was funny! No one else saw it! No one else understands, because no one else knows what you both know!
So maybe it’s not as exciting as a handsome stranger devouring you with his smoldering eyes. Maybe you are getting old and boring. But you’re getting old and boring together! And honestly, being devoured by someone’s smoldering eyes can really cut a hunk out of your day, I mean, where do these people find the time to have affairs? Seriously, I would like to know how in the world you can squeeze all that undressing and dressing and rolling around and smoldering into a normal day. Because if I could master that kind of time management, I could finally get all my shit done.
Yesterday morning I looked into my dear, complicated, sometimes prickly husband’s eyes and said, “I know who can’t wait to watch “September Issue” with me…” His head cocked slightly, as if he was reaching back into that little mental Rolodex. A little later I sidled up to him like it was about to be Christmas and said, “I know! You are asking yourself right now, “when in the heck are we going to watch “September Issue?!” Ignoring the alternately blank/horrified look on his face, I continued, “You’ve had to wait so long, but finally it’s out on DVD! I know you cannot believe your good fortune!” Until finally he said, “Okay! I’ll watch it with you. It’s a girl thing, right?” As I slipped the DVD into the machine, I rattled off a quick, vague explanation. “Vogue. That giant magazine I buy every September that weighs three-hundred pounds.” The egregious Anna Wintour. The fantastic Grace Coddington. Intrigue! Skinny models! High fashion! I mean come on, does that not sound like the most fantastic Friday night?
Whether or not he agreed with that assessment, he sportingly curled up with me in front of the television. To watch a movie about a fashion magazine. I’m pretty sure he thought there’d be ice cream in it for him.
So we watched, and it was good, but I’m thinking to myself, “where are all the beautiful models and the fantastic fashion shots? WHERE ARE THE FROCKS?” I mean, there are some, but the whole thing is really about this power play between the scary, reptilian Anna Wintour and the artistic visionary that is Grace Coddington. At its heart, it’s about every bad boss you’ve ever had. But WHERE ARE THE DOLCE & GABBANA HEADDRESSES?? I kept asking myself. I may have even nodded off at one point. I assumed my husband would be simmering in boredom and annoyance.
But he LOVED the movie. LOVED it. Was shocked at the bizarrely inhuman Anna Wintour; Adored the genius Grace Coddington. Sweated over the in-house maneuvering like he was watching the inner workings of the Elizabethan court. Adorably, he thought it was going to have a happy ending! He thought Anna Wintour would get her due! He was certain Grace Coddington would win! Perhaps taking over Vogue magazine in the final moments. And then the world! Where she’d drape all of us in beige tulle and overblown cabbage roses. He was so caught up in the story he forgot he was watching a documentary. Real life, where bad behavior is, more often than not, rewarded.
So you see? All this to say that there still may be some surprises left in your marriage. Some unexpected change behind the sofa cushions. Not to be entirely simplistic; if your marriage is beyond repair, well then, you should be seeking advice from other, more expert sources. But if it’s just that you feel your marriage has been sitting in a sort of lukewarm footbath for too long, it’s not too late to rediscover how good things really may be. You don’t have to “work at it” quite so hard. Maybe you could just try to have some fun once in a while, without scheduling in fabulous date nights. Don’t take each other for granted, if you can help it. You’re with this person. Maybe there’s a reason for it, beyond having children or deciding on new tile for the bathroom. Maybe the tile store holds a whole new adventure for both of you! Maybe there’s more fun than you know, just waiting to be had.