If you are a fan of the TV show “The Big Bang Theory” you will know what I I’m referring to in this post. If you haven’t seen the show, the “roommate agreement” is an 80ish page document frequently wielded by the head geek of the show when having disagreements with his roommate about specific protocols going on in the apartment. It is hilariously comprehensive and covers everything from what time each one occupies the bathroom in the morning or the default thermostat setting in the apartment, to what to do during an alien invasion or the duties of a sidekick if one of them suddenly develops super powers.
The agreement stipulates that the other roommate receive a 48 hour warning if the one of them has an overnight guest. They have frequent arguments about this because the more sexually active of the geeks occasionally gets lucky with an impromptu “hook up” and violates the 48 hour advance warning clause.
Technically I call this a marriage adventure blog so I feel a certain obligation to discuss marriage issues even if only occasionally. Where I’m going with this is a conundrum that far too many spouses find themselves in. I know this because I’ve read approximately a bazillion blogs posts and books about this topic. It seems to be the elephant in the room that people are afraid to talk about, The problem being that one partner thought they were signing up for a marriage agreement but somehow a bait and switch happened and instead they got the roommate agreement – minus the overnight guest clause. This recalls the old warning – always, always, always, read the fine print.
The difference is that most people, when entering into a marriage agreement assume that the other partner is able to or at least willing to try to be available to meet the sexual and accompanying emotional needs of the partner. If one of the partners outright refuses, or won’t step up to the plate in a more passive aggressive fashion via poor health habits, unaddressed emotional issues, etc., this creates a huge problem because in the roommate agreement neither partner is expected to participate in gratifying the sexual or physical needs of the other partner whereas the marriage agreement implies that the partners not seek to satisfy basic sexual biological needs outside the marriage agreement, even if these needs are totally unmet within the relationship.
Open marriages aside, going outside the marriage to satisfy unmet sexual needs within the marriage is a huge social taboo. I’m not talking about the need to swing from the ceiling on a mink covered trapeze here either, just plain old garden variety sex. Going outside the marriage never seems to work well and usually damages a shaky relationship severely, if not irrevocably, regardless if it is the husband or wife who strays. Unlike the roommate agreement which does stipulate that the partners may arrange an overnight guest for said needs as long as there is a 48 hour warning. I generally don’t recommend it.
So what happens from here? Good question. The choices seem to be; A) remain in the marriage agreement, never have sex, and grit your teeth because the spouse is “so great” in all other departments (this is the ultimate self-con job by the way), B) Remain in the marriage agreement and meet your needs outside the marriage unit, or C) Take the high road and exit the marriage agreement before arranging to meet ones needs elsewhere.
Ideally the party who is not getting their needs met would prefer another option as in D) the sexually prunified partner lose that nagging little extra 50 pounds, work with a doctor to get off medicines that cause a lack of sexual libido or function, and do whatever it takes to be attractive and healthy enough to rejoin the marriage bedroom tango.
I know there are people who will say “well sex isn’t the only important thing in a marriage.” True BUT, if it’s not happening at all ever, zilch, nada and this is bothering one of the spouses then it is a hugely mission critical problem. In my opinion it is a deal breaker. As in “excuse me Bubba, or Bubbette, I don’t care how much money you have, what a great cook you are, or if you clean the house so thoroughly that I could lick floor, if I’m not getting laid on at least a semi regular basis then all the other stuff means exactly diddly squat! I can hire a maid for that, go find someone else with money, or provide myself with funds.” For a woman with small children in this situation this might be a little tricky to achieve at first, but personally I’d rather be strapped for cash on occasion than watching my soul die slowly in a sexless marriage.
The no sex clause is all well and good and if both parties are aware of this and amenable to that from the beginning. However, it’s not kosher to spring this little surprise on a partner after marriage as in “oh by the way, I don’t intend to have sex with you….like ever.” Whether it is expressed verbally outright or only implied through actions or the lack there of, it’s still dirty pool. The left out partner feels like they got cheated or scammed. And you know what? They did.
Further reading: Take the Red Pill
I shudder when I hear people say things like “marriage is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t mean anything.” And I used to believe that also, until I tried being married. Maybe a marriage license is a piece of paper, but an actual marriage can be a wonderful thing.
The picture above is of my niece at her wedding. The one we drove 3,000 miles to attend in Key West, Florida, back in December ’12. I hope they look at their pictures with love and hope on those days of baggy sweatpants and unbrushed hair. On those cold dark mornings after being up all night with a teething fitful baby.
A wedding is a great way to kick off a marriage, especially for the bride and groom. They are standing up together in front of family and friends to pledge their commitment to each other in front of witnesses. I think this is a good memory to have when the hard times come, as they always do. Sickness, disagreements, financial difficulties, crazy in-laws and the whole cornucopia of the marital roller coaster ride.
As long as I’m pontificating on marriage I may as well weigh in on the same sex marriage debate. My opinion is that 2 people who love each other should be allowed to make a legal pledge of love and commitment to each other regardless of gender. Being the opposite gender is no guarantee of a happy marriage and being the same gender is not a recipe for disaster. So sayeth I and that’s the enough for now.
For older married couples a wedding is a wonderful time machine to look back on those honeymoon days with one’s spouse and all the ways you have grown and changed. You get to set back and have the wise chuckle of experience knowing that this happy couple is only on their first baby steps of a journey through heaven and hell together.
“Somewhere, deep within her, surfaces a tiny clockwork submarine. There are times when you can only take the next step. And then another.” ― William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
“They” all tell us that we are not alone, that we always have someone to rely on, whoever “they” are. They tell us we have friends, families, spouses, lovers, to help us along the path. But there are times when this support network converges at the center and it is zero, null – void. Then, at that moment, we realize the cold hard fact that we were born naked and alone and when our time comes we will meet the end in exactly the same way.
I think the hardest task any of us have to face in our lifetime is to learn to trust ourselves. Trust our instincts; trust that inner compass that tells us we are headed in the right direction. Things get a lot dicier when we have a mental disorder and are told that sometimes we can’t trust ourselves. What the heck am I supposed to do with that mental tidbit?
What a mind job! Trust yourself, no wait, don’t trust yourself. Listen to you friends, but you have to make the final decision. If it feels right to you, it might actually be wrong and vice versa. I feel like I’ve been dropped into a maze and told to find my way out only to find that, if I listen hard enough, I can hear the master puppeteer laughing because he knows there is no way out.
I’m writer, a story-teller, at heart so I tend to modify or embellish details to further the story. But even when I’m attempting to relate a “true” story things may get a bit skewed, because I don’t have a perfect, photographic memory. Not many do.
Mr. Husband evidently thinks he is one of those chosen few. He has a habit of sitting there during a group conversation, with his eyes closed, (I kid you not) and only joins in the conversation when he can interrupt me mid-sentence to correct or contradict what I am trying to say.
We went out to lunch yesterday with his mother and then dinner with a friend. On both occasions, several times, he butted into a sentence to correct me on minor details that really had nothing to do with the gist of the conversation. This is only called for in a situation where you claim the heroine was wearing a green dress when the topic is of conversion is “that psychopath who is running around killing women who are wearing a red dress.” Otherwise it’s just plain rude. Excuse me Bubba, but we’re having a pleasant gab fest here. You are welcome to join us, however, we do not recall hiring you on as a fact checker. Many times his correction isn’t correct either. That’s makes it doubly annoying.
Well, last night at dinner I finally snapped and said something along the lines of “what the hell is your problem? Seriously, must you correct or contradict every damned thing I say???” Oh boy, that didn’t go over well at all. He got really really pissed.
I stood up and departed the restaurant to walk around for a few minutes to calm down. I didn’t want to make or participate in a scene in front of his friend in a restaurant. Then I went back and said “I think this is going to be an extremely awkward dinner, I’m going to go across the parking lot over to the Hobby Lobby and wander around for a bit.” Hubman wasn’t OK with that so instead, dinner aborted, we went home. Our friend, a very wise man, immediately took his leave and went in search of dinner elsewhere.
So Hubman stormed around the house like a constipated thundercloud. I finally went in his office to ask him what had happened, from his point of view. I was shaking in my shoes because I really did want to know. He informed me that I have been acting like a bitch for the last week. Okey, Dokey. Well, can you give me an example? No, he couldn’t or wouldn’t. I asked him how exactly I was supposed to modify my behavior if I do not know what I am doing that is so “bitchy.”
So now I’m in a confused limbo. I thought I was doing rather well this past week. I was feeling happy and productive. I was writing again, getting dressed before noon, put on makeup and even left the house unsupervised. Imagine that. Turns out I’m a bitch? I don’t know how to wrap my head around this. My head is pretty flexible, but this I can’t process. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been accused of bitchiness by someone who I gave even the smallest bit of a hoot about what they thought.
Maybe he is having trouble coping with changes in our relationship. I know I’m standing up for myself more than I was in the past. And maybe he has a lot of stored up pain and anger and it’s coming out like a 12 gauge buck shot blast. I asked him last night to try an experiment – in which he would say something at the moment something happened so we can talk about right then. As opposed to him storing up his own personal arsenal of grievances. I guess I just have to wait and see where this is going.
Well the dreaded end of the Mayan Calendar has come and gone we’re all left with the task of going on about our lives. Yep the world is still turning, the sun is shining, and it’s business as usual.
In preparation for the world’s continuance, I’ve been reading a book the last few days. The title is “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck, MD. He is the director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy, University of Pennsylvania. The subtitle is; how couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve, conflicts, and solve relationship problems through Cognitive Therapy.
The book is giving me a ray of hope. I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s getting kind of spooky. One of the couples he counseled and refers to throughout the book so far, l will call them Ken and Barbie, are so much like the Hubman and me that I’m tempted to write the guy a letter and ask him if he’s been spying on us. Maybe we should get some of the royalties from the book sales.
But it is sooo true. Love is never enough, I have relatives that I love with all my heart, but do everything humanly possible to avoid their presence rather than risk my sanity or personal safety. One of the points Aaron makes in the book is that couples can descend into their own private bubble of neurosis and irrational behavior, while being perfectly capable of navigating through relationships with others outside of the wacko marriage bubble with ease and even finesse.
Aaron has many scenarios in the book where he relates a conversation with a couple in 3 columns; 1) The words they said, 2) What their tone of voice and body language says, and 3) what they are thinking. An example taken from our daily life is:
Wife: “Would you get your clothes out of the dryer please.” (Annoyed expression, said with a whiney tone of voice) thinking ‘your stupid clothes have been in the drying for a week and half. What am I your slave or something? I bet you expect me to get your damned clothes out of the dryer and furthermore after 10 years you still act like you’re the only one who lives in this house. You treat me like a piece of furniture. You…you….bastard!’
Husband: “OK” (said in an angry tone, rolls eyes, huffs off with annoyed expression, lips pressed together, refusing to make eye contact) thinking <Insert thought here>I have no clue because I have no idea what he’s thinking and he’s damned sure not gonna tell me or probably anyone else either. Real men don’t do that. OK, I admit that I think sarcastic thoughts when pondering the labyrinths of Hubman’s mind.
If we analyze only the words spoken here there should be no problem. The real trouble lies in the fact that so much is said with body language and tones of voice that the words are close to meaningless. So round and round we go careening from one verbal fiasco to the next.
I’m still in the defining the problems part of the book. I can’t wait to get to the solutions part. The author swears the second half of the book addresses tips on communicating what we actually think in a way that the spouses can understand and respond without immediately escalating to DefCon 1 and all out nuclear annihilation.
So there is hope. I have to think that anyway. No wait, hold that thought. I don’t have to think that. I want to think it.
Update on Christmas tree: Tree is up, ornaments are still in boxes. They may remain there. Maybe I’ll just put my Dr. Seusse-ish tree topper on it and pretend the rest of the stuff doesn’t exist. I’m very good at pretending. That’s my stock and trade. I am a writer after all.
I hate compromise. It always seems that both parties leave the ring with a black eye and a half-baked version of what they wanted. Seeing as being married seems to take up a great deal of my time I read about it a lot. The Wise Ones say couples should compromise, talk things out, give and take, walk in the other partner’s shoes, let things slide, pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff. What I want to know is, in what universe do these marriage experts live in? Cuz it’s not mine!
Maybe the Hubman and I should try talking things out in a paint ball arena, or on a long survival training week-end with no holds barred. Or hey, maybe a Thunder Dome kind of thing…with an audience chanting,”2 men enter – 1 man leaves, 2 men enter – 1 man leaves.” Now we’re talking.
I couldn’t best Hubster in a physical contest. He’s got me beat by about 50 pounds and work outs at the gym. What I can do is confuse the hell out of him so bad his hair stands on end for a week! Ha! Take that, you mere mortal man! I am woman, try to figure me out! Go ahead I dare you! No one ever has. If I can’t figure out what’s going on in my head just how exactly do you think you’re going to do it? That, my friend, is your challenge for the rest of your natural life. And I’ll be right there with you trying to figure out what is going in your head. That is no easy task.
So how do we do it? Beats me. But seriously, how lovers manage to cohabitate for their entire lives is a mystery for the ages. People have written songs, poems, books, and plays about relationships; tragedies, comedies, psychotic sojourns through the depths of hades and everything in between. Who left the top of the tooth paste or their left underwear on the coffee maker type of melodrama is dust in the rearview mirror when it comes to living with another human being day in and day out.
Hubman and I have had a few go rounds in the last few weeks. He didn’t want to go to see the movie Twilight, and I wanted to cancel Thanksgiving or at least the hosting part of it. Turns out we both caved. He went to the movie with me and I am going to iron some &#%@$%* place mats for the table, fortified with beer and wearing oven mitts. This is a huge concession on my part, in my opinion anyway. I threw out the old iron about 8 years ago, so I had to go purchase a new iron and a bag of ice yesterday. Yeah, yeah, woe is me.
I wonder if there is such a thing as retroactive compromise. Things like, “sure I punched you in the nose because you groped my girlfriend in the broom closet, but you rolled your girlfriend around, the one who used to be my girlfriend, on the coffee table that my artwork was drying on and ruined it. So now we’re even!”
That was sort of a not made up scenario, by the way. I actually know 2 guys that used to do stuff like that to each other. The scene was modified to protect the guilty. The art work was mine. I was not involved with either guy, but I recognized the glitter and the paint colors on the body of the woman in question in the ladies room later that evening. I put it all together and informed all involved that I was not amused. Why I trusted them to leave the coffee table inviolate for one day is beyond me.
So compromise, how is it done? Arbitrators make big money with that secret. Supposed to be a win-win situation right? Well we didn’t win, we both lost. We fought and got all nasty with each other. I threw a tantrum so he went with me to a movie that made him want to gouge his eyes out. To get even with me he cooked a turkey with stuffing, twice baked potatoes and 2 chocolate cream pies…hmmm.
OK, now I just feel really silly. Maybe I’m not quite as grown up as I thought I was. I suppose owe him an apology, maybe even do something to make up for the outrageous behavior, but that’s just getting drastic.