Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

It is my fervent belief, based on very little evidence, that even the strongest marriages have points of irreconcilable division. 

Perhaps you agree, based on marriages you know. 

I’m not talking about political or religious divides, or disagreements on number of children, or financial philosophical misalignment.  

No. I’m talking about the little things that don’t matter at all and yet make you so incandescently angry that you cannot imagine how you ever married someone so incompatible with your values. 

You know, like how you hang the toilet paper. 

Here are the top three things that my husband and I CANNOT AND WILL NEVER AGREE ON. (And by “cannot agree” I mean that he refuses to see any sort of reason or logic.) 

1. Speeding Technicality: If you are driving in a car, and the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour, you are speeding if you go above 35 miles per hour. That means that if you are going 36 miles per hour, you are speeding. The limit is 35. Anything above that is speeding. 

I acknowledge that most police officers are not going to pull anyone over if they are going a few miles per hour above the posted limit. You could probably get away with driving at 40 mph – even 42 mph! – in a 35 mph zone and not risk being pulled over or ticketed. I acknowledge this. There is a practicality gap between what the LEGAL DEFINITION of speeding is and what an officer feels is worth her time to address. 

And yet, I stand firm: 36 mph in a 35 mph zone is speeding. 

2. Don and Dawn: My husband and I grew up in different states. But by and large, we have similar “accents.” And yet he maintains that “Don” and “Dawn” have different pronunciations. Anytime this subject comes up, my husband pronounces each name slowly and clearly for me so I can hear the obvious to him only difference between them. I do not hear any difference. There is no difference at all. I acknowledge that perhaps there could be a slight diphthong that I am not processing, and yet, even so, both names would be pronounced the same. 

3. Steak Temperature:  I like my steak on the cooked side. This is a texture issue; steak that is not cooked enough is too gooey for me to handle. I like a steak that is cooked through, with a hint of pink in the middle. A HINT. For most of my life, if I ever ordered steak at a restaurant, I ordered it well done. This has never worked out well for me, because there is a bias against people who like their steak well done. Even at very fancy steak houses, most chefs choose the worst cut of meat – like the shriveled end of a tenderloin with the only bit of gristle in the entire cow – and then cook it until it is black. This is not well done; this is a travesty against meat. Because of this, I have trained myself over the past decade or so to enjoy steak that is cooked less well: medium to medium well. It still only works out some of the time. Usually the steak is undercooked and I have to send it back – which is The Worst. 

But if I am paying for a steak in a restaurant, why can I not have the steak prepared the way I want it to be prepared? I pay the same exorbitant price for a steak whether it is cooked medium rare or well-done. Why should my temperature choice result in a sub-par steak? I do understand that perhaps – PERHAPS, I say with immense skepticism, because I think if you simply used a thermometer you could avoid any issues – it is difficult for a chef to know exactly when a steak is well-done. (Although again, when my husband and I make steak in our home, we achieve the exact right temperature every time.) But temperature aside, I should not get a crummy, shriveled end piece of steak while the medium rare folk get the juicy, tender, gristle-free cuts. 

My husband says it is my fault. He says I am asking for a crappy cut of meat. When I order medium-well or well-done steak, I am implying that I don’t like steak (I DO, very much, I just like it NOT SQUISHY) and so the chefs think they don’t need to give me a good piece. If you like steak well done, don’t order it, is his thought. This is a dumb take, I say. I am paying for the steak, I should be able to ask for it to be prepared the way I like it.

WITHIN REASON, of course. I am not asking a chef to change his whole recipe. And also, if you know that you are going to produce something crappy, then maybe give me a chance to change my order? I feel like the staff should say, “We don’t cook steak to that temperature. Would you prefer it medium, or would you like to order something else?” Don’t just throw an old slab of tire on a plate and charge $56 for it and call it filet mignon. 



Well. Now I am very fired up. 

If you are in a relationship, what are your silly but still completely irreconcilable debates? What are the small, semi-ridiculous topics on which you refuse to give an INCH? If you eat steak, how do you like it cooked?

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I got so many wonderful, thought-provoking questions from lovely readers during NaBloPoMo, but I took a rather lengthy break from answering them and still have a few to address! 

Gigi of Gigi’s Ramblings asks:

A follow up to the How I Met My Husband – how long was the engagement? 

Once we got married, friends and family alike said, “FINALLY.” We met in fall of our junior year at college and fell in love rather quickly. We moved in together in two years later while I attended graduate school, and then moved together to a different state two years after that so my husband could start medical school. We finally got engaged in September of the second year of medical school, and then got married halfway through his final med school year. That’s seven years from meeting to marriage. Seven. Years.   

One of these days I should post about our engagement. And maybe I should post the story of my engagement ring, which is a “fake” family heirloom.

And, I’d love to hear about the wedding too. Based on the description of your dress at the college formal, I’m guessing that your wedding dress was pretty amazing too. 

My wedding was a dream wedding. My parents offered us a down payment on a house or a wedding, and we (I, probably) chose the wedding. I am cringing at that now, because WHAT A POOR FINANCIAL DECISION?! I suppose I was 25 at the time I (we?) made this decision, and should have been capable of making a wise choice. But looking back, WHAT was I thinking? And yet, it was a fairytale day and I have (mostly) wonderful memories and everything worked out okay and I don’t regret it.

We got married in my home state, in a space that has been special to me since I was very young, and which I had been able to share with my husband in the many years of our courtship. We had a fairly small wedding – I think we invited about 75 people, and I’m guessing about 50 were able to attend. We got married in a tiny, non-denominational church, its alter backed by enormous windows that overlooked the snow covered mountains. Then we had the reception in the restaurant of a ski lodge.

The food was spectacular. Our dinner menu included a make-your-own pasta bar, tiny shot glasses of perfect creamy butternut squash soup, and miniature Brie grilled cheese sandwiches. We had huckleberry mimosas and a candy bar at which guests could fill up their own favor bags. Nearly all of our college friends attended, which was special to us; my husband and I met at college and we had a very tight-knit group of friends that we shared. We spent the evening dancing together in a big happy group enfolded by warmth and candlelight while outside enormous snowflakes drifted down from the sky.

My dress was strapless, with a sweetheart neckline, a lace bodice, and a full, satin skirt with a long train. Do I have a photo of it? No one had iPhones back in 2008, so it seems unlikely… Oh, right. Our photographer gave us a big binder full of thumbnails of all the photos he took, so here are photos of a few of the thumbnails that at least give you at least a sense of the dress. I never had a “this is it!” moment with my dress, and in fact ended up working with the designer to create a custom dress that I loved by piecing together parts of other dresses. And then I got sick in the weeks leading up to the wedding and lost so much weight we had to do an emergency last minute fitting session and my dress was QUITE baggy in the boobage area. 

Looking back at these photos brings back some of the angst of the day. The person who did my makeup was running late, so we were late to the church and ran out of time to take proper photos. So I don’t really love ANY of the photos from that day. I’d wanted the kind of artsy pictures you often see of the dress hanging in gauzy light in front of a window, and pictures of the shoes and rings, and fun photos with the bridesmaids. But since we were so behind, all our photos took place in the basement of the church. I don’t know if you’ve been to many church fellowship halls, but they are not known for their beauty, and this one was no different. (My husband and his groomsmen got to take AMAZING photos outside the reception venue, and they are very cool and beautiful.) Also, while I had a hair trial with my stylist that went perfectly, something was wrong on the day of the wedding and she could NOT get a good curl in my hair. So when I look at photos, I haaaaaaaate my hair. Apparently I am still salty about wedding imperfections nearly fifteen years later. Obviously, none of it matters at ALL, then or now.

Here. Look at a slightly blurry photo of of a thumbnail of our cake. It was vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream (NO FONDANT) and huckleberry jam in between the layers. I loved it; my husband wasn’t as big a fan, unfortunately.

Much to my mother’s horror, the candles had real flames. Our best man gave his toast in front of that stone fireplace and as he talked, he kept backing closer and closer to the candles lined up on the stone, filling my head and my mother’s, I’m sure, with visions of imminent conflagration. He did not knock any of them over; there were no fires.

Another thing I loved about our wedding were the flowers. I adored my bouquet. Irises are my favorite flower, and it turned out exactly as I wanted it to. My bridesmaids each carried a bouquet of pure white flowers, each one chosen because that flower was special to that bridesmaid.

My something old was a handkerchief from my husband’s grandmother’s wedding. It was tucked into the wrap of the bouquet stems.
Roses, tulips, hydrangeas, and calla lilies.

Okay, that’s enough reminiscing about our really very magical wedding! On to the rest of the questions!

Any siblings? And are you close? 

I have one sibling, a younger brother. We love each other, and I enjoy his company, but I don’t know that we are “close.” He is six years my junior, which means that he was in middle school when I went to college. That’s a big gap. It also means that I perpetually think of him as my baby brother, with glasses that were too big for his face and skinny limbs and straw colored hair that stuck up on the top of his head. In reality, he is a six foot tall former soldier in his mid-thirties. He and his wife live four thousand miles away. We got to see them twice last year, which was wonderful. But it may be several years until we see them again. We never talk on the phone but we do text and email occasionally. (More about our relationship here.) He is in law enforcement, so he very patiently answers all the ridiculous questions about policing I come up with as I’m writing my silly murder mysteries. He is brilliant, hilarious, brave, and one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met. 

Are you on Twitter? (Is this even a relevant question since Twitter seems to be in free fall as I type?) 

Technically, I am on Twitter. I have a Twitter account – one for this blog, one for the book blog – but I don’t really tweet. Twitter makes me VERY nervous, like I’m forever on the edges of a conversation other people are having. I do have a book-focused Instagram account, and I am more active there… but “more active” is not active active, if you know what I mean.

I know for this particular type of question the answer will vary (or, it would for me) depending on various factors. If money, school/work obligations, time, etc., were not obstacles where would you go for your dream trip/vacation?

If money/family/time were not obstacles, I would go on an extended trip to Europe with my husband and Carla. It would be so fun to rent a house in different countries for, say, a month, and then drive around to various cities in each country to really get a sense of what it’s like to live there. It has been my great good fortune to visit Europe several times and I love it and want to go back. There are a bunch of countries I’ve never visited, and a bunch that I would love to revisit, and old favorites (like France and Germany) that I have visited multiple times and still want to enjoy again.

Thanks for all the fun questions, Gigi! If anyone else has any questions or topics you want me to touch on, please feel free to ask me anything.

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It must have started a year or two ago.

My husband asked if I could get him a glass plastic cup of water, and I did. I handed it to him and he looked at it, and then up at me, and then back at the cup, and said, “Seriously?”

To him, I hadn’t filled it enough. At the time, I was exasperated. Seriously, him. I had gotten him water, and so what if I hadn’t filled it exactly to his specifications? 

But I do try to listen and improve, even if I think he is being ridiculous overly specific. So the next time I got him a cup of water I filled it more. I remember being conscious of filling it more, because I wanted to be a good listener. I swear on cheesy nachos that I only meant to please him, I wasn’t trying to be snarky or passive aggressive. And yet, when I handed him the cup, he said, “Seriously?” and the issue this time was that I had filled it too full!

Again: exasperation.

This is not about my apparent ineptitude when it comes to filling cups, nor is it about my husband’s apparently very narrow definition of a full cup. It is about the bit that has resulted from it. 

Now, if my husband gets ME water (in a glass), he fills it to the absolute tippety top. 

The other night right before I went to bed, he got out the Brita to fill his coffee maker. I had a glass on the counter that was maybe a quarter full and I asked if he could fill it (otherwise, I would have to wait until he filled his coffee maker, refilled the Brita, and the Brita did its slow water filtering job before I could fill my glass). He poured a little bit into the glass, making it – to my eyes – about three-quarters full. 

“Could you please put a little bit more in than that?” I asked him, and then turned away to finish filling the dishwasher. (This is why I was asking him to get me water; I was otherwise occupied.) 

When I was done with the dishes, I went over to the end of the counter to grab my glass and go up to bed. And I noticed that he had filled it all the way up to the top – so full that the glass looked empty. 

It just cracked me up. I could not stop laughing. I don’t know if I am properly conveying just how full the glass was, but I clearly could not move it without spilling it all over the counter or anything. It was the kind of full your middle school science teacher used to demonstrate the power of surface tension. I had to sip carefully from the edge like I was a dog or a nine-year-old proving that all your years of careful etiquette teaching have been for naught. The whole thing made me howl with laughter until tears were leaking out of my eyes. 

“I could have probably filled it even fuller,” he said. “Next time.”

I don’t know why it tickles me so much, this stupid little bit that he does now. It’s just one of those completely ordinary things that you do almost every day, usually without thinking, and now it will always be funny. The glass will either be too empty or too full and it completely cracks me up. 

Do you have any stupid bits with friends/family? 

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Nicole posted this question on my Ask Me Anything formHow did you meet your husband?

My husband and I met at college in fall of 2001. Oh my goodness, that is eons ago! 

The short answer is that he knew my former roommate, so we met through her. But, if you have been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you know I am no good at short answers. So here’s the full story:

One of my college friends (who had been my roommate for two years) and I decided to go to a concert. We were juniors and I had never heard of the band before – and have never listened to a lick of their music since – but I was enthusiastic. I even bought a T-shirt with the band name on it, a little pink thing that barely covered my navel. Ah, those long ago days of baring my navel without a thought!

We went to the concert. My sole recollection of the concert was that it was Very Loud. (I am not much for loud music, or concerts in general.) We may have had some beers, I can’t recall. In any event, we were STARVING after the concert. So, together with a few other concertgoers, we went to a local convenience store that sold sandwiches and then all trooped back to somebody’s dorm room to eat them. I do not remember how many of us there were, all I remember is that one of them was a very cute boy with shaggy brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes. He’d ordered hot peppers on his sandwich, but for some reason didn’t want them, so I ate them. 

That was it. That was the spark that ignited what has become a decades-long fire. 

After the sandwiches, this very sweet boy walked me home. He was very sweet, and very gentlemanly, and simply walked me to my dorm room and left. Didn’t even try to kiss me. 

After that, we’d see each other at meals and wouldn’t talk. We’d catch each other’s eyes, and blush, and resume talking to whomever we’d been talking to. 

We went to a big fancy black-tie party in early November of that year, and that was the first time we’d kissed. I still remember what I was wearing: A black dress with a hot pink layer underneath, and a frilly bottom edge that revealed the pink when I walked. I still remember kissing him on the dance floor, all those weeks of flirtatious glances finally coming to fruition. 

After that, he’d come over to my dorm room almost daily, so we could watch Seinfeld together. Then he’d traipse back to his own dorm to do his homework. We were still shy around each other in public. We each went our separate ways over winter break – I went back to my hometown and he flew overseas to where his family was living at the time – but we emailed every day. When we got back to campus in January, we each sat whatever exams we had (I had learned by that point how to avoid ALL exams and only write papers; the major benefit of being an English major) and I had a full week left before classes were to resume. So I drove with him back to his hometown – which is where we live now – so he could do something with his car, and so I could meet his mother, his aunt, and his sister. I had to sleep on a trundle bed in his sister’s room and it was all a little awkward, but it was wonderful, too. 

One night, I sat on the edge of my trundle bed in the dark, talking to my mom on the phone. I wanted to tell her I thought I was going to marry this boy, but it sounded too outlandish so I swallowed it down. We’d known each other for two, maybe three months at that point, but I was already in love. I’ve loved him every day since.

How did you meet your partner, if you have one?

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I know I have written about this before, but at some point in the past few years, I asked my husband if he would please unload the dishwasher on the weekend. It’s not that unloading the dishes is difficult, or time-consuming – in fact, it takes about five minutes, tops, which is exactly the amount of time it takes to steep my favorite black tea. So unloading the dishwasher allows me to feel efficient while also making that five minutes pass by more quickly than it would if I were just staring at the tea bags suffusing the water with their sweet, sweet caffeinated elixir. It’s just that it feels like such drudgery when I do it every single day without stop. 

He agreed and for the most part he unloads the dishwasher on weekends without me having to ask. He usually waits until far, far later in the day to unload it than I would choose to – I hate the sight of used dishes piling up beside the sink – but that’s a preference on my part, so I keep my lips zipped. 

On weekends that he is on call, I unload the dishwasher. And sometimes I will unload it just because it’s easier to do so than not: This morning, I needed butter for my breakfast, but the butter dish was in the dishwasher. To get it out, I needed to move a bowl and a wine glass – which I wasn’t going to lift out of the rack to free the butter dish and then replace in the dishwasher – and the blade of the blender. And if I was removing the blade of the blender, I might as well put it IN the blender and put the blender away, and by then I had some momentum going so I just did the whole thing.

When my husband unloads the dishwasher on weekends, I always make a point to thank him. But when I unload the dishwasher on weekends, he never seems to notice. (Once, I unloaded half of the dishwasher – my rationale being that I was unloading dishes that he never seems to know where to put; I end up putting them away anyway – and rather than saying, oh hey, awesome, I have less to unload now, he complained that I did the easy part. Sigh.)

It’s not that I necessarily want or need to be thanked. I do it on weekdays and don’t think anything of it. But on the weekends, it’s HIS job, and I feel like I’m doing him a favor. And it would be nice if he at least made note of the favor. 

But maybe he thinks it’s odd that I thank him for unloading the dishes at all. Maybe he thinks that there is no need to express gratitude for the completion of routine chores. In general, I guess I agree? It can be highly irritating when someone goes around pointing out all the tasks they have completed, seemingly expecting praise, without acknowledging that others are also going around completing household tasks without naming every single one. We should not have to thank each other every time someone refills the water pitcher or empties the trash or pays the bills or feeds the child. 

Then again, I find it bolstering when my husband does express gratitude for something I’ve done. He says “thank you for making dinner” most nights when I cook, which conveys “even if I don’t like this meal, I understand that it required planning and energy and I appreciate those things.” That’s a welcome message. When I put out the trash cans and he thanks me for doing so, I feel better about doing it than all the times I put them out and he says nothing. 

Then today I had a realization: He probably feels that “unloading the dishwasher” is MY job, and he’s doing ME a favor… not that it’s a joint job that belongs to me on weekdays and to him on weekends.

I will note that when I initially typed out the first sentence of this post, I wrote “if he would please unload the dishwasher for me on the weekend,” so one can understand how he could arrive at this conclusion.

It’s not a huge deal. It doesn’t make me mad or want to rend my garments or anything. But I do wonder if there is any way to change that perception of task ownership. 

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Why are the “-able” and “-ible” words so difficult to remember how to spell?

My husband and I have a significant Bedtime Incompatibility. Periodically, it drives me nuts as it is today. It takes the obvious form: each of us has a Preferred Bedtime, and they are different from one another.

I guess you would style me as a Morning Person. I like to wake up early-ish and start my day. To make rising early enjoyable, I like to go to bed at a reasonable time around ten o’clock. Probably, if I didn’t have a child or husband, I would go to bed around nine or nine-thirty. But I DO have a child, whose bedtime (around seven-thirty) combined with my husband’s arrival home from work (around seven) means that I often don’t eat dinner until eight-thirty or nine let alone get into bed at that time. But if left to my own devices, I would go to sleep around ten. And often – yawning and feeling all twitchy in the leg region, which happens when I’m tired – I do part from my husband around ten or ten-thirty, even though he would rather watch another episode of whatever show we’re watching.

My husband is a Night Owl, and would stay up until two or three in the morning if he didn’t have to get up for work. On the weekends, he sometimes DOES stay up that late. Part of it is that he is at work from sixish to sevenish most days, and so he feels that going to bed early means he gets no time to do the things he enjoys (make music, play video games, exercise, watch TV, do puzzles, read). So he has to carve that him-time out of the dark of night. Part of it is that he seems naturally inclined toward night-owlishness. I do think that most people are one or the other, and cannot change without great effort and even discomfort. 

For a long time, I hated this difference in our go-to-sleep habits. I felt like it was important for our marriage to be able to fall asleep together. I missed having his warm body in bed with me. I missed the quiet chats that occur when two people are in the dark, trying to fall asleep. 

But over the years, I’ve come to accept it, if not outright enjoy it. I often have trouble falling asleep, and even more trouble getting back to sleep if I wake up in the night. And on the nights when we do go to bed together, I find that I am more irritated by him than anything. He keeps MOVING the SHEETS and TICKLING my LEGS. Or he will keep his light on even if he is just looking at his phone (which itself is LIT) and the light bothers me. Or he will turn off his light, out of (grudging) deference to me, but then his phone light will bother me. Or he will fall asleep first and then he will BREATHE and it will keep me awake. Do you see how it is better for me to be deeply asleep before he enters the bedroom?

It is a delight to be my spouse. 

All this is to say that I have come around to the fact that we have separate bedtimes. It’s fine.

My husband and I have lived together for nearly twenty years at this point, and we have always had this significant incompatibility. But it’s become more pronounced now that we have child.  

What’s bugging me currently is the mornings. My natural wake-up time – if it’s not 4:00 am – tends to be 7:00 am. That’s when I wake up without an alarm. On the weekends, I usually lie in bed until a) I’m hungry or b) I can hear Carla downstairs, and realize I need to go feed her (i.e. prevent her from eating junk instead of a Healthful Breakfast; I fail most days as she is quite stealthy). My husband has more teenagery sleep habits, and would probably languish in bed until noon if he could. 

But it makes me so irritated!!! See those three exclamation points? I wanted to add ten or twenty, just to illustrate my level of irritation. 

Part of it is that my husband unloads the dishwasher on the weekends; even though it takes literally five minutes out of my day, I do it Every. Other. Day. plus on weekends when he is on call, and having to unload the dishwasher on the weekends as well makes me want to scream. He unloads the dishwasher, and, unsurprisingly, he does so when he feels like doing it, which is NOT on my schedule. I want the dishwasher unloaded FIRST THING so that I can fill it with breakfast dishes and glasses from the night before etc. I try to recognize that this is a Me Thing, and I have never gone so far as to demand that he do this task on my schedule… but it still bugs me. 

Part of it is that I get a break from unloading the dishwasher on weekends, but I don’t get a break from feeding Carla. It would be so nice to just NOT have to make her breakfast. (I suppose I could extend a little autonomy in her direction, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way. I think she just wouldn’t eat, if it were her responsibility.) And “making breakfast” is not as simple as it sounds. It requires in-depth questioning and listing of options and cajoling and reminding about things like “eating meals is important” and “it’s good to eat things that have nutritional value in addition to things that have none.” It is A Process, is what I’m saying.

Part of it is that I feel like my husband gets this long, luxurious rest – and all its associated freedom from breakfast-making and tidying and chiding the child about picking up toys/turning off the TV/cleaning up her dishes. Not that I would choose to sleep longer, if I could! I guess I’m just envious. It does, in some ways, feel like he gets the weekends off from his job while I do not. But… my housewife “job” is so minimal! And fairly easy! While his work is neither of those things! So why do I begrudge him a little extra break?

The other part of it, though, is that we can never DO anything as a family until late. This past Sunday, we planned on a family bike ride. I wanted to leave early, before the heat descended. But we settled on 9:30. And then… my husband slept in until nearly 9:00 and it was ELEVEN O’CLOCK before we got out the door, and I hadn’t eaten any breakfast (because I am a Late Breakfaster, and I figured we would be home from our 9:30 bike ride before I got hungry) and it was hot and I was cranky. Why should I have to wait around doing NOTHING just because I have the audacity to wake up early?! And now half the day has been eaten up by Nothing. Not just Nothing, but resentful, pouty Nothing.

Oh! Here’s a point on my husband’s side of things: We will watch a TV show or two after dinner (or, more likely, while he and I scarf down dinner after we put Carla to bed). I am usually struggling to keep my eyes open by the end of the show, and I feel like I express Very Clearly that I am ready for bed. When the show is over, I will say something along the lines of, “Okay, I’m ready for bed! I’m going to head up now!” and then I go into the kitchen and wash the dishes and clean the counters while my husband flips around the channels, checking on sports scores and catching up on news and weather. 

Then he will finally come into the kitchen – usually right as I am finished – and express surprise that I have done all the dishwashing/cleaning up. He still needs to prep his coffee and get his lunch together for the next day, and sometimes if I am feeling charitable, I will stay in the kitchen with him and chat. But often I am Done with a capital D and I say, “Good night!” At which point he is miffed! Why am I in such a hurry to go to bed? What did he say to me last night – something like, “Well, you didn’t waste any time.” Excuse me? I just did all the dishes! 

Hmm. I am clearly casting this in a Me light rather than a Him light. Try to see it his way. 

I am very curious as to YOUR bedtime/wake-up habits. And if you live with someone, what THEIR habits are, and whether they are compatible with yours (and whether it matters).

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I am dreaming of date night right now. When we have houseguests, I feel like I never see my husband. I am always in the kitchen cooking or tidying up. And when I am ready to head to bed (not early, etiher! ten or eleven!) he is still chatting with his family and spending time with them, often into the wee hours of the morning. It truly feels like we don’t get more than five minutes alone together when we have visitors. Alas, once our houseguests are gone, my husband is on call for a week. Which means I may not see him aside from a few grumpy minutes here and there for a week! Womp womp. 

On top of these things, my volunteer project is ramping up – to the point that I now lie awake looonnnng into the night fretting about décor and staffing and what happens if everyone else gets violently ill the night before the event. You know. Healthy stuff. I’m busy and my mind is on other things, so my mind is not really focused on Quality Spouse Time lately. 

All this means that my husband and I are getting kind of desperate for some alone time. So I am going to text the babysitter and see if she is free AS SOON as my event and call week and houseguests are in the rearview! 

Shay and Erika are doing a little link up today about date night ideas. My husband and I don’t have particularly exciting dates, but we have had exactly TWO date nights since 2020 – both with other couples – so I am kind of feeling like any time we get alone together counts as a date. 

Dinner – We both love food, and so our typical date night usually involves going out to eat. One of our favorite local restaurants just reopened (after closing during the early days of the pandemic), so I’m hoping we might go there. Dining in restaurants still feels… fraught. I am looking forward to warmer weather and the opening of restaurant patios!

Dessert – My husband LOVES sweets, which means that dessert is a non-negotiable part of our date nights. (Like I would negotiate against dessert!) Most often, we grab ice cream after dinner. Near us is a small town with a cute main street we like to visit. There’s a delicious ice cream shop right in the middle, and the weather is getting to the point where we might be able to stroll with our cones even in the evening. 

Bookstore – My husband and I both love to read, so our date nights often wind up in a bookstore, where we browse for books together (when we go with our daughter, one of us browses and the other goes with her to the kids’ section) and hand each other books to consider. I usually don’t enjoy going to bookstores. For one thing, I am not a huge fan of standing around while my daughter asks for every toy in the toy section. For another, there are too many books I want to buy, and I get cranky about not being able to take all of them home at once. (Do I have a million unread books in my home already? Yes. Does this alleviate the grouchiness or desire to buy more? Absolutely not.) But when we go to a bookstore on a date, it feels different. It feels like quality time, where he hands me books he might like or books he thinks I might like, and I do the same for him. Plus, there’s the novelty of being in a bookstore in heels and date night clothes that really changes the experience.

TV – My husband and I love to watch TV together. We just started watching Inventing Anna and we’re both hooked. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the series, but the whole story fascinates me so I’m predisposed to liking it. Plus, I think the acting is really top notch. We pause frequently and marvel at Anna’s accent, or ask each other who so-and-so actor is and where we remember him from, or discuss how WILD a certain plot point is. This is not solely a Date Night activity, but it’s still fun. 

Games – We also love to play computer games together. There’s a very specific type of game we like, and it’s hard to find games that fit our specifications. We loved the Cube Escape and Rusty Lake games, for instance. I’d describe our preference as “combination of horror/mystery story and escape-room style puzzle solving.” We just started a new one called Reach. (If you have any recommendations, I’m interested!) 

Here’s hoping our sitter is available, because I’m getting antsy to spend some time with my husband! 

What does your ideal date night look like? 

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My mom was visiting over Christmas and I was getting the table ready for dinner, filling water glasses, swooping bread into the bread basket, moving salt and pepper shakers from the counter to the table. You know. 

As I was filling up my mother’s glass with water from the fridge, she said, “I’m not a nice person.”

I was SHOCKED. Shocked. That she would say such a thing, of course. But that she would announce it like this, while we were all milling about in the kitchen before sitting down to eat. 

“What?!” I said. “That’s not true!”

She looked at me with confusion. Then realization dawned.

“I just meant I don’t want ice in my water,” she clarified. “I’m not an ICE person.”


This has since become family code for little misunderstandings. My husband out of nowhere says Carla is not allowed in the basement… but really he said she’s being loud in the basement. Once we clear up that confusion, one of us will say, “I’m not a nice person.” 

Or maybe my husband offers to bring me a snack, but I tell him I’m not in the mood for popcorn… when he brings me popcorn anyway, I will say, “I’m not a nice person.”

That kind of thing.

We have several little code words and phrases,  none of which would make sense to anyone beyond the two of us. Even Carla, I think, is a little perplexed by some of the little inside jokes. 

We were reading a book to her the other night, for instance, and my husband mispronounced the word “candelabra.” 

This is something he and I do automatically, any time it comes up, after watching an episode of The Amazing Race many many years ago in which a contestant mispronounced the word. (Can-DELL-uh-brah.) I don’t know why it struck us as so notable then (it’s not an intuitive word!), or why it’s something that’s had such staying power. 

The other thing we say all the time is, “Just switching things up.” This is something we say in response to someone – including one of us – doing something baffling. Like, why did you Venmo the old babysitter instead of the swim instructor? Just switching things up. Why did that person choose to turn left at a red light? They’re obviously just switching things up. That kind of thing. 

This derives from a road trip we went on with friends a million years ago. Our friend was driving the other car in our group, and he kept passing us on the freeway… and then slowing down so drastically that we had to pass him. When we reached our destination, my husband asked him why he didn’t maintain a constant speed and he shrugged and said, “I just like to switch things up.” It has stuck with us ever since. 

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My in-laws have left and my house is very, very quiet. I can walk around in my jammies again and eat a burrito for breakfast without feeling like my sanity is being questioned and I am hopeful that I will stop feeling quite so hateful toward my husband when I unload/rinse/load dishes. Overall, it was a pleasant visit; my in-laws are pretty amiable and easy, and it is not their fault at all that my husband and I are introverts for whom extended company is very wearying. Most importantly, my mother-in-law is finished with this phase of cancer treatment, and endured it very well, and we are all hopeful that the next phase will go just as smoothly.

I should be cleaning the guest room and the bathroom right now rather than eating toffee and writing, but I am not. Even though I know I will feel better once everything is freshly laundered and scrubbed with bleach, and especially once my daughter can revert from sharing our bathroom to using her own. (We have two sinks in our en suite, and for some reason my daughter refuses to use my husband’s. Even if she and I are brushing our teeth simultaneously and my husband is already at work.)

Okay, during that paragraph break, I put all the towels in the laundry and tossed the bar soap and half-empty hotel-size shampoo and conditioner into the garbage and emptied the trash. If you have a guest room, does it have a trash can in it? Do you expect a trash can when you stay in other people’s guest rooms? I have a trash can in the bathroom, but not in the guest room… but there was a little paper bag filled with trash on the floor by the dresser, which makes me wonder if I should buy one? I don’t have a trash can in my own bedroom; if I need to throw something away, I toss it in my bathroom trash can.

Okay, okay. I have now scrubbed out the powder room toilet and replaced the hand towel, scrubbed out Carla’s toilet, and moved the bathroom cleaning kit up to the hallway outside the bathroom. Baby steps. 

Spending so much time with my in-laws gave me ample opportunity to examine the differences between how my husband’s family of origin and my family of origin do things. Objectively, most of the differences are totally benign; both ways of going about things are fine and reasonable and I’m sure plenty of people do them that way. But hot ham is it difficult to see things objectively when you were raised doing things One Specific Way. Here are some examples; I have scrambled them up, so the first FOO mentioned is sometimes my FOO and sometimes my husband’s. 

  • One family of origin (FOO, from here on out), are cocktail drinkers; the other FOO are wine drinkers. 
  • One FOO eat mostly at restaurants, with occasional home-cooked meals; the other FOO make and eat the vast majority of their meals at home.
  • One FOO divide the household duties roughly evenly (although some tasks take on typically gendered lines, like dusting vs. changing the oil in the car; I would say these tasks break up based on interest and ability though); the other FOO are much more “traditional” in the sense that the housework nearly all falls to the woman, and the man will sit and read a newspaper while the woman scrubs dishes five feet away. 
  • One FOO eat most dinners together at the table as a family; the other FOO eats together in front of the TV just as often as they eat at the table. 
  • One FOO wants the food to be HOT when everyone sits down to eat, so you better sit down right away when it is ready; the other FOO doesn’t care a whit about food temperature, and takes their sweet time getting to the table, sometimes detouring to the bathroom or stopping to check on the progress of the jigsaw puzzle, even after they have been WARNED that dinner is about to be served, and then ASKED whether they are READY to eat, EVEN IF they have been married to a Hot Fooder for 10+ years. Bet you can’t guess whose FOO is whose in this one.
  • One FOO takes care of almost all household/car maintenance themselves (oil changes, lawn care, appliance/fixture/furniture repair); the other FOO outsources nearly everything (oil changes, lawn care, appliance/fixture/furniture repair).
  • One FOO always seems to be in the midst of renovations, with the newest trend in furniture and paint colors and appliances; the other FOO sets up house and only replaces furniture/appliances once it stops working. 
  • One FOO always has the latest technology (phones, computers, devices); the other FOO buys technology only once in awhile, and then often choose refurbished pieces or older models. 
  • One FOO accepts that a no is a no; the other FOO believes that it never hurts to ask. 
  • One FOO gives gifts of money and contributions to college funds; the other FOO gifts toys. 
  • One FOO buys the things they need and, after research, doesn’t think or talk about the price of the item; the other FOO is constantly fretting about price, and is delighted to find a good deal, and talks openly about how much things cost.
  • One FOO buys cars and uses them for decades until they wear out; the other FOO leases cars for a few years and then replaces them with the newest model. 
  • One FOO says goodbye and leaves; the other FOO says goodbye and lingers for several more hours. 
  • One FOO are kissers; the other FOO are huggers. 
  • One FOO prefers personal space and stays in hotels when they visit; the other FOO much prefers being together as a family. 
  • One FOO is staunchly Pro Thank-You Note, even if you thank them in person; the other FOO feels that a voiced thank-you is completely adequate. 
  • One FOO is very punctual; the other FOO has a more slippery grasp of time. 
  • One FOO is a soft-shell taco family; the other FOO prefers hard-shell tacos or taco salads. Why are so many of these bullets food related, hmm?
  • One FOO plans things out months, and in some cases years in advance; the other FOO is much more spontaneous about making plans. 
  • One FOO is a dessert-every-night family; the other FOO is a dessert-on-special-occasions family. 
  • One FOO is a silence is golden type; the other FOO is the hard-to-get-a-word-in-edgewise type. 
  • One FOO is a No Devices At The Table type; the other FOO has their phones by their plates at all times, and if the topic is boring to an individual, there is no hesitation in picking up the phone and disengaging from the conversation. (Carla raised her hand during one particularly drawn out discussion and asked, politely but pointedly, “Can I change the subject now?”) 
  • One FOO is a TV in the bedroom family; the other FOO is a no TVs in the bedroom family. 
  • One FOO is a church-every-Sunday family; the other FOO doesn’t observe any religion.
  • One FOO are Facetime/phone-call communicators; the other FOO prefer email and maybe occasional phone calls.
  • One FOO always has salt and pepper on the table; the other FOO trusts that all food is salted/peppered exactly right for every palate. 

Like I said, it’s hard to accept one way when you grew up doing things the exact opposite way. But I can see the merits of both sides. At least in most cases (hot food should be eaten while HOT). 

Then, of course, it is amusing to see the points where our FsOO overlap, and the family my husband and I have created diverges. 

  • Both FsOO believe in ironing, and both women iron their husbands’ shirts to this day; my husband and I operate a pro-wrinkles household and refuse to iron. 
  • Both FsOO are firmly shoes IN the house types; my husband and I are a SHOES OFF household. 
  • Along the same lines: My husband and I are immediate handwashers; we come into the house, from anywhere, and wash our hands before we touch anything. (Except our shoes, which we remove at the door.) Our FsOO seem disinclined toward handwashing unless they have recently used the restroom or are cooking/eating. 
  • Both FsOO prefer phone calls to text messages; my husband and I, like the good millennials we are, would prefer to never use a phone again.

Obviously, my husband and I are RIGHT.

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