When I was twenty-five and at the height of my twinkie powers, the idea of settling down seemed romantic but unlikely. The idea of getting married seemed preposterous. And the idea of living in the suburbs, well, that was science fiction.
Yet here I sit, a decade and a half later, with a ring on my finger, watching squirrels scamper unhindered through my backyard, intent on destroying every tulip bulb and flower bed we’ve planted. Damn squirrels. If someone were to hand me a button that would instantaneously explode the heads of all those bushy-tailed rats, I would totally press it.
Do you see what suburban life has done to me?
I jest. Not about the squirrels, but about suburban married life. It may be ironic that all the things I disdained during my screechy, activist youth have now become the things I value: a car that runs, a house that lacks signs of dilapidation, utilities not on the verge of being cut off.
It’s a nice life.
Of course, since it’s a shared life, there are things I’ve had to learn. That’s because, according to my husband, I’m an inherently selfish bastard who wouldn’t know how to share if my life depended on it. Though he usually puts it more nicely.
So my first lesson in domestic bliss was to learn to share. Or, more accurately, to appear to share. Apparently, when you offer someone the last Diet Coke, it makes him so happy that he insists you keep it for yourself because he doesn’t actually like Diet Coke. Happiness is easy and I get to drink all the Diet Coke.
Some other things I’ve learned are:
Learn to love to clean.
As an inveterate pack rat with attention-deficit issues, I will never be a fastidious housekeeper. But even something as simple as picking food up off the floor when you drop it can help reduce the blood pressure of a husband who compulsively vacuums behind you.
Be understanding of differences.
Being in a cross-cultural relationship, I’ve found that our differing backgrounds can lead to some stressful arguments over, say, hosting family events or saving money or driving. These arguments tend to devolve into:
”We’re Asian and we do it this way!”
”Okay, honey, this is how white people do it and I need you to respect my cultural heritage!”
I think that particular argument was over whether or not to eat lots of cake. Naturally, he decided to have the cake, I decided to eat it. Problem solved!
Learn the language of love.
I don’t mean how to whisper sweet nothings at the appropriate moments; if I didn’t know how to do that, it’s unlikely that I would have ended up married.
What I mean is the age-old and poorly understood skill of hearing what your partner says and translating that into what he or she means. Example: ”Oh, honey, you really don’t have to buy me anything” means ”Get thee to Saks.”
My particular lesson was that when my husband says, ”You really don’t have to buy me anything,” he means, ”If you spend any more money, I’ll be pissed.” He’s frugal (see Be understanding of differences, above).
Conversely, I’ve had to learn that ”nothing” actually means ”everything”:
”What’s wrong, honey?”
Too bad I can’t buy my way out of the doghouse with a trip to Saks.
Create some separate space.
When we first moved into our house, my husband was excited that he would have space to ”get away from me.” I did not react well to that. We were moving in because we loved each other and wanted to be together, right? We should be spending every evening romantically cuddling on the couch watching Oscar-worthy movies and critically acclaimed cable television shows.
But now that I’ve been here for a few years, I realize that, hell, I wouldn’t mind having some time away from myself either. I can be awfully cranky sometimes.
But while all these little lessons have certainly helped, the best thing for domestic bliss is to find someone who never stops making you smile.
Even when he’s complaining that you hog all the covers.
Excerpted from Boy Does World. Copyright 2010 Sean Bugg. Used with permission.
Boy Does World: Fifteen Years of Bad Behaviors, Bad Attitudes, and Happy Endings by Sean Bugg is available at select bookstore and online at amazon.com.