One Way to Save a Marriage

Published: Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, April 30, 2017

He was in grad school and home most days watching soap operas and smoking pot.  I had a full time job.  We’d been married for only a few months.  I started to resent working all day then coming home to clean house and do all the shopping.  I’d make lists splitting up the responsibilities.  I’d do my list every week.  He’d never do his.


One day, I came home from work and there were dishes piled high in the sink.  I was fuming.  I felt like each dish was speaking to me.  “Hi, I’m dirty, here I am.  Wash me now!”  What was he doing all day?  Why didn’t he wash them?  I huffed for the rest of the night.


One day, my car wouldn’t start.  I wanted to call a tow truck and have it hauled into the repair shop.  He told me to wait so he could look at it.  Many hours later, he finally took a look under the hood.  He knows nothing about cars.  Then it was too late to have it towed to the shop.  They were closed.  I could have had it fixed by then, but waiting for him set me back a day.  Grrrr.


He had the month’s bills stacked in a heap on his night table.  He was the one that payed the bills every month.  He would always wait until the very end of the month to pay them.  Then he’d sit down all at one time and asked me to “help” him pay them.  He didn’t need my help.  He just wanted the “sit ‘n suffer.” If he had to muddle through paying them, he wanted me to sit, and suffer right along with him.  Arggg.


I was angry all the time.  So much so, that I had a regular chip on my shoulder.  No matter what he did, I was sure it was wrong and thoughtless.


We were headed in the wrong direction.


I never talked to him about any of these things.  I just sat and stewed.  Did I want a divorce?  Was I really that miserable?  Why did I marry him in the first place?


I wish I could tell you that something happened specifically to change things.  All I know is that I did love him.  I knew he loved me.  You don’t just throw that away, right?


So I started to talk with him.


When I told him how mad I was when he left dishes in the sink for me to do, he was stunned.  “They were all over the house.  I had the cereal bowl in the den, my coffee cup on the side table, some glasses in the bedroom, and a pot on the stove,” he told me.  “Every day, before you come home, I always make a point of straightening up. I collect all the dirty dishes from around the house and put them neatly in the sink.”  We stared at each other for a moment.  I thought he threw them in the sink for me to do.  He thought he was doing me a favor and thought they got cleaned by themselves.


When I told him I was upset that it took me twice as long to get the car fixed because I had to wait for him to look at it when he knew nothing about cars, he told me that he agreed that he knew little about cars, but thought that it might just be the battery and that he could just go buy one and do that much himself, I understood.  He was trying to help and save me a trip and a tow.


When I told him I resented the fact that he waited until the last minute to pay the bills and then had me sit and suffer along with him, he admitted that he procrastinated and wanted my company.


We talked.  We started to talk all the time.  After so much talking, we learned some things about each other.  I learned that no matter what I did, he was never going to get around to doing his share of household cleaning.  We hired a maid.  I learned he was always going to be a procrastinator.  I learned that it’s a guy thing to look under the hood of a car.  They just do it, even if they don’t know what they’re looking at.  Now days, if I think something is going wrong with the car, I ask him to check it right away.  He looks under the hood and then he tells me to take the car in.  I take it in before I get stuck.  I’ve learned he has to look first.  He just has to.  He learned that I was much less stressed if bills were paid as they came in.  I began to pay them that way.  We’ve learned that we just can’t change the person we married.  We’ve learned to find compromises.  When there are no compromises to be found, we’ve just learned to accept each other without the chip on the shoulder.


This, is how I learned to avoid divorce and to fall into a deeper love. This morning, I sighed as I went to pick up his dirty clothes from the bedroom floor.  If they weren’t on the floor this morning, that would mean that he wasn’t there last night.  I’ll take his dirty clothes over his absence any day of the week.


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