It's April, which means if you listen closely, you can hear the murmur of couples across America feverishly preparing their taxes. Understand, "preparing" means different things in different households. For some it involves bickering about receipts, while in other homes someone is yelling about waiting until the last minute. From some homes you can't hear anything because there's just the silent resentment one spouse feels for having to do all the work alone.
I first learned married couples fight about taxes from my parents. My father was self-employed, which means ideally he should have had an effective system for saving and organizing receipts throughout the year. My Dad's system was having some receipts at the office, some at home—I think there might have even been a shoe box involved. I also remember that my father started working on the taxes pretty close to the 15th, something my mother hated. Every year she was convinced they weren't going to make it on time, and every year there was a late night trip to the post office downtown.
In my household things go much smoother. I get all our documents ready and take them to our accountant. Then after I pick up the taxes, my husband signs where I tell him. I must admit, it used to bother me that he shows no interest in our taxes. Now I'm over it. I think about my mother's frustration and I'm just glad to have control over the process. Although maybe just for fun, I'll slip some extra papers in with the taxes this year and see what else I can get my husband to sign. Post-nuptial agreement? Vasectomy contract? Abdication of remote control privileges? So much to consider.
Meanwhile, to all you couples whose refund is already deposited in your bank account because you got your taxes done back in February, I take my hat off to you—and then behind the hat I roll my eyes.
I'm starting to feel like myself again. Last week I was experiencing a sense of instability, like the ground beneath me wasn't firm. As I moved beyond the feeling, I realized there were 3 distinct reasons I had become so anxious. First there was The New York Times article I read by Layng Martine Jr. In it he described the way life has been dramatically changed by the crippling car accident his wife suffered on the way to their summer home. Ultimately the story is beautiful and triumphant, but after reading it I sat frozen thinking about how life can be changed in an instant. Then came the sudden death of actress Natasha Richardson due to a skiing accident. I didn't know her, nor am I very familiar with her career. What I do know is that she was a wife and mother, and now her husband, Liam Neeson must deal with his shock and grief while being strong for his children. Falling apart is not an option for a parent.
I probably could have navigated my way through that emotional minefield because again, I don't know any of those people. I am often troubled by tragic events in the lives of strangers, but I have learned to hope for the best for the families affected and then move on. But, when one of our friends was suddenly hospitalized and later scheduled for surgery, anxiety washed over me. The guy is my husband's age and in the same profession. His wife works part-time from home, but like me, she primarily takes care of their two young children. I worried about him and for her. I also worried for myself, because more than the couple from The New York Times article or famous actors, I look at this family and I see my own.
The morning of the surgery I took the family some food my husband and I made. It was the only way we could think to help. Then I went on with my day. And I waited. I waited to hear that their family would be okay, and then maybe I could believe mine would be okay too. As the day progressed and there was no news I feared something had gone terribly wrong. Late that night I was relieved to learn the surgery had gone well and our friend was settled back in his room.
All of these experiences have highlighted the fragility of the life I have built with my husband. I am reminded of the scene from the movie Jerry Maguire when Marcee (the wife of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character, Rod) is talking to Jerry after Rod is injured on the football field. She says, "My whole life is this family, and it does not work without him." (Forget "You complete me." THAT is the most romantic line in the movie.) Those words describe exactly how I feel. But despite these worries I know I can't white knuckle my way through life. I want my family to drive to our summer house, and to ski, and to live. So here I am trying to shed the fear and trust that the ground beneath me will hold as I take steps forward.
In my post entitled "An Unexpected Blogger" I made reference to a "friend from high school". He and I were at a party together where a discussion started about relationships and marriage. In response to our single friend who is in a committed relationship and contemplating his next step, my high school friend uttered the words that have stayed with me ever since: "Marriage is easy." I have heard people say many different things about marriage but NEVER that. After he made the comment, the conversation shifted and I never got a chance to ask him what he meant.
Months went by, but those words were stuck in my head. Did he know something that I (and pretty much everyone else I know) didn't? By the way, I know his wife. In fact, I've known her longer than I've known him, and she is no pushover. So I knew that wasn't the explanation. When I started Marital Musings I knew I had to at least ask him to share his opinions with not just me, but with all of us. I wasn't sure that he would. Then I went on my blog and found that he had posted a comment. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
"Yes, the friend who said marriage was easy is still married and in year 13. I guess I need to qualify, huh. I am at a very comfortable point in my life and marriage that allows me to make the comments that I made. Trust me, we have been through MANY bumps in the road. But wifey and I have arrived at a point where there is ultimate trust, comfort, support, and a very satisfying love for one another.
Our schedules are extremely hectic due to our kids, work, our time, and our individual hobbies (that I highly recommend). I am not ashamed to say we are comfortable and happy with that. We do not take one another for granted, for that has happened in the past and it aint fun. I guess you can say we have had our major issues and we have gotten stronger because of them.
Certainly, I likely over-simplified my "marriage is easy" comment. Of course it is never EASY, however the fact of the matter is we are at point where it is NOT work. I will never say that things could not go wrong or we could not move out of our comfort zone……nothing is guaranteed. But after 12+ years of marriage, seeing many of our peers miserable, seeing many of our relatives (parents on my side) go through multiple divorces, and reading everyday about the increasing divorce rate throughout the world; we have just made many confirmations that we married the person we were meant to marry. We are great friends which allows us to be great spouses and parents. Neither one of us is perfect, but I think we are perfect enough for each other."
Last night my husband and I were in the bathroom getting ready for bed (remember, the couple that flosses together stays together). I said to him "You'll never guess who I am thinking about asking to write a post on my blog." I didn’t mean for him to actually guess. I just said that the way you do when you want to build up a little anticipation. The other person is supposed to say “Who?” and then you move on with the story. Instead of following the protocol, my husband decided to venture a guess and said, “Me.”
Actually I was thinking about a friend from high school I ran into at a party. He made a comment that “marriage is easy” and I definitely want to hear more about that. But, I understand my husband’s reasoning. If your spouse is writing a blog about marriage and wants a guest contributor, it makes sense that it might be you. I must admit, however, I had not even considered him. It’s not that I wouldn’t want him to write on the blog, it just never crossed my mind to ask. Even if I had thought to ask, I wouldn’t have because I know he wouldn’t do it. This was all running through my head when I realized his “Me” was still floating out there. So I decided it would be interesting to hear all the reasons why he wouldn’t do it and I said, “Would you?” Then the truly unexpected happened when he said, “Yes.”
Well, if I’m being completely accurate it wasn’t an emphatic yes. It was more qualified. He said he would think about doing it further down the line. I was so surprised he didn’t say no that I didn’t even ask why he needed more time. What is he waiting for? Is it that he wants to make sure he has something compelling to say? Does he already have something important to say but he wants to wait until I have more readers? Can it be that my husband is secretly a diva who will wait until he deems Marital Musings worthy of HIS musings?
Clearly, I still have a lot of questions for him, but the biggest question I have is for me: why hadn’t it even occurred to me that he might do this? I guess because after 9 years together I thought I could predict how he was going to respond. This experience has reminded me to stop predicting so much and start asking a little more. I often think about the ways I am changing as I get older, but he is also a work in progress and probably has many more surprises in store for me.
Call me a hopeless UNromantic but I think Valentine's Day is a bit overrated. Not that I think my husband and I should ignore it, but a simple card will do. The problem is you can't find a simple card. They are all very wind beneath my wings. Every year I look for a card that basically says "I love you" and "I'm glad we're together". To find that I have to sort through all the cards that say "When I met you everything changed. It was like I was finally alive. Now I know that all things are possible because with you and because of you I am a better person." It's just too much. And gifts, forget it. Maybe it's because my birthday is a few days before Valentine's Day. I've already gotten a nice gift. We also do gifts for Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day and our anniversary.
It's not that I'm opposed to romance. What I like is romance that means you are thinking about ME, and not just thinking about what you are supposed to do to be romantic. Recently I commented to my husband that I had a hard time finding a decaf tea I like. About two weeks later he had to go to the store and when he came back he had a box of my tea. It made me feel so good that he thought of me and what I wanted while he was at the store. It didn't even matter that I had already found the tea and we had 5 boxes in our pantry. That one box of $4 tea was more special to me than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates could ever be.