Love Lessons Learned in Four and a Half Months

Pop songs, John Hughes movies, Lord Byron…it’s hard to know when ideals about perfect love implant, but know this: most are just plain fantasy. This is something that everyone should know, particularly 13 year old girls who are just then trying to shape what they think will happen to them in a scant five or six years when they meet their particular Ones and everything falls into place. This, ladies, is all a great big lie meant to ensnare you and keep you returning to the same movies and CDs over again. They mean you no harm, they just know that the machine of Sweetest Day must be fueled by your hopes and tears, and I’ll let you decide which of those is more potent.

I’ve only been married for just shy of five months, I can’t really tell you anything about marriage just yet. Though I can tell you this: one of the best pieces of advice I received was to shake off the grudges and just get over it. Whatever it is.

Fred, doing what he does best and most.

Fred, doing what he does best and most.

Last night we gave Fred a bath. In case I haven’t mentioned it, we took possession of a very sleepy 8 year old Shih Zu that we named Fred. Some friends found him dirty, dreadlocked, and terrified, wandering the mean streets of Albany Park. They put him in their minivan and drove him home, not really thinking much beyond that. They left for a vacation two days later and asked if we could watch him in that time, so we said yes. We’d just had to give up Dylan’s dog Jorah, which was awful, so having another furry dude in the house seemed like a great idea.*

Anyway, we bathed a shaking, upset Fred and after we were done, Dylan unraveled my blow dryer from its perch on the shelf in the bathroom and dried Fred off best he could as I held him, then we let him run away and hide. As you do.

A few hours later, I went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. The dryer laid there still, on the floor, plugged in and abandoned right where Dylan had left it. I decided to let it stay there, as a bit of a wait-and-see (read: test) in case he realized he’d forgotten it and would put it back. I went to sleep. I woke this morning after he’d been in the bathroom to get ready for work and was gone. The dryer was right where I’d (he’d) left it, on the floor. I sighed. …I might have grumbled, actually…

Now, I have waited tables for years and years, I’ve had sisters and shared bathrooms. I’ve had roommates and houseguests. Everyone has their definitions of clean which are always differing from mine, and while some people are expert and leaving a space the way they found it, others are…not. Dylan is one of these. He leaves a trail wherever he goes in the form of shoes, books, bags, and in this case: a hair dryer. I will admit that my blood boiled for a bit. I thought, “how do you NOT see that it’s on the ground? How do you NOT pick it up and put it back when you realize it’s not where it goes?” but I do not have an answer for this. When he gets home from school I will ask him to please from now on, try to put things back where they go. It’s a selfish request I suppose, because it creates more work for me. When I’m not on the job hunt, I’m tidying our tiny space. Anything left out that requires putting away aside from the usual pile-creation that we always find ourselves doing in the apartment for lack of storage, means I am effectively cleaning up after him.

I don’t get angry at him, there won’t be a fight because we don’t have fights. We talk about things, sort them out, and ideally make changes to ourselves and move on. Novel concept, I know. This will be one of those times where I have to monitor my tone and the way that I ask. It’s never malicious, he doesn’t leave things out to piss me off, he simply just doesn’t see them. He does a thing, he leaves the tool used lying around because he’s moving onto the next thing. I get it, I’m not that way, but I get it.

This, I’ve discovered, is when marriages reach crossroads and start to deteriorate. I saw it in my parents’ marriage and I see it in real time in my friends’ relationships. The choice we have to make in these moments is to carefully, kindly, constructively bring it to the attention of our mates (or friends, for that matter), talk it out if need be, apologize and/or forgive if needed, and move on. That’s it. It’s so easy to hold grudges and walk around angry as if our mates are intentionally wronging us but 99% of the time and ideally never, is that the case. If spite is a part of your relationship, get out. It’s not worth the pain that will follow you and the PTSD you’ll have after it ends, trust me.

Those happy couples we all know that seem to only bicker in that cute way, who are positive and fun and loving, the ones you like to be around? They figure that stuff out early and practice it often. Is a hair dryer worth a fight? No. Are repeated offenses worth one? Probably not. As Ruhlman says to head chefs, “if you have to yell at your cooks, it’s already too late”.

* Owning a dog when you don’t have a ton of money for one is a dicey proposition. I’m learning that everything pet-related is ridiculously inflated when it comes to pricing. Their grooming costs as much if not more than my own haircuts (over $50 is common in Chicago), their treats cost an entree, boarding…don’t even get me started. Never, ever, give someone a pet unless you give them time to talk about it and figure out if they can afford all that comes with one. We love Fred but he ain’t that cheap considering there’s only 11 pounds of him. 

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