If Bigfoot steals your wife, you should believe it was really him. Or so Ron Carlson tells us to believe it in his stories Bigfoot Stole My Wife and I Am Bigfoot. -Both of these stories can be found in this compilation of short stories.
I read these stories about three times each recently as part of a reading/writing assignment for school. And, if I haven’t said that getting an MFA degree is a particularly challenging thing to do, I’ll say it now. For the fifteenth time this week. Because it is, particularly challenging.
Anyway, in Carlson’s satirical stories about Bigfoot stealing one man’s wife and about Bigfoot owning the fact that he’s stolen not only this man’s wife but the wives of many other men, there is a lot to be said about tone and voice, credibility and the dogged determination of one man’s (Rick) attempt to convince the world (and even a little bit, himself) that Bigfoot did in fact come along and steal his wife. And there’s a bit to be said about the wretched stink Bigfoot leaves behind in his wake of wife stealing. Just so you know.
But I wrote about all of that stuff in the discussion boards for class. Along with about a dozen other people who have spent a good two weeks dissecting these stories with a comb finer than the type you use when your kid gets lice and you’re trying to comb out every last piece of those tiny bugs that, while extremely tiny, make you want to vomit into a five gallon bucket.
So, let’s talk about something else.
Like the shield of gloss in which people paint their marriages that hides any particle of discord. It’s this type of shiny gloss that kills a marriage. In case you were wondering.
Marriages don’t end in big, explosive deaths, they die long, drawn out, slow, and painful deaths complete with a shiny coating of gloss that hides the real view of what’s happening in between the sheets or behind closed doors or whatever other cliché term you’d like to use about not knowing what’s going on with people you really think you know.
Sidebar: It turns out when I write that I get a lot of use out of cliche terms and phrases. Or so I was recently told in a classroom critique. Their blunt comments about my writing were rather accurate. I'm working on this issue.
This shiny coat of invisible gloss rolls nicely over any marriage. It’s both similar to that shellac you put down over the new tile counter top and absolutely nothing like it at all.
Similarities: you can’t see it. You think it’s warding off all the bad stuff that can happen to a marriage. It’s a silent, invisible kind of thing that lies around and you never really give it much thought at all.
Opposites: shellac seals out the grit, grime, and moisture that can ruin your beautiful new counter top (see picture above). In a marriage, that shiny gloss takes the form of silence, separate activities, not going to bed at the same time, never taking a date together, and generally living opposite lives like two distant cousins who have decided to be roommates simply to save money and because their moms thought it might be a good idea.
The point is, putting shellac on your counter top is a good idea; putting a shiny, glossy topcoat on your marriage, not so much.
In September, I’ll have been married for the better part of my adult life. Actually, all of my adult life save a year when I experienced the tense world of being a divorcee on the prowl for a new husband.
I’m kidding. I wasn’t on the prowl, but I was in the market because I like being married. I’m good at being married. I like having a lifelong companion to come home to at the end of the day, sharing my life with him, and the tidbits of my rather unusual world of a clinical gal turned IT who spends all her waking hours trying to figure out two things: how to run a CCL report, how to make a living as a writer, and how to double the amount of PTO I have so that I can go on another vacation. Okay, three things. I never have been that great at math.
So, with that history, I think I’m a bit of an expert on marriage. Or at least, someone who can give some decent advice on the subject. But you didn’t come here for advice and I’m not the kind who likes to dole it out.
Instead, let’s talk about ten things couples can do to not gloss over their vow of “’til death do us part.” The nice thing is, I think these ten things can be applied to any relationship that you’ve deemed worth having and investing in. Because that’s the point of relationships: investing in them. Sure, the reward isn’t monetary (unless you’ve managed to have a litter of kids, in which case you might be getting a tax credit…and that’s just kind of cool), but it is worth it.
1. Talk to each other. A lot. The conversation doesn’t have to be deep and important all the time, but engaging in that dialogue is important. Play twenty questions with each other. Tell that special someone five things about your day. Dream out loud together. You might be surprised what you find out.
2. Laugh with one another. Sometimes, getting in a good laugh is the best way to ease tension, cheer up someone you care about, and it’s a great way to have a good time. Warning: refrain from laughing at others because that’s just plain mean.
3. Do not go long periods of time in silence. All the time there are these silly picture/quote posts that people start spreading all over social media. Some of them are funny. A few of them are filled with too many typos for me to bother “liking” even if it is a particularly good quote. [No ragrets –am I right?] But there’s one in particular that I can’t stand. It’s ridiculous. (*post pic of the long silent friends here*) If you and someone else are that close, why wouldn’t you talk to each other on a regular basis? Why would you go months without talking at all? I do not understand that in the least. Yes, we get busy. Yes, life gets in the way. Yes, two thousand miles away from one another is a challenge. But seriously, if all you think of that special someone is “out of sight, out of mind” why would she bother talking to you anyway?
4. Be together for the joy of it, not to rescue the other person. Note: this doesn’t necessarily apply if you (or the other person in the relationship) are a St. Bernard dog, known for its ability to save those in need. Relationships are not, I repeat, are not for the purpose of saving someone. Relationships are about communication, companionship, fun, love, and having things in common. If a person is in need of rescuing, they’ll call you if 911 isn’t picking up. Otherwise, don’t put on your EMS coat every time you go to talk to them.
5. Be honest. Talking about the hard stuff is important in any relationship. Maybe it’s a disagreement or a past hurt or a situation that’s made you feel uncomfortable. These things happen in even the best of relationships. It doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed, but it does mean you need to be honest about what’s going on so that it doesn’t fester and rot under the relationship.
6. Accept responsibility for your actions.
7. Find the middle ground. This isn’t quite like taking the high road, which is also good, but it’s very important. In a relationship of any kind, you aren’t always going to see eye to eye on something. And if you do, I encourage you to do a little self inventory exercise because something might be off kilter. So compromise. Find the middle ground. Be a partner in the partnership.
8. Learn new things together. Learn a new skill, a new hobby, explore new places together. Not only does this keep each individual involved intellectually sharp, but it’s a chance to learn together. When you stretch yourself, it’s one thing. When you stretch together, it’s a whole new ballgame. Just remember to keep the competition healthy and fun.
9. Do things together. You don’t have to never get a minute alone, because getting your space is important, but doing things together is also vital in a relationship. I know a couple who runs a business together. Hubby and I go to plays together. It’s a joint thing we learned we loved to do in the last fifteen years. Once we got the last two tickets for a play and ended up sitting sixteen seats apart, but it was still fun. And it’s a fun memory that we have added to our growing mound of memories. My sister and I send cards to each other from a few thousand miles away. It’s how we stay connected. And keep the card companies in business. Do things together. Get out there and travel, go to a show, start a business together, make time for FaceTime coffee dates when you live a distance from one another, read the same book and then critique it together. It’s fun and it’s worth it.
10. Lastly, do not make the other person the reason you wake up in the morning. I realize this may sound contradictory to all the other things I’ve said so far, but seriously, take note. Eventually, God needs our loved ones back. Or that shiny gloss you’ve rolled over your relationship results in a crack so disastrously gigantic that you can’t reach across it to find that person you once couldn’t manage a day without. In a relationship, you may be part of a package, but you aren’t nonessential if the other part of the package isn’t there. Be you. Love you. Take care of you. Wake up each day because you have a life to live, goals to accomplish, dreams to turn into realities. Not only will your life be incredible as you go about being you, but your relationship partner will benefit as well. #Beyou.
If you’re not careful, you’ll be traipsing along without any mind to the glossy shine covering the important aspects of a relationship. And Bigfoot may very well come along and steal your wife.