Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Canadian Marriage Tips

The August 2010 issue of Real Simple magazine contained a column authored by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, two comedians who are married to each other and appear as regular correspondents on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (and who are from Canada, too). Their column, titled "10 Ways to Make Your Marriage Divorceproof," offered tips for a long-lasting union. I decided to test my own marriage against their advice to see how I measured up against their Canadian marital ideals 

1. Realize that if you can agree on what constitutes a clean room, you can agree on anything. 
My ex-husband and I never did quite agree on what constituted a clean room. Instead, I reminded him often of my standards, he made somewhat of an effort to meet them, and then I finally threw up my hands and insisted we hire a housecleaner. Without a housecleaner, we probably would have been divorced in the first year.
2. If you're irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child.
I excelled at imagining my partner as a small child. In fact, I did this all too often. This led me to treating him like a small child, which was ultimately one of the things that led to the end of the marriage.

3. No fisticuffs in public.
While my ex-husband and I never had a knock-down, drag-out fight in public, I certainly nagged and teased him in public more than anyone should in a healthy relationship.

4. Marry someone with a backbone who appreciates that you possess one of your own.
To say that my ex doesn't have a backbone would be unfair. However, I think it's not inaccurate to say that he has an extremely flexible backbone, whereas mine is strong as steel. He's just the kind of guy who's very willing to go with the flow and doesn't see the need to rock the boat very often. I, however, sometimes swim against the flow just for the sake of doing so. While neither is inherently better than the other, the difference between our approaches to life was vast.

5. Procrastinate.
The authors recommend sometimes putting off mundane everyday tasks in order to reconnect with your partner and introduce a sense of playfulness to your relationship. I'm a pretty Type A person, so the idea of procrastinating really doesn't appeal to me, and I can't imagine being able to relax enough to be playful if I had a mile-long to do list hanging over my head. While we were married, I often felt like the more proactive half of our relationship, which then led to my feeling like I was carrying a greater portion of the workload and feeling put upon. Not a recipe for success.

6. Have sex with each other.
No comment. My mother reads this blog.

7. Accept that everybody needs alone time.
We excelled at alone time! By the end, nearly all we had was alone time. This was actually one of the greatest lessons I learned: while alone time is crucial to me, I would make more of an effort to cultivate more shared interests with my future partner. I'd also treat a desire for increasing amounts of alone time as a serious warning sign.

8. If you have to fight, walk and fight.
Bee and Jones say that "arguments stem more from being cooped up together in tight quarters than from the issue at hand." While this may be the case for some couples, I really don't think that making our arguments mobile would have solved our problems. And I don't agree that being cooped in tight quarters was our problem, either - see #7 for reference.

9. Let your spouse in on 90% of your day-to-day routine.
This one sounds misleading - the authors explain that it's healthy for the wife to avoid letting her husband see her struggle to squeeze into a pair of pantyhose, and that it helps "keep the mystery alive." I agree 100%, and I often say, "Flossing is the death of romance." I will avoid watching my partner floss, or letting him watch me floss, at all costs.

10. When you buy gifts for each other, give them at least a full minute of thought.
My ex and I were always pretty good at buying thoughtful gifts for each other; I think we both made an effort to consider what the other person really wanted to receive (rather than what we wanted to give). My mom also taught me a similar and equally important lesson: make clear to your partner early on that he should never, ever, EVER give you any sort of household cleaning implement as a gift. A vacuum cleaner is not an appropriate Christmas present, even if it is a Dyson. 

Overall, my ex and I would have flunked about 6 of the 10 marriage tips here. And I take issue with #4 - that's a pre-marriage tip if there ever was one. But even if we had managed to master tips #1, 3, 5, 6, and 8, I don't know that we would have avoided divorce. In the end, I think we had what our marital counselor called "unfixable problems" - fundamental differences that were just dealbreakers (for me, at least) that no amount of walking while fighting could have solved.


Julie said...

I could write a novel. But I'll leave you with a comment on #10. For my last birthday, I got a blender. And Dyson doesn't make blenders. I think that says it all.

Caroline said...

xo. That is all. Oh also, I love Samantha and Jason, but one couple's tips are just that, one couple's ideas that work for them, I always find it so ridiculous when I read those things. If there were a universal fix for every marriage, every couple - then well, life would be so much easier.

fortunecookiejunkie said...'re right about #4 being a pre-marital tip. Also, I think you should address #6, as sex is a big part of marriage (and hence a big part of divorce), and is one of the 3 main things couples fight over (the other 2 being politics and religion, according to research). I'm sure you've addressed it in your head, though. My point is that this exercise isn't really complete without doing so.

I don't really understand #2. Imagine your partner as a small child? As though that will relieve the tension in an argument because you can't be mad at a small child? Yes, I can. I can absolutely be upset at a small child's inability to understand why I am mad at him/her.

As for #10, my parents have an excellent marriage. When I was going through my divorce I asked them if they ever fought (which was kind of irrelevant even then because my ex and I never really fought but just go with it). They both, individually, remembered one argument in over 35 years together, and it was over money- spending money on me. I mention this because they seem to have things figured out, at least for themselves. And my father has refused since day one to give my mother any gifts that require her "to work." He will not give her anything to use in the kitchen, for example. And all she really wants are kitchen gadgets. When her birthday rolls around, she can make an entire wishlist of kitchen devices and he will buy her perfume and earrings. Which means I'm the one buying her the new dishes and salad spinner.

Btdubs, is my comment long enough? Because I thought about *also* comparing my failed marriage to this list, if you're interested...

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