MSN Lifestyle: CONTENT COUPLE
There’s an upside to getting old, I recently discovered. Staring at my computer has left me blind like a mole, so my wife, Karel, is forced to do most of our night driving. I’m one set of chunky prescription sunglasses away from looking like my grandpa. Meanwhile, Karel blew out her back dancing in the shower (you’d think she would have learned her lesson after the “broken ankle/Nelly/’Hot in Herre'” incident, but no). The result is I now carry in the groceries and take out the trash, not simply because I’m a chivalrous dude but because Karel can’t. What’s the silver lining? Getting older sucks much less when you realize “in sickness and in health” wasn’t just a well-intentioned platitude. It’s something you’re living up to, and you’re glad to do it. This got me thinking about the other moments when we realize something major has changed—I’m not talking wedding and childbirth, but the things you may not even notice until after the fact. Take a second and be proud of these:
1. YOUR HUSBAND ACTS (AND DRESSES) LIKE HIMSELF AROUND YOUR PARENTS.
Everyone wants to impress their potential future relatives. I wore a sweater vest and discussed “my career” when I first met Karel’s parents. But I didn’t have a career, and I found the vest in a movie theater’s lost-and-found (true story). It was some time before I let her folks meet unedited Aaron, the one who wears work boots everywhere and thinks
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is an underappreciated gem of American cinema. I was acutely aware of how important their opinion was to Karel; part of me was worried that if they saw the real me, they’d voice their concerns and she’d split. Getting comfortable with my in-laws meant I was confident in the strength of my relationship with my wife, no longer worried that a potentially bad review would close the show.
2. HE REALIZES HAIRY LEGS AREN’T SO BAD.
Karel has stopped shaving her legs in the winter because “it’s warmer” and “they don’t itch as much” when she wears tights. While the younger Aaron would have recoiled in horror at this development, oldman Traister just doesn’t care. It makes sense, and I remain just as wildly attracted to her. If she can live with my tank top and hairy shoulders in the summer, I can deal with fuzz on her legs in the winter.
3. YOU GET HOME FROM DATE NIGHT BY 10.
Karel and I were out the other night at the seafood shack; everything was going great. Our conversation was scintillating, she looked stunning in a black dress, and I was dashing in my work boots. Romance was in the air, unless that was the smell of fry batter. Either way, it was sexy. Then we got home… at 9:45 p.m. We had to laugh. The ideal date night isn’t a lovely meal followed by a Red Bull and a nightcap with rowdy 20-somethings at a grindcore club, whatever that is; it’s going home, having sex before 10:30, and then getting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes more is just more. Romance and sleep are not mutually exclusive. Life-changing is what that realization is.
4. FANCY LINGERIE STAYS IN THE DRAWER.
One day, I was rushing to get Karel out of some complicated bit of underwear before Nana and Grumpers dropped the kids back home. I felt a lot of pressure, because all the hooks and ribbons gave the overwhelming impression that I was defusing a supergirly bomb. Her intimates were cutting into our limited time to be intimate. Lesson learned: The human anatomy is one of those things that doesn’t need a lot of decoration. It’s completely entertaining on its own.
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5. YOU TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER, EVEN DURING A FIGHT.
I don’t enjoy fighting with Karel, but the other day I realized we’ve been doing it for so long that we’ve gotten good at it. We were arguing about scheduling, and at one point Karel suggested we eat something before we continue the conversation. In our younger days we would have kept trying to win, but now we know each other so well that we can see when we’re just tired or hungry. Also, after years, we love each other more than before, so we’re better at giving each other a break.
6. YOUR PARTNER TELLS A STORY YOU’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE.
This is an astounding moment. You think you know everything about your partner’s past, but bam, out comes a story you don’t know by heart. After overhearing my kindergartner and my wife discuss the dangers of overeating candy, I discovered that Karel was a full-on candy addict in high school. She ate it in class, in the car, in bed. Apparently she ate candy until her back teeth began to fall apart. I NEVER KNEW THIS. In all these years, I’ve only known my wife as a natural-food-eating, refined-sugar abstainer. This has totally changed the way I feel when she hassles me about eating an entire bag of chocolate chips while I watch a basketball game. Now I’m patient, because it’s not just about me, it’s about her, or at least her desire for me to keep all my teeth.
7. YOU STOP TRYING TO FIX IMPERFECTIONS.
So many of us go into a relationship secretly thinking,
I’ll get that annoying behavior squared away.While Karel is perfect for me in almost every way, the woman is a slob. She leaves her funky slippers in front of the basement door so I nearly die every time I move laundry, and I regularly find smoothie containers in the sink after all the smoothie has dried into a cakey crust. For years I tried to gently show her the error of her slovenly ways, but when I was moving her gross slippers for the fourth time in a day last week, I realized I haven’t hassled her about them in ages, and I didn’t feel any urge to. I know it doesn’t sound romantic, but it’s not failure to give up on solving your husband’s inability to move the laundry to the dryer before it mildews. You don’t even have to find this stuff endearing. It’s the serene acceptance that makes this a marriage milestone. Besides, nothing says “I’ll love you forever” like scrubbing three-day-old caked-on smoothie scum from the side of a mason jar. L’amour!
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