Right this moment, I’m annoyed with my husband. Yes, I know–those of you who follow our story will be shocked that I ever have negative thoughts about him. But I say this at the start here so you understand that my feelings about him aren’t clouded by mere romanticism, of which I am perpetually guilty. He infuriates me more than anyone I know. He’s stubborn and harsh, has a temper to rival Russell Crowe in a bar fight, and never ever ever cedes ground. Think Patton. Think House. Think John Adams. Think Mr. Spock.
He’s brilliant and arrogant, a brutal combination. He is, by his own admission, not easy to love, or to live with. He’s well aware of his shortcomings, for which I give him credit.
But he also works really hard to overcome those shortcomings. He WORKS at it.
One of the quirks of his personality is an obsessive attention to detail. He keeps notes on his phone about everything, and I mean *everything*. He says it’s because he has a bad memory, but it’s more than that. The notes serve as an external prompt to his DOS platform to run certain programs. A note tied to his calendar tells him what time of day to take his vitamins, to start the coffee pot, to write the list for the next day. He maintains his organization by reminding himself to be organized. He balances his checkbook every night. Yes, that’s right, you heard me. Every. Night.
He’s pretty much my opposite. Which is funny, because his mother says we’re cut from the same cloth. Not even close. I wish I were cut from his cloth. I’d be much more efficient with my time, with my life. I know he does what he does to manage the whirlwind vortex in his brain, and I suspect my brain doesn’t work at the same speed as his. He is without question the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.
Over the years, he’s developed lists that help him manage our relationship. He’s written down every item about which I’ve ever expressed interest. He’s written down details about me that most people just absorb as part of their understanding of their spouse–the way I know he doesn’t like to eat chicken on the bone, or his funny habit of leaving his shoes untied, or the way he likes his coffee. He has trouble remembering these details about me, so for the ones that matter, he’s kept a list.
I like to use a teaspoon for eating ice cream or applesauce. I don’t like using a big spoon, because it’s too big for my mouth, cuts into the sides of my lips. When my husband is setting the table, he would give me the “little spoon”, but he’d also give me the “little” fork, the one I’ve always known as a cake fork. For years, I’d come to the table with tiny silverware at my place setting, and I’d get up and quietly exchange my little fork for a big fork, the normal sized ones everybody else uses. He eventually caught on, realized his mistake, and wrote himself a note about it. “Meg likes the big forks, but the little spoons.” And now every time we’re eating together, if he’s getting the silverware, I will hear him say “big fork, little spoon.” Every time.
It’s one of those sweet relationship bits that keeps us focused on each other. It is the remembering of these pieces of information that makes a marriage, that glues us together. He is the repository of all things Meg, and I am the repository of all things Tim. I heard once that people get married to have a witness to their lives. I think that’s a dispassionate way of seeing it. Tim is the keeper of the catalogue of my details, the protector of my peculiarities. He oversees the archival of the things that make me who I am.
We were talking about our Portland move the other day, and I brought up my concern about the lack of sunshine, which was a critical part of our initial decision to move to Colorado. I told him I was afraid of what so many consecutive overcast days might do to my spirits. But he was, as always, one step ahead of me.
“I’ve been worried about that too. But I did some research” he always does research–nothing exists for him without proof “and found that even when winter is at its worst here, we’re always only two hours away from sunshine. We can go up into the mountains, above the cloud cover. Or we could go to the ocean and watch the storms roll in–I’ve heard that’s really cool. You love storms, right? You’ll love that.”
He had *already* prepared for me, and I won’t be living out there for another year.
There are things about me he doesn’t understand, and doesn’t have the ability to understand. It’s just not in his nature to be swept away by words, or to get lost in the rapture of practicing piano. It’s not how he’s wired. But he knows this is true of who I am, and he respects and acknowledges who I am, and provides a safe place for me to be who I am.
I hope I do that for him, though he’s so self sufficient and so immune to the opinions of others (again, think Patton), it’s hard to see him needing the kind of protection I need. The best I can do is to be patient with his quirks, and work on my own shortcomings, and lavish him with admiration and respect.
There are no perfect marriages. Because we’re all flawed, a combination of two flawed people will result in a flawed union. All we can do is make an effort to work around those gaps, to minimize them, to make them matter less. Tim showed me that this effort must be ongoing. It gets easier, like any habit, but you have to always work at it.
We get a lot of comments about how sweet and cute we are, how romantic our relationship is, and yes–those comments are nice. But they miss an essential point; this isn’t simply how we are, or how we *feel* about each other. It’s the result of years of effort and attention. This relationship has to matter for it to continue to work, and that’s the critical part that most people don’t embrace. By doing the work, Tim demonstrates to me that this relationship matters to him.
THAT is the most romantic thing of all.