Annabelle: Screw Date Night! A therapist once told us to take one night a week and go out together. However, these last few years, like for many people out there, have been financially challenging for us. We're parents and if we spring for a babysitter, then we can't afford to go out to dinner. So instead of going out, we kiss our son goodnight, we close the door to our bedroom, and watch our favorite TV series in bed. Sure, we're not sharing a five star meal, but our snacks have fewer calories than restaurant fare. On top of that, you never need dinner reservations or have to look for a parking space in bed.
Jeff: Skip couples therapy. The therapist said this, they said that, and that’ll be 150 bucks, thank you. You know what, save your money, go to Paris. If Paris is too much, try someplace closer to home. For us, that's Santa Barbara wine country. For New Yorkers, perhaps that's the Poconos or even Lancaster, PA. If you're going to bicker about your marriage you might as well do it in front of the Eiffel Tower, a scenic winery or a couple of distracted Amish people churning butter and not in some airless, windowless couple therapist's office.
Annabelle: Being friends with your spouse may not be a good idea. By that, I mean Facebook friends. I would never think of listening in on Jeff's calls or peaking in a handwritten journal but reading his Facebook page seemed acceptable until I stumbled into the middle of Jeff's exchanges with old girlfriends. Like the one where Kimm writes, "I miss you, you little nitwit!" I'm the only one who's allowed to call him a nitwit! And did I really want to read all his flirty updates like, "Jeff is lust in the wind"? After some heated debate, I realized that a little flirting is actually healthy and besides, I'm much happier not knowing exactly how much time he's spending on his status updates so I "unfriended him" and we've been better spouses since then.
Jeff: Share your marital stories. You may not be inclined to take two and half years and write a book about it like we did but by sharing the story of your marriage with your married friends you will find that they have many of same issues as you do, just like we had with Facebook. Who knows, maybe your spouse will learn something useful like how after Annabelle found out how much it bothered me that she never did diddlysquat on Father's Day for me. So, this year, she really stepped it up; made me a cappuccino and gave me a foot massage. Now, if I can only get her to remember my birthday.
Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn live in Los Angeles with their twelve-year-old son, Ezra, and their cat, Stinky. Their book, You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story, is out now.
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Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, authors of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story, supply some sage advice on how to make marriage work.
We’ve been married for 13 years and during this time we've learned that just about everything we've expected from love and marriage is the opposite of our actual lives. We've discovered there's no such thing as happily-ever-after so we've opted for the more realistic "ever after." We may not be blissed out every minute of the day, but in our "ever after," we're raising a kid together we madly adore, we're cracking each other up, and as far as we can tell there isn't anyone else we'd rather spend our lives with. It's in this spirit of lowered expectations that we'd like to share a few of things we’ve gleaned from our relationship.
Annabelle: A spouse is not a fixer upper. Like a lot of women, I used to look at potential mates and imagine how perfect they'd be once I changed them into the men I wanted them to be. Some men hum, some crack their knuckles constantly, some sprinkle their every exchange with a wink; Jeff meows like a cat. But I already had one cat who was interested in human companionship. I naturally assumed I could break him of this habit very quickly once we were wed. Thus began my campaign: I rolled my eyes, I ignored him, I even swatted him with newspapers. Nothing worked. So I tried a new tactic. Every time he spoke to me, I purred. Even in public. But once I started, I couldn't stop! It turns out to be very addictive and now I meow even more than him. Lesson learned. Sometimes you have to take delivery as is.
Jeff: Drink! I meow too much that's true, however, on the other paw, I can't get Annabelle to come to bed dressed in garters, belts, and thigh high stockings sucking a lollipop. You can't change your spouse, which is why I say: Drink. Alcohol is a great way to take the edge off a marriage. Annabelle is not usually a romantic gal, but the other night, after a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir, she was all over me. So what if she was buzzed? After 13 years, I'll take what I can get. So, drink up and enjoy the fleeting tenderness because come tomorrow it's back to business—and by business, I mean being married.
Annabelle: Build a Mystery. I'm not talking about disappearing into the Amazon jungle although I did fib once and told Jeff that the cruise to Alaska I was on did not have cell phone service. It occurred to me that we're not always actually communicating; we're just narrating our daily schedules. The upshot? Instead of the usual harried hourly phone updates, "What are you doing right now? Where are you having lunch?" At week's end, we were excited to talk to each other and it was a great reunion.
Jeff: A little romance goes a long way. It's not that I don't get the mystery thing; once I accidentally saw Annabelle wearing nothing but a pair of Spanx. (No one wonder she looks amazing in jeans!) Ok, maybe you shouldn't share every minute detail of your lives, but when did it become mandatory for men to be emotionally vacuous? In our marriage, I'm the one who remembers birthdays and anniversaries, even Valentine's Day. An added bonus is that when you screw up you'll be able to remind her of how you surprised her by taking her to a picturesque spa for the weekend for your anniversary, and if that doesn't get you out of the dog house, it'll certainly lessen your stay.