If marriage is like a jungle, these are my survival skills.
This month, my wife and I will celebrate 12 ½ years of marriage. A lot has happened since that magical day in 2002 when we tied the knot, while simultaneously untying the bows attached to endless boxes of fine china.
We bought a house ... twice; we moved across the country ... twice; and we had a kid ... twice. And through it all, I've learned some valuable lessons about life, love, and the pursuit of triple coupons.
Here are the most important ones:
1. Marriage lets you make up for all the eating you missed while dating.
When you're single and posting your profile on 32 different dating sites, physical appearance is of utmost importance. Sure, they say beauty is on the inside, but try posting a picture of your small intestines and see how many right swipes you get.
Unless Little Debbie is your soul mate, you're just going to have to lock those snack cakes up in a safe for a while.
But once that ring goes on, bring on the buffet. It's amazing how every little thing that happens in your married life requires food be involved.
Got a promotion at work? Let's go to Olive Garden. Have a headache? Here, maybe a donut will clear that up. Baby won't stop crying? Get him some milk, and then get me a turkey sandwich with cheese (but hold the mayo because you know I don't like mayo, and will throw my own temper tantrum if any mayo comes into contact with my mouth).
2. If she doesn't work out, you're not allowed to work out.
Just because you're both stuffing your faces like there's no tomorrow doesn't mean you can't be upset about the way you look. As long as both of you are blissfully miserable, there's really no problem. It's only when you decide to do something about it that the nuclear launch codes get activated.
Two years ago I was disgusted with my weight. My boobs were big enough to allow me to get out of speeding tickets, but that's not really something to be proud of.
I finally said enough was enough and started training to run a 5K. I ran that 5K and enjoyed it so much that I ran 6 more that same year, and lost 50 pounds in the process.
With my new DILF-like body, I felt healthier, confident ... and never more afraid that our marriage was heading for divorce court. No matter how much I assured my wife that she had nothing to worry about, worry she did.
So, for the sake of our marriage, I put down the kale and picked up the bacon again and we were back to being fat and happy.
3. When she says she has a headache, she has a headache.
Especially when kids come along, wives actually do get constant headaches. This shocked me, as I thought they were just the typical excuse to get out of sex, which is ironic considering that scientists have proven that sex actually cures headaches.
But to be fair, when your head is pounding like that, the last thing you want are other parts of your body to be as well. The only thing that really seems to help is lots and lots of caffeine...
4. Starbucks gift cards, not diamonds, are a girl's best friend.
Praise the lord that I got lucky and found a woman who isn't all that into jewelry. I can only imagine the amount of cash other men have to part with when it comes to events like birthdays, anniversaries, and the holidays.
And that doesn't even account for all the times they have to prove how sorry they are after losing a heated argument.
Not me, though. The only gold my wife needs is the kind attached to a Starbucks card. Though, with the amount of times that card has been refilled, I probably could've bought expensive diamonds by now.
5. Marriage means not having to buy new pairs of underwear when you run of clean ones.
I'll happily admit that during my lazy bachelor days, I'd have no problem running over to Target for some new boxers whenever I ran out of clean ones. Of course, putting on a clean pair to get to Target was always a bit of challenge.
But having a wife come along who knows how to use a washing machine definitely saved me money and put an end to that weird, clammy feeling that comes from repeated wear. I even have white socks now that I never knew existed.
6. Staying up all night means going to bed at 10PM.
What happened to those college days when I could be up all night partying, get maybe 30 minutes of sleep, and still make it to class the following morning? (Except for my logic class, since I figured I was already defying logic by trying to get to class with such little sleep.)
Nowadays, if I get to see Game of Thrones when it actually airs, it's a freakin' miracle. Yes, I know I could DVR it, but it's just not the same.
At this rate, it's only a matter of time before I'm going to need my kids to start tucking me into bed.
7. Marriage requires creating lots of lists.
Shopping lists. Packing lists. Bucket lists. Lists of things we forgot to make lists of. If there's one thing my wife loves, it's a venti vanilla ;atte with extra whipped cream ... oh, and LISTS!
I get it. Being able to cross something off a list gives my wife a sense of accomplishment, a true feeling of satisfaction and pride.
Now, ask me if anything ever gets crossed off these lists. Well, sometimes they do ... OK they do most of the time, but that's not the point. I'm a man, and men don't do lists.
And don't try to tell me that this story is one big list, because it isn't; it's a series of items written together in a meaningful sequence so as to constitute a record. So there.
8. You can never say "I told you so," even you when you actually told her so.
Case in point: While discussing potential Christmas presents for the kids last year, I suggested that no gift contain more than say, one piece.
I could've failed that college logic class and still understand that if you give an 8- and 4-year-old toys with lots of pieces, they will be missing and/or broken within 10 minutes, not to mention the joyful sensation that comes with stepping on a Lego in the middle of the night.
My wife apparently disagreed and proceeded to buy various puzzles, games, and other items that required many pages of instructions and Allen wrenches.
And what was I doing on December 26th, besides having cookies for breakfast? That's right: searching for poor, lost Indiana, now missing from the giant foam United States floor puzzle we got for the little one. I'd say "I told you so" but like I said...
9. Out of 7 billion people on Earth, there's only one person capable of cutting your wife's hair.
There are days when I'm glad I'm a man. OK, every day. For me, deciding where to get my haircut means using whatever coupons are shoved in the kitchen drawer that haven't expired yet — Super Cuts, Fantastic Sam's, Great Clips.
It makes no difference. As long as there's a chain-smoking, country music-loving "stylist" ready with a buzzer in hand, I'm good.
For my wife, it's totally different. First, a thorough review of all neighborhood salons must be conducted. Then, once the five finalists are chosen, in-depth interviews must be scheduled in which several lists detailing the merits of each establishment are documented.
This all leads up to the final, hair-raising decision in which a stylist is selected and immediately required to take a blood oath that she will never leave the state, get pregnant, or become a waitress at Applebee's.
10. There's one person who's more wrong than you: the GPS "lady."
You'd think more married guys would realize this by now, yet we still insist on letting our car's navigation system direct the way. With all that technology under the hood, you'd think there's no way it can be wrong. That's a huge mistake and your car knows it.
It knows that your wife has the best route branded into her mind, but will still insist that you get off the interstate and onto 20 MPH roads in the "best" part of town, purely for its own entertainment.
It loves watching you sweat as your wife sears your soul with her eyes while you desperately push random buttons in hopes of getting back to civilization.
It laughs as you finally admit to your wife that she was right and suggest that she do the driving next time.
Of course, next time you'll be back behind the wheel ready to repeat the process all over again.
11. Don't keep secret bank accounts; keep secret social media accounts instead.
In today's connected world where everyone knows your every move (including those of your bowels), you need to be able to carve out a little private space for yourself, both physically and virtually. You may love your spouse dearly, but sometimes you just need to vent and be able to participate in all those overplayed marriage jokes.
After all, you can't just come out on Facebook in front of your entire family and bitch about your wife's cooking, or how she won't do that thing in bed you wish she would do. Not unless you consider yourself a marriage suicide bomber.
That's what they created Twitter for. It's a place where you can pretend to be anyone from Bill Clinton to Marge Simpson, and nobody will be wise to ask who that dickhead husband cowering behind those tweets is.
12. Separate blankets is the key to a long lasting marriage.
There's a classic Seinfeld episode in which Kramer takes issue with how his girlfriend has "the Jimmy legs" after they have sex. It's not that he didn't love her or that the sex was bad; it was just too damn impossible to get any quality sleep with her hanging all over him.
So, Kramer suggests they retreat to separate corners after their lovemaking to which she reluctantly agrees, only to eventually discover that she actually enjoys having the bed space to herself.
Seinfeld may be a made up sitcom, but the lesson from that episode is genuine. I'm not going so far as to suggest sleeping in totally separate beds. (Though, if your partner is a chronic snorer, that may be advantageous.) Just having a defined barrier should be sufficient enough to catch those long lost Zs you've been missing.
In our bed, we define our blankets as "countries." Most of the time we're able to sleep in peace, but like most neighboring countries, sometimes tensions escalate and may lead to a declaration of war. This usually means one of us trying to achieve total bed domination by throwing the other person to the floor.
Related: I've spent far too many nights on the floor, BUT I'm still married.
12 ½. If you want to make it to year 13, don't let your spouse know you published a story about your marriage.
We'll see how that works out.