Breakfast. This morning: Eggs that my son collects each evening. And Froot Loops, the ones that have extra colored sparkle dust, just in case you didn’t remember that Froot is not Fruit for legal reasons.

The boys are absorbed in discussion about how to get me to plug in the Wii again. (“We should clean our room without her asking!”)

I look across the table to the farmer and I say, “I’m happy. I love you.”

He says, “That’s good. The kids need that. Interesting does nothing for kids.”

Then he walks over to my side of the table. He puts his arm around me and squeezes me. He says, “I love you, too,” and he goes out to the wood burning heater.

I watch him.

There’s something primal about a husband who literally cuts the wood to heat the house in the winter, and then keeps the fire going. And when he kisses me at lunch, his face smells like the fire.

We do not have an easy relationship. No relationship is easy. Thank goodness we know this, because marriage is starting to remind me of childbirth—it’s incredible that so many people do it when it is so painful.

But marriage is like childbirth also in that the benefits are so much.

We have had so many violent outbursts that the farmer has taken the precaution of putting the police on speed dial. This means a lot, especially when you consider that he doesn’t really know how to use his phone. It took him a long time to learn how to do speed dial.

We have been dishonest with each other. He changed his will without telling me. I found out by reading his journal. Sins galore here.

My favorite thing about us is that we are forgiving. Today, if he dropped dead, my house, and probably all the furniture in it, would go to his parents. I should hate him for changing the will without telling me.

He should hate me for going off the birth control pill, for a year, without telling him. After I had the most publicized unwanted pregnancy in the world.

The patience we have for each other is incredible. But maybe every couple is like this. Does every couple fuck each other over like we do?

I think about what might happen if I left the Farmer. Where would I go? I don’t know. There is not somewhere I want to live more than the farm. There is not someone I would rather raise my kids with than the farmer. I love the stability of him. The chores. His tractor breaks down and he pauses, fixes it, and continues.

When something goes wrong in my life, I get wildly frustrated. I have to eat 10,000 Power Bars. I am easily thrown off track.

I told the farmer about a feature on Ask Men (I can’t find the link, sorry). You can find out why men like a given woman: Face, body, intelligence, money, wild side…

I said, “Why do people like me?”

He said, “Intelligence and wild side.”

He likes that I don’t feed my goats on a schedule. He didn’t know baby animals could survive on such an erratic feeding schedule. This is my wild side, I guess.

His life was incredibly boring and lonely when he did not have me. And my life was incredibly frenetic and unpredictable when I did not have him.

Last night, in bed, when I was working hard at not yelling and not crying when I found out he changed his will, I said, “What are we doing together?”

And he said, “We are making life not lonely for each other.” And he said, “We are raising boys together.”

I want to tell you I am happy happy happy, and this is a happily ever after story. It’s not though. I don’t trust happiness. I trust interestingness. I feel like I have more control over it. I need to have a company that consumes me intellectually. And I don’t quite have that right now. I’m working on it.

But the company doesn’t make me happy. The research does not lie. A career makes an interesting life. A good marriage makes a happy life. This is so basic and simple, but it always ends up being controversial. It’s so un-PC to say that marriage is essential to happiness. And is it controversial to say kids need happiness around them, not interestingness?

I don’t have evidence to support this. I only have a bright sunny morning breakfast with two scheming boys and one squeezing husband. Hooray.

142 replies
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  1. Wayne Allen
    Wayne Allen says:

    I suspect that happiness is over-rated, and so few people are, while so many are “trying to be.”
    I imagine that kids need acceptance, (for who and how they are,) and role models who teach them how to be both themselves, and content.
    And everyone benefits from honesty and dialogue. No secrets, no games.
    It’s never about where we are and who we are with; it’s “how I am” as I engage, fully.
    You described it: “When the tractor breaks, fix it, and get back on.”

  2. Tom
    Tom says:

    Happy for your happiness, Penelope!

    I have followed you for a while and I am not surprised by this post. You have many of the things I believe one needs to be happy, every now and then at least.

    The happiness will not last, but it will be there again. As far as I know. Trusting that something basic and most important (the what are we doing together – ) is there while many other things are completely messed up is ok in my book.

    It’s not simple and it should not be.

    Tom

  3. Mary Budge
    Mary Budge says:

    I’ve been married 31 years somewhere between today and tomorrow (married on leap year day) – and while it all hasn’t been easy or fun, I measure the success of our marriage by did he make me laugh today. And I have to tell you, even with my spouse going through cancer, me losing my job and starting over, raising three kids with little money, he does make me laugh every day!

    Happiness can be very simple and found in the strangest places – embrace it and don’t question whether it is fleeting, it is there now.

  4. Erika
    Erika says:

    This made me happy just reading it. I don’t think it’s controversial in the least to hear that kids need happiness. It seems like my household often hinges on my mood. It’s so cliche to say “when mom’s happy, everyone’s happy,” but it’s completely true. My shitty mood yesterday cause so much whining, crying and fighting and my better, more relaxed mood today magically correlated with a calm morning. I don’t think this means moms need to get pedicures and massages every day – I’ve been working hard on my own self-calming techniques, and when I can do it, it really helps make everyone happier (and not more interesting). Is it easier to pursue interesting-ness if you’re happy?

  5. Walt Darson
    Walt Darson says:

    the farmer forgot “face” and “body.” if you don’t mind my saying, you’ve got those too. you’re wildly appealing on many levels.

    and while i’m not a parent, it just sounds/feels right to me that kids would benefit from happiness around them. the surroundings kids grow up in determine what they consider “normal,” and what they will likely give their own kids one day. growing up amidst happiness – not an unrealistic proportion of it, perhaps, but with happiness well-represented in the diet – will increase the likelihood of their experiencing a satisfying amount of happiness in their adult lives. partly because that’s what they’ll consider normal.

    interestingness is important too (happiness and interestingness are not mutually exclusive). interestingness exercises and develops the mind, teaches it to be comfortable facing and handling and adapting to new challenges. it makes that “normal” too. all of which is good.

    “just do your best” would be my advice, dear Lady. that way, no matter what else happens, you’ll always know you’ve done your best.

  6. csts
    csts says:

    hooray for you, Penelope! I’m so happy for you.

    (and isn’t it interesting to be able to tease out that an interesting company can be fulfilling to you but only close relationships really make you happy?! :)

  7. gunnertec
    gunnertec says:

    The lack of trust that’s evident from your story is quite alarming. I’d say that without trust as the basis for your relationship, you’ll face a lifetime of struggle to maintain the happiness (and stability). Marriages should not be about the sound and the fury. It’s about safety and harmony and support.

  8. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    I’m glad you’re happy, Penelope. If fact, I’m HAPPY you’re happy, because I go through life waiting for happiness as well. I used to say, “I’m not generally happy, but I’m not unhappy either.” That changed a year or so ago, when I got zapped by a shaman lady. Since then we’ve had a falling out, but that’s another story. I’m still left with happiness.

    So, two comments: There are happy marriages with happy people inside them. I’m part of that group. My wife and I rarely fight, but we DO confront each other to address BEHAVIOR issues, what hurts and doesn’t. We do not attack each other’s souls. The love and loyalty is never questioned, never broken, and this confidence makes us happy. And secure. And wanting to say, “I love you.”

    A now a word about your statement, “The research does not lie.”

    One can always find backup to any premise one wishes to defend. Research will verify your ideas, and negate them as well. YOU make the choice as to what you retain, add to your BELIEF BOX, and post on this website.

    Penelope, there is no ultimate truth outside you, except for one condition: ALL IS TRUE. And HAPPINESS works the same way.

    Irv

  9. Amy Parmenter
    Amy Parmenter says:

    Reading this made me happy. I don’t know why. I guess I’m just want of those folks who wants everyone to be happy. My parents have been divorced 30 years and it still bothers me that they can’t get along. I think kids would rather have divorced happy parents then unhappy married parents. But, I digress.

    Do you think you are addicted to drama? Maybe that keeps your life interesting. I digress again…

    Anyway, I am glad you are happy. And, my guess is, so are the kids.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  10. Frank
    Frank says:

    I’ve had a lot of contact with refugees. Often, they are happy, and, although they may find themselves in a safe and secure position, they, too, tend to not trust happy and safe. They know first hand how fleeting these can be. You are a refugee as well, but one of failed relationships. (But then, who isn’t?) Not trusting happy is a rational response, learned from experience.

    I’m glad you’ve recognized the importance of forgiveness. Marriage is hard. I don’t think it’s natural to shackle yourself to someone, but we do it, because it does open doors to happiness – kids and someone to help raise them, companionship, making life not lonely for each other – that would otherwise remain closed.

    Interesting is a cheap commodity compared to happy. Happy is hard to come by. Interesting is like air. It’s all around and only needs to be perceived. Perhaps, it’s not so freely available in the sense that compressed, transportable air is not. The farmer is right, the boys do need happy. They don’t need interesting because they are not lacking it. It’s all around them. They live on a farm. They have you as a mother. They’re good. So are you. Be happy you’re happy.

  11. LarryT
    LarryT says:

    At the risk of demonstrating a complete miss on your message, it may be worth mentioning that Wisconsin is a Community Property state and it is my understanding that a disinherited spouse still gets 1/2 of the property. I may also be presuming that you actually got the “paper from the city hall,” so this note may be all strikes. Anyway, I liked the pics, which come across sepia toned on my screen, making them look like something Walker Evans might have shot.

    • Chris McLaughlin
      Chris McLaughlin says:

      A family farm is not a CD or a bank account. It’s not just property. It has roots and history, blood and sweat. It’s like a person. You leave a child to the person you think is best suited to care for him or her. That may not be the person you love the most. So she gets the money. Leave the property (for now) to someone who will remember to feed the goats.

  12. Michele McDonald
    Michele McDonald says:

    Penelope,
    I loved reading this post and I am happy for you. You are a wonderful writer and that, too, I hope, makes you happy.
    Michele

  13. Kara
    Kara says:

    I can only speak for myself, but I often heard that adage “relationships are hard.” But a relationship expert who spoke at my college told us something different: “good relationships are easy.” My often difficult 8-yr relationship made me believe that first piece of advice. My current relationship with my husband makes me believe the latter. While we have conflict at times, we work through it with openess, honesty, and humor. This prevents resentments from building up, resentments being something I was very familiar with in my previous relationship. That part made me very unhappy. Being completely open and honest is difficult: it still is for me at times. But now that I see how much happier I am with it as the foundation of my relationship with my husband, I continue to be forthcoming with what’s on my mind. It’s a slow process though; I follow my husband’s example and it gets easier as we go.

  14. Seymour Poon
    Seymour Poon says:

    I concur with Frank, the Farmer’s will is basically meaningless, if your are the surviving spouse in a legal marriage. All common property would revert to you as the surviving spouse and there would be no reading of the will unless somehow contested.

    • Kay
      Kay says:

      Considering the farmer’s family and the way that they have treated Penelope, I suspect that they would gladly raise a stink if she got a penny.

  15. Sarah Bush
    Sarah Bush says:

    Yay, Penelope! You’re figuring it out. It was so nice to read this today.
    The thing is, is that in a successful relationship, you try harder with your partner than with anyone else. You go to the wall, you stretch yourself beyond what you think you can stand because you love them and you want it to work. With co-workers and even most friends, most of us distance ourselves when we have a rough patch, or walk away.
    It’s the willingness to try even when it feels insanely hard, and to treat the other person like they can give you what you need, that makes it work. It feels especially good to do that when you realize that’s what the other person is doing too. And the farmer is definitely doing that back, which is very cool.

    • Chris M.
      Chris M. says:

      … and anyone that says otherwise is probably just trying to justify the inadequacies of their relationships. Having been married only once (for almost 20 years), I don’t even understand “relationships are difficult”–unless we are talking about relationships with members of the family you were born in, which can be at times. My marriage has always been easy, interesting, and happy (even though we both get on each other’s nerves from time to time).

  16. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    “His tractor breaks down and he pauses, fixes it, and continues.”

    So the trick is to get him to do the relationship like this, and for you to do it with him. When there’s a problem, stop and fix it. Don’t go hiding things and feeling upset and not talking for weeks in between.

  17. Sheryl
    Sheryl says:

    This reminded me of one of that Margaret Atwood poem:

    Habitation

    Marriage is not
    a house or even a tent

    it is before that, and colder:

    The edge of the forest, the edge
    of the desert
    the unpainted stairs
    at the back where we squat
    outside, eating popcorn

    where painfully and with wonder
    at having survived even
    this far

    we are learning to make fire

    • Joselle
      Joselle says:

      I love this poem. It was a contender to be a reading at my wedding.

      Penelope, I’m happy that you had a moment of happiness this morning. To me, happiness is in moments. It’s not either/or. While I don’t think there’s such a thing as an always happy life, I do think there is such a thing as a very sad one.

      A couple of thoughts on what you wrote:

      –I don’t think all couples fuck each other over like you and the Farmer do. I can’t imagine being so dishonest with my husband about birth control or him changing his will without discussing it with me. I have a very honest relationship with my husband. I’ve been in relationships based on lies and hiding and secrets and I always feel like the ground I’m standing on is not actually there. I would always wonder what other lies are hovering. I could not live like that now.

      –You say the farmer has given you stability and then say that if he dropped dead, you’d lose the roof over your head and the head of your boys. And all its contents. Is that stability? What does stability mean? Living the same day everyday isn’t the same thing has being with someone who trusts themselves enough to level with you.

      None of this means your relationship has to end. You and the farmer decide that. It’s your story, together. But I think there are some things you’re not seeing clearly given what you’ve shared today.

  18. Roberta Warshaw
    Roberta Warshaw says:

    Why is the fire box outside? How does that work exactly?

    Yes, relationships are hard. I don’t like that he changed the will without telling you. I think that is a serious breach of trust. If you can’t trust your spouse then who? Even if, as others have said, Wisconsin laws would negate it. It still feels wrong to me.

    My husband and I only fight on vacations. He is afraid of heights and I like to climb mountains.

    • Walt Darson
      Walt Darson says:

      i’m guessing that he changed the will as a means of demonstrating to himself that he still has some autonomy and control over something.

      for an independent man living alone, the influx of a partner and children can be accompanied by a great sense of loss of control. whereas the course of his days and his life used to be his to determine as he chose, suddenly (or so it seems) almost nothing is for him to decide anymore; he has to consider the impact of his actions on three other people now. he can’t just up and do what he wants, and i don’t know about the farmer, but for me – and i think for most men – that’s a huge sacrifice to make. our freedom and autonomy is very dear to us – it’s part of our very reason for being – and it’s very tough to have to sacrifice it on the altar of the pursuit of a lasting relationship. and for a man to feel he’s given it up altogether can be to feel that he’s given up all reason for living. so he has to prove to himself that he can do *something* on his own, all by himself, without consulting anybody else. that he can have an impact on something without having to get an okay from his woman. and i think this may have been all the farmer was trying to accomplish. and i bet his having done it is gnawing at him now – he probably feels a lot worse about having done that sneaky, disruptive thing than he feels good about having been able to.

      • JR
        JR says:

        Or maybe he just doesn’t want the family farm sold off to pay for P’s obligations to the IRS and her ex-husband. Which is why they didn’t get legally married in the first place.

        Sure, he should have told her first. Then again, she has a documented history of throwing things.

  19. Sally
    Sally says:

    I am happy for your happy.

    Interesting is overrated. I think you have to work at happiness, which seems contradictory. You can even be happy when your life is falling apart. (And I don’t mean in a cultish, zombie way) I think you can be happy and it can encompass interesting. It’s definitely not an either/or choice.

    And marriage IS hard, but as you said, the rewards can outweigh the pain.

  20. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Happiness is over-rated, but not for the reasons people like to think. It’s not because happiness is boring, or anything like that. No, it’s because you can’t count on it.

    Happiness is inherently fleeting. That doesn’t mean we should avoid it, or stop trying to find it. But it means we should appreciate the hell out of it in the moments that we do find it.

    And we should stop knocking “contentment” while we’re at it. Contentment is what you feel when you realize that what you have is good and healthy and viable. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up on more, but it means you can be in the moment with what you have, and know its worth.

    I think you like “interesting” because you think that you’ve failed if you’re not happy all the time. But no one is happy all the time. Happiness doesn’t work that way. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that “interesting,” like so much else in life, is subjective. Your “interesting” may be someone else’s chaotic and pointless, just as their “interesting” may be your boring. And vice versa.

    The other thing to remember is that not everyone wears “interesting” on their sleeve. You do, because that’s what works for you. But lots of other people are different.

  21. Sarah Heitz
    Sarah Heitz says:

    I think the stability of happiness is better for your kids than whatever benefit interestingness would bring them. Of course, we all want a certain amount of interesting stuff at some point, but when you’re young, it’s better to have a happy, stable home life while you’re still trying to learn how to deal with the challenges of the outside world.

    On another note, I love the pictures of the outdoor wood burning heater. It’s fascinating, but I cannot imagine how it works, being so far from a building. Is knowledge something like that something you take for granted when you live on a farm? How does it work?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The wood burning heater actually heats water and the water goes through a pipe to the house. Wood burning is a much warmer heat than oil or gas or whatever people usually use (I can’t remember). But it’s too dangerous to have the wood burning in the basement. The water heating system is a way to get the really warm heat without the danger.

      Penelope

      • Sarah Heitz
        Sarah Heitz says:

        I see, well that makes sense. I’ve lived with radiator and baseboard heating, so I know using water to heat does a really good job of keeping the house warm. It does seem like a tender yet eminently practical gesture to see him cutting the wood that keeps you and your sons warm.

      • rob
        rob says:

        “Wood burning is a much warmer heat than oil or gas or whatever people usually use.”
        That doesn’t make any sense at all. I’m sure you husband won’t fire that thing more than 190f.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I don’t think Wisconsin law will come into this issue; if I’m remembering past posts correctly, they didn’t get legally married at all?

  23. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    Sometimes I think that if I save enough money I’d be able to leave my boyfriend. Not that I want to, I think. It’s just that I moved in with him when I was starting my career and was not making any money and had not lived long enough to have savings yet. So now it’s a kind of game I play with myself. Will I be just as happy if I go to SuperCuts as a fancy salon? Can I live off just Luna Bars? Are we due to buy our dog more HartGard? I guess it’s kind of backhanded. Maybe cynical. No, more pragmatic than cynical, I think. But although happiness comes from other people, and they can help us in many ways, at the core we can only rely on ourselves. I got so mad when I was reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin when St. Clare dies right before he frees his slaves, and it’s such a poignant moment when you realize that really, life is like that. Sometimes you can’t wait for other people to let you go, you have to run. At all other times you have to be prepared for anything, on your own, just in case.

    • Anna
      Anna says:

      Perhaps you should get your eyes checked. The font size is quite large enough for the general population.

    • DG
      DG says:

      I use to have the same problem. Then I had to do a vision test at the DMV and found out I needed glasses.

  24. Alex
    Alex says:

    I wonder how much the primacy of the idea that being happy isn’t as important as being interested or interesting derives from the fact that being happy is harder.

    The set point theory of happiness, while flawed, still correctly predicts that people’s baseline level of happiness tends to drift over time back to its baseline even after wonderful events like marriage and the birth of children (in some cases, going even lower). We continue to seek support from around us to raise our set point but typically fail as the things that research is beginning to show do raise it don’t come from outside ourselves.

    I do not believe anything is more important than happiness. If we’re suffering, how can we be interested in anything? I also believe, contrary to the popular and pithy wisdom of the age, happiness isn’t something that runs farther away the more vigorously we pursue it, or in some way comes about as a side effect of the pursuit of some other goal, e.g., a moral life, or an interesting life. Happiness is a skill that can be learned and mastered by practicing intensely techniques that actually work to make one happier.

    I agree, Penelope, that boredom is awful. But genuinely happy people are rarely, if ever bored. Interested and interesting people, however, are often miserable.

    And here’s the link I know you were expecting: http://www.happinessinthisworld.com/2010/12/19/boredom/

  25. Melinda
    Melinda says:

    One of the best things two parents can do for their kids is to love each other. I know from experience (having grown up with a lack of the above, and having married a man who grew up with an abundance of it).

    So, good for you. Because if kids don’t think their own *parents* love each other, it’s gonna be a LOT harder for those kids to love anyone of their own down the road. Why should they? (Ex: it took me about 10 years to even bother trying, at all.)

  26. Wenko
    Wenko says:

    Hi Penelope. I’m happy for you. And I have to say that this is the happiest that you’re gonna get. Nothing else can surpass such feeling of contentment. You’re very lucky as few people get to find true love in this cynical world. Congrats!

  27. Margaret Goerig
    Margaret Goerig says:

    “I only have a bright sunny morning breakfast with two scheming boys and one squeezing husband.”
    That’s kind of the secret to happiness: focusing on what you do have. Maybe you don’t trust it now but maybe you will, when you see that yes, just as you expect, you will slide backwards but then you will counteract that slump with some steps forward. This post was a definite step forward.

  28. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Lucky you to have someone who loves you and is willing to tell you so……..enjoy the moment & forget about everything else for the day.

  29. Karen Burgess
    Karen Burgess says:

    So he says you are making life not lonely with each other and raising two boys together. I would suggest that he is not really very invested in the boys, and I’d worry about that. Changing his will to make sure these boys have no financial security if he were to die isn’t the action of a man committed to a family. Writing about it in his journal and not telling you… also not so great. Sneaking through his journal… really? Kids are resilient, but I don’t see that you are focusing on your boys, and the farmer sure isn’t doing so. I’m worried for you all.

  30. hsg
    hsg says:

    “But maybe every couple is like this. Does every couple fuck each other over like we do?”

    No. Frankly, the things you list – having the police on speed dial, lying about birth control, secretly disinheriting the other (I assume the will change was to your detriment, otherwise why would it have been secret?) – emphatically do not occur in my marriage or in the marriage of anyone else I have ever known. You need to stop kidding yourself that these behaviours are normal or acceptable. They are unhealthy, disrespectful and dangerous. You can do much better than this.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      This is the one intelligent comment in a sea of “ZOMG I’M SO HAPPY YOU ARE HAPPY [being dishonest with each other and having the police on speed dial].” This is not how a healthy, stable, happy relationship works, and wishing (or hoping to not have to explore Plan B) won’t make it so. If it isn’t good, but you don’t know what else to do – work on clarifying Plan B because this sounds unstable, volatile, dangerous, and unhealthy.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      I concur whole-heartedly with this comment. You are setting a dangerous example for your boys if they grow up and think that this is the way relationships should work. My parents have been married almost thirty years, my siblings have been in relationships for eight years with their partners and my boyfriend and I have been dating two years. None of us find it necessary to have the police on speed dial or throw things when we fight or have our lives in a constant state of hostility and chaos. Relationships are difficult and it’s natural that you have peaks and troughs and times when you feel happier than others. But don’t try and kid yourself that every couple lives on a knife edge the way you do.

  31. kate
    kate says:

    You flip flop between happy and interesting in nearly every post. Today, you say you crave interesting for the control which is really about stability. Then mention how you are so erratic, you can't even feed a goat on a schedule. Ironically, happiness is never really on a schedule either. It comes and it goes with zillions of variables. But both with the goat and your happiness, even with the erratic schedule, it works. You are happy and the goat is thriving.
    Interesting is more of a challenge because you control so many of the variables. You can side track yourself going down this path or that of various topics. This is fun and it makes you happy to figure out how to harvest interesting to satisfy your craving for control and stability.

  32. Brad
    Brad says:

    Lucy and Ricky Ricardo fucked each other over every week, and every episode ended happily. Made the show “interesting”, by 50s standards anyway. But no real-life marriage can survive a fundamental lack of trust, unless it’s tolerated purely for economic survival (which may actually be the case here.)

    Now that he’s been busted, no doubt the farmer’s changed his will back.

  33. ninthgirl
    ninthgirl says:

    I also want to know how the outdoor firebox does anything so far away from any building. Otherwise, the post was very interesting and made me happy.

  34. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    I entirely respect your writing and your almost unimaginable honesty both with yourself and your readers. I’m really glad you had a happy breakfast with your family. And I’m pretty sure that the ache in this post will linger with me all day.

  35. sj
    sj says:

    I like that he has “adopted” the boys…”we are raising boys together”.
    That says a lot more to me than some will does; especially from what I gather, you would do fine without any of these things financially and otherwise. You are not dependent on the farmer for money, just stability and he provides that.

    It seems that trust is another issue in your relationship…that will come with time.

    So when was this post written, given your twitter feed, you are in LA?

  36. justamouse
    justamouse says:

    Dh and I have totally fuked eachother over many times. And with stuff that is divorce worthy. But he calms me and gives me stability and I make him do shit he would never otherwise do. That’s the crux of it.

    We’re smoothing eachother. And when you get two incredibly different people, it takes a lot of smoothing. And it hurts and there’s spark showers. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me is the fact that I know he loves me-and that is it. That is my fingers clinging onto the cliff.

    It’s a good life, though, and when you hit a sweet spot, it’s really, really sweet.

  37. Sam
    Sam says:

    I want to start with a disclaimer: I have only been married for a couple of years and we have no plans of divorcing, so what I’m saying here might be completely invalid once you pass the 5, 10, or 20 year mark of marriage. I do hope that it remains true forever though.

    No, I don’t think that most couples fuck each other over like you do. I, and many of my friends, have had “bad” relationships earlier, but the level of how you fuck each other over is way outside my league, and the kind of snipering you both seem to engage in is terribly destructive. I’m not saying it doesn’t occur anywhere else, all I’m saying is that it does not seem to happen among the fairly well educated and intelligent people I socialize with.

    I do agree that relationships are hard work, and there certainly needs to be a big element of patience for the quirks of your partner. This does not mean that you or the farmer should put up with anything: changing the will without saying anything or reading peoples journals isn’t a charming quirk, it is just WRONG at so many levels.

    You can not change what has happened in the past, and you can really not change others, so the most constructive thing to do would be to figure out how you can be a better wife/husband. I am not saying either of you should be a doormat, just that there are probably things you can change with yourselves that would make the life of your partner easier. Also remember to praise your partner for the effort of trying, even if the outcome wasn’t perfect, when they do things for you. Useful phrase: “I love how hard you worked on ..”. I have put a link at the end of this comment about praising your kids, just in case the comment box eats my text after the link.

    This might sound cynical and manipulative, but positive reinforcement is a well studied thing so there is plenty to read up on. Many of the mechanisms that are used when raising dogs are similar to what we have on a human level, and while you don’t own your partner you can still tap into the power of these mechanisms. It is fair to assume that they want to be a better partner within reasonable limits, especially if the “cost” for making the change for them is low: I sometimes pick up flowers at the grocery store because my wife loves getting flowers, despite the fact that I don’t really care much for flowers myself. I don’t consider this to be a sign of me being a doormat: I do not allow her to dictate that I sleep in the doghouse, that is something completely different.

    Oh, and sex: start scheduling time for it if nothing else works. It doesn’t sound terribly romantic and might feel awkward at first, but it will change other things in your relationship, I guarantee that. You will not always be in the mood for having sex when you have it scheduled, and that is fine, but don’t avoid it for that reason: the idea isn’t that both will have multiple orgasms for hours and hours each time. Switch to performing oral sex on your partner (despite not being in the mood), or whatever else that floats your boat, and the next time the roles might be reversed.

    The power (and peril) of praising your kids

    • Anon
      Anon says:

      Thanks for posting this Sam.

      Penelope: you need to be good to your husband. I heart you totally, but I don’t think you quite understand what marriage is about: being nice. I know it can be frustrating but the rewards are worth it :)

      As for the farmer “fucking you over” – try to see it from his perspective. I am sure you can.

      My principle is, my husband is the person I am nicest to. I am mean to everyone else (ok, this second part is no good, but I don’t take out my frustrations on the husband).

  38. Kyle Bennett
    Kyle Bennett says:

    Might be one of the most thought-provoking posts I’ve read from you. As a single, 26-year-old man, still in the beginning stages of my career as a scientist, I do not have kids, I do not have a wife, and to be frank, I do not know if I want either due to my ever-changing battle with OCD. There are some facets of my existence that conflict with my idea of a peaceful mind. The last time I got emotionally and mentally involved with a woman to the point of real committment, she didn’t like what I had to say. We talked about my past and present short-comings, I developed a mental condition, and our relationship fell apart. Now, I fear for committing to a woman for the rest of my life bc I know there are things about me she wouldn’t like to find out but always possibly could. And then with kids, that’s a whole different story. The news is saturated with negative stories about children–abuse, neglect, murder, etc.–and the last thing I want to turn out as is one of those parents. I suppose the best way to sum it up is that I don’t want to have the mental battles I recently had due to the OCD. The anxiety was too much, the false realities were scary, and the uncertainty about everything in my life left me unsure of how to go on.
    Now, things are getting better. I’m single and learning about myself. I don’t have kids. The only person I answer to every day is myself. And that’s nice. I don’t answer questions from girlfriends not knowing how truthful I really am being. I don’t get anxiety thinking about whether or not she trusts me. I don’t have kids to wonder to myself if I was a good parent or not. Did I abuse them? Did I neglect them? Did I yell too loudly? I don’t have to worry about those questions. I guess, at this point, I’m happy with it just being me and my friends and my family. Will I one day want a wife and kids and know FOR SURE that’s what I want? I don’t know…I don’t think anyone knows. But I’m hoping that when, and if, that time comes, it is obvious enough to me that my mind won’t talk itself out of it.

    Thoughts?

    • Em
      Em says:

      Hi Kyle, it sounds to me like you understand your territory pretty deeply. If you end up deciding to have kids and you make a plan to have strong support in the places you know you need it that might work out pretty well. Kids are lovely and parentings is fiendishly hard for some of us. It certainly isn’t necessary for a complete life.

  39. Agnese
    Agnese says:

    I try to keep in mind that it is unreasonable to expect all desires to be satisfied by one person. If someone makes your life happy, without the interesting, couldn’t that be just right? I am afraid of finding too much in one person. What if they leave? With the bits spread out to different persons – a partner, friends, other family – I feel safer and am able to commit more of myself to a relationship. Also, I find it difficult to believe I could be someone’s “everything”. So why would I expect that from another?

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