Best way to stop emotional eating? Try emotional working.

My husband comes in the room. While I’m working.

I say, “I’m doing a webinar about happiness.” [At first I was not going to put a link to the webinar here, because people do not talk in links, and I’m writing dialogue. But you know what? I’ve been blogging for so long, and I talk to so few people besides you, that I like to think I actually do talk in links.]

He says, “I hope that webinar sells well.”

“Research says money does not make people happy,” I tell him. 

“Does the research ever interview a farmer married to an entrepreneur? Because if you would stop borrowing money from me I’d be happy.”

“Did you come here to talk with me?”

“No. I’m going to vote.”

I tell him if he votes against funding schools I’m going to vote to cancel out his vote.

He says, “Okay. I’ll wait for you in the truck. Put on a bra.”

We drive the long drive to the voting place. I tell myself I’m fortifying our relationship because we are doing something fun together.

Except he won’t discuss. He says that the city taxes come out of the farm account, not my startup account. He says I’d care more if I had to pay a school tax hike instead of a web developer bill. Then he says, “You’d probably just borrow money from me to pay both of them.”

We vote against each other.

The referendum fails.

You don’t know how strong a relationship is until there’s a crisis. We have had that tough time and we’ve sucked at it.  So now we are trying to be better. More grown up.

We go together to Madison to take my son to his chemistry tutor. For 90 minutes it’s date night. At a steak joint.

I tell him that I feel closer to him when he lends me money. It’s impossible to get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. Which means I do a lot more childcare than he does. It makes me feel cared about if he helps me when I’m having bad cash flow.

He eats lots of bread, with butter. I abstain from carbs so I can focus on winning the argument. But first I have to figure out what winning is.

He hates lending me money. He says, “I don’t mind lending you a reasonable amount, like $3000.”

And I say, “Whatever. I can get 10 people to lend me $3000 because I have a so many ways to make that much money. I like that you lent me more because it shows you are willing to take a risk with me.”

He hates when I say that because he thinks he took a huge risk to let me and the kids come live with him. But I am the one who moved to his life. We will not have this argument because we’ve had it so many times.

I wish I could think of new, fascinating topics to argue about, but there are none. We agree on most things and argue about the same things and there is no point.

I go to the bathroom. A guy intercepts me and says, “Oh, are you Penelope Trunk?”

I say yes. He says he reads my blog. We talk. I pee. I go back to the table.

My husband says, “Wow, that woman was so fun and cheerful. I wish I could have an affair with her.”

I eat bread. All of it. He always complains that I have a public personality and a marriage personality and why can I only be bubbly for everyone else.

We drive back in time for an emergency pumpkin rescue. We have to pick them early because it’s been so wet that bugs are burrowing into the pumpkins.

What does that even mean? I don’t know. Do bugs go to pumpkins to get dry? I don’t know. I’m just repeating farmer stuff I’ve heard.

PayScale released data about which professions have the biggest egos. It turns out that in a list of 300 jobs, CEOs and farmers come up numbers 2 and 3 respectively for the biggest egos.

You are probably wondering what number one is. Personal chef. What is fascinating to me is that PayScale sent the raw data to me before they published it. I put the email in my pile of things to write about immediately, but I am late on everything. And then, two weeks later, I go to find the link to their study, and look at this: they omitted farmers!

That’s because people think farmers are so nice and sweet and close to the earth and whatever. I don’t think that’s largely true. I think they are obstinate loners who think they are great at everything they do.

This is probably why my husband and I get along so well. Because who could handle our egos besides us?

It’s difficult to stay with someone during a hard time. It’s no fun. It seems easier to start over with someone new where nothing’s ruined yet. But here’s something I noticed: Work makes a great escape when a relationship is going through a rough spot. And escape is good. It reminds us that we are competent and content in other aspects of our lives. And the higher you come up in the list of egotistical professionals, the more you can count on your work pulling your through a tough time.


50 replies
  1. Penelope
    Penelope says:

    So… why are you only bubbly for everyone else? Doesn’t your husband deserve your best? Just because family loves us at our worst doesn’t mean they should always have to deal with our worst… we should treat our family better than random strangers ♥︎

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      I think family tends to get both our worst and our best, while strangers just get a pleasing, steady middle ground.

      I’m sure that Penelope, despite not being superficially pleasant enough at home (according to the farmer), does tons of things for her husband and kids that she would never do for random strangers. It’s just with family, that the bad times are way easier to keep in mind when someone is around (the good times are easier to remember when they’re not).

    • Maria
      Maria says:

      I wouldn’t find this comment so irritating if that heart wasn’t at the end. To me it implies a need to assert “Penelope, you’re a thoughtless asshole” while hoping no one sees you as one. Really, take the heart out. You’ll sound like a bitch, but it’s better than sounding sweet while wagging your finger.

      • Axxr
        Axxr says:

        Having been in a marriage like that—one in which everyone else was accommodated, supported, and loved cheerfully, yet I got none of the smiles and all of the angry, demanding frowns, even though I poured my heart and soul into working hard for my family and spouse—I side strongly with the poster you’re laying into.

        If you give everyone else your best because you expect nothing of them, and your spouse your worst because you expect the entire world of them but they never quite measure up (this is how it was explained to me), then you’re asking for your spouse to stop being your spouse.

        And yes, it’s an asshole move. It is, as Penelope rightly points out, a narcissistic, ego-driven problem. You expect more from them, and it’s all about your expectations, those are what matter, not their own effort, sacrifice, and love. You treat the person who does the most for you in the world terribly, while others that do nothing are treated fabulously.

        It’s not an incentive to buddy up and hang around. It’s an incentive to look for someplace where you’ll be appreciated and smiled at every once in a while, rather than beaten to an emotional pulp day after day.

    • Stephanie
      Stephanie says:

      I don’t know Penelope in person, but I’m surprised that the Farmer doesn’t understand why she isn’t as bubbly in front of him. The less close the woman is to the person she’s talking to, the more likely she is to sound cheerful and upbeat, in order to mask her true character because she doesn’t know if that person likes her. Women have been socialized to be harmless so it’s basically playing-it-safe in social situations.

      Of course I’m generalizing here, but I believe this is often the case. So not being bubbly in front of people you love reflects your trust in them — Penelope feels secure when she’s with him so she doesn’t put on the mask.

      The Farmer probably knows all of this, it’s just that he has to say it out loud because he’s Penelope’s husband.

      • Wife
        Wife says:

        But maybe P presented herself as “bubbly” to the Farmer as they were developing a relationship, because she was afraid of revealing her true self. Yet, how is the Farmer supposed to know that? He fell in love with the P she presented to him. It sounds like “bait & switch.”

        We’ve been married 43 years (& were high school sweethearts so together since I was 15 & he was 16). After grad school & raising our 2 children, we looked at each other & wondered what we had in common any more! We do have different personalities but enjoy each other’s company more than anyone else’s.

        We each wrote a list of what we’d like to spend more time doing. Mine was going to the free lectures at the University (Nobel-prize winning scientists, poets, shamans from So. American, a whole range of people & subjects to be exposed to); going to a book group; going to botanical gardens & museums…

        His were sky diving; wind surfing; golf; tennis; etc.

        We each chose one from each other’s list. I chose tennis & took intensive daily lessons so I could hit with him without complaining, “You are hitting the ball too hard” & getting hit in the face at the net while playing mixed doubles. We actually started winning Open Tournaments as a mixed team! I found a sport I love that is social (I’m an introvert) & has given me confidence about my physical abilities. All I did before was run.

        He chose the lectures. We would go out to dinner afterwards & have great discussions about things that were new to both of us.

        Also–movies–go to film festivals!

        Now we keep trying new things together. I’ve gotten into hiking with him & doing those “adventure” courses that you climb up stuff, zip-line, use all those rock-climbing things. But I am taking the beginner-beginner class & then moving up. He is way more advanced than I am, but is taking the same classes I am.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      Probably because it’s exhausting to give 110% all the time. Much easier to do it in short bursts the length of a small-talk level conversation. I know I can’t maintain it for that long.

      • Rambling Wife
        Rambling Wife says:

        Just make it a habit to be kind; patient; interesting & interested; gracious…

        Basically, be your best self & don’t be greedy by always wanting things to go your way.

        Exercising your brain by choosing how you react to circumstances can lay down new pathways in your brain so you don’t look at life in a skewed way.

        I have been able to change my natural tendency to look at life through my suspicious, scared, anxious, & “damaged” lenses that I acquired after living through a chaotic &
        abusive childhood.

        I hated surprises or being spontaneous as I wanted to control my environment & people so that I would feel safe. That doesn’t lead to a very good quality of life.

        My husband wanted to make sure our kids weren’t rigid like I was–planning minute by minute what I was going to be doing & trying to make the world follow my plan. Exhausting, too.

        An example: My husband planned a surprise trip for us to go to Hawaii. We were living in the S.F. Bay Area & the kids were 9 & 6 (homeschooled).

        We were pretty broke & my husband told me we were going on vacation to Santa Barbara so, of course, we were driving. I packed boxes full of food (& beer), because I thought food would be more expensive there. I asked what kind of clothes to pack & he told me to pack like we were going to Hawaii. I complained that S.B. would be much cooler than Hawaii. Yes, I was a world-class complainer,too. Loads of fun for my husband, I’m sure.

        So we’re in the car heading for S.B., I thought. He drives to the S.F. airport & parks & says “We’re going to Hawaii!! Surprise!”

        I got so pissed at him! I started complaining (maybe I never stopped) as that seemed to be my normal mode of “conversation.”

        Really–I’m going off on him about all the non-perishable food I packed in the trunk & I didn’t have a bathing suit. He’s telling me & the kids to be spontaneous & we can buy swim suits in Hawaii. Duh.

        I chose to go into therapy (DBT) which is like CBT on steroids. I realized my crappy parents were still controlling my life. I wanted to primarily be a happy, smiling mother & wife instead of this person who looked at everything (even a surprise trip to Hawaii) as some kind of burden & hassle forced upon me.

        My husband wanted our kids to think that surprises & spontaneous activities are often wonderful. He didn’t want them to grow up with my attitude that surprises are scary. The fear of the future destroys my ability to live NOW.

        I didn’t want my life to continue in this vein. I didn’t like what I was modeling for the children.

        I learned in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy which is like CBT on steroids) how to slow down & analyze things in a rational way.

        This trip is fun. Talking about my mother’s suicide is not an appropriate topic of conversation when we are on a beautiful hike. It definitely is a buzz kill.

        I also apologized to my husband for being so temperamental. He had to walk on eggshells with me. He never knew when I would start criticizing him, yet he didn’t DARE even look at me sideways, much less express anything negative
        about ME.

        I wasn’t allowing him to be human. I ruled everything with my being selfish & “poor me” attitude.

        When I apologized I expressed my new awareness of my not allowing him to be HUMAN. He wasn’t allowed to be irritated or in a bad mood. My moods certainly needed to be catered to.

        I am so much happier with my life. Changing my attitude was the key to interpreting people, circumstancees–just being able to live a joyful, fulfilling life instead of just surviving each day.

        Oh yes, some days my husband seems way too human & I have to be mature (I’m 63) instead of having everything & everybody catering to me.

        Sorry to ramble on so much. That it a skill I have yet to learn & my husband is still great after 43 years of marriage.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Wow. I’m happy for you and your family. DBT, I’ve heard, is a lot of work. Congratulations on getting this far, and giving yourself space. Your husband will greatly benefit as well. Hugs to you.

    • Thorvid
      Thorvid says:

      If only it was that easy! of course our partners deserve the bubbles. But as a subsequent commenter says, is bubbly normal? Your comment seems to indicate you have little understanding of what this condition means to someone with it.

      For me, the ‘public persona’ is not really me, it’s a persona I have to work hard on maintaining, when in public, so the general public see me as just ‘strange’, and can deal with me.
      My partner sees the real me, warts and all, about the only person in the world who does, I love that I am able to be myself at time around them, rather than having to guard everything I do/say. It is impossible to maintain the persona all the time for me.

  2. Michael LaRocca
    Michael LaRocca says:

    I want just one novel or movie to use the line “Okay. I’ll wait for you in the truck. Put on a bra.”

    Y’all do have some interesting discussions. Or maybe you just transcribe them with no filter. Or both.

    • Morgan
      Morgan says:

      I suspect the reason she voted for school funding is because the education crisis that led her to homeschooling is directly caused by lack of funding.

      As for wearing a bra, imagine if you had to hoist your testicles up every time you went into public. You might ‘forget’ in the interest of comfort as well.

  3. plain man
    plain man says:

    “I’m going to vote to cancel out your vote.” I suppose this was your response to his, “I would be happy [with you] if …”, which felt like an unexpected puncture wound. So, you riposted with, “I want men with guns to steal your savings to spend on something you oppose, and kill you if you resist.”
    I’m sorry there is such deep pain in your relationship. I have heard that telling the truth, first to yourself and then to him, about the depth of the wound, can be helpful. To be close to him, you must risk putting down the sword.

    I’m curious. Do you somehow borrow without his consent? “It’s impossible to get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.” Is it the case that you can only feel close to him now if he gives you money?

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Well, ENTJs and money are nearly synonymous.

      If it’s emotional closeness via rescuing then it’s a different issue.

  4. Sue
    Sue says:

    For me, at least, work felt meaningless when my previous relationship was going through a rough spot because you’re always asking yourself why the hell am I working so damn hard and sharing it with someone who doesn’t care about whether I live or die.

    So it depends on the situation.

    Work was a great escape only after we separated and it gave me something to focus on other than my divorce.

    Eventually, the career started to tank, but that was inevitable. It’s inevitable for everyone because, well, change happens no matter what. Then the question becomes what’s my next career move? What’s my next great excape that I can focus on to get me through the next chapter?

    If you live long enough, the great escapes are not work but every new beginning you’re willing to embrace.

    • Cay
      Cay says:

      Hey Sue, I love this.

      “If you live long enough, the great escapes are not work but every new beginning you’re willing to embrace.”

  5. Jessica from Down Under
    Jessica from Down Under says:

    When I was a teenager, I used to work for an apple farmer who was one in a long line of apple farmers (his dad/ grandad/ great-grandad had owned the same apple orchard before him)…he was more egotistical than average (and a loner). Farmers are a kind of CEO anyway – of their farm. So I guess it’s not surprising they’re right next to CEOs when it comes to their ego.

  6. Blandy
    Blandy says:

    This reminds me of my very favorite quote from one of my most favorite quotable books, The Once and Future King by T.H.White:

    “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    After I went through some burnout/rough patch with my husband we made a conscious effort to spend time together and go on dates. Towards the end of our first dinner date I ordered this green tea with a bud in it that turns into a floating flower. In the course of the bud opening we managed to fight so bad he stormed out of the restaurant and I sat there stubbornly drinking my tea, fighting back angry tears while staring at the stupid flower.

    After talking it over with a therapist we decided restaurant dates are the worst because they is too much pressure to talk, but stay away from opening up wounds. So now we always do other things that don’t involve hours face-to-face. So even if either of us thinks they are dumb or a waste of time/money, if one of us comes up with something we do it. The idea is to survive the experience together. It is usually trips to the cinema (yawn), but also things like shows (curious incident of the dog was actually good), courses (truffle making?) or comedy nights. It does help as long as we are both picking things to do – then it feels the other cares enough to try it. This post reminds me we have slipped off doing them so need to commit to something… looks likely now it will be an NFL game in London in October…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love this comment so much because you give a real snapshot of the work it takes to keep a marriage together. It’s so messy and iterative and you don’t have to have a great marriage all the time but rather two people who just keep trying.


  8. Lydia McDonald
    Lydia McDonald says:

    The Payscale study told people to rank themselves 1-5 according to how strongly they agreed with the statement “I am the top performer at my company for jobs similar to mine.” Of course personal chefs, farmers, CEOs, and art directors are going to say they’re the top performers. They’re generally the only people with their particular job in their company. Most of the other top 10 “most confident” work alone. How else should they respond?

    Then it says that only 39% of MDs report being the top performer at their job. Of course, they work with other MDs in most situations. This “study” is not worth sharing even if it does support your theory about farmers.

  9. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I agree with Matthew. Once I started paying for property tax, I voted against everything.

    Besides, the school funding goes to make the current education system stronger. They are not raising it to create a new system. I don’t mind supporting things to fix a problem. not to keep it going.

  10. Caitlin Timothy
    Caitlin Timothy says:

    Can you explain your take on edu funding?

    Everyone has a “family” vs “public” personality. Family is the platform for quotidian routines and personal growth, which isn’t sexy most of the time. Still, family generally gets the best of what we have to offer the world, too. Look at how you spent your summer, traveling with your kids and helping them meet big goals.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      There is no evidence that school can help poor kids test as well as rich kids. And there’s no evidence that rich kids need to go to school in order to have good lives.

      However, there is tons of evidence that kids in poor families need school for the social services it provides. So I think school should be a safety net for poor families and everyone else should stop sending their kids to school.

      All of this (including links to the research) is on my homeschooling blog. But here is a good post to start with:

      I voted to keep funding schools with the hope that Schools will become exclusively for poor kids. Families will start being honest about using school as a babysitting service instead of pretending its necessary for kids who have perfectly good homes to live in.


      • Caitlin Timothy
        Caitlin Timothy says:

        Schools becoming day care/safety nets is a good idea. Wouldn’t the quickest way to achieve that be to stop +funding (for a time) so that schools underperform and wealthy/upper middle class people take their kids out, which would result in more $/kid?

        People I know who take their kids out of public schools do so primarily because their local school is subpar. Not because it’s doing well.

      • Jen
        Jen says:

        This idea of school as a safety net (exclusively) for poor families is really interesting to me. But what about diversity? Don’t we want kids exposed to kids who don’t look like they do and who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds? I acknowledge that schools don’t do a good job of this now, but schools just for poor kids would certainly exasperate the problem.

  11. Claudia
    Claudia says:

    Has anyone ever told you how much your husband looks like, Otto Kilcher, from the show “Alaska: The Last Frontier”?
    He is also Jewels Uncle, she was raised there.
    Anyways, always wanted to ask you that…..

  12. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    So here you are an advocate for home schooling and you want to feed the beast with more funding like a good little liberal girl that never thought one millimeter away from the liberal line in her life.

    I don’t get it.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      See my comment above. I want to stop talking about school as an educational tool. No one needs to school for that.

      But I like the idea of school as a way to create safety and stability for poor kids.


      • CeeBee
        CeeBee says:

        Have you considered the ramifications of how your “opting out of the system” affects poor children? I’m not here to argue a homeschooling/unschooling vs public schooling battle. But poor children often have no advocate or anyone outside of their own socioeconomic status to look toward.

        I recently read the transcript of a This American Life episode ( ) which took a look at the school system where Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO) came from. And it’s appalling. I grew up in an all white blue collar small town on the East coast, and my educational experience looked nothing like the current day mess in some of these places. Honestly, I didn’t even know it could be this awful. Do you realize the kind of influence people like yourself and myself could have in a situation like this? Throwing extra money at the system isn’t going to make it better for poor kids unless those funds are used properly, and that’s really rolling the dice. Poor kids and poor parents usually have no concept of what they should be receiving. But middle and upper class families definitely know, and can also have an impact through social interactions with their kids’ friends. They also have the time to fight for the right level and kind of services needed.

        You can convince yourself that taking your kids out of the classroom leaves more money for kids who need it, but it still fucks up the equation.

      • Jay
        Jay says:

        I do not think it is in society’s best interest, nor do I want, the school to become the surrogate parent/family of children. The nuclear family, parents raising and teaching responsibility and respect is the absolute best way to strengthen our country produce healthy children. Let’s put our political will into that.

  13. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    It sounds like the best way to improve your marriage is to focus on your money problems. You’re great at making money, now you just have to learn how to manage it. If you treat money management like its a priority or your job, I think you can make significant strides. Marriage is a lot of work, but worth it!

  14. Heather
    Heather says:

    LOL. My husband also has a public personality and a marriage personality. I think its because he’s comfortable with me and can just be himself. I get the angst and other people get the happy. It’s OK. I know I’m not always a ray of sunshine either. We do love to tease each other though and then we laugh about it all. I always say we’re the only two people who would put up with each other.

  15. Omar Carlton Anderson
    Omar Carlton Anderson says:

    I would think that truck drivers would be at the top of the list. I find my not wanting to go home. First year of being married this Dec 11. I’m always saving, thinking ahead, I have an idea of how I want to spend the rest of my life. I’ve waited, prayed, nothing happens until I’m walking out the door. We’ve had six years together before being married. Most of the big wins in my life she’s wasn’t on my side cheer for me. Her insecurities, have been going on the last two years have crushed me, even being out five states over. In Anger Ive said things very mean and lied to her just to get a small break. Her fears have controlled my life and she don’t understand why I’ve not in love with her anymore…

  16. Sue
    Sue says:

    I don’t get how having only poor kids going to public school & turning it into a daycare helps equip them at all to not be poor forever.

    Plus, the stigma. Anyone in public school will be judged as being poor & not worthy of a quality education. That’s helping society how?

  17. Switch Lead
    Switch Lead says:

    Despite financial support, which is great, I feel a couple should be more responsive to each other’s feelings especially when things get tough emotionally. As an entrepreneur, I know how hard things can get but I’ve been fortunate to have a significant other who’s willing to help financially and mentally.

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