Home: His & Hers

IMG_1890Something that happened forty years ago almost cost me my thirty year marriage last year. I only realized this yesterday. The body holds emotions that the soul and mind don’t divide into time. That’s why when we hear a song that is particularly poignant, we’re right back there at the senior prom.

This happens in many ways and for me it involved men and new houses. I have owned two new houses in my life. Half a lifetime apart. It would never have occurred to me that the husband I bought the first house with would influence how I responded to the husband I bought the second house with…I was married to house guy #1 for only seven years and house guy #2 has been with me for thirty. So, no comparison. Right? Wrong.

Subtle, though, which is why it can be a good exercise and clearing for you if you run into a perplexing problem of unknown origin like I did. I had my beautiful new home. A home I had never aspired to (I always wanted a cute little ranch house). My husband happily organized the appliances, the shiny new deck that caught the sunset perfectly, and picked out a television and the few pieces of furniture he believed we needed, including a king-sized bed.

IMG_1884

Meanwhile I shopped in my basement, filling out the house as best I could with things that didn’t really fit. I mentioned I’d like to do a bit of decorating and husband said “Bank’s closed. We just spent a small fortune.”

I didn’t think much of it. I’m not a money person and I was fortunate for all I had. I moved on. Or so I thought. But I kept getting more and more depressed, feeling more and more isolated from my husband, and just in general unhappy. I didn’t connect it to the house. I eventually entered therapy where I found that I lived in an unequal marriage. The money management wasn’t equal. The time-commitment to each other and our home was not equal, and trust was all but gone.

Just like my first marriage. But this husband (which is why he has lasted thirty years) was willing to dig in and do the work. It started, funny enough, with me drawing up a budget to decorate the house, him laying out the budget for me, and us working together to make it all fit. It did and we went from there. I’m still working on some things like painting which men see as pointless in a new house because it’s new. But builders use cheap paint and nails pop and since I’m redecorating there are all those nail holes to fill. Also I want new color.

IMG_1852

Since I’ve become an equal in money management, I know what we can afford and I’m not going crazy but I wonder, if, that first time I bought a new house, had he listened to me and bought the ranch instead of the quad-level (I had two children under two years old, but he wasn’t thinking about my needs, although I did stay slim running up and down those stairs), we would have had money (not that I’d have known) to buy curtains for the gorgeous living room patio doors and bay window. We’d have had money for real furniture instead of my worn down bachelorette fuzzy love seat and battered old plaid chair someone gave us.

IMG_1891

What I didn’t know then was marriage has to be equal or everyone loses. Don’t give the money duty to your husband. Don’t let him make the “big” decisions to help him feel like a man, don’t do it because it will erode trust and without that you got nothing.

The Necklace

This Christmas season has been sensational so far. And I’m not just talking gifts, or food, but fun shared and writing accomplished with a giant dollop of lazy reading thrown in. Add to that the fact that school is out, I have a free winter, and lots of plans. Plus the snow has been lovely.

It wouldn’t be life if there wasn’t some mischief in the mix, and as usual, I whipped up some of my own. We had the brilliant idea this year to do all our shopping online and not bother with stores and post offices. Daily, new packages would arrive. We had to sort out if it was in my name was this because it was my gift from Al? Or was it mine to him? Or was it one from the kids to Al that needed wrapping?

We had a pretty good organizational method for this, but one thing we did not reckon on was that not every e-retailer is as nice as Amazon when it comes to hiding the bill in a big yellow envelope saying to keep the surprise, do not open until after Christmas. One such package was delivered addressed to Al. My gift from Al was already wrapped and under the tree. It looked like the size of a book so I was thinking maybe a new tablet.

Al said the new package was just something for a house project. The receipt wasn’t in the box, but under it. All this on the porch, which is simply shoddy delivery. Hey at least they tucked the receipt under the box so it wouldn’t blow away.

I brought the offensive slip of paper inside and absently peeked. It was house stuff, not a gift. No problem. Except at the bottom of the listed items, it said “amethyst necklace.” Al feigned complete ignorance, pointing out we’d said one gift each, and he’d gotten mine. There it was, under the tree, if I cared to look. My mind flashed to Emma Thompson finding the necklace in her husband’s pocket, thinking it was hers, and getting a book instead. I usually trust Al 100%. He is just not that kind of guy, not a cheater. He’s too shy, for one. Also, he’s loyal. And he loves me.

So he’s getting indignant about me going on and on about it, but finally he makes a joke “You’ll just have to wait to find out.” This was maybe ten days before Christmas. An eternity. The box sat unwrapped, still sealed, on the counter in the laundry room where he likes to let his junk mail and newspapers accumulate until I organize it all (while tossing the one crucial thing he had been specifically saving). I did my sweep of the countertop and put the box on his shelf in the wardrobe closet.

Al remained uninterested in the box and I grew more curious. I looked for the receipt. It had disappeared. Where had I put it after the shock of seeing that necklace on the invoice? This made my imaginary case against Al stronger yet. He wouldn’t? Would he? It’s true he’s hardly ever home. All that work. Or was it work? The package sat there until Christmas morning, where, before he had any coffee, before any gaily wrapped gifts were distributed, I brought it to him and said “open it.”

He shook his head. “Okay.” He opened the box and out spilled a little cheap necklace like thing, tucked among the household hardware items. “Is this it?” I was relieved when I thought I caught a glimpse of a tiny chip of purple. I took it out of the plastic packet. “Yes, this must be it.”

“But I didn’t order that,” Al said. “Musta been a freebie.” Case solved. Or was it? I certainly didn’t want that necklace. And why would a store include that type of freebie with hardware? Perhaps they thought that men who ordered house fixing things for the holidays needed a bit of help in the choosing proper gifts department.

Finally it was time to get down to the real business of Christmas, which was opening presents from the kids, sending texts, having Facetime. Tim had on the Red Wings jersey we got him. I unwrapped the cookbook they’d sent. This goes on for a bit because Facetime is not totally reliable so there’s much flickering out and calling back and finally giving in and just chatting in the old-fashioned phone way.

After the calls, we had coffee and tea and warm steel cut oats laced with sweet cherries and pecans. Okay, we had cookies too. Also Rice Crispy Treats. Finally it was time for me to open my tablet. I hazily warned myself to be pleased even though I’ve got a perfectly good iPad. White box. Inside that a red box. And inside the red box, this