ARTFULLY NEGOTIATING THE MARITAL TURF WARS

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July 1, 2014 · Posted in Commentary 
Don & Carla
Longtime friends Carla and Don offer a unique theory about successful marriages

By Bob Vickrey

My friend Carla has a theory about long marriages. She claims that the relative success of a marriage is directly proportional to the square footage of the house in which the couple lives.

She maintains that her marriage to husband Don has lasted more than thirty years only because their house is big enough to accommodate separate spaces for portions of their days together. She tells him, “You stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine, and I’ll meet you in the kitchen for dinner at seven o’clock.”

Those of us who have known this couple for many years know that Carla possesses a rather wry and deadpan sense of humor. On their 30th anniversary, Don proposed a dinner toast to her, and said, “It doesn’t seem possible that thirty years could have passed so quickly.” She responded dryly, “Well honey, it doesn’t seem that long because you’ve been on the phone for most of that time.”

Anyone who has been involved in a long marriage probably understands Carla’s sentiments and knows that it takes certain accommodations to keep a healthy relationship alive.

Recent statistics indicate that American divorce rates are near an all-time high, and surveys reveal that young couples are now waiting longer to marry, with many of them choosing to live together as an alternative to traditional marriage.

For those of us who have been less successful in marriage, we occasionally stand in awe of couples that have been able to solve what appears to be a puzzle as difficult and complex as “The Riddle of the Sphinx.”

In younger years, many of us believed we’d be spending endless days blissfully sharing our lives with our partners. We pictured scenes of walking hand-in-hand and never wanting to be separated from one another. Our naïveté was best described in the words of writer Carolyn See: “That was before life’s plot had begun to thicken.”

My parents never had the luxury of utilizing Carla’s “More Square Footage = Better Marriage” theory because they owned a small post-World War II cottage and space was always at a premium there. However, they silently staked out their individual domains during their long marriage. My dad worked outside in his garden while my mother lived and worked inside the house during the daylight hours. Meals brought them together in the dining room and then each slipped quietly back into their own comfortable routines.

Having the benefit of spacious accommodations is best exemplified by a successful Houston couple I know that live in a 10,000 square-foot home and have seemingly enjoyed a healthy and enduring marriage. I’ve imagined that they wander the cavernous space for days and simply cannot find one another in a house that size, which only reinforces the old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder.

I may have finally solved the “Sphinx” mystery with my own living arrangement. About a decade ago, I bought an old Spanish bungalow duplex which has a wall dividing the house down the middle. I rented the other side out to a nice woman who has since become a close friend. We share the laundry facilities and occasionally enjoy meals together while catching up on one another’s lives. Since she lives on her side of the house, I’m never concerned whether she picks up after herself, or stays in the bathroom too long. We’ve never once had a fight. In fact, I can’t think of a single annoying habit she has ever exhibited. I believe we may have accidentally discovered the perfect “marriage.”

At the dinner table that evening during my friends’ 30th anniversary celebration, Carla informed Don that he had dripped barbecue sauce on his chin. As he grabbed his napkin, she drolly offered, “You’ll have to pardon my husband’s table manners because he normally eats over the sink.”

Carla said she knew there was still magic in their relationship when Don presented her with a garbage disposal the previous year on their 29th anniversary. “And just when I thought he had found the perfect romantic gift, he topped it this year by giving me a trash compactor. Now I’ll be able to think of him each time I take out the garbage. That man is such a charmer.”

Who says modern marriage is in trouble? Romance is still very much alive and well. At least it is in my friends’ home—which coincidentally—just happens to have the necessary amount of square footage.

Bob Vickrey’s columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.  

 

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