I know there are a lot of quarantined couples who are really sick of their mates and even fantasizing about a very conscious uncoupling if they’ve not already become entirely unglued. This is just one of those stories of spending too much time together.
Let me preface this by saying that our situation is a good one. Our pantry is full, our mortgage is paid; our overall physical health is nothing to sneeze at. We have a balcony and a home office so we can escape to separate corners whenever we want, but recent evidence suggests that only one of us at a time can get any real work done, and it’s usually not me.
Both of our computers are side by side in the office, and we each get sole custody of the room only while the other is sleeping. As a result, my husband rises at 5 a.m., and I have to wait until after 9:30 at night to get started. While he works best in the early morning, I do not like to be on the computer (a.k.a. the source of all employment and knowledge and most conflict) right after dinner or too close to bedtime.
Though I’m grateful we seem to get along well considering the non-stop forced togetherness, at least once a week I simply run out of gratitude. I also run out of groceries and such, so my spouse at least gets the place to himself for a chunk of time on a regular basis while I go hunting and gathering.
If only this was reciprocated! He doesn’t like to venture out so Sheltering in Place suits his lifestyle just fine.
When I go to bed hours after my husband, I usually enjoy the comfort of lying next to him without the hassle of having to actually deal with his being conscious. But lately, his sleeping just doesn’t seem to give me enough peace. Plus, he’s developed a snore from the weight gain from the extra snacks he’s able to snarf from having 24/7 access to the junk-food drawer and no nosh-less office to shuffle off to. Ever.
Happy Anniversary, Sorta
We low-key celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last month, feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We marvel at how long we’ve been able to tolerate and even continue to love each other, and we think 18 years plus the one where we lived together are worth celebrating, even if it’s just with takeout shwarma. Still do.
But let me tell you, if you haven’t experienced it already, that quarantined time should be measured like dog years: multiplied by at least seven.
Now when I go to bed, I look over at my first— maybe last—husband with love and think, “How much fucking longer does this have to go on?”
Am I talking about the quarantine, our marriage, this existential existence? I don’t know, but I’m still waiting for a goddamn answer.
What I’d Like to Tell Him
I don’t say any of that to him. But here is what I wrote to my husband in the card I gave him that day. OK, not really. It’s what I wish I could have written:
Happy 18th Wedding Anniversary, Husband.
How do I still love you? Let me count the ways. Just give me a minute; I know they’re in here somewhere. The fact that neither of us has killed the other is a win, right? We have dinner together every night. We don’t always have something interesting to talk about, but it’s still pleasant sitting across from you.
Sexy time? Eh, what can be said? It comes up often enough to keep us going and when we get to it, we shine.
Before we were married, I shared with you what I thought was a brilliant bit of advice I’d heard, of all places, on a segment of “This American Life,” and I was relieved that you, too, saw the wisdom of it.
“Treat your partner like your customer. Always ask, ‘What can I, your spouse, do for you, the customer?'” Simply put, I take it to mean, never lose sight of what makes your partner happy.
This credo has been especially helpful while living together, COVID-style, for eight uninterrupted months. With hours to kill every day, I spend most of them thinking about what I want. But that gets boring (eventually). And then I remember that I have a customer who needs attention. I am happy to have your happiness on my to-do list, even if I cannot satisfy the customer’s demands all of the time.
Seeing the kindness you are still capable of (occasionally) warms my heart. Helping neighbors with groceries, being patient with the dog, silently supporting your melancholy mate—these are wonderful gestures I truly appreciate. And despite the misanthrope I know you strive to be, humanity keeps breaking through like the rays of warm sunshine you hate as much as watercolors and mac and cheese.
My point is, I am still glad to be married to you and grateful that, while 19 years together feels like an awfully long time, it doesn’t yet feel long enough. Thank you, husband, for keeping the love coming.