In the beginning, we not only shave, we exfoliate. We apply lotion and fall asleep naked or in silk. Oral pleasure isn’t just witty banter, and most of all, we’re willing to dance, to try foods we know we don’t like, we’ll go camping ’cause we said we loved the outdoors—only we’d meant sitting on a lounge chair, maybe an iPod trot into town. Light and breezy, ready and willing for whatever. And, yes, we even consult close friends on lube strategy and discuss the possibility of back door situations. We listen to music, or watch movies they like. We give.
We leave the courting stage, and go back to our ways, with sweet gestures, creative moments and memories made. We pick up his favorite foods. He’ll DVR a show he thinks she’ll like. Small sweet tokens, some good hair pulling sex, and you remind yourself to sit on his lap and treat him like your boyfriend.
You knew that was coming. But what do you do when the one you love asks you to attend a heavy metal concert, and just the thought of it makes your life hurt? Not just your ears or feet, your entire being. The idea of standing in general seating—where there are no seats, where you’re basically in a garage, where you wait 35 minutes for a piss poor imitation of a cocktail, all to hear someone you never ever want to hear, now or ever again—it’s exhausting even to think about how much you don’t want to be there. What if you know the entire time you will be miserable and will have to suck it up and fake how totally okay you are with it all because “Honey, I want so much to share in what makes you happy.” And you know 100% that he’d go for you! No, one better: Phil is the type of man who would order tickets for the two of us to attend something he knows he’ll absolutely loathe, just because he knows how much I like it. That’s who he is…
I say this next bit while cringing.
But it ain’t who I am.
He wants to please me, to surprise me. To have me share in what he loves. And I’m a terrible person. Because I’m not that person. Yes, really. It really is that hard for me to just suck it up for a night and make him happy. There are many things I do to show love, only this is the way he wants to be loved, for me to share and enjoy with him what he enjoys. I get it. I really do. And I love this man, really love this man. But I’m a selfish shit because I want absolutely zero part of this nightmare torture shit-chamber hell-storm stand-and-sway, then jump, and act like you like you like the music. I need to discuss this with my therapist.
Textbook advice from people who’ve been married forever might say: If you put the other person’s happiness before your own, and always try to make them happy, you’ll have a long and happy marriage. Other lifelongers would argue: it’s important for each person to have his/her own interests, to do things on your own.
I’m guessing my therapist will tell me that it is perfectly acceptable for either person to opt-out of an event, a television show, a movie, a concert, whatever. That I should say, you know, I know this concert will make you happy, and I don’t want to get in the way of that, because I know myself, and it’s just not for me. Why don’t we plan another night to do something we’ll both enjoy? And this response of mine, she’ll say, is perfectly reasonable, that it shouldn’t disrupt things. That in a healthy marriage, our spouse should understand; it’s not the end of the world. Or maybe she won’t say that. I’ll let you know.
But when I turn things around and think, if Ray Lamontagne came to town, and I asked Phil to go, and he said, “You know I love you, but it’s really not my thing. Why don’t you go, enjoy it, and we’ll plan something else to do together that we both enjoy” I would be absolutely, positively, unmistakably fine with it. There would be no “selfish,” no pouting, no “Why do I even bother asking?” I simply wouldn’t take it personally. At all. Isn’t that the way it should be?
By the way, it’s not actually a heavy metal concert. But that’s really beside the point. In response to his email titled, “Can I Convince You To Go To This?” Here’s how I handled it:
“I love you honey. I really do. I think I’d prefer to sit this one out, and I hope that’s okay, and that you don’t take it personally. Because it’s not. I just don’t enjoy loud music and standing unless it’s an acoustic guitar with a loud soulful singer who’s all about lyrics. I hope you understand and that we can do something else fun together that we’ll both enjoy. Would that be okay?”
And when I arrived home and restated it in person, he said, “Okay,” and left it at that. We are making some serious progress. Love the man for not making a sweeping generalization about my love for him, from an isolated behavior. Go us.
Off to wax the ‘gina.