I’ve figured out how my wife has put up with me for more than 25 years of marriage. That’s no small feat, because I wasn’t a prize in the first place, and a quarter of a century of getting older, balder, fatter and generally more trollish has made the groom I was in 1984 seem like a young Sean Connery.
The Great Well-Intentioned Initiative of 1985 sure didn’t help. I figured laundry was something I could do while watching TV and perhaps even taking a nap, so one Saturday I thought I’d surprise my wife while she was out and about by having it all done when she got home.
Did you know it’s unwise to pack the washer with as many clothes as possible without regard for what they’re made of or what color they are? That “hot” isn’t necessarily the best setting for everything, whether it’s the washer OR the dryer? Well, maybe you do, Ms. Smartypants, and I do know it now. But I didn’t know it back then.
It’s to her eternal credit that my wife didn’t kill me on the spot, and that's probably only because she got a lot of new clothes out of the deal. And it wasn’t a total loss for me, either. Since then, I have been permanently excused from doing – or even folding – the laundry.
And she definitely hasn’t kept me around because I can fix things. The few household projects that conceivably could fall within my limited skill set can take years between the need becoming evident and me strutting around the house like Bob Villa after the 10 minutes it takes me to get it done. My customary approach to household repairs is “write the check.”
But I love to cook, and I would go grocery shopping every day if I could.
There’s nothing altruistic about the fact that I do all of the shopping and cooking. In fact, my wife swears it’s a sentence she imposed on me shortly after we were married, when I allegedly – it’s never been proven in a court of law – remarked unfavorably about her meat loaf.
I must have been watching a football game when she sentenced me to a weekly Bataan Death March at the grocery store and a life chained to the stove, because I sure don’t remember it. The truth is I do it because it guarantees we’ll have what I want for every meal, and that it will be made the way I like it.
Who knew selfishness could be the key to enduring wedded bliss? But I warn potential imitators that selfishness isn’t the asset in and of itself. It has to be something big that your wife hates doing and that you enjoy.
You probably can get your wife to continue putting up with your myriad flaws if you cleaned the bathrooms and changed the sheets, but it’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying that, so you might as well let her keep doing those things. Maybe she doesn’t enjoy scrubbing the toilets, but if you did it, she’d just go behind you and do it again, because she’d never believe you’d done it right. No woman wants to feel she has to hover in her own bathroom.
And if you think she’s sticking around because you’re so good at … well, YOU know … get over it. Anybody can do that, and for all you know, she’s been channeling Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” all along.
But you do like to eat, right? If her idea of making spaghetti sauce is to brown some hamburger and throw in a can of tomatoes without even draining the meat, it’s a pretty safe bet she hates to cook and that you’re not crazy about eating what she makes. But if she can take a bubble bath every Saturday because you’re valiantly fighting the hordes at Piggly Wiggly -- and then can push back her cuticles while you whip up dinner -- you’ll be golden.
Cooking isn’t hard; start with stuff like spaghetti sauce and chili. Find a couple of recipes online for stuff you like and give it a whirl. And shopping for food can be fun – especially if you hang around and enjoy the scenery in the frozen food section on a hot summer day. If you can make that commitment, your wife will be happy to wash the dishes and friends will tell her how lucky she is to have you.
From there, it’s a small step for her to truly believe it – even if you’re only vaguely aware of the laundry hamper concept.