Afternoon Inquisition

AI: For better or for mediocre

My husband works. A lot. Like a ridiculous amount a lot. Which is pretty much fine… except that we have to do a work trade-off thing because our kids are small and needy and annoying and someone has to take care of them. So every extra hour that Brian puts into work is an hour that I don’t get to work on WTF or Skepchick or that parenting podcast that I’m on that no one knows the new name of. In fact, he’s been so busy this week that I still have emails from Tuesday that I haven’t replied to. Not to mention that we’re suffering from a lack of marriage TLC time.

But you know, it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, it sucks, but it’s all part of the vows. And you don’t commit your life to another person thinking that there’s not going to be weeks or months along the way when you don’t have time for each other. And if you do think that, you have no business getting married.

In fact, I’d say that Brian and I are fantastic at dealing with the hard times. In fact, in fact, the harder the times, the better we pull together.* We’ve been through illness, death, near death, financial struggles, and if you thought reading about my last pregnancy was annoying… Brian’s put up with me being pregnant FOUR times. Dude’s a goddamn saint.

Honestly, I think that the “for worse” part of your marriage is the reason you marry who you marry. I mean, who can’t you for-better it up with? Based on Skepchick parties, if “for better” is where it’s at, I could marry ALL OF YOU**!

I think the “better” and the “worses” are easy. It’s the middles that make marriage difficult. When you’re standing there, in front of everyone you know, thinking about how the good and bad will balance themselves out, you aren’t thinking about how better vs worse is only like 2% of the time and the rest is brushing teeth, doing dishes, paying the electric bill, bickering over who last stayed up all night with the baby (me, if you’re keeping track) and hoping “for worse” doesn’t have an exclusionary clause for weird underwear stains when the other partner does the laundry.

It’s the monotony of daily life that, IMO, makes or breaks a marriage. Yet somehow we promise to stay together through the times that bring us closer… the good times and the bad times. When really, you need to find someone you can stick with even though they fart all night in their sleep.

Good times? Bad times? Holy-shit-if-you-tell-me-that-joke-again-I’ll-rip-your-fucking-teeth-out times? What makes a relationship? What breaks it? What do you wish you knew about relationships? What advice do you have or want about relationships?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

*that’s what she said
**valid only in states where said marriages are legal. void where prohibited.

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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42 Comments

  1. Things I wish I knew? I dunno. I have a hard enough time acting on the things I already know. For example I know my wife wants to go on vacation, and I want her to,… just in some way that doesn’t involve me.

    As far as advice to give I’m a little bereft here too. Relationships seem to last as long as both people have an interest in maintaining it. As soon as one person loses focus you can start a timer on how long the relationship has left. In many cases an egg timer will do quite nicely.

    Actually I do have a piece of advice. Never count on anything or anyone else to make you happy. No spouse, friend, car, toy, child, pet, or anything else can make you happy. Your spouse may be annoying or delightful. It doesn’t matter. As soon as you transfer the responsibility for your own state of mind to someone or something else you are screwed.

  2. I think people who sweat the small stuff tend to have less happy partnerships. I think neither control freaks nor people partnered to control freaks enjoy the relationship very much. My husband and I get along very well because neither of us cares which way the toilet paper hangs on the holder and neither of us give a rat’s ass if the toothpaste tube is squeezed from the bottom or middle, among a multitude of other little things that we don’t care about. If he has a strong preference for something and I don’t, we do it his way and vice versa. We are both analytical people and tend to reach similar decisions after similar thought processes, which is a huge deal.

    I think the main reason we get along so well is a strong foundation of respect for others, especially each other, and trust (both trusting and being trustworthy) which starts each day on a good note.

    If we are angry we wait a while to discuss it so we can calm down a little and think about whether it really matters or not. I find if I go to sleep angry and wake up still angry we should talk about it. Often the next day it really doesn’t matter after all, so not a lot of bickering happens at our house.

    We have been together for 10 years and both were married before. We’ve had some “worse” moments and some “best” and a lot of mediocre and are waiting for a lot more. It’s worked so far!

  3. My advice is:

    1) If you think getting married will magically solve any problems in your relationship you shouldn’t be getting married.

    2) Don’t get married a second time for the same stupid reason you got married the first time.

    3) Just because you say “This time I’ve figured it out, this time it’s going to work” doesn’t mean you have figured why/how your first two marriages failed and that your third one is going to be a success.

    4) When your divorce lawyer says “hopefully this will be your last divorce?” It’s time to reconsider the value of marriage

    So basically; Don’t. Get. Married.

  4. Be a skeptic.

    Seriously. My husband is freakin’ awesome, so that’s definitely helped us stay together, but I also have skepticism to thank for keeping us running so smoothly.

    It works like this: We’re both so comfortable with having our assumptions challenged and with changing our minds when better evidence is presented that we can resolve conflicts in a non-emotional and fairly painless way.

    It’s amazing how many domestic conflicts have clear answers once you actually get over what you’re used to and look at what makes sense. I get the full lid of the toilette down because I reasoned that a bunch of water swishing around our feces was likely sloshing feces particles all over the bathroom (which happens to be where we keep the toothbrushes, yuch), and he gets the cap put back on the toothpaste because then the paste in the nozzle doesn’t dry up and clog the tube.

    But also, I think that knowing yourself – really knowing yourself, not that Oprah bullshit – is absolutely essential to having a long/happy relationship. For example, I know that I am ugly, really ugly, when I feel emotionally hurt. I know how to recognize when I might be approaching that stage. Therefore, I am able to communicate that I am getting upset and whatever small disagreement we’re having is about to turn into a dirty fight if we don’t immediately back down, take a breather, re-affirm that we’re not being personal, and get back to resolving our conflict. If I didn’t know myself, and weren’t being honest about my flaws, I would just flip into victim mode and things would get out of hand.

    Lastly, respect. I read once that couples in which both parties are feminists have a much lower chance of getting divorced, and I really wasn’t surprised. Everyone should be pulling their weight and everyone should be mindful when the other works hard for the good of the family.

    And if all else fails, I hear that having a baby can fix a lot of marital problems! If that doesn’t work, try again – second time’s the charm!

  5. Only two things I know of that keep a relationship going: 1) working together towards some common, identified, explicit goal. 2) When there is no difference between the people in the relationship and the people not in the relationship.

    Things about a person that another person can have a relationship with are: 1) resources, 2) ability to obtain ‘better’ resources, 3) adaptability to novel resource availability/needs. Resources may be in the environment or within their own mind (e.g. personality, intelligence).

  6. When you get to that point in the relationship where you don’t have to talk because you know what the other person needs, and they seem to hand you the next item you want without your asking, there is that momentary bliss of “oh – this is what they mean by two-become-one”.

    And then – without fail – one of you makes an assumption that is 180 degrees from correct about the other’s goals. It’s not malicious. But it puts you behind when you thought you were ahead. It may lead to a heavy sigh or a screaming fight. But it’s going to happen.

    As soon as you no longer need to talk in your relationship, it’s essential to remember to communicate.

  7. “What makes a relationship?”

    Love does of course. How can you not know this?

    Love is faith.

    You already know these things. Faith is believing in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Because if we evaluate one another rationally then others only exist to satisfy our desires. Their life is either a plus or a minus on our accounts.

    Faith makes a leap to another country. You can’t get there by reason and skepticism destroys it. You just have to let go.

    You see, god is love, not some transcendental being beyond space and time. It’s right here, right now, right in front of you. It’s always been there. You only have to believe.

    But… you’re not going to like all that are you? Because you’re angry or something. Oh well, it’s your choice. Good luck.

  8. As far as what makes a relationship work, the biggest thing is that you actually have to LIKE each other once the lust wears off. My BF & I have been together since I was 14 years old. I’m now 31. He is my absolute bestest of best friends. I respect him. I love him. And as a general rule, we’re both similar in our thought processes. That helps, too. Also, he does the vacuuming. I hate that shit.

  9. @BeardofPants:

    Such an odd name you have….

    Anywho … you said:

    As far as what makes a relationship work, the biggest thing is that you actually have to LIKE each other once the lust wears off.

    Yes, yes, and yes. And it is so sad how few people really understand that.

    You also said:

    My BF & I have been together since I was 14 years old. I’m now 31. He is my absolute bestest of best friends. I respect him. I love him. And as a general rule, we’re both similar in our thought processes.

    My envy knows no bounds. That is nothing short of wonderful.

    Also, he does the vacuuming.

    This is the answer to true romance!

    :)

  10. @noen:

    “What makes a relationship?”

    Love does of course. How can you not know this?

    If a relationship is going to last, love is definitely one of the necessary components, but it is far from sufficient. I think that one of the factors behind our high divorce and teen pregnancy rates is that too few people understand this. A relationship also needs trust, respect, and willingness: a willingness to do the difficult things, a willingness to be strong, a willingness to give in. It needs an understanding that things – life, people, even the relationship itself – will change, and that change is a part of existence. And most of all, it needs all parties involved to commit to these things.

    I have to wonder, noen, what sort of relationship you’re looking for here. Most of your posts here over the past few days have been extremely aggressive and antagonistic, frequently evading criticism by misrepresenting others’ comments and employing tactics – including, but not limited to, exaggeration, nitpicking and smugly clinging to entrenched positions – that you then attack others for using, occasionally in cases in which they have not done so. You’ve also made posts presenting some interesting opinions and insights that contributed to the discussion instead of distracting from or sidetracking it. If you’re looking for a place to discuss ideas with people you may disagree with, you’ve found it; I recommend, however, that you reevaluate your tactics. If your purpose is simply to troll, everyone’s time – and especially yours – would be put to better use if you go do something else instead.

  11. @noen:

    Dude…. are you high?

    I crazy love my husband. Love alone isn’t enough to make it work. There’s also patience, compromise, tolerance, sacrifice, advocating, dirty socks on the couch and moldy pizza in the fridge. I love lots of people. I could not live my life with lots of them.

    Recap:

    Me: I love my husband. Sometimes it’s hard to make a marriage work, though. But we do.
    You: You need more love. You’re too angry.
    Me: I’m obviously very drunk. I think someone just called me angry for discussing my marriage.
    Me, after a night’s sleep: Am I still drunk?
    Me, after a brethalyzer: I’m totes sober. I think my monitor is broken.
    Me, after 3 hours on the phone with tech support: Ok. I’m not drunk and my computer is working fine and the weather is lovely in Mumbai today. And this STILL says that I’m angry about love.

  12. @noen:

    “Love is faith.

    You already know these things. Faith is believing in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.”

    Oh dear me no. No, no, no, no.

    I remember believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that love was enough, or that relationships I was in could work out.
    Turned out that it was that ‘faith’ despite all evidence to the contrary that kept me in relationships with assholes who were, if I am charitable, at best ill-suited to me, and likely a lot worse.

    Relationships take a hell of a lot more than the blindness of faith. They take opening your eyes and really, really seeing what you, the other person, and what you have together for what they are. And then working with that, with what you have and seeing where you can go. But always with your eyes open.

    Believing in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? That is a one-way ticket to misery.

  13. @everyone ripping on noen: He has had angry posts, but, to him, love is trusting another person. That’s his struggle right now. Think about your current relationship struggles. Do you understand them perfectly?

    Developmentally, he’s at the point where faith or “entering someone’s country” is key to a relationship. He perceives this is an irrational process. Maybe, to him, it is. He hasn’t had enough experience yet to know that it is rational – just a different kind of rational.

    It isn’t fair to ridicule someone for not learning lessons you’ve mastered, even if, in their ignorance, they ridicule you. Let’s rise above this benign troll.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  14. BeardofPants
    “@noen: Why are you so angry?”

    Talking about how love constitutes (i.e. creates) a relationship is being angry? I thought I would be accused of being gushingly sentimental, not angry. I fail to see a single expression of anger in my comment above. Please point out to me where I was being angry.

    Rebel 16
    “I have to wonder, noen, what sort of relationship you’re looking for here. Most of your posts here over the past few days have been extremely aggressive and antagonistic”

    I’m looking for good tough debate. That is difficult to find because most people are not interested in challenging their preconceived beliefs. Most people are interested in social grooming and little else.

    Elyse
    “Dude…. are you high?”

    I’m not a dude.

    considertheteacosy
    “I remember believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that love was enough, or that relationships I was in could work out.”

    The question was what makes a relationship, not what sustains one. What creates a romantic relationship is an act of faith. You give yourself to another on the belief that that is what they want. You are correct that it is not always enough to maintain one.

    Is there anyone more caught up in a delusional fantasy than two lovers? And yet… romantic love is our culture’s highest ideal, rightly so. I like the fact that at the heart of everything there lies a paradox. It gives the lie to the rationalist’s claim that reason reigns supreme. It does not.

    “Believing in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? That is a one-way ticket to misery.”

    Yes it is. Suffering for love is what makes us human. The goal is not to go through life as smoothly and pain free as possible. That is the life of a tape worm. Suffering, pain and death are what make life worth living.

    To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love.

    slxpluvs
    “to him, love is trusting another person.”

    No, I really mean it when I say that love is a leap of faith.

    “He perceives this is an irrational process. Maybe, to him, it is. He hasn’t had enough experience yet to know that it is rational – just a different kind of rational.”

    You think love is rational?? ::boggle:: Love, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. I think you are labeling something else as love. Sex maybe, or commitment. Do please expound more on your ideas.

  15. Be friends, don’t get married unless it’s to your best friend, have your own activities and be supportive of your spouses activities and passions, no controlling resentful stuff or possessiveness, nurture the relationship, compromise does not mean someone won or lost, never hold grudges, if crying kids irritate you put in ear plugs, and remember that lovers need time together without kids around.

    @davew: Yep, and for now on my no feed list.

  16. @CanadaLes said: “I think people who sweat the small stuff tend to have less happy partnerships. I think neither control freaks nor people partnered to control freaks enjoy the relationship very much. ”

    I just celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and retreat weekend with various friends from all around the world. We are both quite happy with our lives and our marriage, and we so demonstrated that with an emotional outpouring of love that left most of our friends in tears.

    I am absolutely a control freak. And I am absolutely devoted to my astoundingly patient and loving husband. He is not a control freak, and he has to put up with a lot from me, but over the years we’ve worked out ways to deal with it.

    That’s a lot of what marriage is about. Working out ways, no matter how ridiculous they might seem to outsiders, of handling your personal idiosyncrasies so you can continue loving and caring for each other, no matter how weird you get.

    My parents had been married for 40 years at the time of my mother’s death, and they were two of the most in-love and happy people I knew. My mother was a control freak, as well (I come by my control freakishness naturally I guess), and my father had to do a lot to accommodate her, but he -adored- her, and was grieved with a bone-aching pain when she died.

    @CanadaLes, it’s pretty presumptuous of you to decide for myriad couples how happy you think they’re capable of being. You have no idea and no ability to read anyone’s mind, so I’ll thank you to not decide for my parents, my husband, or myself (not to mention the thousands of other happily married control freaks out there) just how happy you think they’re capable of being.

    I’m more than willing to avoid casting judgments on your relationships and their potential for happiness, given your apparent willingness to pretend to be able to read other people’s minds. It’s not my place to say how happy you are able to be in whatever relationship you managed to build.

  17. I have rationally evaluated the people I love and they exist regardless of my desire.

    I love people because they have affected me in intense ways.

    I married my husband because he is my best friend, my partner, I adore him and he helps make my experience on the planet better. Together we are better than we are alone.

    And if you want to strip the fun out of it, the actual feelings of love can be attributed to chemical rations with nuero transmitters in brain and effects of oxytocin.

    So my advice? Find someone who will help stimulate the release of oxytocin in your brain and will help you do the dishes.

  18. @davew:

    I’ve been following noen’s posts on a couple of blogs, and yes, I’d say noen is almost certainly a troll, or perhaps just a major contrarian who thrives on dispute under the guise of “looking for good tough debate”.

    I’d like to quote Rebel 16, because I think he/she got it just right:

    “Most of your posts here over the past few days have been extremely aggressive and antagonistic, frequently evading criticism by misrepresenting others’ comments and employing tactics – including, but not limited to, exaggeration, nitpicking and smugly clinging to entrenched positions – that you then attack others for using, occasionally in cases in which they have not done so.”

    I really think that says it in a nutshell, and the same can be said for the other blogs I’ve seen noen posting on.

    noen, you say “most people are not interested in challenging their preconceived beliefs.” Well, that may very well be true, but being a hostile contrarian pissant does not exactly move us forward.

  19. “evading criticism by misrepresenting others’ comments”

    I have never ever misrepresented anyone’s comments at any time anywhere. I categorically deny it. I think that what does happen is that people don’t understand the consequences of their arguments and then they are alarmed to find that what they once thought was solid ground is swiss cheese.

    If I am aggressive it is because I am frequently the subject of ad homs. Which I will gladly return if that is the game they want to play.

    I have been on both religious and atheist blogs and I have to say that the atheists are by far the worst in their behavior here. If you want to be subject to vicious attacks, the most absurd arguments you can imagine, or even have people come after you in real life. Then just disagree with an atheist.

    Skepchicks seems to be better than average though. Probably because there are fewer atheists.

    “being a hostile contrarian pissant does not exactly move us forward.”

    I’m not interested in moving atheism forward. I’m interested in destroying it. I would like to see a middle way of agnosticism or skepticism get better recognition however.

    “or perhaps just a major contrarian who thrives on dispute”

    We only learn through opposition, conflict. If I just surrounded myself with people who agree with me I’d stagnate. I’d never learn what’s truly important.

    I’ll even bring this back on topic. Faith, the willingness to see the best in one’s beloved despite the lack of evidence, is the greatest gift humanity has. Without faith we are nothing.

    I absolutely believe that and place it within a secular framework. If you can’t see that it isn’t really my concern.

  20. Perhaps you could start your own bog where your goals and arguments are the topics of discussion. Your attempts at discussion here have been tedious, lacking in substance, and clearly confrontational for no good reason. So if your goal is to destroy atheism I’m not sure why you’re expending the energy to accomplish nothing more than irritating some nice folk who enjoy civil productive discussion. A trait you will notice is fairly consistent here is that people understand the difference between an opinion and a position based on the best available evidence. A lot of our discussions are about how we deal with our own views when we are confronted with evidence that indicates we are wrong. Part of the skeptical world view is a willingness to admit you are wrong and adjust your views when you learn new information or the available facts show you are wrong. The process of adjusting your views to fit the available facts or admitting that an opinion absent supporting facts or evidence is nothing more than a personal possession, often with little value in the skeptical marketplace, seems to have escaped you. You may not think you are a troll but you have trollish behaviors and will be treated accordingly or ignored by many of the regular posters here as long as you persist in those behaviors.

  21. @CanadaLes:

    I assumed you meant control freak to mean “controlling partner”. I am a control freak. However I understand that I do not and cannot control my husband.

    And because I appreciate him and don’t take his freedom hostage, he indulges my neurotic everything. It’s not easy being married to the kind of woman who announces, on the way home from the grocery store, that she’s going to start a 501c3 and take on Jenny McCarthy. Especially when you know that the only answer is, “That sounds great. What can I do to help?” even though you want to say, “Can we talk about this crazy stupid plan after we get the ice cream in the freezer?”

  22. @noen:

    “evading criticism by misrepresenting others’ comments”

    I have never ever misrepresented anyone’s comments at any time anywhere. I categorically deny it.

    “being a hostile contrarian pissant does not exactly move us forward.”

    I’m not interested in moving atheism forward.

    For example.

    I think it’s pretty clear from context that by the word “us” in that sentence, John Greg meant “the discussion,” not “the Cause of Atheism.” By misconstruing it for the latter, deliberately or not, you have evaded his criticism that you’re working to stifle discussion, not foster it. But hey, as a skeptic, I’m open to being wrong. John Greg, how exactly did you mean your comment:

    Well, that may very well be true, but being a hostile contrarian pissant does not exactly move us forward.

    ?

  23. I’m going to propose something novel here.

    No one bit of advice nor magical f0rmula is going to be the perfect answer to having a happy marriage or long term relationship. Why? Cause we’re all different people, and sometimes the shit that works is exactly contradictory. So many people say “marry your best friend!!” Well, actually, my best friend and I are totally incompatible. And my husband is most certainly not my best friend. But he’s certainly up there on the list of people I’d call first when I see that thing that you must MUST share with someone.

    The thing that works best for us is when we have our own lives that we share with each other, either more or less. The problems we have are when we ignore each other. See? Contradictory. But that’s truly the way it is.

    My est advice is choose people for long term relationships (of whatever kind) people that like enough to put up with the worst shit you can imagine from. You never know what’s going to come up. If you can still imagine wanting to spend time with someone when every day is a chore and you’re willing to work hard, hard, hard to get along, you’ve found the right one. With rare exceptions (of abuse and neglect) the failure of relationships is often more within ourselves than within the partner.

    Of course, there’s a difference between the failure of a relationship and the resolution of a relationship. Some aren’t forever, and some people choose not-forever relationships. They should be viewed separately–and maybe considered by more people.

  24. @Rebel 16:

    Well, yes, I too thought it was pretty clear from context that by the word “us” in that sentence, I meant “the discussion,” not “the Cause of Atheism.”

    :)

  25. 1. Find someone who makes you laugh, and vice-versa. It’s hard to be mad at someone who easily makes you laugh.

    2. When you discuss the weirdest crazy idea or thing you want to do, their worst response is “okay, have fun, try not to die. *smooch*.” Same goes for their ideas.
    It’s nice to have interests in common, but better that you don’t have any interests that cancel each other out explosively.

    3. That there’s enough chemistry that you keep wanting to pounce on your partner like a horny mountain lion years after you’ve met.

    4. It never hurts if they think you are absolutely awesome, even if that implies some form of lunacy. :)

  26. My husband and I have been married four years, so while not THAT long, we aren’t quite newly weds.

    I have been pulling my hair out crazy since he decided to go back to school in order to be a paramedic by the time our daughter was a year old, which I understand, but it’s been rough.

    I think the best advice I could ever give someone is to communicate. We can get through almost any argument when we really pay attention to how we are feeling, explaining to the other person why we feel that way, etc. It’s easy to explain why something bothered you, but my husband and I are usually pretty good at admitting we are wrong too and apologizing.

    And trust is a big one too. I trust my husband more than anybody I have ever known. I don’t necessarily mean the “don’t cheat on me” type of trust. A pinky swear to us is like writing something in stone. I know he is genuinely serious when he pinky swears, lol. Stupid, but that’s our thing.

    We try to make everything as even as possible too. We split the work load. Etc.

    Oh, and my husband broke my habit of ALWAYS pointing out where I used to attend karate classes by driving out of his way to pass by it and exclaim: “HEY! Didn’t you take karate here?!”

    Also, if you are a nerd, best to be with a nerd or else you don’t get little gems like: “You like your toast darker, your liquor stronger and your coffee darker — I married a Klingon woman!”

  27. @rekre8: And then – without fail – one of you makes an assumption that is 180 degrees from correct about the other’s goals. It’s not malicious. But it puts you behind when you thought you were ahead. It may lead to a heavy sigh or a screaming fight. But it’s going to happen.

    As soon as you no longer need to talk in your relationship, it’s essential to remember to communicate.

    THIS. My parents used to be so good at communicating but after a while this very thing happened to them. They almost divorced, to the point where my Mom was living in her own apartment (they had been married 30 years.) Eventually, after my Mom had been going to therapy and my Dad lived alone for a while as well, they realized the hadn’t been communicating AT ALL.

    Now things are on the mend and my Mom moved back in. I don’t know what the years will bring, but I am happy that they are happy.

  28. @noen
    “I’m not interested in moving atheism forward”

    Seriously? Who is talking about atheism in this thread? This thread is not about atheism. Either address the criticism at hand or the topic. Otherwise, you are being trollish, and you truly deserve all the bashing you are getting.

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