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10 Things I Hope Not to Hate About You
By Jo Page

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the rest of your life together—so now is the time to talk about what you expect from each other

My former sister-in-law, Amy, and her husband, Seiji, fell instantly in love when Seiji arrived from Japan on a business trip to Denver. She didn’t speak any Japanese. He spoke only a few words of English.

Dino Petrocelli

And Seiji wasn’t in the market for a bride; he’d already been promised at birth to a girl in his village.

But did that stop either one of them? Nah.

Pretty soon, Seiji had broken off his engagement, to the shame and horror of the families, and was getting ready to marry a Midwestern American girl many inches taller than he who knew next-to-nothing about Japan.

But they did it. They got married. And still are, living in Tokyo, where Amy home-schools their kids.

You don’t need me to tell you this is a cockamamie way to conduct a romance.

On the other hand, there’s no telling anybody how to conduct their romances. People in love are damn fools who will do what they please. Anybody who has ever been in love knows that.

But, unlike Amy and Seiji, if you and your partner-to-be do share the same mother tongue, it’s a good idea to back-burner the incidental concerns (“Is Biff’s best man, Ernie, up to the task of seating the mothers?” “Should we register at Williams-Sonoma or Target?”), and pay some attention to the meatier concerns of a common life.

So find a way to stop being starry-eyed long enough to talk about these inglorious and damn important aspects of your life together.

• Money. Because when you talk about money, you’re not really talking about money, but about control or the fear of loss of control. Will there be joint accounts, or joint and separate accounts, or is everything going to be separate? Sometimes being able to share the money you earn says more about personal character than being able to earn it.

• Kids. Forget about finding the G and X spots for a while and concentrate on the magic numbers. No kids? One kid? More? And then there is the saddening truth that sometimes egg and sperm never make it to the same rest stop at the same time; try to leave at least as much room in your hearts for compassion as you would room in the nursery for the crib.

• Tears, Sadness, Anger. Learn to embrace the silly truth that sometimes you will look like—no, make that be—a fool in front of the other. And nobody needs tenderness like a fool needs tenderness.

• Fidelity. Try to consider the idea that emotional neglect is just as much a betrayal as who puts what where. In a good relationship, not screwing around is a little like not robbing a bank. Legal, but not necessarily admirable. And if your heart is aching for companionship, more than sex is missing.

• Couple Time/Time Alone. There is a lot of gender stereotyping about this—women want togetherness, men want alone time—that the real world proves false. It’s just as much a red flag if you don’t do much together as if you can’t figure out how to do stuff apart from each other, either. The trick comes in figuring out what your own rhythms are. And then not becoming utterly flummoxed when they change!

• Holidays and Traditions. It’s easy to believe that the family traditions each of us had as children are the only valid ones. But not everybody likes to eat lutefisk or go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Blend those that you can, but be sure to make up some of your own, remembering that making love under the Christmas tree doesn’t count. Your parents probably did it, too. Until you came along.

• Homemaking. The best story I know is about a husband who, when queried about why he hadn’t done the dishes while his wife was out at a meeting, looked off into space, paused, and replied slowly, as if mystified by the workings of his own mind: “I. Just. Couldn’t. Bring. It. To. Consciousness.” It’s best to try to bring chores to consciousness and at least arrive at some semi-agreement about who will do what and when.

• Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll. And sugar binging. And watching TV night and day. And surfing the Web. And shopping. And hanging with the buds/girlfriends/office work/hobby/art obsession. Level with yourself and your partner about your weaknesses; otherwise you’ll be trying to find a way to blame them for not appreciating your weakness as some kind of noble calling. Be tender with each other; we’re all weak.

• Your bodies. Can you love what is aging? Can you treasure what is imperfect? Can you desire what is vulnerable? And just as importantly, can you let it be known that your love and desire is not in spite of aging, imperfection or vulnerability, but simply because it’s your partner?

• Lifelong partnership. I know a woman married 50 years, and when asked who she’d most like to be able to talk to if conversations were possible in heaven, replied “My husband.” I’m sure they had already talked about the 10 things listed here. But a half-century’s wisdom had taught them there are still 10,000 more things to say.

Jo Page is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Niskayuna.

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