Marriage Countermoves


By Phil Goldstein

There’s an old Henny Youngman comedy routine involving a doctor and his patient that goes something like this:

Patient (lifting arm over his head): Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

Doctor: Then don’t do that.

I think marriage is sort of like that comedy routine, at least the part about, ‘Don’t do that’. I didn’t get married until I was 48. Knowing how cautious, particular, and self-indulgent I was, the longer I waited to get married, the less I wanted to get it wrong. So, I figured I’d better figure out a few things before I finally tied the knot.

I reasoned that if marriage ever did occur, it had a better chance of succeeding if I could anticipate any likely issues and irritations and plan in advance how I’d best deal with them. In other words, if she did ‘this,’ I should know to do ‘that,’ sort of like a chess match—always thinking ahead to avoid getting checkmated.

Wow, was I wrong. Matrimony isn’t a game I can win. In my house, there’s usually a counter move to whatever move I make—she watched Queen’s Gambit twice; I only watched it once—but nevertheless, I’ve developed some clever tactical counter-counters if you will:

For instance, I thought one of the advantages of marriage was having a sympathetic ear, someone who’d console you when you’ve erred in some way, someone to tell you everyone makes mistakes, and offer a comforting peck on the cheek. Nope… instead of compassion when I sheepishly acknowledge that I did something wrong, I get the “Yes, you are stupid” retort. Now, knowing that not sharing my misdeed is better than having my plea for commiseration fall on unsympathetic and chastising ears, I only tell the dogs since they pretend to listen and then unjudgmentally lick my face.

Then there’s what I call the freeze-out. This is where something I’ve done wrong—often I don’t even know what it is I’ve done—prompts the cold shoulder. Now truth be told, this is really a positive circumstance since I value peace and quiet above all else. But what’s disconcerting during the freeze-out is receiving important inter-family advisements such as ‘dinner’s ready’ via text messages from the next room.

I can also get in trouble for not emptying the dishwasher, my least favorite chore. In our house, that defaults to whomever filled the last empty spots with plates and cups and then starts it. My surreptitious solution when the appliance is almost full is to hand wash my plate and cup—which is to say, I run my hand over them a few times— then back in the cupboard they go. The dishwasher’s still not full, so Phil can’t start it. Hence he doesn’t have to empty it.

Speaking of appliance-related peril, I’ve been warned repeatedly not to wash the dish towels with the grimy car wash towels, which I happen to think is a waste of good washing machine space. My secret—I know exactly how much time it takes her to walk our dogs, which just happens to coincide with express wash and dry cycles. Then, the same dish towels go back under the kitchen counter, and nobody’s the wiser.

To avoid discordant discourse in our household, I’ve learned a more prudent means of asking her opinion on some issue. No longer do I express my opinion first, then ask hers. Now I innocently raise the issue, ask her what she thinks, then heartily concur. Cowardly I know, but talk is cheap, and arguing is even cheaper.

Finally, and relatedly, I’ve learned the hard way that “Whatever you think, dear,” is surprisingly not the correct answer to many inquiries. Apparently, my disingenuous attempt to go along to get along is too transparent, so I now favor a new response to inquiries, namely, “Why don’t you suggest what my response should be, and I’ll go with that?”

I waited 48 years to get married until I found the right person, and I did. But now I’d better retrieve North Forty News from the mailbox and hide it so she doesn’t read this column… or I’ll be in trouble for something else.

Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 12-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 49 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at [email protected].


Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

BONUS - Donors get a link in their receipt to sign up for our once-per-week instant text messaging alert. Get your e-copy of North Forty News the moment it is released!

Click to Donate