Change: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a Princess.  This Princess had lived her life fairly effortlessly, but she had some self esteem issues.  She didn’t realize that she was basically a decent person, so she was always trying to prove her worth.  She always tried to be nice to people and went out of her way to help others, but not out of a sense of altruism, but because she felt she needed to, so people would like her.  She did not feel worthy on the inside- she was looking for validation from external sources.

One day the Princess met a Court Jester.  He was not a nice person.  Most people did not like him.  He was smart, but arrogant.  He was attractive, but did not take care of himself.  He was quiet, but not shy.  He thought everyone around him were his inferiors. He drank way too much.  He did way too many drugs.  Of course, the Princess thought this would be an excellent project.

The Princess saw all the bad qualities that the Jester possessed.  But she kept thinking, if only he would change, he could be a great person.  He has all the positive attributes one needs in the world, he just needs to change.  And she kept thinking – he just needs to change, and she was the one person in the world that could make this possible.

And the Kingdom laughed.  Because the Kingdom knew that people don’t change just because the Princess wants them to.

But the Princess kept on dating him.  And married him.  And she kept trying to change him.  She made sure his clothes were always clean.  She made sure he had grooming necessities.  But he did not care.  He still left his beautiful clothes in a pile on the floor.  He still let his hair get unfashionably long.

She told him he needed to stop drinking.  She would pour bottles of alcohol down the sink.  He just bought more.  With her money.  He laughed at her and told her she was useless.  But she still tried.  Because if he would only stop drinking, he would have a great life.  Couldn’t he see that she was going to make a great life for them?

She ignored the sight of him drunk on the toilet, sleeping against the wall.  She ignored the cigarette burns on the floor of the den.  Because he was going to change.  Because she wanted him to change.

What the poor, sheltered Princess didn’t realize was that people don’t change if they don’t want to.  She didn’t realize that the change has to come from within one’s self, that the jester was never going to change because she wanted him to.  She didn’t realize how sad she had become.

The Princess had money.  She had a nice car.   She had made a pretty apartment and had beautiful clothes.  The Princess had all the things she had ever wanted.  She didn’t understand why she was so sad- because she had everything.

One night, a fairy godmother appeared in her dreams.  (Another version says that it was a pea under the mattress, but we’re sticking with fairy godmother.)  FG told the Princess that she needed to change.  Yes- the Princess needed to change her thoughts and actions, because the Jester was NEVER going to change his.  The Princess didn’t deserve to be sad and unhappy all the time.   The Princess felt conflicted at first- to leave the marriage would be to admit failure- she had failed to make the Jester into a Prince.  She had wasted so much time and energy on this person…..Was leaving her only option?  Was walking out the door the only thing that would make the Princess happy again?

Yes.  The Princess realized that yes, leaving was the only possible solution.  The Princess had to pack her pretty car with her pretty clothes and her cat, and the Princess had to flea the dungeon that she had been living in.  She unlocked the chains that kept her shackled to this farce of a marriage, and walked across the drawbridge to a different kingdom.

And she lived happily ever after.

 

Pre-Marital Counseling: Renovation

I am sort of obsessed with HGTV.  I an awed by the creativity and thought process of the design professionals.  They are able to see a vision in their head, and then make that idea come to life.  I am also intrigued by the interpersonal dynamic of the couples purchasing a home.  I like to see how they interact, compromise, and get through difficult situations.  Because of this,  I feel that pre-marriage counseling should be in the form of a home show.

It would start with the host/real estate agent giving the engaged couple some fake money in order to purchase a house.  The catch is- they give them 10% less than what houses can be purchased for in their desired neighborhood that match their exact criteria.   We then move on to Stage 1- short answers.

Step 1:What type of house does the couple want?  If they’re both  craftsman, they can move on to step 2.  If not:  Can a sleek contemporary marry a cozy Victorian?  Will she go crazy when he uses her doily as a dust rag?  Will he go crazy when his marble console table is overrun with frog statues?  Can a two story colonial be content with a ranch?

Step 2 Closet space.  Has one partner already claimed the master closet?  Has the other partner commented more than once about the number of shoes owned?

Step 3 Open concept.  How does partner A react when B says…”I know this looks like its a load bearing wall, but just imagine if this wall didn’t exist.  Look how open it would be!  How much could it cost to take down this wall?”

Step 4 The backyard.  Partner A says “How hard could it be to maintain a five acre, sloping yard?  Look how much room for entertaining.”  What does B think about mowing a hill?  And entertaining large crowds?

Step 5 Color.  “OMG look at that gorgeous shade of yellow in the living room!  I’ve always dreamt about living in a room that looks like the sun” says A.  B, dressed in black, thinks what?

So now the couple has completed the first stage of pre-marital counseling.  If they still want to get married, we move them onto Stage 2- the practical exam.

Step 1 Begin by making the couple share a single vanity bathroom for a week.  Frankly, if they can survive sharing a sink , they can face any obstacle life throws at them.

Step 2 Then let them renovate the bathroom together.  Have them remove toilet and trail toilet excess throughout house.  Have one partner accidentally break tub, the only thing they were keeping from the bathroom.  Let them miscalculate how much tile they need, and after laying it down, let them realize they are lacking tiles to complete job.  Then tell them tiles are now backordered for 8 weeks.

Step 3 Let them hire a contractor to fix kitchen.  Have contractor work for a week, enough time to take everything out, then have contractor not come back for two weeks.

This would be the end of stage two.  If the couple survived this, they are lucky enough to make it to Stage 3-timed reading.

Purchase five items of assemble yourself furniture, including a bookshelf that must be secured to a wall.  Leave them in middle of floor. Place instructions in front of them.  Give them one hour to complete.  Use of internet or phone a friend not allowed.

I firmly believe this form of pre-marital counseling would help you decide if your partner is indeed your soul mate.  If you could make it through this, you can survive anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love is Easy- Marriage is Hard

Today is my anniversary.  Sixteen years ago the husband and I stood under a flower strewn gazebo in a non-descript hotel in Vegas and exchanged vows.  And what a ride it has been.  This is not my first rodeo- I was previously married- but that obviously didn’t end well, so here’s some things I have garnered from my life experiences.  These are totally my opinions – not researched or scientific by any means.  And this is really not advice- it’s my thought and musings on the subject of marriage.

1) All marriage’s are different.  Do not judge anyone else’s union.  (To be clear, I am not talking about marriages that are marred by any kind of abuse- that is a subject I am not qualified, nor wish, to discuss) Every marriage is made up of two distinct individuals- how they choose to merge the two halves is entirely their business.  Do not judge. Do not give unsolicited advice.

2) Remember- you are married to an individual before all else.  Yes- there are always outside influences, but make sure you consider what is best for you and your spouse. (My friends Mother has been hinting that she wants to move in with my friend and her husband.  She loves her Mother, but knows there is no way her 28 year marriage could survive that)

3) When making decisions, compromise is always a good path to follow.  But sometimes, one person has to have their choice, even is their partner doesn’t entirely agree.  If no one ever gets exactly what they want, both people are going to be continually dissatisfied.  How do you think your life plays out if you feel like you compromised on every decision?

4) Choose your battles.  Is it really worth arguing about a duvet cover?  Stick to the things that are truly important to you.

5) It’s OK to go to bed angry.  Yes- I said it.  All fights can’t be fixed with an 11pm deadline.  Sometimes you need to think about something.  Sometimes you need to cool off.

6) Life is not tit for tat.  Things are not always fair.  I don’t mean that each half shouldn’t pull their weight in a relationship. Both partners must assume responsibility for all aspects are their lives- but sometimes one person has to take the lead.  If you’re tallying up hours worked, how strong is your relationship anyway?  Is that how you want to spend your time- “Hey- you only unloaded the dishwasher twice last week.  You owe me 1 1/2 unloads.

7) If you’re angry, consider taking a time out.  Five minutes in the corner could stop you from saying things you will regret the moment they come out.

8) Being a parent is stressful and hard.  Having children will not save a marriage in trouble.

9) Money is nice, and one needs it for basic survival- but just because you have money doesn’t insure happiness or a successful marriage.  It will insure a long and complicated divorce though.

10) Don’t compare your spouse to anyone else.  Ever.

11) In-laws.  I could write a book.  They are harder and more stressful than children.

As to my anniversary, the Husband and I will be going out to dinner.  Not something fancy- we will be getting cheeseburgers at a place I’ve wanted to try.  I think cheeseburgers are the best thing ever invented, and my goal is to try as many as possible over the course of my life.  This is romantic to me.  This  is special.  To me and the husband.  Others would disagree.

We will not be exchanging gifts.  I don’t need jewelry or an expensive trinket to mark the day.  I would rather allocate the funds to experiences- things that we can do throughout the year.  Instead of a pricey piece of jewelry, I would rather go to the theater, or take a couples cooking class, or do something that creates a memory.  Memories are more important to me.

It’s nice to highlight a special day.  But you need to create other special days in your married life.  Since our last anniversary, I remember our trying Sri Lankan food for the first time, and loving it.  I remember concert and plays.    Painting class and wine tasting.  Backgammon games and dart games.  Walks around Manhattan looking for wave sculptures.  Staring at sunsets.  And all sorts of other things.  Because being married means trying to make every day count- giving it your all.  Because being married takes work.  Because loving someone is easy- but living with them every single day, taking the good and the bad is hard.  And anything worthwhile is hard.