The political season is heating up. John was in love with politics. He’d stay up all night after the polls closed to find out who won an election. He loved election parties, so he and his cohorts could pore over precinct charts, writing down the latest numbers as they were reported to the county, predicting and analyzing all night long. I think he loved the presidential election of 2000 most of all, with its hanging chads and month-long drama, that finally resulted in a win for George W. Bush over Al Gore. He was a student of politics, and quickly got over the fact that his guy didn’t win. He simply began analyzing how his guy lost, and started planning for next time.
At first, I would go to election parties with him, but it quickly dawned on me that I hated it all. I couldn’t understand how he could work so hard for a candidate or an idea and then just shrug it off. He didn’t treat the Vikings’ games that way. He’d mope over a lost football game for a week! And he didn’t even have a vote there.
It soon became our practice that he would stay home with me until the polls closed, and then rush off to meet his fellow political aficionados. I’d go to bed, read my book, get a good night’s sleep, content to read the election results in the newspaper the next morning.
It seems funny that something as ordinary as an election could become an irritant in a marriage, but I nearly let it be. As a newlywed, I simply had no idea how to reconcile our personality differences. And it was usually a difference that, in the scheme of things, was not that important.
For instance, gifts. I wanted romantic, he wanted practical. And that was about gifts for me. He’d give me a kitchen knife, when what I wanted was a necklace. I’d stew and stew over it. When it came to my gifts to him, he was infuriating. I’d plan and plan, and finally buy something for his birthday or Christmas or Father’s Day. But a few days prior to the occasion, he’d go out and buy something he wanted for himself. We finally partially resolved the gift problem. He never went anywhere except a jewelry store to buy me a gift, and he promised not to buy himself anything for a couple weeks before the big day. One problem did remain, though. If you gave him a gift, unless it was something he could wear right away, he just kept it, unused, sometimes still in the package, in the back of his closet. Once he saved a watch I gave him for five years, until they told him his old watch couldn’t be fixed. Trouble is, he’d forgotten about the watch I gave him and bought a new one for himself. I made him take it back. I never did learn, and neither did our kids.
When you get married, these aren’t the problems that your parents and other adult advisors ever tell you about. You won’t even read about them in magazines. Those sources dwell on the huge things, half of which never happen. And what you really need to know is how to handle the little things—socks on the floor, milk left out, misplacing the car keys, spending a buck on a soda when you could just drink water. Someone should write a book. The future of marriage could depend on it!