This sage advice was offered to my husband, Steve–frequently–by his thesis partner Dean when we were both going to graduate school. Dean was a Marine Corps officer who epitomized the strong, silent type–a handy foil for my “say whatever comes to mind” husband. Dean and Steve spent so much time working together on their project that we began referring to Dean as Steve’s second wife.
(I realized that I’d actually become the second wife when, in the middle of a conversation Steve actually called me–wait for it–Dean. No, I did not kill him. Not only are we still together, I forgave the man enough to procreate with him. Twice.)
Dean is quoted frequently in this house, usually in a conversation that goes something like this:
One of us: “[Question?]”
The other one: “[Smart ass comment.] Oh, did I say that out loud?”
The first one: “Note to self: Keep inner dialogue, inner.”
Both: [maniacal laughter]
A few days ago, Steve sent me a link to a CNN article that quoted studies showing that couples who fight are actually healthier. “See, honey,” he pointed out, “I’m just trying to help you live longer!” My response, as always, was sarcastic.
We’ve always been like this. We started dating while we were plebes (freshmen) at the Naval Academy back in 1993, and the sarcasm and sniping was part of our relationship even then. We got engaged less than a year later, and then survived an almost 2 1/2 year engagement (since we couldn’t get married until we graduated) as midshipmen by giving each other a hard time. And beating each other up on Saturday mornings as hand-to-hand combat partners. It’s amazing how much frustration you can work out without a real fight while practicing a heel strike to the skull.
There are people who have known us who are amazed that we’re still speaking to each other after almost 13 years of marriage, let alone that we don’t have divorce attorneys on speed dial. While we were at graduate school, one of Steve’s classmates listened to us snipe at each other during lunch, and finally asked in amazement, “And you guys are friends?” Without missing a beat, we turned to him and said in unison, “No, we’re married,” and then went right back to the sniping. Another time, after a social function with the officers and spouses on one of his ships, one of Steve’s fellow officers asked him, “Hey, are you ok? Is everything alright with you and your wife?” Steve had no idea what he was talking about, but another officer–a classmate of ours at the Academy–burst out laughing and reassured the worried guy that what he’d seen at the social function was not signs of a disintegrating marriage. It was just how Steve and I are.
I guess I should be worried about it, but I’m not. People who know us well know we do just fine–and there’s never been a question of a divorce. In fact, that grad school classmate, once he really got to know Steve and I, actually invited us to his wedding (and since there were only about 20 people invited, I think that says something). And I’m not worried about the message we’re sending to our kids, either. There’s never any screaming, or real anger, or–god forbid–worse. It’s two people who like to rile the living heck out of each other, and laugh as we do it.
Sorry, Dean. That inner dialogue will never be inner.