Choosing The Right Mate Is A Big Deal

 Choosing the right mate can make or break your life.  How do I know that?  I’m married over four decades, I’m a practicing psychotherapist for the same amount of time, and I know what I’m talking about.  Here are my observations I tell every woman I know: Pick an honest mate with a humorous disposition and you will be blessed whatever the fates allow.  But, pick a mate with a sour disposition without a sense of humor and you’ll pray daily for a sudden death by lightning.

I picked a humorous mate.  

My husband and I first met riding together in a crowded elevator.  Being in our early 20’s we immediately fell into the category of luck and hormones.  Basically, I was drawn to him.  So, without hesitation, I reached out and spontaneously grabbed his manly hand and blurted out, “Wow, you have really cold hands!”  (You see, I’m a great believer in breaking those rules of elevator propriety which state be silent, stare straight ahead, and keep your hands to yourself.)  That very afternoon, leaning on the office coffee machine, he smiled a sexy grin and told me he thought I was fast.  Ha ha! on him.

Sometime after the elevator encounter we drove to the Jersey Shore.  That’s when my date, Dick, and his entertaining side busted out at the Surf City Hotel bar with him singing over Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass “This Guy’s in Love with You.” After some enthusiastic applause from the flip-flop and baseball cap-wearing crowd, I thought to myself, does this man’s charming side qualify him for a place on “The Potential Husband List”?  Maybe, but it was better I noticed he was polite to my widowed mother, who, before him, called every guy I dated by the wrong name.

Four years and two kids later, hearing him sing “The wheels on the bus go round and round” became my aphrodisiac.  And, besides being a decent singer, my old boyfriend turned husband was clever, encouraging me nightly to keep nursing the kids because “mother’s milk is so good for babies!”  Yea, yea I would nod and smile as he fell back to sleep.

But is it enough to sustain a marriage when a man is a hoot or clever or Matthew McConaughey?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but humor sure helps when a couple runs into a rough patch with those typical power struggles that most relationships deal with sooner or later because to grow as a person and as a couple issues will occur; it’s the nature of the beast.  

When our control issues occurred we took ourselves into counseling.  It was a good decision.  However, after the third session I realized we’d chosen the man on the moon for a counselor.  My control issues appropriately resurfaced when I gave my husband the eye and the therapist the kiss-off. “Doc, we’re cutting this last session short.”  That remark from me resurrected something in my husband - his humor returned.

Walking to our car my husband grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Mare, I didn’t want to go to counseling in the first place and I didn’t like Doctor McClueless in the second place; besides, you’re my favorite therapist.”  There was that sexy grin again and with that smile he began formulating a new plan for us to manage our stress, anger, and control issues. “What do you say we buy a small sail boat to decompress in?”

A week later we began sailing on the tranquil Jersey Bay.  Being trapped in a nice small boat gave me a great opportunity to perfect the dreaded sport men hate and women love – “talking about our feelings and our relationship.”  But, guys, what man wouldn’t choose sailing under an open sky off Long Beach Island, no matter what the conversation, versus being trapped in a closed car with a wife with a “this is what you didn’t do right” agenda?  Have I not found a universal man secret here?  And as we women are “occasionally” inclined to do, I took advantage of the situation and threw Capt America a compliment about what a great sailor he was.

The compliment was barely off my tongue when a fierce wind out of nowhere whipped up causing the bay to whitecap wildly.  My husband wanted to immediately lower the sails before we swamped so after stabilizing my balance I sprung into action and grabbed the tiller - how hard could that little job be? “Mary Jane!” my husband’s voice shouted out over what were becoming gale force gusts. “Could you point the boat into the wind?” Huh?  Like the Biblical Lot’s wife, I turned to salt as I raised my eyes heavenward and shut down emotionally.  That was not the response my husband was hoping for.

Before my eyes this seasoned sailor then morphed into Charlie, the savant brother Raymond from the movie Rain Man, “Into the wind, into the wind, into the wind.” Louder and louder he yelled to his lame crew – me. “Mary Jane, I can’t lower the sails unless the boat’s pointed into the wind!”  But, what I needed him to tell me was actually how to do it because I couldn’t see the wind so how could he?   Besides, pointing a little wooden stick in the direction I wanted that dumbass boat to go didn’t work because ‘pushing the tiller right, the boat went left; pushing the tiller left, the boat went right’ made absolutely no sense.  

“Mary Jane, are you listening to me?”  Like a circus act we went around-and-around in a circle with our sails and mouths flapping like aggressive Canadian geese. That’s when I looked up and realized we were being watched from a nearby dock like dolphins had just been spotted, the free entertainment de jour.   And that’s when my husband shouted out loud enough to have been heard in Atlantic City, “Are you doing this just to make me mad?”  

I tried to control my emotions and I didn’t pout because that’s for wussies.  And I didn’t hit him because that’s spouse abuse.  And I didn’t bail out because that’s for quitters and, besides, it was much too far to swim ashore.  My jaw clenched as I spontaneously rejected what I thought I had learned in counseling about not having to always be in control. “I’ll work the tiller and you work those blankety-blank sails!”  

Eventually we docked and walked to a little local pub. Between sips of two icy Buds we smiled at each other, started laughing at our “regressed behavior” and agreed we’d do a better job the next time with the sloop John B.

 Yes, the man’s a joker, and everyone gets a kick out of him, especially me, because I know it’s the way this funny guy demonstrates his affection for those he loves.  And yes, for sure, I don’t always know what to do no matter how many years I’ve worked as a therapist or lived as a married woman.  But I do know I made the right decision choosing that tall hot guy with cold hands on the elevator as my husband.  

In fact, the other night I made him a promise that should we ever find ourselves riding in an elevator or tossed about again in another sailboat, I’ll remember only his good qualities of humor and honesty and affectionately reach out for his manly hands all over again.


Published June 24, 2015 in The Sandpaper