Skip to content

Spousal Grousing

Standing at the altar, everything looks easy. The groom is impeccably groomed, flashing his best manners, and, while he may very well be thinking about the game, his eyes are on you. A decade later, though — when the caterer’s gone, the finery is shelved, and you’re deep in the bog of intimate cohabitation — spousehood can begin to chafe. And grate. And rankle.

Even if you have the best husband in the solar system — in fact, you don’t, because I do — you might be surprised to discover that he has an infantile fear of ants, an unnerving fancy for circus posters, and an inability to smell rotting trash from two lousy paces.

The truth is you never really know someone ’til you’ve shared a toothbrush-holder with him. Since the day we said “I do,” I’ve learned countless surprising things about my husband. I always knew that he’d never intentionally hurt my feelings — but I didn’t know how often he’d do it unintentionally by failing to notice a haircut or ask me, “What did the doctor say?” And I could never have guessed that the attentive boyfriend who made an embarrassing fuss over my half-birthday would become the distracted husband who asks, “It’s Mother’s Day? Again?!”

From wifely gripes like these springs Santa Barbara author Jenna McCarthy’s new book, If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living With and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married.

Launching this Tuesday, October 4, the book enumerates the many topics over which couples bicker, from sleeping and driving to cooking and gift-giving. (Her fella once gave her a headlamp as a birthday gift for “when you go kayaking into caves or spelunking.” Yes. Yes, he did.)

“When you were dating, there wasn’t all that much to argue about,” Jenna writes. “But when couples try to share one electric bill, they turn into a pair of Japanese fighting fish, those colorful, carnival-prize favorites that come one to a bowl for a simple reason: If you put two in there, they will immediately try to rip each other’s gills off.”

The book includes hilarious confessions from other women about their misters’ maddening habits: “My husband has to shake his foot or leg to fall asleep, every night. It makes it impossible to read in bed without feeling nauseous.”

Are some of the grievances petty? Snarky? Even (gasp) bitchy? You bet. Even Jenna, who’s a close friend of mine, feels a little guilty about telling the world that her hubby is a whiny wuss when he gets a head cold.

“It’s so easy to fixate on the handful of things your partner does that annoy you,” admits Jenna, who writes for Self, Parents, and iVillage and used to cohost The Early Show on KTYD radio (remember Matt, Jenna, and Hayseed?). “But when you read a few hundred stories of what you could be living with, you realize you’ve got it pretty damned good. Did you know that there are guys out there who routinely pick their noses, pluck out their own back hairs when they’re watching TV, and pick up table crumbs with their licked fingertips in restaurants? Suddenly, the fact that my husband has to have the car windows down regardless of the atmospheric conditions, and occasionally asks me to show him my boobs, doesn’t seem so bad.”

And what of women’s vexing ways? Surely Jenna’s husband — and mine, and yours — could fill their own books with complaints of their nagging, neatnik wives ….

“He threatens to do it all the time,” says Jenna, “so I already came up with a title for him: What Were You Thinking? Living With and Loving the Diet Coke–Addicted, Shoe-Obsessed, Never-Shuts-Up Woman You Married.

Published inColumns

Comments are closed.