At lunch a few weeks ago, a new colleague was telling me about a book she was reading on divorce. Apparently, one of the things the marriage counselor/author found was that there was generally one simple little thing that festered in a relationship, a thing that somehow became the deal-breaker. Such as, one partner wanting to travel and explore, and the other just wanting to be a home-body and never go anywhere. As time passed, the traveling partner began to feel the confinement unbearable and from there, the whole thing would unravel. Strangely, post break-up, the home-body partner would suddenly begin traveling the world in a way that would rankle the ex even more. I don't know the name of the book. Not even sure I'm repeating this correctly, but then again, by this time it's third-hand.
The point is that there's an "If Only You Would" kind of thing that's happening, as in, If only you would travel with me, that can become the make-or-break. And apparently, asking this question of your partner, inquiring if there's something really important that your beloved wants and is not getting, can lead to a stronger relationship, provided it's something you're prepared to give. Interesting!
So this new colleague, when prompted by nosy you-know-who, said that her husband would probably say that in their case, the straw that would probably break the marriage-camel's back is her on-going resistance to cooking dinner every night. She works full-time, just doesn't have the inclination, just doesn't want to -- and it's something that matters to him. In her case (more nosy questions from me), the thing that would probably be the deal-breaker is his continued smoking and drinking, despite radical bypass surgery and near-death experience. Pretty serious stuff, right?
Naturally, because we were about to go away for the weekend, I stored this question up as potential excellent fodder for the road-trip, something deep we could delve into while wiling away the miles.
And naturally, with some trepidation. Because who knows what can of worms (or whoop-ass) I'd be opening with that question: my temper, my cleaning- and perfection-mania before people come over, my periodic total losses of my shit.
Truth is I can't think of a single deal-breaker with Joe. He's perfect. Honestly. Makes me laugh, he's foxy, driven, creative, loving, sweet, a good person through and through. Perfect. Truly.
But there we were, driving to his training camp in Santa Rosa, so I told the story and popped the question. And waited.
After a pause, he said, "the only thing I can think of is that damn bird shirt of yours. That's the ugliest thing you own, it looks terrible on you, and I hate it."
I was stunned.
Of all my flaws and foibles, the only thing he could think of as a deal-breaker was a shirt? My first response was pheeeeeeeew, I got off so easy on that one. Because seriously, I have some bad habits.
But then I realized, with a little sadness, that he was talking about a beloved blouse purchased at Anthropologie last year with birthday money, a blouse I always get compliments on (from other women, I realize), but a blouse I love.
If he hates it so much and thinks it looks that bad, I don't have a problem parting with it. Is that weird or weak or lame? Whatever, I don't care. If he thinks it looks bad, then that's enough for me.
Because really, when all is said and done, I couldn't care less about the shirt. And maybe now I can make him get rid of that sweatshirt I hate, or that particularly ugly old pair of pants.