Walter Matthau made a movie in 1967 called A Guide For The Married Man. He played Paul Manning, a businessman who one day realizes that his friend and neighbor, Ed (played by Robert Morse), has been repeatedly cheating on his wife. Paul talks to Ed about this and Ed takes it upon himself to “educate” Paul in the art of cheating, without getting caught.
Ed has no guilt whatsoever over his affairs. He’s a bad influence on Paul, who pretty soon starts noticing all the pretty women and opportunities around him, including a classy, beautiful woman who works in his office. As the movie progresses, Paul begins to follow Ed’s advice and lays the groundwork for his first extra-marital affair.
If you love the old bedroom farce comedies, you’ll want to see this movie. In which case, don’t read the next sentence… Spoiler Alert: at the end, Paul’s conscience keeps him from following through, Ed does get caught by a private detective his wife hired, and Paul rushes home to his loving wife and never thinks of cheating again.
I saw this movie on the classic movie channel during a particularly difficult stretch in my marriage. I loved my husband, but all we did was fight.
We argued about everything, nothing was too inconsequential. The more we fought, the easier it was to lose our tempers the next time. Each round of arguments came faster until finally, it seemed we couldn’t communicate in any other way.
I began to dislike him – strongly – and everything he did grated on my nerves. The way he played with his napkin, the habit he had of leaving the milk out, even the sound of his voice irritated me. I began to wonder what life would be like if I left my marriage.
What led to this sorry state in our relationship I don’t remember. I think I didn’t know even then; if you had asked me, I probably would’ve just listed my current grievances.
Anger is like that. You forget the trigger and concentrate on the wound. Anyway, this is when I saw Walter Matthau’s movie.
In the movie, Paul is advised by Ed to start fights with his wife, thus giving him an excuse to leave the house (wherein he can then go and meet his mistress without his wife suspecting the real reason he’s left home for the evening). So Paul starts to build a pattern of arguing with his wife, over every little thing.
Mystified, his wife seeks professional counsel. The counselor tells the wife not to argue. No matter what Paul says or what fight he tries to start, (the counselor advises) don’t do it.
That night the wife makes a martini for Paul (my memory is a bit fuzzy in this part, but you’ll get the gist). Paul barks at her that she should know he’d rather have a Manhattan. Instead of arguing, the wife gets her husband a Manhattan. Paul then complains about the Manhattan. The rest of the scene is along the same lines, with Paul trying to argue and his wife responding by being congenial. Paul’s unable to leave that night, and his plans are stymied.
I saw this scene and thought it made sense. Hubby and I had a pattern of fighting, and this seemed a way to break that pattern. So I followed the movie’s advice and stopped arguing.
I just stopped.
If necessary, I would leave the room, go to the bathroom, take a walk… whatever. But I broke the pattern. I’d like to tell you it worked instantaneously, but in truth it took a few weeks of teeth-gritting determination on my part.
It did work though. Our habit of fighting gave way to “egg-shell walking”. Which regained us respect for each other. Which then turned to “like”, and finally back to Love. I’m not exaggerating when I say that breaking that pattern turned our marriage from a bitter pill to a blessed union. We had our own love affair.
Nowadays, biophysicists tell us that our emotions create chemical pathways in our brain that, when repeated, become bigger and stronger, causing us to re-create and add more triggers that will lead us to those pathways.
In other words, we become addicted to our emotions.
We find more and more ways to be angry, sad, etc. Whatever our addictive emotion, we seek it out.
That certainly explains why Hubby and I couldn’t stop fighting. It also explains why breaking the pattern worked. You have to recognize and intentionally break those destructive neural pathways and replace them with new patterns.
Easier said than done.
God had this figured out a long time ago, when he advised us to recognize our anger, don’t ignore it, but also do not let it control you. Instead, shine His light on the subject, ask for his help, and allow Him to help you break that pattern.
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:26-27
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:7
I wasn’t a Christian at the time Hubby and I were in our destructive pattern. But God knows us – past, present, and future – and sometimes uses the most unlikely sources to bring His light into our lives and heal our wounds.
I’ve told others this story, and marriages were mended for at least two other couples that I know of, all because of that silly little movie. I wonder, is Walter Matthau sitting in heaven right now, himself amazed?
I’m not implying that all marriage problems can be fixed by this story. Far from it. Certainly there are some marriages that shouldn’t be. I’m no marriage counselor and I don’t claim to be.
But God is. And apparently, so was Walter Matthau.
My lawn guy showed up today and gave my lawn its first cut. When he cut my grass, he also cut all the crocus and squill growing in a big patch of the lawn.
I have multitudes of little bulbs in my garden beds and many hundreds more planted in the lawn. Thanks to the hard winter we just had, not many came up this year. I suspect they died. Most of the ones that made it don’t have blooms. I was just happy to see that some survived.
Only a quarter or less of my usual made it. Which for me means the lawn man mowed down something like 200 little plants.
The worst part about it is that bulbous plants use their foliage to photosynthesize and store that energy inside their bulb. That stored energy is what they use for all their life functions. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for a plant to bloom. Bulbs use their stored energy from the year before to come up and bloom the following spring. Then they extend their foliage even further after the bloom dies, replenishing their stores in their bulb, to tide them over until the next year. This is why we’re always advised to not cut the foliage off of our daffodils and such, but let them die back naturally. They’re storing energy.
My crocus were bloomless because they used too much of their stored energy just to survive our brutal winter. They didn’t have enough energy to bloom.
It was too cold, too long – the ground was too frozen, too deep – and most of them didn’t have enough stored energy to make it through. Those that did, really needed lots of energy gathering time this spring, if they had any hope of living through next winter and perhaps blooming and procreating next year.
I was willing to give them this time, letting them grow for weeks on end despite the grass surrounding them. My lawn man was not.
What will happen to them now? Even if they bounce back and grow some more, and the lawn man doesn’t mow them again (if I have to lie out there to prevent it, you better believe he won’t!), will they store enough to live through next winter? Who can tell? Only God knows that answer.
I went outside and cried over the massacre. The lawn man saw me and was very apologetic. I’d told him not to cut there and he had misunderstood.
To his credit, I realize he’s just trying to get a jump on the season, to make a living. Everyone’s got to make a living. If you ask me, his coming this early (when clearly no-one else is cutting their grass yet) is an act of greed. But I can’t really blame him for being overly opportunistic. It’s not like I’m immune to being opportunistic myself. Human nature being what it is.
No, I blame myself. You can say I’m making too much of it, but anyone that knows me is aware of my personal attachment to plants. I am not ashamed of my belief in their little souls! To me, they are every bit as much a part of the intelligent web of life as you and I are. And I feel like I let my little friends down. I didn’t watch the lawn man closely enough, or didn’t explain to him in terms he could understand (he doesn’t know what crocus foliage is, apparently).
My crying had as much to do with sorrow for myself as for my crocus. Crocus, you see, is my favorite flower. I wait eleven months every year to see them bloom for a few short weeks. I love to get up close and watch the bees hover in the tiny flowers. I even love their bare foliage. So, naturally, I have a stronger than normal attachment to these little plants. Of all the flowers in my garden, they are my most beloved.
I ran inside, threw myself on my bed, and had a good, long cry over the cut crocus. A friend of mine was unlucky enough to call me at the tail end of my crisis. She got an earful of my tears. Lucky her.
She also advised me to go back outside and tell my crocus (what was left of them) how I felt. Make amends, and let them know I loved them. So I did. It was good advice. A bit of closure.
I’m still sniffing as I write this, four hours after the fact. Probably will be wiping my tears off and on all evening. I prayed to God to save His little plants. I like to think he feels for all of his creation. Right down to the tiniest little crocus.
I look outside my window, and I can see storm clouds gathering, and the sound of thunder speaks from a distance. Perhaps God is crying too.
Aside from God, Hubby is the light of my life. He’s entertaining, lovable, kind, and intelligent. I think he’s just about perfect for me. But he’s also plain weird!
Are all guys like him? Or is it just mine? Since I grew up in a household of all women (Dad excluded… but he’s Dad, he doesn’t count, does he?), I really can’t say with any certainty that Hubby is the typical example of manhood. If he is, then we women must all be having a great laugh in the locker room, exchanging the funny antics that our devoted others have done.
Here’s some facts to back up my opinion:
We both made “bucket lists” one day. I sweated over mine. I listed things like – financial gains, see Switzerland, write another book, organize my whole house, learn another language, travel west with my sisters and see the redwood trees, and take another cruise.
Hubby sat and thought for quite a while before finally completing his very short bucket list:
1) Wash and wax car and take pictures of her.
2) Eat more tapioca pudding.
Then there were his 2013 Resolutions (which I recently found while cleaning files):
1) Cut down my lying to my wife by 33.333%, and
2) Spend my loose change (coins).
Now, it was my suggestion that he try to stop lying to me by at least a third, but he didn’t stop there…. at thebottom of his list he put an asterisk! It said, “Note: Resolutions are subject to change without notice.”
Another story… One night, Hubby and I were playing cards with the neighbor lady from next door. It was just the three of us and we were playing Rummy 500. If you’ve ever played Rummy 500, you know the object of the game is to keep playing hands until someone reaches the winning score, which is 500.
This particular night we started the game late, so Hubby, neighbor and I decided that we would each keep our own scores, but quit when someone reached 300. We each had a little piece of paper that we used and – verbally – compared our totals after each hand. The game ended when Hubby announced that he had won. It was a fun game and we all had a good time, so there were no hard feelings or anything, but when I collected the pieces of paper from everyone I couldn’t believe what his score card looked like. The neighbors score card and mine looked much the same. Here is my score card:
Here is Hubby’s:
Now I ask you, how does he even know he won? It was hilarious, and we all got a good laugh out of it.
I have a friend who once told me this story about her husband, which would kind of bear out my theory about the locker room antic exchange:
Her husband went up on the roof to clean something off. Once he was done, he didn’t have the nerve to come back down the ladder, so he sat down on the edge of the roof and called for her. She came out, appraised the situation and asked what she could do to help.
“Get me a beer,” he said.
So my friend went and fetched him a beer. She went far enough up the ladder to hand it to him, then came back down and watched him drink it.
He said, “I think I need another one.”
So my friend fetched him a second beer and watched him drink that. Then her husband sat there for a bit, and finally said, “I think I can do it now.” And down the ladder he came.
This was the same husband that accidentally nailed himself shut in the attic one day, and then yelled for her to hurry and get the neighbor to help him get out, because he had to go to the bathroom. (Just for the record… this friend is okay with the sharing of this story).
Hubby is such an entertaining part of my life that I felt he deserved an award of some kind. So for Valentine’s Day this year, I agreed to let him post the picture of his first girlfriend on our fridge. Her name was Sabrina. Here is her picture:
What about all of you? Are there any women out there anxious to share some funny antics that their husbands have done?
Oh yeah, and about that 33.333%. I am happy to report that Hubby has kept that resolution. Sort of. He now lies to me, gets a funny look on his face (because he knows I know he’s lying), and then changes his story to the truth.
Men. Gotta love ’em.