August 18, 2010

Awkward Marriage Moments

It was our first holiday as a married couple, and my husband, Nick, was walking into the kitchen at my parents' annual Christmas Eve party. He had a plate of food in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, and he lost his footing on the step and, well, splat. I should add that Nick is 6-foot-3 and about 220 pounds, so when he went down, the festivities came to a screeching halt. Nick bounced right up and laughed it off, but the awkwardness - and the image of him splayed out next to my mother's life-size drummer boys - lingered. It was the first time I ever felt embarrassed by my husband.

In the six years since, I've had plenty of these out-of-body, who-is-this-person-I'm-spending-my-life-with moments. Lest you think I'm cruel, I am sure his list of such moments would be even longer, and undoubtedly include doozies like, "When I see Erin tuck her postbaby belly flab into her underwear, I think, Dayum, that ain't right."

Sure, these embarrassing/ridiculous/pathetic encounters (which nobody talks about, but everyone has) chip away at some of the allure in a marriage, but they also reinforce just how intimate that bond is: Your husband knows and sees things no one else does, and he's probably unfazed by 99 percent of it. Feeling like a stranger in your relationship from time to time isn't strange at all - it's the stuff real-deal couples are made of. And often, as I learned from grilling dozens of them, it's kind of hilarious. Enjoy their stories, and prepare to feel, well, awkward.

Aging unbeautifully
When Michelle,* 34, met her 15-years-older husband, she thought the age gap was sexy. Now he's almost 50 - and it's beginning to show. "The other day, the refrigerator door alarm went off for like two minutes, and he didn't budge," she says. "I was like, Oh, my God, does he not hear that?! Uh oh ... " For the first time, she started to think of him as an old man. Fortunately, when she caught a glimpse of him dancing crazily with their kids later that night, she remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place, "rapidly multiplying gray hairs" and all.

A friend of mine who's gained some weight since her wedding a few years ago recently got stuck in her Spanx, and her husband literally had to peel them off her. "Slowly, every layer of my body - layers I keep hidden from everyone - was spilling out over the material, and there was nothing we could do but laugh," she says. "But later he told me I really shouldn't wear things I can't get in and out of myself, which I suppose is true!"

Is this gift returnable? Is my husband?
The year her husband got her a bike for Christmas, Tara, 31, cried - in front of her in-laws. "I'm a runner. I run every day. It's a huge part of who I am. So when my husband walked in with a bike, I was just overcome with this feeling that he didn't really know me," she explains. "And worse, I worried that he never would. I felt bad for upsetting him, but I had to ask where the idea came from." Turns out Tara's husband had recalled the two of them watching a commercial with a couple riding bikes, and, allegedly, Tara had said, "We should start riding bikes together." Aww. "It was such a great story and showed how much thought he'd put into the gift," says Tara. "But what's funny is that while I do remember seeing the commercial, I don't remember saying that! I didn't use the bike until the next summer, when I did a 45-mile ride with coworkers for charity. It was awesome. But sadly, that was the first and last time it's been ridden."

On our anniversary a few years back, my husband disappeared to run a few errands. Shortly after he returned, he casually said, "Oh, yeah, I have your present. Let me find it." When I opened the box and saw a so-not-my-taste, blinged-out horseshoe necklace, my first thought was, Have we met?! My second thought: Dude, I know you bought this an hour ago, so maybe it won't hurt your feelings if I tell you I'll never wear it. Of course, I feigned gratitude (I didn't want to ruin our day), but I knew we'd have to have The Talk, where I'd tell him that if he's going to duck out on a holiday to buy me cheesy, meaningless, overpriced mall jewelry (I saw the receipt - it cost $400!), I'd rather he just ... not.

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