It wasn’t until we were sitting on a bench on a beautiful, sunny March day in London’s Kensington Gardens, that Patrick and I had what I recall as being our first actual argument. Just under a year into our relationship, we took our first big vacation together. The details of the disagreement, of course, were beyond stupid: I didn’t like the way Patrick exchanged money. I thought he should exchange his money differently. More specifically, I thought he should exchange money the way I exchanged money, the way I had explained to him was the best way to exchange money.
I told you it was stupid. And it was our first day together in London. I had a whole week of being annoyed at money exchanges ahead of me.
Of course, it wasn’t about the money exchanges themselves, but about the fact that I felt like Patrick wasn’t listening to my valuable input about logistical minutiae. And I am the kind of person who feels like “my valuable input” roughly translates to “literally the only input you need.”
Which was something I had not realized about myself until I learned it on vacation with the man who would become my husband. Thank god, Patrick also realized something about himself on that vacation: that hanging out with a bossypants harboring a pathological need to be obeyed in matters of logistical minutiae wasn’t, for him, a relationship dealbreaker.
We laugh about it now. We even joked about it in our vows — these days, we don’t have many (any) occasions on which to exchange foreign currency, but we do regularly disagree on the best driving or public transportation routes. Patrick likes himself a leisurely ride through BFE on the way to his destination. I like myself a swift, no-nonsense journey between A and B.
And so, on the day, this is what we said:
Me: “I will follow you into the fire swamp. (And then I will find the most direct route for us out of the fire swamp.)”
Patrick: “I promise to try and avoid taking the long way when you are riding in the car.”
Flowery language, that isn’t. Love poetry? Not hardly. But when I read those words, my heart goes pitter-patter, not only with the memory of our wedding day, but with the knowledge that accommodating each other’s idiosyncrasies is woven into the figurative fabric of our marriage.
And I think it all goes back to us taking one of those exhausting, exploration-heavy vacations that makes you wish for a follow-up vacation on a beach somewhere. Which is not, generally, one of those things that “relationship experts” and shout-ily gendered glossy magazines tend to advocate as a way to put the spark back in your lives. They just tell you to go to the beach and bone all day.
I mean, I advocate going to the beach and boning all day. I do! But save that for your honeymoon. If you want to know what your marriage might look like, travel outside your comfort zone to a place where one of those two-bathtubs-on-a-sunset-hill-beach-mountainside setups is out of the question.
Travel somewhere that requires a map. You don’t have to go to Timbuktu; just somewhere neither of you qualifies as a tour guide. See what happens. See whether the fight on the park bench turns into seven days of squabbling. Think of it as travel-size cohabitation: maybe it takes months to get annoyed at a pile of dirty bras on the floor of a closet at home, but things like that accumulate quickly in a hotel room.
I look forward to the opportunity to get out of our respective comfort zones and into a place of discovery and newness. It’s like planning for a kid, but the vacation will never poop, say it hopes we die, or want to go to an out-of-state college.
Traveling with my husband is an exercise in compromise. We’re both only children, which means we came late to learning a certain kind of negotiating skill that I suspect people with siblings master early on. In planning our travel excursions, whether that’s to the state park for the weekend or to a wedding in Las Vegas, we’ve learned a kind of give-and-take that I hope will serve us well in the coming decades.
Patrick, for example, likes to go on long (like, five days long) road trips across the country. I want to fly to a picturesque locale and sit the fuck down with a drink. So for our next big trip? We’re going to Montana — flying — and roadtripping within the state, camping and horseback riding, with stops at picturesque locales with roofs and foundations for baths and beers.
I just hope those horses know how to follow my directions.
Email me at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.