1. Do not tell people that you are my beloved until this has been fully discussed between us and official documents have been signed.
Likewise, do not update your relationship status on any social media app without the proper coordination. This is something that we should do together, whilst sipping wine and staring into each other’s shiny, happy eyes as we point and click. This is not something you do while I am away for the weekend attending a Fish Fry in a rural village that does not have Internet access.
(1.5: Do not complain about the number of Fish Fries that I attend. I’m from Oklahoma. It happens.)
2. Do not speak of past relationships for any measurable length of time or give any indication that it was an enjoyable experience.
Acceptable Example: “Chris and I once went to the Irish Festival and it rained the whole time.”
Death-Wish Example: “Chris and I spent an entire month in Tuscany and it was the best time I’ve ever had in my entire life and we made love every night in an ancient vineyard where Michelangelo used to sit and sketch grapes. And I still have a bottle of wine that we made out of those grapes and I drink from it every year and think of that wonderful summer.”
(2.5: Do not use Chris as a reference point for idealistic ways to conduct a relationship. It clearly did not work out or you wouldn’t have moved on to the next stop on the Love Metro.)
3. Do not leave undergarments in unauthorized locations for any noticeable period.
A pair of briefs thrown into the ceiling fan during a rousing game of slap and tickle is fine. Those same briefs circling around the ceiling fan in a holding pattern for an entire week can lead to a psychotic break. Put your damn panties in the clever wicker laundry hamper we bought just so you would have somewhere to put your panties.
(3.5: Stop changing the location of the wicker hamper. I’m not Dora and I’m not interested in exploring every time you get a wild hair.)
4. Do not ask me to suggest a dining or entertainment option and then completely ignore my answer.
If there is something specific that you want to do, just say what it is and let’s go on with life. Don’t ask me what we should do for dinner, forcing me to review in my head the various restaurants where we can both get something we like and I proffer up a compromise location, only for you to pretend like I haven’t said anything and then steer us toward where you wanted to go in the first place. Why must it be a patience-testing game? Tell me up front where you want to go and we’ll go there. God.
(4.5: Once we finally arrive at your destination after your pointless round of passive-aggressive manipulation, you’d best find something desirable on that menu within a reasonable amount of time. Do not stare listlessly at the options, weakly flipping pages in a dissatisfied manner for a good half hour. Doing so will lead to the police wrapping crime-scene tape around our booth.)
5. We do not have to do every single thing in life as a unit.
There will be times when I want to go off and do something for a few hours that you have no desire to do. And since you don’t like the activity, I don’t want you coming along and sighing out of apparent life-depleting boredom. My desire to spend a little time pursuing a personal interest does not mean that our relationship is on a train wreck to hell, that you should start looking for change-of-address cards, or that I am having rounds of orgiastic sex with a different Chris in a different vineyard in your beloved Italy. I just need some downtime weaving simple baskets in a convent where all the nuns have taken a vow of silence, that’s all.
(5.5: Stop complaining about the number of baskets in the house. Besides, this will give you plenty of options, should you ever get around to harvesting your long-flung undergarments.)
6. Even if you don’t understand my mystifying side interests, you should still respect those pursuits without the use of sarcasm or eye-rolling.
Suppose I like to collect pretty rocks. People do that. It’s not a sign of mental deficiency or conversion to a satan-based way of life. It’s just something to do, even if it means you are tripping over boxes of rocks that I haven’t touched since 1992. After all, I’ve never said a word about your endless crates of vintage 8-Track tapes that are testing the structural support of this house, despite the fact that we don’t even own an 8-Track tape player.
(6.5: It’s in your best interest to stop referring to my hobbies as “avoidance mechanisms”. I can come up with some fancy terms as well, especially when I’m talking to my divorce attorney. His name is Chris, by the way.)
7. You cannot make fun of more members of my family than I make fun of your family members.
It’s a very mentally-healthy thing for two people in love to have a chuckle or three over the indiscretions or outright stupidity of certain members of the interconnected clans. This is a supportive way for each of us to relieve familial stress without directly affecting the contents of any last will and testaments. But you don’t want to go too far. If one family tree starts getting more chops than the other, it’s inevitable that there will be a power shift in the relationship and suddenly people are going to bed without speaking.
(7.5: This rule does not apply when discussing my youngest brother. That redemption ship sailed long ago. Fair game.)
8. It’s okay if we don’t agree on the same TV programs.
Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal. If you want to watch The Adventures of the Runaway Crockpot and I don’t, it’s not an invalidation of your cultural choices or your status as a human being. It’s alright to like different things. You watch your little show and enjoy the hell out of it. I’ll head over to the convent and make some woven baskets with Sister Jedidiah and Sister Never-Touched. (We’re preparing for the Annual Jesus and Jute Craft Fair.) We can watch Survivor later and laugh at stupid people making bad choices.
(8.5: Stop erasing my programs on the DVR. One incident can be considered an accident. Secondary incidents are considered an act of war.)
9. If I make a fairly insipid mistake concerning a life decision or a trivia question, and this will happen, probably often, it will be discussed once, briefly, and then it will never be addressed again.
I am aware that you have a tendency to gloat and feel superior when proven right. You are aware that I share the same trait. This is probably why we got together in the first place, a shared need for validation that was nurtured by questionable childhoods and/or a genetic misfire of some sort. As such, it’s not a good idea for either of us to push the issue. You can have your five-minute victory dance and a limit of two smart-ass comments. After that, the situation is wrapped up, thrown in one of the boxes of rocks, and will never again see the light of day. Unless I need to use it as an example of spousal abuse in divorce court.
(9.5: I would appreciate it if your victory dances were not so exuberant. As discussed, the structural supports in this house are already weakened by decades of useless 8-track tapes.)
10. I must always be a beacon of beauty to you, regardless of how wrinkled or flabby I get, what I’m wearing, degree of hangover, or how I smell.
I never want to see that look leave your eyes. Even if my current appearance has shattered the bathroom mirror, terrified our pets, severely traumatized neighborhood children who stupidly chose to look in the front window, and caused the startled mailman to immediately seek therapy. The spark in your gaze must always burn bright.
(10.5: And the spark in my eyes will burn as well. Unless you keep messing with that DVR…)
Now, sign on the dotted line below and get somebody to notarize this thing. I’ve got some baskets to make and the Sisters have been texting me…
Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Bonnywood Manor”. Considerably revised and extended for this post.