You might not know it if you met me on the street, worked with me in an office, or read my blog posts, but I’m an introvert. Going to parties and bars make me sweaty, public speaking requires a lot of pre-speech pacing and pump up talks, and I always seem to make introductions and goodbyes a little more awkward then they should be.
Socially, my happy place is with my wife – the one person who I’m no longer afraid to be myself. However, the comfort I enjoy with Jenny took a seriously long-time to cultivate. I can remember being petrified to talk to her about all sorts of “really big deals.” Deep talks like, “I don’t want to go to that Ryan Adams concert this weekend,” or “all the pillows on the bed freak me out,” or “those photos of you with your prom date have got to go!” To build up the skills to talk to my girlfriend, I saw a counselor/psychiatrist to help me get out of my shell and communicate my wants and needs for the relationship. The counseling sessions were hugely beneficial and without them, I probably would have tanked my relationship with Jenny and ended up with somebody like Giselle Bunchen who would make me get horrible haircuts and wear big ass Super Bowl rings. Thank god I learned how to “talk.”
At 39, my confidence is sky high when it comes to talking about “serious things” with my wife. We’ve been together for 14 years, with 8 of those years spent working on a business together. Anyone who has worked with their significant other on a project like cleaning the house or landscaping the yard, will know that working together on ANYTHING (without killing each other) is seriously challenging. Therefore, our 8 years of working together is more similar to 23 years of a regular relationship – *see below for calculation. This is all said to convey my confidence that I know how to communicate with my significant other. As you will soon see, there is a fine line between confidence and cowardice…
This past weekend, I went on a three-day kayaking and camping trip with my brother and some childhood buddies down the Potomac River. In spite of the rainy weather, the trip was a blast – no crying kids, no responsibilities other than keeping our boats afloat, and the whiskey poured and no wives to have to report to. However, as any good husband knows, before taking off on a debaucherous (any trip without kids qualifies as debaucherous) trip with the guys, you need to get permission from the Government. No, I’m not talking about the Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Justice (although both should be informed of most “guy’s trips”), the Government I’m talking about is the one that always exceeds its budget, collects the highest taxes and has ultimate veto authority, otherwise known as your WIFE!
If you don’t have a wife, you won’t be familiar with the approval process for taking part in a camping trip. Like any bureaucratic institution, there are rules and processes to follow. You can’t just get a text from a friend that says, “hey dude, wanna go camping on Sept 7th?” and then immediately ask your wife, “can I go camping with the guys on Sept 7th?” Doing so will elicit a response from your Government with such Shock and Awe that you will never see the woods again…
“WHO’S GOING TO WATCH THE KIDS!?”
“YOU JUST WENT CAMPING WITH THE GUYS, 4.5 MONTHS AGO!”
“I HAVEN’T TAKEN A GIRLS TRIP IN 6 YEARS!”
“<BLANK> (insert name of your drunk friend) BETTER NOT BE GOING!”
“I THINK THE 7th OF SEPTEMBER IS WHEN WE WERE GOING TO GO TO THAT ARTS & CRAFTS FALL FESTIVAL THAT WE HAD SOOOOO MUCH FUN AT LAST YEAR!”
Unless you want to find yourself making stupid pumpkin hats with the kids, rather than drinking rye on the river with the boys, here’s what you do.
First, you check the family calendar and ensure absolutely nothing is scheduled for the 7th. Assuming it’s clear, you then proceed with a little intelligence gathering – “hey honey, do we have anything planned on the 7th?” However, be ready to respond like Jason Bourne grabbing a desk lamp to choke out an assassin, because you DAMN WELL KNOW that this next question is coming for you, “the 7th? What do YOU want to do on the 7th?”
DON’T MENTION ANYTHING ABOUT THE CAMPING TRIP! The correct reply is, “oh, nothing, some of the guys are talking about this thing, but I told them I wasn’t interested.” The key here is not to show interest. Once your Government senses interest, they will know that their regulations haven’t been strict enough and send out Seal Team 6 to put your ass back in line. Once you’ve got the written (calendar) and verbal clearance that NOTHING is going on that weekend, let it go for at least two days, but three or four is better. Doing so will give you time – time to clean the house, change all the diapers, not burp at the dinner table, shave and wear collared shirts, and generally do anything else that will please your Government. During this time, the friends you have who aren’t married will pressure you endlessly over text, saying things like, “don’t be a <insert vulgar term>, “you’ve got no pimp hand” or “let’s go!” Be strong with them and don’t proceed to the final step too quickly.
After pleasing your wife for days and saying things like, “sweetie, have you ever thought about scheduling a trip with the girls to go to Sedona” (you don’t really want her to go to Sedona and leave the kids with you, but you want to be sure that quid pro quo has been offered), only now are you ready…
After you have put the kids to bed, after you cleaned up the dishes, after you put the toilet seat down, you put on your serious face and enter the Capitol for your Congressional Inquiry.
“Hey sweetie, can we talk about something? Remember when I told you that Geoff was in the hospital like 3 years ago? Well, the guys were planning a camping trip on Sept 7th to celebrate him being out of the hospital. My brother is also going on the trip and it’s going to be a birthday present for him that I go. Everyone has committed to the trip already and since I have all of the tents and sleeping bags, they really need me to go too. I know I just went camping with the guys 4.5 months ago, but I don’t want to let my brother, Geoff and the rest of the guys down because the trip can’t happen without me. Since we don’t have anything going on over the 7th, would it be ok if I went too? I’ll come home as soon as possible on that Sunday and take the kids rather than watching the first week of the NFL season. You should also get that Sedona trip planned with the girls – here’s my credit card. Would it be ok then if I tell the guys that I’m most likely, probably, definitely in?”
I’d like to think that my conversation with Jenny didn’t involve as many excuses as this somewhat, kinda, sorta true (maybe) scenario that I have presented above. The fact of the matter is, even after 29 years of experience in talking with my wife, I still find it difficult to ask for a weekend off with the guys. Maybe I’m super lucky, but Jenny is always very supportive of my pursuits and she usually doesn’t give me a hard time when I want to go camping, skiing, mountain biking, bachelor partying, or sporting eventing with my friends. Even with this support, I still struggle with “the ask” and the guilt that comes with.
Years of counseling, reading, meditation, and self-improving have shown me that I am the only governor of my feelings and emotions. The origination of my guilt doesn’t come from my wife, it comes from me.
Why then do I feel guilty every time I want to leave my wonderful wife alone with our children? Yes, a portion of the guilt is knowing that she has to handle the little lunatics all on her own, but the larger percentage of the guilt is rooted in fairness. At risk of destroying all future hope of going on a “guy’s trip” again, I’ll say it – there is no quid pro quo between wives and husbands and the number of “solo trips” each take. Maybe other wives take tons of trips hiking the Appalachian Trail or shredding the slopes with their girlfriends, but I don’t think my wife is the exception.
I really, truly, WANT her to take some time for herself and get out of town with the girls (or by herself). It’s not that she doesn’t want to, it’s that she always puts herself second, third, or last and judging by the level of interest from her girlfriends for such trips, I’m guessing they put themselves last as well. In my non-expert opinion, women are amazing at taking care of others, but they’re not the best at taking care of themselves (as it pertains to weekend trips). As for men, we take trips like Rocky, we knock em out.
This is a “problem” I plan to help my wife with. If my problem-solving abilities are anything like my talking abilities, she’ll be knocking out trips in no time.
For all the wives out there, if you want to go to Sedona and need approval from your husband, feel free to use me as an excuse. After you’ve cleaned the house and put the kids to bed (which won’t be anything out of the ordinary to your husband), you might want to say something like, “hey honey, Dan isn’t going to be able to take another guy’s trip until his wife takes a trip of her own. I really don’t want to, but can I go to Sedona with her?”
*In a “normal” relationship, you will see your significant other for 2,088 total hours within the year. This calculation assumes 1 hour of “sight time” in the morning, 5 hours in the evening, 34 hours on the weekend and -3 hours for weekly golf / mtn biking / shopping / etc. Further assumption of 238 hours of sight time during 2 weeks of vacation time.
When working with your significant other, 17 hours of daily sight time is consumed. Less the solo time (bathroom breaks not included), the total hours of annual sight time is 6,032 hours. Therefore 6,032 / 2,088 = 2.88 (repeating). 8 years X 2.88 (repeating) = 23 years + 6 years of non-working together time = 29 amazing bliss filled years with my girlfriend/wife.
Photo credit goes to Cheyne. Whiskey model is Geoff.