Deb and Barb Have a 4-Way With Their Husbands
Colin: When I was approached by Deb and Barb about starting a four-way––and after the original misconception was dealt with––my mind reeled with what I should write about. It is easy to go the “aren’t men and women different” route, or the “why do women always...” tack, or even the “ isn’t that cute, she said whiffy instead of Wi-Fi”, but here’s where I want to go.
Phil, you and I have been extremely lucky with the women that we have pledged our lives to. Women who love and accept us for who we are and have eyes only for us (I’m not counting the time Deb accidentally grabbed your penis, Phil. Have to say, Barb has yet to reciprocate. In fact, she actually slammed her fingers in the car door to stop herself.) (…yup, for full story, click here and scroll down to Barbara's response...)
Here’s the thing: I love being married. Now, being married to Deb probably has a lot to do with it, but still. Since I was a young man, I have always wanted to get married and have a family. You might be surprised to learn that this was not an attractive trait in the dating world in the late 70ʼs early 80ʼs. I kept it suppressed, but it was always there. The only smart thing I did as a young man dating was to follow my instincts in this arena. I trusted that my DNA knew what I wanted. I had been in relationships with women I loved deeply, with women I kinda liked, and with women who apparently had day passes. Yet, no matter the depth of my feeling, I was never close to proposing or even entertaining the thought.
One week with Deb and I knew she was the one. It didn’t hit me like a thunderclap, I didn’t have a Eureka moment, I just knew. Like you know you are breathing. It felt right then and it certainly does now, 22 years later. Marriage was the making of me. I matured. I learned how to pull my weight in a relationship. I learned to cook and to clean (okay, how to “boy” clean. “Girl” clean involves making things sparkle … I mean, come on). I learned about the true meaning of husband and wife. It’s not intense passion every minute of every day, emotional turmoil, suffocating jealousy, wild sex everywhere (though I’m still willing to test that last part). It’s doing the crappy, mundane things in life without question because it helps out your partner or because it just has to be done. It’s sitting together watching So You Think You Can Dance and crying, not just because of the artistry, but also because you understand the passion and dedication needed to make something beautiful. It’s watching a little being you created grow into a person you admire and want to be with because of the right choices you made and in spite of the mistakes. It’s dealing with the tragedies and triumphs of life as a unit, not always saying the right things but always trying. It’s learning about being unselfish, or, at the very least, learning the right time to be selfish.
Sometimes it’s work and sometimes it’s nothing but play. It’s the little moments that surprise you like doing spring cleaning, dirty and sore, glancing at your mate in old clothes, sweating and swearing, and feeling your heart pound so hard you can’t think straight. Marriage never stifled me, or had me feeling trapped, or limited what I could do…. You know, those misconceptions that clueless singles throw out as truths. It freed me.
So thank you, Ms McGrath, for making “I do” the richest, most satisfying sentence I ever uttered. Dinner will be waiting for you when you get home.
Phil: You broke the bro code! Colin, I thought it was implicitly outlined in the code that we must never reveal our true feelings about married life under threat of having our man-cards suspended, or worse, revoked! What have you done, my friend?! What chaos will follow?... An admission that cuddling while watching The Devil Wears Prada for the umpteenth time has its merits? That his and hers mani-pedis are moments to be cherished? That spending hours perfecting a French manicure on your lady is challenging yet strangely enjoyable? That having the place to yourself isn't all that it's cracked up to be if she's not around?
All right, this could get us in deep trouble with the brotherhood, but here goes.
From the earliest age, I always wanted to have a girlfriend. Even before being ruled by raging teenage hormones, I liked the idea of a female in my life for the camaraderie, different insights, and maturity ... my own personal girl if you like. So unlike you, when I met Barbara, I didn't dawdle for a week figuring out that she was the one, I took a well-measured fifteen minutes to decide! Yup, a quarter of an hour is all it took to go from saying, “We should take it slow, keep it casual,” to declaring that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. While quite young at the time, I can assure you that it wasn't related to any kind of "premature" incident that one might succumb to at 18. It was a genuine and deeply committed, damn-the-consequences statement with no taking it back. Good thing she has felt the same way since.
I admit that it took me another 9 years to propose, but it wasn’t due to any sense of apprehension, but rather a belief that we would just progress naturally to marriage with nary a discussion, proposal, or planning; Barb set me straight on that pretty quickly and I stepped up. Luckily she said yes and I am the richer for it.
There are so many qualities I admire about Barbara from her beauty to her amazing empathy for strangers, but it's her knack for making lists that has made me who I am. She's a planner and an organizer and I'm not. She knows how to make lists and stick to an agenda. Her ability to bring things to the forefront and discuss important life issues has given us a beautiful home, two amazing daughters who can speak two languages, swim, dance, paint, ski and play instruments. Without her, my kids would be illiterate, talentless couch potatoes living in an overpriced rental condo.... Actually, without her there would be no kids and all those fine traits would apply to me!
But married life isn't always perfect and we all endure our share of disappointments. Which brings up another point. When Barb met me so long ago in my angst-ridden teens, I was quite the prolific songwriter having penned many tortured ballads about my many failed relationships. She's often asked me over the years for her own song and has been disappointed that none has been written. My answer has always been the same: those songs were unhappy tunes about healing or pleading to save a failed relationship. Since there is nothing broken or in need of healing in our lives the songs are unnecessary and would just ring hollow. Besides, I got the girl this time!
Yup, I like being married to Barb. And waking up everyday and seeing my own personal girl next to me never gets old.
Okay, that's enough. The damage is done, Colin. The cease and desist orders will be coming shortly asking us to burn our man-cards. But when I see you around the ceremonial bonfire, we'll be in good company with the rest of the happily married real men.
Deb: First of all, I will say after reading both my husband and Phil’s contribution, that we are two lucky women, Barb. But I think the key to our happy marriages lays not only in their love for us or our love for them, but in our mutual love. I know this because I see this in both our marriages all the time. But more than love, I think it is respect that wins the day in a marriage. I will not speak for you, Barb, from this point as you will have your own individual lovely point of view.
But I will speak for Colin and myself and our love.
People often say that it is the little things that break up a marriage and I would tend to agree. But in our case it is the little things that make our marriage soar. I will not sing my own praises here regards our marriage, as this is my love letter to Colin.
My husband does for me. As he spends his day doing all the many things he does, there is never a time where he fails to ask what he can do for me. And I will tell you that he has saved many a stressful day for me in doing so. Besides the fact that he makes me laugh all day long, thus lengthening my already happy life, he constantly reminds me that I am essential, not only in his world, but my own.
Ultimately, it is his love for my Mom and Dad and his Mom and their needs that has made me know what a person of selfless quality he is. He loves my Mom and Dad and cares for them as if he shares their history. And he loves his Mom more and more as he grows older knowing and appreciating the things she has done and sacrificed for him.
That is true love for me. That and his love for the boy.
His love for the boy would take us into an arena that I would not have time for here. As they say ... that’s another story.
All I know is that whenever he walks in the door, with groceries, with our dogs, home from a trip, or up in the morning, he rises from our bed with my heart in his hand, and I look at him and melt. And he looks at me as if he is seeing me for the first time. To be almost 57 and have your husband look at you like you are 21 and HOT is a feeling that frankly defies description. And the gorgeous part of it is that Cupid’s arrow strikes out of the blue for us, from the bad breath moments to the dressed to the nines. We still get that feeling. Mostly it can happen on any rainy Tuesday morning. And I feel it. With each passing year. More and more and more. God bless him, he loves me, and lordie do I love him.
Annie Lennox has said it for me many a night when I have danced alone in our living room missing him:
Cold is the color of crystal, the snow light
that falls from the heavenly skies.
Catch me and let me dive under
for I want to swim in the pools of your eyes.
I want to be with you
baby oh oh slip me inside of your heart.
And I do. And he does. But the two of us share a feeling and it comes from our mutual favourite film:
You are my lucky star
I saw you from afar
Two lovely eyes at me
They where gleaming
I was starstruck
You are my lucky charm
I'm lucky in your arms
You've opened Heaven's portal
Here on earth for this poor mortal
You are my lucky star...
... as I read this to my husband tonight, he came to me and kissed me huge. And I said through piles of tears, “Is it too corny, too much? ... Oh fuck it, I don’t care.”
They say that there is nothing more irresistible than a person who loves you … oh baby.
Barbara: Dear readers, I hope this isn’t all too much for you! I swear, when we asked the guys to 4-way with us, we weren’t expecting THIS!! We thought we’d get something funny, glib, a little cheeky, even subversive. Instead, we’ve been handed a gift so huge, I want to ask every long-term couple to write one letter to each other—just one real love letter.
I get it. Love is the most fraught of our emotions: so easy to fall into, so painful to lose, so beautiful when appreciated, so lonely when unreciprocated, so complicated when you start adding personal disappointments, ambition, needs, illness, ego, ego, EGO!
Here’s the thing surveys on marriages don’t tell you: if you’ve been through the wringer with someone––the good, the bad, the tragic, the ugly, the sublime––and come out of it on the other side, the depth of that love––as each of these stories illustrates so well––is positively epic. It’s not just the chemical connection, the romantic loveliness, the sex (wild or otherwise, Colin), the dinner mate, it’s something deep, relaxed, essential. It takes a loooong, circuitous journey to get to this point. And not everyone is up for it. And not everyone is into it. And certainly both of you have to want it; one can’t want it for both of you.
And after much consideration, I can honestly say that if I had to choose to live with a partner just for the sake of having someone there with whom to weather any and all storms, honestly, I’d rather go it alone. Alone is how I discovered who I really am, is how I found who I was meant to be, is how I learned to grow and bloom and think with clarity. If my partner was just a role-filler living here to get me through tough times or help me raise my kids, then he might as well be a leech sucking up my light and energy.
I’m not with Phil because he props my life up. No. I choose him. I choose him every day. And he chooses me every day. And he knows it, and I know it, and we both love that both of us knows it. Day after day after day.
Phil isn’t just my helpful partner (which he is in spades), he isn’t just my ear, my shoulder, my rock, my love … he lets me be who I need to be. He’s given me room to grow and explore and expand to fill my rightful space. Without all of that, I would certainly be half the woman I am today. With him, am I twice the woman I would otherwise be? Of course not. But I’m eternally grateful that I don’t have to test that theory.
Oh, and his story about telling me within fifteen minutes that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me? I was so smitten, so intoxicated with love, I never heard it. It wasn’t until our teenage daughter bugged him not that long ago for stories of our early relationship that he repeated it out loud. I was floored. Not only was I still waiting for that love song, but those romantic little stories from our past had gone MIA too. He’s not exactly the strong, silent type, but he definitely prefers to show his love for me through gesture, action, and physical affection. And that’s just the way I like it. But, as a lover of words, I’m also taking this blog-post and filing it under: Break Open in Case of Emergency.