5 Things I Wish My Wife Knew About Herself
Our whole relationship, I've been a wellspring of hemming and hawing, delay and consternation. Not Loren. When she's ready for something, it must happen now, and I love it even while I rarely keep up. It happens with major life choices—moves to major cities in the middle of crippling recessions; wonderful, spur-of-the-moment vacations we have no business taking—and filters down into our daily lives as well. Every time we leave the house together, she's ready well before me, standing by the door, pensive and adorably annoyed, bound in her coat. And her gloves. And hat. And scarf. ("I like to bank the heat," she says.) She doesn't know it, but in those moments I'll move even more slowly, take a few extra seconds tying each shoe, appreciating my wife's mild hostility for what it truly is: someone eager for our next moment together, who simply won't wait for it any longer.
2. She's nerdier than my nerdiest nerd friends.
My wife is a government policy analyst who thinks of herself as a C.J. Cregg-from-The West Wing-type. And that's accurate: She's a genius with resources who gets things done. But what she doesn't know is that she's also...well...a nerd. I should know. We smell our own.
When my wife and I got together, I was the one with the tattoo of '60s-era Spider-Man and smug opinions about Vonnegut. But she's definitely overtaken me as the fanatic of the duo. Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, hard-core kung fu flicks—she's gotten deep into all of it in a way I never could. And she's turned me on to new things I've come to love: the feminist sci-fi novels of Margaret Atwood, or the offbeat Frenchness of Jean-Pierre Jeunet films (which Loren was into way before Amélie blew up, just so we're clear).
The other night, while watching TV, she erupted into cackles after a musician on a show called his oboe "Oboe-Wan Kenobi." I almost gave her the talk right then—You're the biggest nerd I know, and I love you for it—but the moment and its joys were just too pure to ruin.
3. I imitate her to sound smart at parties.
I have my aptitudes, but nuts-and-bolts politics isn't among them. Which means that an embarrassing amount of my political opinions are adapted from rants Loren launches midway through watching roundtable discussions on This Week or Meet the Press. I listen closely as she tears into George Will's latest take on entitlements, or grows outraged at some stiff pundit's hypocrisy. She doesn't realize I'm preparing, bookmarking phrases and zingers to ready myself for moments I fear: when I'm a person at a party, cruelly without Loren beside me, expected to weigh in with nuance on the issues of the day.
"Wow, I haven't thought of that," someone will say about my (Loren's) brilliant opinion about the future of healthcare.
"Yeah," I'll think, "I haven't either."
4. She's mean to me in her sleep, and it's a huge help to us both.
Marriages endure stress. Ours is no different. But that stress can manifest in ways that work against a couple, causing the biggest worries to remain unsaid for too long. Loren's got a strange, secret escape valve for that frustration and worry: her sleep-talking, which turns stern and creepy during tougher times, a nocturnal alter ego that lets me know that, as a couple, we've lost our balance a bit.
"What are you doing," she'll hiss in her sleep when I sneak into bed at 2 a.m. (I'm a night owl). Or she'll reel off a low, sinister laugh that, early in our relationship, unnerved me to the core. But now I don't see her sleep-talking as buried hostility. It's a sign that I need to be more empathetic and attentive to whatever Loren's not showing during daylight hours, so that whatever our issues are, we remain kind to each other's concerns as we work hard to solve them.
5. She's not as impervious as she thinks. And that's a good thing.
A few years back, Loren took a job that seemed perfect but wasn't. Within a year, she took another perfect-seeming job, but the organization folded just after she arrived. Panicked, she took her third job in two years, a gig she didn't want that proved a bad fit immediately, and the constant career shifts and diminishing returns dented her spirits. She felt stuck for the first time. Her greatest asset—quick, solid decision-making—was neutralized by circumstance. Her sleep-talking started again. Only now, nothing I did helped.
Loren looks back on that time as one of grand failure, and maybe she needs to. But that's not what I see. The greatest rewards of marriage are the ones that come as a surprise, when this person you love so much, and have known so well, for so long, defies logic and reveals something new. And what I saw in Loren then was someone who took some hits, yes, but also had the bravery to shun her most trusted instincts, sit with vulnerability and, for the first time, solve a problem with what I thought she'd never rely on: patience.
The result? A new job built perfectly for her, and a return to the confident, quick decisionmaker she was before—the next steps of her career, and our life together, laid out before us in ways that are fun and exciting to discuss again.
And those details remain a secret we keep together, just for us.
Mike Scalise is the author of the memoir The Brand New Catastrophe.
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