June 2014

Line in the Sand:The Blame Game

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Barry Kaufman
The other day, bored out of my skull due to the endless lull between NHL playoffs and pre-season football, I started thinking about my two great loves: monster trucks and barbecued pork. In that vein, I’ve decided to go off-script and spend the remainder of this column talking about how great both are, with extensive sidebars on proper techniques for reeling in a bass, the implications of changes to Major League Baseball’s home-plate rules, why Hooters has the best cuisine and why I think Schwarzenegger should have won at least one Oscar by now (for Predator, naturally).

Okay. I can’t imagine that any women are reading this column past that paragraph. Gentlemen, our time is short, so read the following carefully.

I’m told this is the bridal issue, so odds are good if you’ve picked this up you’re in the process of planning a wedding. (I’m kidding, of course; if you are the groom you have no involvement with the planning whatsoever. Just look busy). Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials and I wish you the best.

But marriage is not an undertaking for the ill-prepared, and you do not want to enter into the binding and eternal contract of marriage without knowing the following immutable, unbreakable rule of marriage: If you want a happy marriage, after your wedding day, and for the rest of your life, know this: everything is always your fault. I don’t care what it is; it’s your fault.

If she sets fire to the kitchen, it is your fault. If she backs the car through the mailbox, it is your fault. If she leaves her dirty socks on the kitchen table, it is your fault. As the husband, it is always your job to determine your culpability in whatever happens and admit to it. And that’s okay. (If you have to ask why it’s always your fault, you’re already getting off to a bad start. Rational thought has no place in a happy marriage).

The most beautiful gardens come from the most torrential rains, and as such your marriage must, from time to time, enter a period that could only be described as openly hostile. There will be shouting, there will be accusations, there may even be a toaster hurled with malicious intent. These things will all be, but what will never be is a fight. Because a fight has a winner.

In marriage, there are simply these periods of hostility that must be muscled through. No one is keeping score. There’s no trophy for being right. And the minute you stop thinking about these periods in terms of wins and losses, and stop thinking of them as “fights,” your marriage becomes so much stronger.

And in my years of marriage, I’ve found that the treacherous path through these periods of hostility has a shortcut. There is absolutely no defense for a quick, hasty and semi-sincere acceptance of the blame. Which is why, if you want a happy marriage, everything is always your fault.

Look at it this way. Let’s go back to that dirty sock scenario (which I’d like to point out for my wife’s sake is entirely fictional and not based on real events). Your immediate reaction to finding a pair of her filthy socks just inches away from where you eat might be to point out to her how disgusting that is. If you’ve been married long enough, you may even consider retaliatory measures involving your own dirty socks and possibly her toothbrush.

But what have you accomplished? If she’s the type to leave dirty socks lying around, you’re not going to change that by nagging it away or by mirroring her behavior. If you make an issue out of it, all you’ll have done is made her feel guilty about her slovenliness, which serves you no purpose unless you’re a jerk. Plus, it will almost certainly prompt her to catalogue your many, many flaws.

Remember that World War I started with a single bullet. So it is with marriage. Dirty socks beget your filthy bathroom habits beget her annoying laugh beget your idiot friends and thus a pair of dirty socks have started a war. Just admit that it’s your fault for being so hung up on cleanliness. If you do anything else, all you’ve done is created an atmosphere of hostility. Trust me; something you do annoys her equally, if not more so.

To some of you, this will feel like surrender. That’s good. If it feels completely backward and counterintuitive, you’re doing it right. Remember what I said about rational thought. It is not to be trusted.

Once you’ve mastered the art of jumping on the blame grenade, it becomes like a cheat code for a happy marriage. Is she actually right all the time? Goodness no. But what do you gain by pointing it out? Just a longer period of hostility and a slightly cleaner kitchen table. Not worth it.

Just man up and take the blame. No one’s keeping score anyway.

And if my wife asks, you did NOT hear this from me.

Courtney Hampson
So, I’m watching an episode of House Hunters on HGTV, and the very lovely (if not odd) couple is looking for a house in Nashville that can accommodate—wait for it—his two pet turtles. Turtles being so large and unruly, this sounds like a real challenge. Luckily their made-for-TV realtor was nicer than I and helped them find just what they needed. As the couple settled into their new house, and splish-splashed in their spa tub (no joke) with the turtles, the husband shared, “I’m not working right now, but I do have hobbies.” When their relationship ends, I think we can safely blame this one on that guy.

Barry tells me that National Blame Someone Else Day is June 13. Alas! As you can imagine, I am as anxious as ever to celebrate this holiday which could likely edge out National Margarita Day as my favorite. But then buzz-kill-Barry ruined it for me when he suggested that we take it on the chin and talk about the things that are our fault. Whoa. Slow down buddy. I’m going to have to rack my brain to come up with something on topic.

June being the wedding issue, I volleyed back with a gentle, “How about we write about things we can blame on our spouses?” Being the gentleman and teddy bear that he is, Barry didn’t feel comfortable complaining about his wife in print. Hold on to this guy Meghan, you’ve got a winner!

So here we are. Since I’ve never actually been wrong, that I can remember, I’ll admit I procrastinated on this one. And then, pay dirt! A few days ago, my husband and I sat on a runway in Jamaica awaiting our flight to take off to Atlanta. As the minutes (all 90 of them) ticked by, my brain went into overdrive. Since we were flying in from out of the country our window to land, clear customs, get our luggage, re-check our luggage, go through security, and make it to terminal A, for our flight to Savannah, (from terminal T, where we were scheduled to land, of course) shrunk to near impossible.

Once we were finally in the air, we connected to WiFi, realized we were booked on the very last flight to Savannah from Atlanta, and our impending and near impossible task became a reality. So, instead of sitting back and enjoying our last three hours of vacation (with complimentary cocktails, in First Class), and ignoring the situation that was 100 percent out of my control, my brain went into overdrive.

Me: “There is no way I am sleeping at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Airport tonight.”
My husband: “I’ll rent a car and we’ll drive home.”
Me: “There is no way I am spending four hours in the car, after we spent three hours in the airport and another four and a half on this plane.”
My husband: “I’ll see if there is a flight into Savannah on another airline.”
Me: “I can’t believe I am going to spend my birthday sleeping in an airport hotel.”

And so it went—me becoming more and more stressed about the Amazing Race-esque task ahead of us, and my husband becoming more and more stressed about me becoming more and more stressed, because ultimately he knew that if we missed that flight, it would be his fault.

We ran. We made the flight. We didn’t fight. The relief on my husband’s face was evident.

I mean, this potential debacle could have been my fault, for deciding it would be fine to travel back from vacation on my birthday, and for insisting we book the latest flight home so we could have the longest amount of time to enjoy our last day.

When I come home and the water from the dog bowls is all over the kitchen floor, it is easier to blame my husband than the dogs. (Of course, it could be that I convinced him to adopt a second dog.)

Why is there coffee splatter all over the white backsplash? (I made the last cup.)

Who didn’t wipe their feet and tracked dirt all over the tile? (Sometimes I forget to take off my dirty sneaks after a run.)

Why didn’t the sprinklers go off? (I’m not trained in landscape maintenance.)

Why didn’t you give the dog his medicine? (My hands are apparently broken.)

What is all over the counter? (Um, my lunch?)

Why is there expired milk in the fridge? (Because I—the only one who drinks milk—didn’t throw it away.)
With only two people in the house, whoever identifies the issue first gets to blame the other. Unfortunately, my observation skills are a tad more astute than my husbands, so I usually attack first. But, there are two sides to every story. And, thankfully, opposites attract.

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