The Quirks of Marriage This Emotional Life - PBS

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   Brenna Berger

Brenna Berger's Bio

Brenna Berger is a Brenna Berger is a freelance writer and military community volunteer.

The Quirks of Marriage


I’m not a particularly superstitious person. Black cats don’t bother me. I’ll walk under a ladder and toss a broken mirror in the trashcan. But the thought of addressing the most important relationship in my life—my marriage—has me tossing salt over my shoulder.


I always cringe when I hear a couple’s marriage described as perfect. It seems like fifteen seconds after a famous Hollywood couple is described that way, the news of their split is all over Twitter. And it’s not just celebrities. There aren’t a lot of things I know for sure, but I do know if your spouse comes home and tells you that he’s signed you up to be on a reality TV show, it’s time to call a lawyer because you know it’s not going to end well.


For those reasons, I’m hesitant to share too much of my marriage with others, including my friends and family. There is something to be said for keeping some things private. Looking for intimate details of our sex life?  Move along, nothing to see here. Want a nitpicky list of every thing he does that drives me crazy?  What purpose would that serve? Call me old fashioned, but I think it erodes a couple’s intimacy when the entire village knows everything.


But still, my husband and I have been married for almost fourteen years and I’m pretty proud we’re still standing, considering he’s been deployed overseas for a significant part of the past decade. I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy to maintain a relationship via an occasional email or a ten-minute morale call. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that many military marriages are in rough shape these days.


So what’s our secret? As boring as it sounds, we like each other and enjoy being together. However, like most long-term couples, we do have a few of our own quirks:


1. Bergerlish as a Second Language. If you were to read any of our emails, you’d probably be pretty confused. Our notes are full of acronyms that mean something to us and are gibberish to anyone else. GRA?  It means one of the kids did something special. BCR?  I’ll let you in on this one: Black Cadillac Ranch. It’s the name I’ve given our soon-to-be home. After nine houses in ten years, I told my husband that once we finally bought our own house, the only way I would leave it was in the back of a black Cadillac hearse. SBR?  This is the one that started it all and if I told you the meaning, I’d have to kill you. We even have those letters on a bookcase in the living room, which drives our kids crazy! We told them we’d disclose the meaning in the will. Maybe.

2. Rock, Paper, Scissors. Hands down, it’s our go-to method of conflict resolution. Can’t agree on what’s for dinner? Whose turn is it to take out the garbage or to empty the dishwasher? Rock, Paper, Scissors to the rescue. We don’t use it for important decisions, but for everyday things that could easily spin out of control and cause hurt feelings?  It works. You can’t argue with the rules of the game. Of course, when he calls “best out of three” after losing…

3. Always use the wooden spoon. When we were first married, I was struggling with something in the kitchen. My husband was quite amused and said, “If I were you I’d use the wooden spoon.”  Notice he didn’t tell me I was doing it wrong, which I greatly appreciated. Now, whenever one of us thinks we have a better way to do something we’ll say, “I’m going to wooden spoon you here…” He once presented me with a dozen wooden spoons he had painted to look like long-stem roses. I know, what a romantic!


4. Finally, don’t use the “D” word. Not once has either one of use threatened the other with divorce. Not in anger. Not in jest. Never. We’re fortunate, as we are not dealing with domestic violence, addiction or any other potential relationship showstopper. Of course, we’ve had some rough patches, but we’ve worked through them and learned we can make it to the other side. Trust me, when you’ve stayed awake all night worrying and wondering if the love of your life is going to make it home from the war, you just don’t cavalierly blurt out that you’d rather not have him in your life.


Even when he’s dumped his extensive collection of used lunch containers from the office fridge in the kitchen sink. Again.