I want to surprise my wife with something wonderful for a New Year present. Do you have any ideas?
We are used to silly questions. Some people think of us as the Silly Questions department. But, never mind that. Think about it for one second and you’ll see that the word ‘surprise’ is the problem. No one can be sure of what will surprise someone else because no one knows what that other person’s expectations are. Let us say you have always, every year, presented your wife with a magnificent pink pearl from the Gulf of Periscopalia. Now, this year, if you give her an amethyst mined by trained monkeys from the hind slopes of the mountain of Asafoetina, how surprised she would be? How she would leap about. How she would demonstrate this with eyes wide open, with jaw agape, with uvula agleam. Let us say, however, that you have always been in the habit of saying, “Hello dearietootie. This is a grab-bag of all the goodies I could find in the office and you will note, of course, that nothing in it cost me any money. But, it is the thought that counts, isn’t it?” But, really, do thoughts count? Not when deeds are supposed to. So, perhaps you could pick up the phone and dial your travel agent and book two tickets to a place she has always wanted to visit? Too much for you? Okay, how about you find a place that serves the cuisine of the place she has always wanted to visit? Whatever it is, put some money into it and see how much that surprises her.
I want my wife to make some New Year resolutions. How do I go about this in as gentle a manner as possible?
How about you get yourself an axe, sharpen it and do some hacking away at the undergrowth around her? Then, you can find the real her, the woman you married before accretion and secretion developed a hard carapace of habits you want to change. You don’t get it, do you? Dr Know would like you to dig up any old list of resolutions you might have made. From any year from the year dot. There may actually be a few things you have managed to do. You might have actually started exercising more and sleeping more and talking less and drinking less and getting out in the open more and calling your parents three times a week and talking to them for at least ten minutes on each call as you promised aeons ago. But, most of the time you will find that you didn’t get yourself to do the things you wanted to. And, if you can’t get you to do stuff, what chance do you have of getting some other person to do what you want them to? And, even if this were possible, are you sure you understand this whole marriage thing? This whole relationship thing? That you’re not in this in order to change people as you want? Do you want a wife or do you want a project?
I’m a grass widow. My husband runs. He runs all the time. He runs on weekends. He runs in the evenings. He runs in fine weather and he runs in bad weather. He talks about running when he is not running. What do I do?
Run. Well, you walked into that one. No? Well, there are many of your kind out there. There are women who have been grass-widowed by their husbands’ jobs; by the video games console; by their husbands’ sports interests; by their husbands’ old lifestyle — the list is endless. You’d think someone would have worked out a fix by now. The only one is the oldest in the book. It’s called talking about it, setting limits, allowing freedom within a relationship and then finding things you want to do that do not involve the other. It’s called compromise and it’s at the heart of every new relationship we undertake. You make a new friend and you have to find some time to answer that friend’s texts, have coffee with him, go and listen to him sing karaoke if that’s his thing. When you get married, the demands for compromise are even more vital and if one person doesn’t want to, well, then the other person gets to think carefully and act. Or, run, as the case may be.
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