As much as I rail against the predictability that is my life, I am starting to believe there is something to be said for routine. In a weird way, it provides a sense of comfort knowing you can focus on the things that really matter. Spending quality time with Jenn, minus the girls, does not happen as often as either of us would like. Most of our days involve a constant hum of ‘mommy I want’ and ‘daddy can I.’ Just being able to eat a meal with both hands rather than having one arm clinging to Paige as she attempts to climb out her highchair is a novel concept. So, when we get an hour or two alone, what we do is of little concern.
The typical date night normally involves dinner, a movie and finds us winding down the evening at a local java shop. One reason I love this is because it means I get to sip a girly coffee drink without anyone catching on, including the barista. The tip is ordering the Fru-Fru drink first and then the manly drink second. It goes something like this: “She wants (point to the wife) a tall decaf skim sugar free Vanilla Latte no foam and (lower your voice for emphasis) a Grande STRONG black coffee for me!”
As I settle down with my Vanilla Latte into a booth, Jenn chooses a board game for us to play. Choose is probably not the right word considering we both know she is going to bring Scrabble back to the table smirking all the way there. The grin comes from the fact that she knows she is going to own me yet again and it gives her the opportunity to do her happy dance. It’s a cross between the Icky Shuffle and Dirty Bird mixed with a little bit of the Macarena and Running Man. Yet, somehow I am the competitive one in the relationship.
In the twelve years we have known each other, I have never come out the victor in a Scrabble game with Jenn. This makes me feel D-U-M-B (9 points). Jenn would disagree and say that she is just more S-T-R-A-T-E-G-I-C (12 points X triple word score = 36 points) with her letters. After a few rounds that end in my miserable defeat, I ask if we can Q-U-I-T.
Jenn obliges, but says the only other option that has all its pieces still intact is Battleship. After having her hit me with triple word score after triple word score, a classic naval war game seems fitting. It appears payback will happen on the open seas. Thinking my beautiful wife will aim for the center I place my fleet around the edge of the grid. Pretty soon we both are aiming at targets.
Back and forth we go attempting to knock out patrol boats, submarines and destroyers. Tonight I am the Admiral of the Navy having decimated almost all of Jenn’s ships. Feeling a little snarky, I begin to deal with my embarrassment over the Scrabble debacle by gloating:
Me: B-4 I take out your last ship I am willing to sign the documents for your surrender
Jenn: Hit! Easy fella. If you don’t watch it, I’ll C-2 it you are sleeping on the couch tonight.
Me: Miss. Sorry, for my poor A-2’tude. But, can’t you handle a little losing?
Jenn: Hit! E-8 it! You sunk my battleship. Are you happy now venti boy? Why don’t you order another Latte while you do your victory lap!
Me: To honor this glorious occasion, I think I will….I think I will.
My victory was the product of pure dumb luck. I landed a few targets earlier strictly by chance. Even though this evening it was done all in good fun, those gloating missiles on the other hand were launched strategically. After a few years in any relationship, one begins to learn the other’s “board strategy and tendencies.” Having insight into their vulnerabilities, weakness and insecurities, you know precisely where to aim your verbal artillery in any argument. If you are not careful, disagreements can spiral out of control and closely resemble the game Battleship where you are on separate sides of the board lobbing missiles at one another. Your living room morphs into a scene out of Pearl Harbor.
Yet, why do we resort to this tactic? Do we do it out of frustration? Maybe we approach arguments like debates where there has to be a definite winner and loser. Is it a trick we use so the other person will see how serious we are in defending our perspective? Or does the Battleship technique come out strictly because we are mean spirited and cruel? As wrong as I know it is, when I get wounded, I want others to feel my pain.
The thing is when Jenn’s words seem extra sharp it normally has nothing to do with her tone. Her intent behind speaking up is never malicious. I know how deeply she cares about our marriage and also my character. The words sting due to the sobering truth they contain. The accuracy of her words being right on point is extremely freakish.
This is one of the major reasons I love Jenn. She will not allow me to remain the same and pushes me to be a better man. Somehow Jenn sees things I tend to lend a blind eye towards or bad habits in my life I do not want to admit are there. Unfortunately, rather than confronting my own inadequacies, I have the tendency to try and lob a missile in her direction in hopes of calling a truce so we can go about our business with little to no change. If the Navy gets wind of how oblivious I am to the rules of engagement, they might demote from Admiral to deck hand. I better shape up or ship out.