Monday, March 10, 2014
By Robert Skoglund
I never had a mother-in-law I didn’t like.
This is probably because I was 29 the first time I tied the knot, which my good wife untied after helping me struggle through four years of graduate school. And I was a reasonably mature 54 when I married Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman.
When you marry at 54, after living alone for 20 years, it is your brain that makes the decision.
And long before you are 60 you realize that, because most women are cut from the same cloth as their mothers, the woman you marry is more than likely to be just like her mother. In other words, if you like your mother-in-law, you will like your wife.
We all know more than one man who married a woman whose mother – and mother’s mother – were dysfunctional. His wife inherited the condition and passed it along to their children.
It is difficult to live with people who are so afflicted. It is emotionally exhausting. Even living next door to a person who might smile at you one day and scream obscenities the next enables you to identify with the laboratory rat who is shocked on a variable-interval schedule.
If you listen to your disturbed friends for any length of time, you begin to question your own sanity and look for self-help books.
There is a magic pill that would somewhat alleviate everyone’s misery, but too many refuse to take something that would bring them back to earth, and they can’t be forced to do so.
Young men should be taught that you have to look past the high IQ and pretty face and check out her mother and even her mother’s mother for signs of instability before signing articles.
Once past that, young adults of both sexes must then consider the compatibility factor.
Two people who have to be in charge cannot live together. Only one person can have the right of way in a small Maine kitchen, and one has to happily step aside. There is nothing that could be construed as justice or “I was here first” in a happy home. One person has to know his place and cheerfully wait his turn.
However, two laid-back people living together is a recipe for disaster. Garbage in plastic bags piles up outside their trailers. The living room is cluttered with moldy, unwashed clothing. The sink overflows with dirty dishes that have steeped for weeks in brackish water.
Nothing ever gets done because they spend evenings seated on a greasy couch, waiting for the other one to do something. They keep two cats, which add to the ambiance.
Nor can obsessive-compulsives live together. Neither would yield the right of way in the kitchen or bathroom. They would knock each other down rushing to pick up a thread on the carpet.
Their greatest pleasure would come from grooming each other like monkeys or polishing the bike racks on their Volvos.
Whenever Maine coast temperatures creep up to a sizzling 68 or 70 degrees, I am comfortable. My wife likes it cold. She is never happier than when I come in from working outside and put my ice-cold hands up under her shirt and on her steaming bare back. She says, “Ahh. That feels good.” And I say, “Ahh. That feels good.” The ability to complement each other is the secret to a happy marriage.
Marsha inherited her mother’s need to tell her spouse to do things he was already in the process of doing. Like her mother, Marsha needed a man who could ignore an endless stream of innocuous suggestions as long as nutritious meals were prepared on a regular basis.
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