Serge Bielanko There are a few things that I can do pretty well.
How many's a few?
I dunno…four? Maybe five?
I can make a stir-fry that I learned years and years ago from a cookbook by my idol, Nigel Slater. It's a Thai one, and I can whip it up swiftly with my eyes closed (though I usually have no reason to close 'em). And friend, I truly believe it is damn near perfection every single time.
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I can catch trout on flies. Not all the time, mind you, but enough of the times so that I consider myself a decent enough fly fisherman to keep going.
I make good feta/basil/tomato omelets.
How many's that?
Okay, one more.
I can play medieval castle with my kids for way longer than they can. Not once, I tell you, have I been bored and walked away from the imaginary moats or the fake plastic dragons before they have.
So, as you can see, I have my hands full with enough being good at this'n'that that it would almost come as a surprise to many of my inquisitors to discover that I seem to lack quite a bit of suave when it comes to doing one thing in particular: being a husband. Now, don't get excited, this won't be a tale of my debauchery, of my endless drinking and womanizing and gambling, of me being a flat-out rogue in matrimony.
Instead, what I stand to offer any man (or woman!) who is either bumbling through a marriage of his/her own is the very useful and hard-earned knowledge of a dimwitted fool who has been married for thousands of days. Follow me down this familiar rabbit hole of mine if you'd like to become a better spouse by learning from the best, ahem…I mean the worst.
I'm the best of the worst, okay?
So, just listen up…
Serge BielankoDon't Turn Away
I'm someone who is pretty good at foolishly putting pride before just about anything else. The result? I have often found myself buried under layer upon layer of aggravation and suppressed emotion. Listen, there is something to be said for the 'strong silent type,' but that's not at all what I am talking about here. What I am saying is this: if you don't learn the fine art of very open communication very early in your marriage, you will end up hurting alone later on.
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Serge BielankoAccept Your Personality Quirks
There are some things you might do that gradually begin to annoy your spouse. I'm not talking about seriously deep personality characteristics here, but rather the little immature things you might be holding on to from when you were doing beer bongs in college or whatever. Like, I would always play this game where I say,"What if such and such happened?" The scenarios are typically so far out and ridiculous too, but it took me a helluva long time to really realize that there wasn't anybody digging my game but me. So, I gave it up. Well, pretty much. Hey, nobody's perfect!
Serge BielankoMake Time For Kis
When you have kids, there is a lot of love that enters the household, and a lot of magic times. But, as I found out after many battles over fishing time and stuff like that, you absolutely HAVE to be prepared and willing to be with your children as much as your spouse is. Granted, if you are at work all day and the other one is with the kids, it throws off the time-balance, but you must always remember this: someone who is at work all day cannot expect to come home and sit in the easy chair with a martini while the other person continues to watch the kids. This ain't Mad Men and this ain't 1963 anymore.
Serge BielankoTry To Chill
I have never been the Jack Johnson sort. I have never laid back in my hammock and lifted my flip-flops toward the sun as the cool island breeze plucked at the strings on my ukelele. This is unfortunate too, because my wife fancies herself a top-shelf chiller. I know it must be tough to be around me a lot, so I'm really trying my damn best to learn to chill out a little bit more. And let me tell you something: with two kids under four that ain't exactly easy for a dude like me. But I know that a chilled-out man is a better man for his family, so I'm on it. Pass me my uke.
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Serge BielankoShare Your Dreams
And if you don't have any, get some. I went through a drawn-out period of time after I left playing in my band of 13 years when I really had no clue as to what I was going to do the rest of my life. Oh sure, I found work and paid the bills and all, but when it came time to comparing our long-term visions for our shared future, Monica had all sorts of ideas and schemes that she was really excited about. And I had a handful of squat. This ended up being a bad thing because it scared my wife, understandably. She figured that I had more or less gone from being one of the biggest dreamers she had ever knownto one of the most idle future planners of all time. She was right, too. Today, though, I'm proud to say that I have dreams. Big ones. And they all involve me driving in the Daytona 500! (Psyche!)
Serge BielankoWhy Can't We Be Friends?
Whatever happens in your marriage, no matter how rocky things get, try to remember that being friends is the most uber-critical part of any lasting relationship. I've forgotten this a lot through the years, and Monica would probably say she has too. The result? Lengthy periods of time when we hardly spoke to one another, choosing instead to allow trivial arguments to fester in icy silence. I know that isn't healthy. We both do. Now, though, we're attempting to move in other directions when it comes to all of that. And it starts with our friendship, because we're nothing without that.
Serge BielankoDo Nasty Stuff
I'm serious here. Get nasty. Or as nasty as you can stand it, I guess. Dress up like nurses or pool boys. Role play. Get your mother-in-law to keep the kids for the night, crack a bottle of wine, and pretend you're the pizza guy in pornos; ring the front bell and deliver her the Super Supreme! It sounds so cliche, man, I know, but there is truth to the old adage that 'the same old thing will always lead to more of the same old thing.'
Related: 13 tips for snagging a man (circa 1938)
Serge BielankoDo Regular Stuff
Go places together as a family and with just the two of you. I can't even begin to stress this one enough. After our first kid was born, I kid you not, Monica and I didn't go out to a movie or out to eat by ourselves for over a year. A year! We had done nothing fun except baby stuff, and it was nobody's fault but ours. Don't make that mistake. 'Experts' say keep a regular "date night," and that sounds like just what we needed.
Serge BielankoLaugh At The Mirror!
Remember to laugh at yourself. As often as humanly possible. Think about the very idea of marriage and the very notion of two people spending their entire lives up in each other's beez-wax, and remind yourself that you are aware of how sublimely impossible it all seems at times. And remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. And if that feels like a lie to you, well then laugh even harder at what a fool you really are.
- By Serge Bielanko
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Serge BielankoMonica and Serge Bielanko have been married for eight years. Along the way they have practiced and perfected the dark arts of couch dining, clandestine boozing, bambino wrangling, wide-open domestic warfare, and modern love.
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Serge Bielanko There are a few things that I can do pretty well.