Photo: ThinkstockBy Amy Shearn
1. The Thing He Can Fix
Maybe you have a partner who can change a flat tire on the side of the highway in the rain at midnight without even swearing once. If so, please share his contact information and available hours below in the comments (kidding!--mostly). But even if your guy is more of the "I made it better it by calling the mechanic" type, everyone has that one thing he can fix: a DVR on the fritz, a lackluster stew, a broken-hearted peewee T-ball teams' blues. If you find out, then you can more efficiently take advantage of your favorite person's skill set, true, but you can also present him with that great gift: a fixable thing.
2. Mustard or Mayo?
I just had lunch with a couple in the honeymoon-like throes of new romance and, half-jokingly, posed the question: "Do you guys know each other's mustard or mayo preferences?" My friend squinted at her love. "Well, I like anything," she said. "I don't care. Mustard's okay." He snorted. "Real English mustard, or that luminescent stuff you Americans call mustard?" (P.S. He's British.) She laughed, and I'm sure I didn't cause a rift in their budding relationship...but the point is that you should know your significant other's sandwich situation--as early on as possible.
3. His Obsession with Nikola Tesla, or Mantis Shrimp, or Whatever It Is
A strange side effect of long-term love is how the lovers in question can unconsciously calcify one another. "You are not into marsupials? Since when?" Or else: "I didn't know you always wanted to visit Galápagos!" We're usually aware of each other's career paths and hobbies, but what about the remainders? The oddball topics that make his ears prick up when he hears about them--for reasons completely escaping him. A visit to the nonfiction section of a library or bookstore can do wonders. Bonus: What you learn can kindle conversation on those date-night dinners when you stare off into space trying not to complain about work or talk about the kids.
4. His Blood Type
You know his heart, but you may not know his blood type. When it comes to relationships, the particular is grand, but the mundane is romantic.
5. His Ranking on the Good Samaritan Index
The scene: A stranger arrives in town holding an upside-down map. Along comes a local-your partner, as it happens. Does your partner (a) ignore the befuddled traveler and keep walking? (b) mock the confused personage? (c) explain the proper course? or (d) clap the stranger on the back and walk him personally to his destination? Think about it: We are all lost at times. And we depend on--who else?--our partners to help us through.
6. His Feelings About Frosting
As someone who's been married nearly a decade, my advice for any couple starting out would be to learn how your partner feels about birthdays--his own, yours, his mother's. Because when it comes to many preferences (morning vs. night, Mac vs. PC, religion vs. atheism), you surely will turn out to be opposites, and let's be honest, love can only conquer so much. After a handful of reluctant get-togethers (but he wanted to be alone with you) or low-key celebrations at home (but you wanted a big party), tensions start to run high. This is complicated by the fact that many adults don't admit to wanting their birthdays to be, in fact, as big a deal as they were when they were 5. As in: Balloons! Streamers! Cupcakes! AND Cake! Tons of presents! Greetings from all the friends I've ever known! AND A CLOWN AND PONY RIDES! So this information must be extracted with great pains to avoid decades of subtle birthday disappointments. Remember, like sexual fantasies or the percentage of time one person spends in comfy pants, a partner's birthday wishes ought to be accepted with a minimum of judgment.
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7. His Belt Size
You can't ask. You have to check. And if the belt gets replaced just before it wears out and cracks like an old cowboy's saddle, you'll further cultivate your relationship reputation as a miracle worker.
8. What the Tapping Knee Means
When you have a newborn baby, you learn how to read their every minuscule sign. The studious mother knows that yawning and crying actually mean the kid's overtired and that early sleepy signals include rubbing eyes. Not to suggest that your partner is, you know, a big baby, but do you pay half as much attention to his signals of distress? Not the throwing things down the stairs. Before that. Not even the set jaw and 10-mile stare. Before that. And while keen observation may possibly lead to your diffusing some explosive moments, that's only half the point. This is about paying attention--arguably, the greatest possible expression of love.
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9. The Great Shed-Jumping Debacle of 1975
Today, he's an attorney dying to make partner, or else he's a shop teacher, who yearns to sail around the world. But do you really know about his childhood fantasies? The strange little dreams he's half-forgotten himself? Like the time he read too many comic books in a row and then became really, truly convinced he could fly. Or how he used to build contraptions out of old clock parts, hoping to end up with a time machine. Childish dreams are the rusty keys to the mystery that is another person.
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