Suburban Snapshots

Everybody Loves the Drunk Guy Unless
They Happen to Be Married to Him

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Do you and your spouse have That One Fight? You know it, sometimes you'll go months without even thinking about it and then all of a sudden you're back in the thick of it, having the same damned arguments, re-tracing the same old steps into and around it, feeling like maybe you'll get there this time and then realizing that there just might not be a resolution.

Every relationship has its little frustrations, like the missed hamper or tension over finances. Generally these are shallow arguments with all their facts and variables right there on the surface. But That One Fight always has deeper conflicts. It's loaded with convictions and baggage, it's where two haven't exactly become one.

Steve likes to drink socially, and sometimes over-drink. I've been legitimately drunk fewer times than I have fingers and had some childhood experiences that didn't exactly lead me to believe alcohol did anything but make good people horrible.

Our friends have always loved to drink with Steve. He becomes talkative and animated, a change from the quietish guy most of them know. He's easy to get along with, genuine — he brings no ego or motives to a friendship — and when he's enjoying a few beers he's all about conversations. So he'll keep drinking as long as people keep offering. But there's a level of drunkenness when Steve isn't the guy I'm crazy about anymore — while his friends enjoy his boozy enthusiasm, I start to get annoyed by this alter-ego. But he and they will keep going until the beer's gone and everyone always has a very good time.

The thing is, friends aren't the ones who have to share the bed with him later, or hear about his headache and sour stomach the next morning while he's out of commission on the couch. Friends don't feel like they got left at the party alone though they arrived with a fantastic date. Friends don't watch the person they're in love with becoming the guy they don't even really like over the course of a few hours. Friends don't have to go home and have The Fight.

Part of what I love about Steve is that he's willing to improve himself, and he went to work on this knowing how it was affecting me. When we end up in a situation where he's had too much and I'm aggravated, I leave him alone — literally — I go away. I don't try to talk anything over in the moment (because having serious discussions with a drunk person is rarely productive) and sometimes not even the next day. Now I let his occasional hangovers do the talking for me. And if he needs a night out with his friends once in a while to drink without consequences from his wife, I'm fine with that.

But the tension can still be there when we're invited to something and I wonder whether he'll go overboard, or when somehow meeting a friend for a beer ends up with me playing the well-worn role of designated driver. I accept that while The Fight happens very infrequently these days, it may never be completely gone.

I still love going out with my husband and getting silly over cocktails, and I'm proud to be anywhere in his company. I'd love to know that we'd never argue over this again and have the whole issue evaporate from our relationship. But short of full resolution, I think the effort we've both made to live with our conflict is exactly what people mean when they say that marriage is about compromise. Compromise in marriage isn't about one person sacrificing, it's about two people working toward something together, even knowing there might not be a solution.

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