It was after 9PM, and my wife and I were sitting on our bed looking over our cards, discussing our missions. Tristan and Norah were in bed, and baby Aspen was sleeping in the living room.
It was time to negotiate.
For the past week we’d been playing a game called Marital Bliss. The creator of the game sent it to me, saying that it might give me something to write about on my blog. The game is simple, really. Mel and I each plucked out seven mission cards and five reward cards. Then we had to pick one reward card from the five, and put the rest back in the pile. Each mission had to be performed over the next seven days. Whoever successfully completed the most missions won the reward. However, everything was up for negotiation, and if your partner guessed your mission, then you lost your points.
Mel went through her missions first. She slapped her first card down and said, “I nailed this one.”
The card read, “Help with the yard work.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “That mission is bogus. You are a horticulture major. Yard work is what you do.”
“So? I got lucky.”
“I’m hoping to get lucky,” I said.
“Is that your reward?” Mel asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
The whole week had been like this. Each of us questioning the other’s motives. Asking if this or that was our mission. Commenting on how sweet it will be when we earn our rewards. One of my missions was to watch the sunset, but I couldn’t seem to make it work with our kids’ bedtimes. Around 10 PM one night, I pulled up a YouTube video of a sunset and let it play on the computer while Mel fed the baby.
“Isn’t that nice,” I said. “We should go to the beach sometime.”
“This is your mission, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Why do you always have to question my motives?” I asked. “Why can’t you just take things at face value and love me for who I am?”
Mel pointed at the yard work card and said, “I get full points for this one. It doesn’t say anything in the rules about majors and hobbies, so deal with it.”
We went back and forth for a while on the yard work card. Eventually, we agreed to give Mel full points.
Her next card was to close the toilet seat after each use. I told her that was a card meant for boys, but then she pointed to the “brownie point” listed on the card. It read, “clean the toilet.”
“You didn’t clean the toilet,” I said.
“Oh really! Go have a look.”
I did, and sure enough, she was a toilet cleaning ninja. She got five more points. We went through the rest of Mel’s cards. We talked about how we went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because I wanted to, and that should count for the “handing over the remote card.” I reminded her that TMNT was her favorite show as a kid, and that she was in love with Donatello.
“No! That was you!”
“Fine,” I said.
As we chatted about her cards, I realized how crappy of a negotiator I was. I was only able to chip off a few points. This is the story of my life, really. I’m a major pushover when it comes to my wife… and my kids… and well… most people. I need to be ballsier. I’m kind of a pansy, really. But I digress.
We moved on to my cards, but before we did, I read her a crappy poem I wrote titled, “Sometimes You Sing.” This was one of my missions.
Sometimes you sing
In the kitchen
I noticed it last year
Always under your breath
I like to linger in the hallway,
Just out of view,
It feels like something intimate,
Some mysterious part of you.
“No!” Mel said. “No! You studied creative writing. You can’t get points for writing me a poem! And you can’t read the poem after the game is over.”
I told her that the game wasn’t over, and that it’s called strategy. “You know, most of my blog posts are like a love letter to you. You’re welcome. Most women would love a man to write them a poem,” I said.
“Most men would love a women who is willing to do yard work,” she said.
And with that comment, I started to realize that most of our missions, we were already doing for each other. Outside of some of the classic, romantic, mushy stuff, like watching the sun set, or going to a place we’ve never been, we really do try to split things equally, and show our compassion regularly. We just do it with a lot of sarcasm and backhanded comments. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but what I do know is that this game did a nice job of illustrating our actions and how they reflect a strong partnership.
We went though the rest of my cards. I told her about how my secret mission was buying her doughnuts, and that the reason I insisted that we go out to dinner last Saturday rather than hanging out with our friends was so I could take her somewhere new. All of it felt like a confession, only in a good way.
We totaled up our points, and I was the victor. And then we placed our reward cards on the bed.
Had Mel been the victor, she would have received $50 to spend on whatever she wanted.
The reward I won was the “Instant Quickie.” The card showed a happy little man jumping for joy on a bed. It read, “You know what it means, you lucky devil.”
I pointed at the card and winked.
With both cards side by side, I said, “You know, these rewards say a lot about our relationship. You feel underpaid, and I feel under sexed. Is sexed a word?”
Mel laughed and said, “So does this mean I get the $50?”
I picked up my reward card, placed it next to the dresser, and said, “Nope.”
“Fine,” Mel said. “Then let’s play again.”
We drew our missions, picked our rewards, and then looked at each other suspiciously.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.