My wife and I dated for a number of years before things started getting serious. I encourage everyone to date for at least 12 months before you get engaged. Why? There are some critical questions that can only be answered at certain times during the calendar year. Will I still get to color Easter Eggs at age 40? Does she unwrap the stockings first or the big gifts? How does she look in a bathing suit? Does she know the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day? This one, by the way, was a deal breaker.
As we both work in Corporate America, Carol and I treat our relationship like a corporation. We came together one night to see if taking our relationship to the next level was going to be a wise business merger or would it be more like a hostile takeover and furthermore, would I be able to roll over my marital 401k? Having been married before and having 3 wonderful children from that marriage, I knew I had baggage. Heck, if you’re 35-years-old you have baggage whether you know it or not. If you’re 35 and think you don’t have baggage, well, that’s baggage in and of itself. Carol had baggage, but it matched. My baggage was an array of gym bags, a carry-on with a broken wheel and a plastic Wal-Mart bag for my emotional toiletries. It wasn’t pretty.
We sat out on her back porch, unpacked our baggage and mapped out our future together. We bartered. We made deals. We traded. We even made bar graphs and pie charts. When the dust settled, we had come together on some major points. I was not going to own more than 5 vehicles at one time and she was not going to own more than 15 sets of china at one time. Furthermore, we decided to not have any children, not move away from East Tennessee and I promised not to fill her Victorian Style house with plasma TVs, surround sound and Blu-Ray players, a decision I would later regret. I don’t think there was much difference between the iron-clad tables at the Geneva Convention and our cast iron patio set that night, but it ended well.
That event has turned into an occasion that happens with some regularly, simply called Back Porch Time. I invite you to initiate this with your spouse. Here’s how it works– If one of us has a deep topic we want to address about our relationship or money or family, we simply ask to meet the other on the back porch at a predetermined time, usually a day or two away. Nothing is discussed until then. This helps both people. 1.) The wife knows that it is going to be talked about and resolved within a week’s time–which they love, and 2.) the man knows that she is not going to blindside him without warning. This, my friends, has actually happened to me. I was in my PJ’s one night, getting ready for bed and thinking that tonight was going to be a special night, as it was Wednesday and all. While lighting a few candles and cuing up Frank Sinatra, I hear my wife’s voice calling from the bathroom–“Honey, I noticed that you’ve been putting a lot of money on the credit card lately. Do you know what you bought at Home Depot for $47.87?” Yes, nothing goes with cocktail shrimp and rose petals quite like a money talk. It was then that I decided for the sake of our marriage and my personal sanity that we would initiate Back Porch Time on a regular basis.
Currently, we meet on the back porch about once a month. Carol requests it to discuss holidays with the family, career goals, our health and the life insurance policy we have for our dogs. I request Back Porch Time…basically never. Why would I want to subject myself to that? I’m kidding, of course. For the benefit of our relationship, I request it regularly…usually after a Home Depot run.