Marriage Is a Negotiation

After 39 years of marriage, I’ve learned to start big and work my way down.


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Like many people, climate change has been on my mind, so I’ve become mindful of my carbon footprint. Or so I told my wife when I pointed out that a motorcycle I wanted got twice the mileage of my Toyota Camry.

“When you think about it,” I told her, “I’m doing the world a favor by buying a new motorcycle.”

My wife has many virtues, but apparently an appreciation for planetary well-being isn’t one of them, because I didn’t get the new motorcycle. Instead, she suggested I buy an electric bicycle, which was my goal all along. After 39 years of marriage, I’ve learned to start big and work my way down. I ask for the $10,000 motorcycle so the $1,000 electric bike seems modest in comparison. Last year I talked my wife into letting me buy a $300 tool cabinet after she turned down my request for a $50,000 garage addition. Presentation is everything.

Just so you don’t think I’m one dimensional, not all my requests have to do with stuff. This past fall I asked her what she would do if she caught me having an affair. She said she’d kill me in my sleep and bury me in the neighbor’s pig lot.

“How about if I accidentally spilled Coke on our couch?” I asked. “What would do you then?”

“Buy a slipcover, I suppose,” she said.

If I hadn’t led with the affair, she’d have killed me in my sleep and buried me in the pig lot for spilling Coke on our couch.

Presentation is everything.

Speaking of Coke, I buy mine at Costco in 55-gallon drums, where I bought my tool cabinet, and where I’m planning to purchase my electric bicycle once I save $1,000.

The happiest days of my life were the days my two sons were born and the day a Costco opened a store 10 miles from our house. It’s been there less than a year, but I already have my own parking spot. I get everything there — clothes, food, tools, office supplies, electronics, gallon jugs of mixed nuts. The only thing I don’t buy are car tires, which I get from Larry at our town’s repair shop. Tires are cheaper at Costco, but Costco won’t come to my house and jumpstart my car when the battery goes bad, and Larry will.

My second favorite store is Aldi, because of the middle aisle where you can buy anything — shoes, yard decorations, a decommissioned nuclear sub. There’s no telling what you will find at Aldi. I almost got a decommissioned nuclear sub after asking my wife for a space shuttle, which Aldi also sells, believe it or not.

My third favorite store is Ferguson’s Hardware in my hometown of Danville, Indiana. Ed Conrad is the manager and doesn’t charge me if I only need one bolt. In return, I spend hundreds of dollars each year at Ferguson’s in gratitude for the 10 cents Ed didn’t charge me for the bolt. Like me, my wife thinks the world of Ed, and when she eventually gets around to burying me in a pig lot, she’ll no doubt buy the shovel from Ed.

“How deep a hole do you want to dig?” he’ll ask her, ever helpful.

“About six feet,” she’ll answer.

“Then I recommend a trench shovel,” Ed will say, plucking one from the rack.

I don’t really think my wife would ever kill me and bury me in a pig lot, though if I inexplicably disappear, you might want to remember this essay and call the police.

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and author of 22 books, including the Harmony and Hope series, featuring Sam Gardner.

This article appears in the March/April 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. Hay mucha sabiduría en tus palabras: descubrir lo que cada uno es y de que manera pretende vivir, es un logro que no todos alcanzan.

    ¡ Sigue viajando “Midnight Rider” !: Cada viaje es una enciclopedia . . . en el largo camino de conocernos a nosostros mismos.

    Saludos cordiales.

  2. My wife has her money and life and I have mine. I own two motorcycles and ride year round. I own my late Mother’s 1989 Cadillac DeVille which I sparingly drive as an antique. I own two pickups a 2018 Honda Ridgeline and 1998 Dodge Ram 1500, which along with a Honda Pioneer and Ferguson 50 tractor are used on my farm. So bottom line is this: Before we were married I advised we were not putting all earnings into one set of accounts. This has prevented arguments over money and how it’s spent. She’ll buy things and vacation in places I would not consider, like the beach. Me, I’m a loner traveling down seldom traveled two lane roads meeting others of like mind along the way. I truly “Go My Own Way” and like it that way.


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