Couples that make you want to puke: I am half of one of them, I am told.

Things are not always what they seem. Like exotic island weddings aren't so exotic when you live there. (p.s. I'm no longer in a red hair phase.)

Thank you!

We work hard to be this nauseating.  I mean, really, would you want to go around holding my hand all the time?  Or have to be the one to pat Bubba-mon on his cute fanny?  Sheesh, the effort involved in all this damn smiling — you wouldn’t want to take it on, I promise.  Totally exhausting.

Add to this burden our “perfect” children and our “perfect” lives, and you’ve got the makings of utter hell.

Except that nothing inside a relationship is ever quite what it seems to the rest of the world.  I habitually and publicly confess my failings and foibles.   I wish I could do the same with my marriage: how about a story that Eric is a compulsive gambler and I am a gender-reassignment success story, and the cops have been called out to break up our fights on three separate occasions?  That would be exciting.

It wouldn’t be true.

The truth is boring; the truth is that we are as flawed as the next couple/family.  I adore my almost-perfect husband, and he puts up with me writing about him and generally being a gigantic pain in the ass.  I love my normal, fallible kids and step-kids.  I love our messed-up, wacky life.

But adoring/loving each other doesn’t mean it comes easily.  So, while I have no scandalous revelations for you today, I want to share a glimpse of how two highly-emotional, Type A, self-absorbed, over-committed “losers at marriage” (we are both each others’ second spouse) manage our relationship into the true thing of beauty that it is.

Because it is.


(you may pause to vomit, here)

1.  Relationship Operating Agreement

Oh yes, it is true.  We have a Relationship Operating Agreement.

You’re thinking, “Well, at least she didn’t lie. Bring me a bucket; I’m going to hurl.”

Note the crinkle in this paper. It doesn't hang on a wall. We pick it up, read it, think about it, and live it. Occasionally it gets wadded up and thrown and has to be reprinted.

After you quell your little attack of stomach flu,  rest assured that I’d be happy to share our document if it would help you.  Because this is the single greatest contributor to the success of our relationship.  When we misbehave, which we both do but me more than him, we quickly circle back to our shared commitments.

“Commitment?  Yeah, we’ve already got that — we are in a committed relationship.”

I hear you, and sometimes I feel like I’m in a “committed” relationship, too, as in both of us committed to the funny farm, because we seem to have lost our minds and found a way to pick each other apart.

But, seriously, we have found that taking the time to flesh out what we meant — really meant, in detail (B.M. is an engineer, after all) — when we promised to honor and cherish each other has made a huge difference in our marriage.  For example, do you mean the same thing as one another when you promise respect?  To me, respect is B.M. listening to me. To B.M., respect is me shutting up. That is NOT the same thing. :)   Drafting the Commitment made us intentionally reach agreement on what our key concepts look like/feel like/sound like/etc., although we painfully teach each other new ones now and then.

THE most important concept we clarified?  That it is our relationship that we must focus on, not each of us as individuals.  If we take care of the relationship and put it first, then we take care of each other.  So our every decision with regard to our relationship is about guarding, nurturing and protecting it.  In other words, establishing and maintaining intimacy is job one.  My top job is not Eric, his top job is not Pamela.  Our top job is The Relationship.  Sounds like work.  Sometimes it is.  But mostly, it’s fun.

"An Idiot's Guide to Intimacy": We didn't want to overshoot our capabilities.

2.  Commitment to Intimacy

Earlier this year, we purchased two books.   Our goal was to rely on a book with both text and exercises to improve our already wonderful relationship by giving us a structured way to address our challenge areas.  And anyone married to me will be knee-deep in challenge areas.  “An Idiot’s Guide to Intimacy” was our first purchase.

When our daughters found this book on our bedside table, they got the giggles.

“Oh my God, you bought a book about S-E-X?”  hehehehehehehe

“No, dearies.  We bought a book about I-N-T-I-M-A-C-Y.”

If you are older than a teenager and think intimacy is only about sex, then you really DO need this book.  Intimacy includes physical touch, which can include sex.  But intimacy is much, much more.  If you want to know exactly how much more, you’ll have to buy the Idiot’s Guide.

We spent a few months reading aloud, discussing, and completing the exercises together.  Every night.  No matter what.  And some nights we were sleepy and finished in the wee hours.  But we stuck to it, because The Relationship comes first.

One of the exercises we got the most out of was writing our strategies to defuse our most volatile issues.  You know, the ones that come up over and over, each time with a nuclear explosion, leaving the two of you looking past each other with the thousand yard stare?  Like money, step-parenting, communicating — oops, am I airing *my* issues here? Bad me!

Our strategies were meant only as personal exercises (it is not wise to write about how you are going to deal with your partner’s thin skin and irrational beliefs, and then show it to him!), so we didn’t share them with each other, but we use them, and we found that they work.  Because they are all about how “I” will be accountable for nurturing the intimacy of The Relationship, not how “He” will treat me.

Who knew we were so smart at this relationship thing?!?

We often pull them back out and re-read them to ourselves. I did just two days ago.  If my goal is to protect The Relationship, then I won’t enter a high-risk situation without revisiting my plan of action.  I think I handled the situation far better, as a result.

"An Idiot's Guide to Intimacy": We didn't want to overshoot our capabilities.

Lest you think that we skipped along the path picking daisies and singing tra-la-la while we went through the book, please note page 150. This section of the book is on Emotional Triggers that Shut-Off Intimate Listening. See the big piece of Scotch tape?  That’s what happens when one person sticks a hot poker into the other person’s eye, or when the book causes us to discuss an issue that doesn’t go so well for us.  One of us may or may not have held the book up lovingly in front of the other person’s face to show them up close and personal exactly the part they were screwing up.

For that matter, see the picture above with the cover of the book?  The book lost its cover in that same interaction, when it may or may not have been lofted gently in the air in the general direction of one’s beloved.  (And it was totally B.M.’s fault, not mine)

The other book we bought was “365 Questions for Couples.”  The premise of this book is to never quit talking to and learning about each other.

We now read 3-4 of these questions per night, in place of the Idiot’s Guide, and take turns being the first to give our answer.  We love it when we know each others’ answer.  We love it even more when we shock each other with new thoughts and ideas.   We’ve found areas of commonality that we didn’t expect, and areas of Grand Canyon divide that surprised us.  And we dealt with the gulfs right then, instead of finding out about them in the middle of a crisis, 12 years from now.

I love this little book.

3.  We BELIEVE it and we LIVE it

B.M. and I were meant to be together; our love for each other is an unexpected and precious gift.  We believe this. So these are the first concepts I revisit when the love of my life pisses me off.

I’m not going anywhere.  He’s not going anywhere.  Whatever is wrong is just “stuff” and can be dealt with.

More to barf about: our super-cutesy couples cards. Thanks Jack and Jackie Pankoff for the idea :)

And we deal with the stuff.  Immediately or very quickly, whichever comes first.  Although we don’t pretend that love means saccharine sweetness 24/7, we do our best to close the door and talk outside our kids’ ears.  Sometimes for hours.  Sometimes calmly, holding hands; and sometimes less calmly, with B.M. holding me at bay.  We revisit our Agreement.  We review our Strategies.

But we believe that it is all just “stuff,” and that we are each “all in.”  The goal in our discussions is to make The Relationship as easy and beautiful as possible, not to prove one of us is right and the other is a jerk.

We honor that which is important to the other.  I bicycle, run, and swim!  He edits manuscripts! We play and sing like a really crappy old age home rock band.  It works for us.

One of "Engineer B.M.'s" infamous "date" folders -- maps, information, tickets, and what-have-ya. This one contained three independent bookstores to visit, Chelsea Pub, and The Chinese Golden Acrobats at Miller Outdoor Theater.

We date.  At least once a month we trade the honor of planning for and executing a date befitting how we feel about each other.  We never do the same thing twice.  We LOVE date night.  We’ve done everything from neighborhood musicals and in-the-round plays to laser tag and karaoke.  What we don’t do is drink; for more on that, see Wasted Days, Wasted Nights.

We leave notes for each other and sometimes I look the other way when he goes over our budget buying me tulips; we send cards through the mail, surprise each other with “dollar store” type gifts, we text/IM/FB/Twitter/Email our fingers off, and tell anyone that will listen how lucky we are.  We deliberately build each other and our relationship up.  We must protect The Relationship so that it is just as strong and vibrant when we are ninety as it is now when we are in our early 20’s.  <We may look a bit older, but I assure you I am 23>

Happily-ever-after doesn’t happen by accident, friends.

Claim your fairy-tale ending.

Live deliberately.

Love with all your might.

And share with me what makes you and your beloved part of a couple that makes others want to puke!


Pamelot (and B.M.)

Self-portrait in a darkened neighborhood theater for a musical on Date Night.

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76 Responses to Couples who make you want to puke.

  1. adena says:

    I love this.. relationships are hard work and too often people don’t put the work in that keeps them fresh. I was just as responsible for the demise of my last relationship as my ex was.. ok maybe not JUST as responsible cause you know he was obviously a jerk BUT I see where I could have done better. It’s interesting to me that in finding this ‘triathlon’ community I have stumbled across loads of people that are happy in their relationships, I mean they don’t just love their spouse, they LIKE them and say nice things about them. What an eye opener!! If I ever find someone again I will work harder at this and I will be rereading this post. and probably buying some books.

    • Pamela says:

      Don’t you just hate that moment when you have to ‘fess up to your part in what went wrong in past relationships? I think that’s an important day-by-day thing too. If I worry less about being right, and more about protecting the relationship from nuclear fall-out, then I’ll admit I’m wrong now instead of after my partner is gone.

      I am not a saint, whoa baby, and I did more than my share to mess up marriage #1. But I don’t think it’s surprising that people who support each other in individual achievement and help, and also, sometimes, are able to make it a togetherness thing, are successful in their relationships. Not all of us. Not all the time. But we have the makings of a good start if we’ll just use our tools wisely.

      Thanks, Adena. Good to see you back :)


  2. JennyBeans says:

    What a great post, Pamela! I guess this is why I never married–too damn much work, but you make me a little wistful about what I might be missing….


    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Jenny. Well, my first marriage would not have made you wistful…it was even more work, but without the happily-ever-after part! 😉
      By the way, I love your avatar/twitter profile pic. So adorable.

  3. Estella says:

    I did end up vomiting a little in my mouth but no worries, it went back down. :) Honestly I often visualize having a relationship that induces vomiting in others. I’m incredibly loyal and intend to work harder at my future relationship(s)…

    I’m living and enjoying the single life but finding myself wanting to finally nest with someone. I love your posts as you show your relationship isn’t Disney-themed everyday and there is a beautiful commitment to one another.

    I’ll be the one passing out the vomit bags one day. If you happen to come across a gentleman who looks and acts like Oded Fehr and wears that exact outfit & face tattoo as in “The Mummy” or a Bradley Cooper as in “The Hangover” but sober (dirty is ok with me), then please send him OR them my way. Hey, practice makes perfect. 😉 @estellawellness

    • Pamela says:

      I think I’ll be laughing all day about this comment
      And I’ll be looking for your Oded Fehr/Mummy/Bradley Cooper sober but dirty man…

  4. Sherrel says:

    WOW !!! Nice post.This post is the first one i have stopped to read ( I will go back and read some more post.. ) This one caught my eye..Couple Thing ” Nice read.Thank you for sharing.We will celebrate our 18th year @ the end of this month..Looks like I will purchase a book or two..

  5. Eric Hutchins says:

    I think you are wonderful and your writing is wonderful and Its a shame the dog game into our room and tore up the book like that!

  6. Rhonda says:

    I love this! I actually forwarded it to my husband to read. LOL And it sparked a response that would be way too long to post here as a comment. LOL Maybe I’ll “write” something. ha ha

    Ya know, Pamela, someday I might actually get off my ‘fraidy cat butt and do something about the writing itch I live with daily, and when I do, I will have you to thank! For now, thanks for the daily inspiration; your stuff is always worth the time it takes to read it.

    • Pamela says:

      Believe it or not, Rhonda, I think about your writing fairly often :) and here’s to hoping you rock the keys…someday, whenever it feels right. You’re seriously funny, my friend. Read the comments from Estella in this post. Another seriously funny woman.

  7. Rhonda says:

    LOL….You are right! Estella is hilarious!

  8. Rene Riedlinger says:

    Don’t think I actually puked, maybe a few dry heaves, but hey, at least I felt something! I absolutely love the way you and Eric look at life, love and family. I think it’s inspiring to see that it’s never too late to actually get it right, or to at least be doing more of the right things than wrong. Not only are you working at making your own relationship the best it can be, but you’re setting a tremendous example for all those soon to be relationers (quite possibly invented a new word there! Feel free to use it from now on!) in your household. They see the time, effort, appreciation and committment you both put into it, hopefully they see the rewards and it will inspire them to put their future relationships first also. Good work you two!

  9. ryoko861 says:

    It’s so nice to see that you will communicate WITHOUT said children in the room. I can’t stand when I’m chatting with a mom about “adult” things and their child is standing there next to her, just standing there, listening…..and the mom just keeps talking about a lawyer, or her A-Hole husband, or just something personal. There’s a time and place for children to be included in certain conversations and these aren’t one of them. Drives me CRAZY!

    But it’s understandable why you go through this routine. You want to do it right this time! And I really think you’re going to succeed! You’re a cute looking couple! I don’t know any perfect couples. I know of couples that THINK they’re perfect, but far from it.

    Great post!

    • Pamela says:

      I absolutely hate to be around people that talk bad about their spouse or kids, and I don’t want my kids around anyone who is trashing real people in their lives with negativity. And then there is adult stuff. It’s like two levels of “make me crazy.” And what I hate more than anything in the world is ex-spouses talking badly about each other to their children. The most destructive force on the planet is the mouth of a parent bad-mouthing the other.

      Rant over.

      I feel better.

  10. […] I knelt beside the hamper with my hands on the floor, each hand splayed outside a knee.  My right hand landed on something comfortingly soft.  Cotton.  A t-shirt.  I pulled it to my face. […]

  11. […] I knelt beside the hamper with my hands on the floor, each hand splayed outside a knee.  My right hand landed on something comfortingly soft.  Cotton.  A t-shirt.  I pulled it to my face. […]

  12. We have one of those, but we call it a prenup. Yeah, we are romantic like that. You do NOT need a bucket to be around us.

  13. LBDDiaries says:

    Good question – “what makes you and your beloved part of a couple that makes others want to puke” – my son used to say, “You guuyyss – you’re gagging me here” – I think it is the things you do in private that come out in public – the intimacy, love, support, protection, believing in one another, supporting one another’s dreams, passion – it all ends up showing in public. Of course, he likes to talk “sexy” to me like we’re getting ready to drag one another off to the bedroom (not trashy, sexy) and if someone trys to subtly put me down, he becomes a vocal bear – telling them in no uncertain terms what is good about me, what he’s proud of, etc. As usual, another excellent post!! You’re 23??? I’m 25 – unh huh – and if you believe that….

    • Pamela says:

      course, i’d like to look and feel 23 physically, but i want the rest of the age I am now.

  14. LBDDiaries says:

    Oh, and yeah about talking trash about the ex. I never did say one word in front of my son (when I was single). A couple of years ago, I completed a book, the editor had reviewed it and… I had to stop in my tracks because something didn’t feel right. I finally realized what was wrong – if I have forgiven my ex then I can’t expose any of the actions he perpetrated (sp) even if the book was going to help others and I didn’t mention names. I said to Alpha Hubby, “I can’t do this book. I’ve forgiven him so I can’t expose what he did” and he was like, “Well, that’s what I thought but I wasn’t going to say anything.”

  15. […] think I am going to do this.” I’d read an article posted on her site entitled, “Couples that Make You Want to Puke.”  We also talked about 30 Days of Intimacy.  She explained it to me this way: I challenge […]

  16. […] think I’ve got sex on the brain.  My husband – the other half of our couple who makes you want to puke – is in India for two weeks.  So I certainly don’t have sex on the bed or the sofa or the […]

  17. […] They are part of the foundation that makes us gag people. Have you seen Pamela’s article on Couples That Make You Want to Puke? Check it […]

  18. […] was still too sick to sit up.  Eric brought our 365 Questions book to bed (for more about it, read Couples that make you want to puke.).  He snuggled up to me.  He read the first […]

  19. […] on earth. You know, the “Ewwww, get a rooom” type couples. Or as Pamela puts it, “Couples that Make You Want to Puke!” | View […]

  20. […] was still too sick to sit up.  Eric brought our 365 Questions book to bed (for more about it, read Couples that make you want to puke. How apropos the title.).  He snuggled up to me.  He read the first […]

  21. Shell says:

    Absolutely love this! Dh and I aren’t exactly puke-worthy, but we are close. It takes work, but it is so worth it!

  22. […] think I’ve got sex on the brain.  My husband – the other half of our couple who makes you want to puke – is in India for two weeks.  So I certainly don’t have sex on the bed or the sofa or the […]

  23. […] I knelt beside the hamper with my hands on the floor, each hand splayed outside a knee.  My right hand landed on something comfortingly soft.  Cotton.  A t-shirt.  I pulled it to my face. […]

  24. Pamela says:

    Other comments to this post from the old blog:

    Absolutely love this! Dh and I aren’t exactly puke-worthy, but we are close. It takes work, but it is so worth it!


  25. Pamela says:

    Shell, I just went over and checked you guys out, and you’re pretty pukeworthy! Welcome to the club :)

  26. […] I know.  I do, I like how Pamela said it here: Looking for Love in All the Right Places and Couples That Make You Want to Puke. Portions of this post are excerpts from “The Tango Element:  The Passionate Marriage and […]

  27. […] of you that have secretly hated me for having a nearly perfect life, I have tried to tell you that appearances can be deceiving, but nobody ever listens to me.  Trust me, if I wrote this blog anonymously, the stories I would […]

  28. […] it a tie because she and Eric do have an absolutely amazing relationship.  One that truly does make people want to puke and say, “ewwww, get a […]

  29. […] a woman falls in mad, crazy love, I don’t think her first thought is, “Oh my gosh, I want nothing more in the world than for his […]

  30. […] of loooovvveeee.  And that’s exactly why today my thoughts turn to polarity; that or because my super-romantic husband is a chemical engineer.  One or the […]

  31. […] responsible Pamela married the man of her dreams and knowingly stepped into his impending bankruptcy for a failed business.  I worked incredible […]

  32. Sandy says:

    Fabulous post Pamela! You and Eric are SUCH an inspiration to all of us readers…you really show that even if it’s not your best foot forward, it’s putting your foot forward that counts. Best or not doesn’t really matter. Making the commitment and following through is what makes it so special. Thanks!

  33. adena says:

    I love this and how smart you two are about your relationship. No guessing!! Cutest couple ever!!

    • Pamela says:

      We were not always this smart, but we believe it is very possible to be with “the one” and still screw it up. We want to be old and cranky together!

  34. That was lovely, Pamela. Long-winded as I tend to be, that’s all I wanted to say.

  35. rtcrita says:

    You know, I’ve said it before, the thing I love the most about reading your posts is your honesty. I wrote a post recently about choices and no regrets, and my son said to me, “Mom, I think I really like this because I think you will help other people who read this.” Such a compliment!
    Well, that’s how I feel when I read your writings. It’s always good to know that there is someone else out there that is having, or has had, the same experiences as you or is going through the same or similar things. Someone understands what it’s like. It makes you not feel alone. You do that.
    And, as usual, you had me stopping to laugh: ” One of us may or may not have held the book up lovingly in front of the other person’s face to show them up close and personal exactly the part they were screwing up.” Boy, have I not experienced something similar a time or two!

    Great reading, Pamela! By the way, I’m finally doing my blogroll and adding you to the few I really like! Hope you don’t mind. Thanks in advance.

    • Pamela says:

      One of the reasons I love your blog is your perspective on life and your honesty that shines through not just your words but your subject matter in your photography and the way you portray it. It it real life, achingly sweet at times, and seen through a Rita-lens. I’m proud to be on your blog roll, and I am sorry that yours is one of the blogs I’ve been missing while slammed with work recently. Unread blogs in reader = 289 today. It’s killing me.

      Thank you VERY much.


  36. Tracie says:

    Seriously I just love this. It is so important to be intentional about marriage intimacy….you are a great example of how to do it!

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Tracie. I”ve had people say, “well who would want to do it if it takes so much work?” And my response to that is that a wonderful marriage is worth any amount of work. I’m just grateful that “the one” for me believes the same. But you say it well. It is about being intentional. It is love, not work, to us.

  37. LBDDiaries says:

    Just checked. Yep, you still make me puke. Um, you and Eric make me puke. Errr, your gaggy relationship makes me puke. Yep – you guys are still hot and rocking out there!! I am adding a link at the bottom of my recent post so more people can come here and puke over you. Puke Over You. Huh. Sounds like the title of a good country-western song! Oh darling I love you so much you make me puke… ovah youuuuuu! Yes, it is very late. Why do you ask?

  38. ridgely says:

    it’s wonderful to be madly in love with your husband, isn’t it ;/)

  39. Love this. Bring on the puke. My husband and I are going on 15 years and we WORK.ON.IT. But I have to admit, I do not want him to get his hands on a copy of the Idiots Guide to Intimacy. We are already pretty intimate and some nights?

    I’m just too tired for “intimacy excercises.”

    Thanks for the smiles and for the encouragement in knowing that there are other couples out there who love each other and put the relationship first.

    I seem to be surrounded by couples in selfish relationships – disintegrating. Sadly and slowly.

    So this post? Gave me hope.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Julie. I love finding other pukeworthy couples through this blog. Nothing stops my respect for someone faster than to hear one partner badmouthing another, ESPECIALLY on the internet. We are the lucky ones :)

  40. […] per se, but the publication of the oft-requested Relationship Operating Agreement that Eric and I live by.  Feel free to adopt/adapt your own with ours as the model.  We weren’t born this smart, […]

  41. […] which is repeated.  Also, I want to share the story of a couple that deserves membership in the vomit-inducing club. So hang on while I get really, really serious, […]

  42. Hi Pamela! Sooooo the other day I blogged about how my husband & I are one of THOSE couples that make people gag…. and I got a comment from LBDiaries inviting me to join you guys in the 30 day challenge, blogging about 30 awesome things about our husbands! Just wanted you to know that I’M TOTALLY IN!! I may have to do 7 in one post weekly, but I’m pumped! Thanks for being a fellow “gag couple”!


    • Pamela says:

      Mine will be once a week, too, reporting on my daily challenge :)
      My subscribers would unsubscribe if I gagged them EVERY day!
      Glad you’re in!

  43. […] They did this last year and invited me this year because I would be considered half of a “couple that makes you want to puke.” And I must say that I’m PROUD to be in that […]

  44. […] tortuously difficult exercise?  Well, both Nan and I consider ourselves to be half of the duo in couples who  make you want to puke.  You know, the happy ones that hold hands all the time, smiling, laughing, and talking to each […]

  45. […] Through both kinds of days, I cradle one thought in my hands: “the relationship is the most important thing“. […]

  46. […] But I want to stress that these points apply across every type of relationship, not just to couples who make you want to puke, like […]

  47. […] does one survive a big love?  I’ve written on this before a la Couples Who Make You Want to Puke and the dreaded Relationship Operating Agreement (ROA) concept.  Our ROA does help, as does the […]

  48. […] steam bath, so within minutes sweat trickled then flowed down our legs. But it was okay, in fact, it was nirvana. We were together, and we were going to see Journey, which Eric had picked out just for me. We […]

  49. […] getting the hell over it being about me. Alcoholism. My flaws as a parent. The challenges I face in personal relationships. I learned to access that emotion, put it out there, and separate myself from it. Bonus: it helped […]

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