A Second First Date

February 14, 1993|By TIM BAKER

Valentine's Day gives a guy a great opportunity if he's bouncing along the rocky road of a rocky marriage. It gives him a chance to do something different. Something drastic.

Hold your breath and take a dramatic step. Do something you haven't done in years. Do something romantic with your wife.

Maybe the two of you aren't getting along. You fight about everything. It looks hopeless. You've thought about splitting. She probably has, too. Maybe you've already separated. So today you're hanging around the house with nothing to do. Or sitting around your new empty apartment.

Remember the time when you called her up and asked her out on your first date? You dialed her number. It rang. Someone answered. "Hello." It sounded like her voice. You said who you were. "Oh, hi." She seemed glad to hear from you. A little small talk for a while. Then you plunged. "Well, look. I was, uh, just wondering, uh, well, if maybe you'd like to go to a movie or something on, uh, Saturday night." You held your breath. "Oh, I'd love to."

Remember the first time you held her hand? Remember your first kiss? Think back for a moment. Where were you? You'd been to some party or that dance. Afterward you drove her home. She invited you in for a moment. You stood next to her in the front hall. You were worried. Suppose she turned away? You put your arms around her. She looked up at you. Pretty face. She didn't turn away. Remember?

I've got a suggestion. Pretend you've just met her. Call her up and ask her out. There's no rule against having a second First Date. Even if it's with your wife.

Ask her if you can stop by the house this afternoon. Buy her a dozen red roses. Hold them behind your back when you ring the doorbell. Have two or three Valentine cards in your pocket. Sure, you'll feel like a fool. But so what? Give it a shot.

Look at it this way. When you're 80 years old, will you care whether you felt stupid one Sunday afternoon 30 or 40 years ago? Even if it doesn't work, won't you be glad you tried?

Now think about it the other way. You're 80 years old. Rocking away on your porch somewhere. You've been divorced for years. Your children have families of their own. Some of them have moved away. You don't see much of them. There's no home for them to come back home to. You hardly know your grandchildren.

Are you willing to live the rest of your life wondering what might have happened if you had only . . . ?

Try this. Tell your wife one thing you wish you hadn't said or done. No qualifications. Don't be stingy. An unconditional apology. "I'm sorry that I. . . ."

Tell her one thing you're willing to change. One thing you're willing to do differently from now on. One thing you're willing to do her way. Tell her something about you that she has been right about all along. Something that you don't like about yourself either. Then tell her something you admire about her.

Tell her how you'd like it to be between the two of you. No complaining. Not the things you think are wrong with her. Be positive. Complete the following sentence: "I wish that you and I could. . . ."

Could what? Laugh more. Talk together. Go places. Do things. What would you like to do with her? "Remember the time we . . . ?" That trip you took. Is there something new you'd like to do with her? Something you've never done before? "I've always dreamed that you and I could. . . ."

Does any of this sound like a good idea? Or are you afraid the two of you will only end up in another argument? Sooner or later, of course, your old problems are going to come up all over again. Your marriage has lasted a while. Both of you have a lot of baggage. You may need some help.

Are you ready for something really drastic? Tell her you've changed your mind. You're willing to try marriage counseling.

Maybe it won't work. Maybe the problems really are insoluble. Some marriages shouldn't survive. But whatever happens, won't you feel good that at least you tried to do something to save yours?

So go ahead. Ask her out. Hold hands. Talk to her. Say something like this: "I want a second marriage. With you. Our first one didn't work very well. Neither of us liked it. So let's go ahead and pretend to get divorced. Then we can start dating each other, fall in love, and get married all over again. With the money we'll save on divorce lawyers, we could even afford a second honeymoon."

Look. It's Valentine's Day. Be romantic. Tell her this. "I'm willing to work on it. I'm willing to try anything. I just don't want to lose you."

Tim Baker's column usually appears on alternate Mondays on the Opinion * Commentary page of The Sun.

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