When Darrell and I were newlyweds it was difficult for me to get used to how unhappy he almost always was at what things cost. It was difficult for him to get used to how unhappy I was at how unhappy he was.
I took it personally, for one thing. He didn't complain as much, or so it seemed, about things he wanted -- like a house and everything that came with it.
He took it personally right back. Why was I complaining that he was complaining?
One day I realized he was right. He had a right to feel how he felt, granted -- and I had a right to how I felt about that. But dwelling on the unhappy only made us more unhappy.
One day during a particularly low point in our financial evolution I proposed taking the train to the Pacific Northwest, staying a few days at the same swanky resort I'd spent a couple of weeks at a couple of times, and doing not inexpensive things -- like going on a trail ride, and going whitewater rafting.
He lost it. I believe that's the technical term for it. He told me we didn't have the time or the money for a vacation like that. In a move I still can't believe I had the nerve to make I told him, "That's exactly the time you need it most. So you wait until you can afford it. Where's the adventure in that?"
Would it surprise you if that didn't go over very well?
I had my reasons for doing the exact opposite of what seemed reasonable to either one of us -- and while he disagreed with those, he gave in. Especially when I presented my plan for paying for the trip. It was an interesting few days, though. At one point I asked him when we'd have enough money stashed to take a trip like this without bad feelings all around. The answer was (you saw this coming, I bet): "Never."
We had a great trip. Every train whistle we hear even now calls up memories that are as sweet and seem as fresh as the day we got back
Darrell had so much fun he was the one who suggested the next big adventure, and the one after that.
Which is not to say he didn't fight me on most of the rest. It got to be our shtick. We'd come up with a plan, usually together. As the trip got closer he'd forget how involved he was in the planning. Cue the fireworks and the wounded feelings. But on the trip and afterward? Oh God, he was a prince. And until it was time to scheme about the next one he'd say, "You know that trip we took? That was really fun."
It slowly started dawning on Darrell that nothing we spent money on paid more dividends than travel. We had the fun of the anticipation when we weren't at odds. We had the fun of deepening our bond with Katie in a way all three of us agree could never be replicated. And we had so much fun savoring those memories -- still do -- that truly, by almost any standard, the cash outlay was a bargain.
When we launched the new talk show about a month after Katie left for college, we went on a date -- at the spur of the moment -- which we almost never do. Darrell took the opportunity to remind me how much he'd fought me on all those trips. "It was the right thing to do," he said. "I made it hell for you, but you wouldn't let up." Pause. "And you were right."
Katie only knew about the fireworks after they were long over and we were joking about them. But she knows whose vision it had been, to make those memories. Mine.
And now here was Darrell, giving me still more credit for doing the right thing regardless. "Had we not taken them we'd have a little less debt," he said. "And so what?" All three of us look back on 18 years of fun, punctuated by so much more fun when we were out of town.
I had a compressed version of this process as I got to know Alan, the gentleman who helped redesign my web site. At first he didn't understand my vision for it. Now he shows it off to other clients.
Darrell and Alan spent a lot of time fighting me on what I wanted.
Then they took a step back and said, "You know, this is really cool."
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