I’ve heard more than a few times that “your wife has the patience of a saint.” While it’s true that my wife is pretty patient, people have only said this to me because I happen to own a ridiculously huge collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memorabilia, and they figure most women wouldn’t tolerate such an absurd fixation.
While I recognize that this isn’t a normal thing for a man in his 30s to have, I never really thought of it in terms of patience. Instead, I just felt it was acceptance — and by that I mean, my wife loves me for me, so she should (and usually does) understand my need for random Turtle junk.
At least, that’s how I see it.
If you yourself are in a situation where you’re trying to mentally justify being attracted to a person who’s into something you find dumb as hell — say your husband just got back into his childhood love of baseball cards, or you just can’t stand your partner’s creepy doll collection — below, you’ll find some helpful advice on how you can learn to live with your partner’s stupid crap.
Lisa White, psychotherapist and relationship expert: When you’re getting married, or making a commitment to someone like moving in together, you have to go in with a level of flexibility on both sides. Also, you should know that if there’s anything you don’t like now, you’re going to hate it when you’re under the same roof.
If you married someone with some quirk, you have little ground to ask them to change it later, because that’s the person you married. Even if it’s something they adopt later on, it’s important to understand that people’s needs change as they get older, so if suddenly your spouse wants to get a ton of tattoos, you need to talk to them and understand why this is important to them. By communicating with them, you may gain a deeper understanding, and perhaps then it won’t bother you so much once you understand more.
For the collector, if something is important to you, you should stand up for it because it’s part of who you are — but you also need to know that being in a relationship does mean some level of compromise. So if you’re really into Batman comic books but it drives your wife crazy, get a mancave and leave that stuff in there. Now, you may need to negotiate how you can find that space or get a bigger apartment, but you need to discuss those things and be flexible yourself.
Some of it’s also transactional, so if the husband wants to spend his day at a car show and the wife’s not really into it, that’s cool, but then he should take his wife out to a nice restaurant or let her go to the movies with her girlfriend without giving her a hard time. That kind of compromise works, but only when both of your needs are being met.
If you can’t compromise or come to some sort of agreement, you have to ask yourself why are you so aggravated by this? If his collection is driving you so crazy that you feel like you have to leave him, it’s probably a much deeper issue that has little to do with those comic books. Like if you’re upset because he’s not spending time with you, that’s a serious issue. Or if you’re getting dragged to all these comic-book conventions, but he won’t take you out to dinner, then that’s the problem. So you have to find out what the real issue is. Because are you really going to get divorced over Batman? Probably not.
Dawn, whose husband is an avid Dungeons & Dragons player: Before I was with Matt I didn’t know much about D&D, but I’m a pretty easy-going person. So when we first got together I didn’t judge him. I just said, “Okay, cool.” I figured that if he enjoys it, he should do it. Other than that, I don’t really have any strong feelings about it. In fact, now that we have kids, I like the idea that he’s indoctrinating our children into that world. Whereas I’m not necessarily interested, I see it as more of an intellectual and creative endeavor than putting our kids in front of a screen.
The only thing that we ever had to compromise on was a few years ago when he first found this new group of people to play with. He was already working a lot, and then he would play these 12-hour games in his office. I encouraged him to bring the group to our house so that he still gets to be a part of the family, even though he’s doing his thing in the next room. He agreed, so now, once a month, he takes over the dining room for a day while I read a book, watch TV or whatever.
Jackie, whose husband has a rather impressive handlebar mustache: Eddie’s a little bit of an extremist, so when, three years ago, he began to grow this handlebar mustache, of course he had to have the biggest one. Now there’s quite a bit of maintenance that goes into it: He grooms it every day and washes it often; he blow dries it; and he has to wax it every morning. When it started, I just thought it was another one of his phases, but then the phase kept on going, so now I’m used to it. In fact, at this point, I couldn’t imagine him without it.
People love to stop him on the street and take pictures with him. Also, soon after he began growing it, he started going to these competitions, the first of which was in Coney Island and he found that he was really into it. Now this has become just a part of our life. While I don’t join him at every competition, I do go to my fair share, and I’m proud of him and happy for him.
For someone who’s struggling to accept something about their spouse, my advice would be to remain open and to not judge a book by its cover. While I wasn’t sure about these competitions at first, everyone I’ve met there is genuine; mustaches just happen to be their thing. If anything, they’ve given me a chance to meet new people who are welcoming and good-hearted.
Vinny, whose wife has more than 400 pairs of shoes: When I first got together with Stacey, her shoe collection wasn’t so bad, but over time, it got worse and worse and worse. She now has a huge walk-in closet with wall-to-wall shoes — they’re also in a few other closets, whereas I have the smallest closet in the whole house. At least one box a week comes — in fact, one’s on my porch right now. Most of the shoes she gets look nice, but occasionally she’ll get a pair that I wish she’d take back because I don’t like how they look. (Sometimes she’ll take my advice; sometimes she won’t.)
The way I see it is that you can’t let things like that bother you, because then it just gets worse: You have to just let go. I don’t give her a hard time about the shoes, and she doesn’t give me a hard time about my stuff. So if I want a new tool or something for the yard, I go out and get it, and she does the same.
Veronica, whose husband has a ridiculously huge collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures (sound familiar?): I found out about my husband’s Ninja Turtles obsession when it was too late. We were at college when we met, so in his apartment he had a few toys and a Turtles arcade game, but I thought that was kind of cool. It wasn’t until months into our relationship, when I visited his childhood home and his bedroom was just this shrine to the Turtles, that I heard alarm bells in my head. I’ll admit that it was somewhat disturbing, but by that point, we were already in love, so I guess his plan had worked. I was duped though, for sure.
When we first moved in together, I knew this stuff was going to come with us because he’d constantly tell me that it was coming with us. I wasn’t okay with it, because when we lived together in Brooklyn, it was a small one-bedroom apartment. In our bedroom I had my nice dresser with a few things on it, but on top of his beat-up old dresser were all of these weird toys that you’d see staring at you when you woke up in the middle of the night. I hated it. I think the only room that didn’t have turtles of some sort was the bathroom.
I put up with it because I love him, but I had to do a lot of positive self talk and list to myself all of the great things about him — you know, at least he’s not out drinking or being a womanizer or something else.
I had to really talk myself through it.
When we moved to our current home, his Turtle collection found its proper place, in the basement in his own personal man cave, which is the neatest room in the house. So it’s nice now that they have their own designated space. It’s better for him to have complete control over this area and it’s definitely better for our marriage as well. That said, right now, I’m looking at a four-foot tall giant Michelangelo that stands in our dining room.