I’d just come home from work. My wife was gone. Vanished. Into thin air.
Chris, our roommate, was [again] parked on the couch [again] watching The Fast & The Furious [again] eating a salami sandwich [again] and drinking a beer [again], after a big night out spending his paycheck on gas by driving his Skyline from Point A to Point B, and back again.
“Hey bud, you have any idea where Tash is?” I asked.
“‘Cross the street, brah. She’s in the parkin’ lot,” he answered, not even glancing away from Vin Diesel shifting gears.
The parking lot?
I stepped outside and peered, as Chris so eloquently put it, ‘cross the street. Yep, there she was. Pacing. In the middle of an empty parking lot.
She looked a little frantic. Kind of like she might be crying, or laughing hysterically. 😬
Now, my wife was strange (at least, that’s what I’d been able to glean from these first few months of marriage) but I didn’t realize she was crying-in-an-empty-parking-lot strange.
As I said, we were a couple months into our marriage. I was an emigrant from the United States, therefore my “work” was limited to cash-in-hand stuff. Options abounded, from fruit-picking, to stacking shelves, to packing crates. What did I choose? Selling karate memberships door-to-door on the “dodgy” southside of Brisbane.
“No, Danny!” I hear you cry. “Don’t tell us this on the internet! The ATO (Australia’s equally devious IRS counterpart) will come crashing down on you and you’ll be done for!”
No, not really. I was so incredibly horrible at selling door-to-door karate memberships, that I literally sold nothing. Not one membership. Not. One. I was handed plenty of attitude. I was shown a lot of fierce dogs that were “all the protection they needed.” I was told by burly men that they already knew how to fight, and they’d give me a demonstration if I didn’t get off their property. But, I was never given any money. By anyone. Not one single person.
So after a long day of trudging up and down the hilly streets and being told ‘no’ in all sorts of colorful Australian phrases, I was now trudging over to the parking lot where my new bride appeared to be in the throes of a mental breakdown.
And, that’s exactly where she was at, unfortunately.
See, my wife is a super introvert. Not just kind of halfway introverted. Full-on introvert. If everyone in the world simply vanished except for me and my son, she’d probably be okay with that.
Back before I’d arrived in Australia, in a time of [apparently] high optimism on the banks’ part that, you guessed it, led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, my part-time-at-the-video-shop fiance was given a loan for a two-bedroom apartment.
Enter: The Roommate
Chris wasn’t a bad guy. Sure, he spent his evenings street racing his modded Skyline, coming home more or less inebriated and camping on the couch to watch The Fast & The Furious on repeat… but he was also good for a couple hundred a week.
That is, until now.
After going over and speaking with my introverted wife in the parking lot, we determined that we were going to vamoose Chris, The Fast, as well as The Furious.
What else do you do with a tearful wife? A great piece of advice that I’ve truly taken to heart that’s served me well is, Happy Wife, Happy Life.
So you adjust.
We were adjusting in other ways, too. She’d also determined that she was going to work less at the video store. No, she wasn’t a brat. In retrospect, she was in a pretty bad way mentally. (I mean, she’d have to have been if she married me just months earlier! 🤣 I kid, of course. 😅)
So, let’s see…
- I had nothing and no one as I’d moved internationally. (Even if I didn’t have nothing and no one within arm’s reach, I’d been led to believe that we were basically just-above broke my whole life. So, it’s not like I’d have ever expected any help, anyway.)
- She’d bought this apartment deliberately across town from her family, to get a bit of space. There was probably an hour’s drive between us with traffic, but that was enough.
- I had a “job” that well and truly kept me occupied and fit, but didn’t keep me paid.
- Tash had taken a pay cut by way of reduced hours at Blockbuster. (Her choice.) (🤣 I say that like it matters. Like it’s a pride thing to be the one reducing your own hours at a video store.)
- We were eliminating a solid source of mortgage-payment-offset by kicking Chris out. (His island-hopping mother paid his bills, while he spent his own income on car mods.)
We were newlyweds, broke, in a totally new environment, and barely out of our teenage years, with nothing and no one to lean on except each other in a time of extremely high stress as we learned to live with one another with no money and plenty of bills to pay.
Thus the foundation for our (going on) 17 years of blissful marriage was laid. 😁
Cleaving to One Another
In the bible, it talks about newlyweds “cleaving” to one another.
Growing up in the church, I’d always heard it but had very little knowledge about it. (I honestly don’t think the preachers knew much about it either. They just wanted me to do it, by God. Literally.) It sounded much more like something a butcher would do to a stubborn piece of cow than the grounds for a successful relationship. However, if you look at the word, to cleave has two meanings.
- The more common being to split, or sever.
- The less common being to stick fast to, like glue.
Sounds to me like someone got confused during translation. But, what if we applied both to this situation? Tash and I had to split, or sever from everything we knew and previously relied upon (including income) to see each other as the only possible source of support, whereupon we stuck fast to each other, like we’d been painted with some metaphysical glue that could never be unbound.
In my book, The Happy Marriage Hot Sex Handbook, the very first item on the list is to cleave to one another, because I know the value of it.
But, how do you set yourself up to cleave to one another? It seems that our scenario kind of arose by accident. If you weren’t looking deep enough, I can understand how that might occur to you. To disagree with that statement is currently beyond the scope of this blog post. I’m just here to give you a recipe, a hack, to either set up a new marriage for success, or reboot one that’s in a slump, by organizing to Leave & Cleave.
Leave & Cleave
These are the basic elements you need to “fly the coop” as it were, and learn, or re-learn, to solely rely on your partner (not their money; them) as your only source of support.
Why is this important? Because they are your lifetime partner.
That’s the game plan and my motto: One man. One woman. One flesh. For life.
My wife is everything. There’s no other word. I’m not being sacrilegious here. She is my everything. My all. My one and only. I’m the horse, she’s the girl sitting in the cart driving me. I’m the power, she’s the steering. So, in my mind, it’s the easiest thing in the world to say, “Yep, I’m gonna take six months off and go live remotely in Kansas on a 120 acre monarch butterfly migration waypoint, with my wife and son.”
Why? Because my wife (and subsequently, my son) are everything.
My top priorities. Nothing else exists if they don’t exist. Are you at that point? Because you need to be. Otherwise, this whole “relationship thing” is probably just going to end, like everyone else’s. If you’re cool with that, then fine. But, I’m not.
That’s why my marriage will last.
I know the power inherent in my relationship to this one person, and that it gets bigger and better and more potent every day we’re together.
Who wants some of that? A solid, blissful relationship like this is totally doable. Here are the steps, followed by a few real-world examples so you can choose your own adventure…
Step 1: GTFO
Remember that first definition of cleave? Sever. Split. That’s what we need. We need to unburden you from the many yokes of the world. Your job. Your family. Your friends. All of that crap. This isn’t forever. I see my family and family-in-law often. I now live reasonably close to my family-in-law and return to the States to visit my blood family every so often. This “GTFO” is a temporary action giving a permanent result.
“What about my job?”
Yeah, I know. Maybe you’ve got a job that won’t allow you to just take off. But, what I will say is that more people are working remotely than ever before. So, to those of you who work from home, consider this your prime opportunity to rent (or sublet) your place and “go bush”.
To anyone else struggling to find a way to get out of a paying job that demands your physical presence, I’d say this: Try.
I’m not going to be the guy who says, “Quit your job because you’re literally placing the job on a higher level than your own allegedly-forever relationship.” I know what it’s like to lose the income of a job or a client. It sucks. It’s stressful. It’s not recommended.
But, you can try to find a way around it. Try to work remotely. If you haven’t read The Four Hour Work Week, start there. Tim Ferriss has entire scripts in there that have gotten heaps of people out of coming in to work.
And, it’s totally worth it for many reasons – not just for the sake of this challenge.
Step 2: Go for Broke
The point here is to leave behind your ability to make sure “everything’s going to be okay.” Money? If you got it, you can “fix it,” nice and quick. So, what I recommend is whatever you have, take a percentage of it.
Whatever you’re used to using, only use a fraction. Preload a Visa travel card and do not touch whatever you have in the bank. Better yet, transfer your extra to a term deposit roughly equaling that of your Leave & Cleave excursion. If your excursion isn’t long enough for the shortest term deposit, fine. Put it into a high yield saver that has penalties if you withdraw. Open an account at a different bank and put it there.
You just need to make it less available than it currently is. The point is to make yourself uncomfortable. Like you’re teenagers again. Teenagers need to be really resourceful when it comes to getting by when they don’t have money.
Now, didn’t I just say in the previous point not to quit your job so you could retain your income? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean that just because you’re working you need to use all the money you make.
Here’s an idea: Don’t spend it all!
Put what you need into the necessities. Make a tight budget for frivolities like… food. Seriously eat on the cheap. Get creative. Get resourceful. Show each other that you know how to rough it and have fun doing it. Learn to keep your cool when money’s tight. This will serve you in the marriage, and in the long run when, God forbid, money actually does get tight for whatever reason.
Step 3: Go Remote
Take a trip somewhere.
You’ve already organized with work that you’re taking your vacation time, or quitting, or working remotely. Or, you’re in between jobs, which is a great excuse to travel on the cheap, BTW.
It could be one hour’s travel, or two day’s travel. Just make sure you’re going someplace where the amenities are less advanced than you’re used to. As my friend Jason Khan says, “Wander someplace where the scents are strong and wifi is weak.”
You don’t want to be able to call for backup at a moment’s notice.
You need to bring out your resilience, resourcefulness and reliance upon one another. Go someplace with weak cell coverage. Only take one phone. (Shock!) Make sure that you only ever use the internet in dirty internet cafes. (Or Starbucks. Whatever. Just make it less available than it currently is.) This is your lovers’ adventure. You want to come home transformed as a person and as a couple.
And if you’re doing this with kids, you’re literally showing them how it’s done. How they can choose to do something that makes them momentarily uncomfortable, in order to grow into the kind of person who relies more on their spouse, and less on distractions, and have fun while they’re at it.
Three steps. Easy, right?
These steps are a little vague (due to the vast nature of the world in which we live and the options and opportunities available – Hello! Butterfly ranch on 120 acres in Kansas.) I’m going to give you some real-world examples of Leave & Cleave excursions that definitely resulted in a strengthened bond between lovers.
So, just a refresher here. This wasn’t a trip. This was just life, and it’s the basis for the Leave & Cleave movement. We were broke. (Go for Broke) Basically unemployed. Living at least an hour away from her family and 12 hours away from mine. (GTFO) We had no internet. Not even 3G on our phones – which were so basic, by the way. (This was umpteen odd years ago.)
We had no Netflix. Only a small collection of DVDs, books and CDs. (Go Remote) We had one car, but we couldn’t really drive anywhere special because of the high fuel cost and the fact that we had no money.
Comfortable? Hell no. Worth it?
Well, let me put it this way: I would live that way for literally a thousand years in order to have what I have now.
Adam & Becky
Shout out to my sis- and bro-in-law!
These young whipper-snappers took a trip (GTFO) of their own prior to their marriage a year after mine. As a matter of fact, they were on this trip when we got married, and we called them home, cutting it short. (Something for which my sister-in-law has never forgiven me.)
So, they were broke. (Seeing a trend?) They were also backpacking through Europe for at least three months. They were so poor, they slept in bus stops. (Go for Broke) In fact, it was Becky’s ability to dig through trash bins that literally had Adam say to himself, “There’s a woman scrappy enough to be the mother of my kids.”
They ate rice, basically three times per day. They lived in a hovel (when they were lucky) and worked for pittance as tour guides and servers in a Mexican restaurant owned by a brash American. One phone. No internet. (Go Remote) They’ve been married nearly as long as we have, with five kids.
Happy marriage? 👍 Hot sex? 😅 Obviously.
John & Megan
Who says this Leave & Cleave excursion has to be of purely selfish intent?
John & Megan organized in the first year of their marriage to travel around Mexico, living and working in orphanages as they went. (GTFO & Go Remote) I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten the food in a Mexican orphanage, but it ain’t expensive.
They had one phone. They were mugged four times. (Go for Broke) And (get this) their family was so paranoid they’d be kidnapped that after one of these muggings, when they attempted to get their family to wire them some money via email, they refused because they were so suspicious.
Now? Marriage bliss. Hot sex. (Spotting a trend, yet?)
Taylor & Sam
Taylor and Sam decided to make their Leave & Cleave a little more permanent.
They were pretty low on funds. (Go for Broke) Taylor worked from home, but not for much money.
Sam stayed at home with their new child. They wanted to get away, and get away for good to someplace beautiful. So, they moved an hour and a half (again, it doesn’t have to be a huge jump) away from their families to a small coastal town in Australia. (GTFO)
They knew practically no one; had little money; no TV; slow internet, and were completely out of their element. (Go Remote) At least five years later, they’re still happily married, and still bouncing from place to place because they love the lifestyle.
Hot sex? By their own admission, “Yes!”
Your Leave & Cleave excursion is going to be completely your own. Just make sure you get the elements right:
- GTFO: Get out of your comfort zone. That will likely mean geographically.
- Go for Broke: Seriously limit your funds to put pressure on yourself and grow your scrappy muscles.
- Go Remote: Make yourself unavailable to your normal world. Ditch social media. Focus on each other.
Do that, and you’re on your way to romantic relationship bliss. Do it over and over again, and you’re among the elite.
Tales of husbandfood, fatherhood and manhood in this crazy, mixed up world of ours. I hope you get something out of each one, so that hopefully we can un-mix and un-crazy the world together.
I was having business troubles.
I was having car troubles.
I was having housing troubles.
We don’t even need to talk about the particulars. Let’s just assume that the day was going poorly. As my poor day was rolling right along, one thing leading to another, I had this thought. I was able to see the situation and me sitting in it seemingly from outside my own body and it’s like, “Wow, I get it.”
I was almost entirely sure that the events transpiring were not, in fact, legal.
I was in the local liquor store. In Kansas, you can’t even buy wine in a grocery store, which is where I’d normally bought it in Nebraska during our tenure there. (Kansans consider wine “hard liquor.”) It was simply easier. Now, having relocated to a new Airbnb in Smalltown, Kansas, I was having to relearn the rules.
I really couldn’t understand why my mother-in-law was sobbing.
I thought I was being abundantly clear. Which was frustrating the heck out of me because I really can’t stand it when women cry. (I really don’t like it when anyone cries, to be honest. It’s super awkward. For this reason my wife has determined me to be mildly autistic.) All I told her was that every decision she’d ever made in life was probably the wrong one.