Marriage can bring out the worst in me. And perhaps that’s the point. That same sweet person that fills my vision and life, and whispers, “Darling…” also, by just being around all the time, can make me feel utterly stupid, selfish and angry.

I’m blessed with a devastatingly kind and patient husband. In fact, we rarely fight – both of us dislike the empty fireworks of yelling and screaming, preferring to sort out our differences in calmer fashion. It doesn’t hurt that we’re goofily in love, and I value our togetherness so highly that anything that causes a gap isn’t worth a fraction of that sweet accord, so I tend towards pre-emptive conflict resolution instead of passionate, reactive outburst.

For the most part, anyways. His board game collection and I do not get along so well. And with 150 different boxes to choose from, I have ample opportunity to showcase my worst self: my penchant for swearing, my sore, sore loserness, and childish manners, nevermind stirring up my secret desire to cheat, lie and steal my way to the top, even if that top is a cardboard mountain in Middle Earth, or a pile of vanquished wooden farmers from some imaginary town in ancient France.

I want to win. All the time. At the cost of politeness, civility, and common decency. My husband wants simply to play, to figure out strategy, to enjoy the company of others, to inhabit the rules of the game and deconstruct them. He wants…get this…to have fun. That makes us mortal enemies whenever we sit down at the table together.

Perhaps I am exaggerating, but I am a terrible loser. I can’t stand it – can’t stand being attacked, cursed, outplayed, outwitted. I’ve thrown my cards down in disgust too many times to count. I cried and kicked my cramped seat on the airplane to England last summer, after being beaten three games of pre-colonization African market trading in a row. I’ve got a pretty damn good pout when in the hole, and I tend to tune out if I’m going nowhere fast, depriving my fellow rivals of pleasant company.

And fortunately for me, I married a man who loves to play games. All the time. In any weather, with any group of people, for any occasion. So instead of being able to safely hide this selfish, sad little side of my character, it is frequently called to account and routinely exposed.

I’m reminded of an old camp song about a lion hunt: at one point in the story, you encounter a vast swamp of knee-high muck. “Can’t go ’round it, can’t go over it, can’t go under it,” the verse cheerily explains, “You’ve gotta go through it.”

Marriage can bring out the worst in me. Thank God. That means I’ve roughly another 150 chances (at the very least) to go right through the swampy muck of my own heart and deeply rooted sore loser attitude. My commitment to this marvellous man who loves to play games means that I must forsake self-preservation and closing small doors of intimacy to protect my less-than-perfect self. Through him, I can learn a different way to live.

Let the games begin again.

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Love Games by Sarah Kift is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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