Watch how he treats waiters and speaks to his sister and acts when you win your third round of spit. Does he untangle Christmas lights with care? Fuck this. Hold that. Make sure you listen. When you’re late –overtired and dead in the eyes– watch him. Does he draw you close and talk you into slow dancing around your shoebox bedroom? Tell him a joke and wait for his lungs to bleed laughter. If they don’t, you should leave. Or stay and watch him cook dinner and fold laundry. Flip pancakes. Touch your underwear and sigh. Oh! Kids and dogs, too. Puppies, preferably. These are good indicators. Does he dip low to greet them? Small things might scare him, and if they do, you should leave. Or don’t. Or tiptoe around him until the tension erupts. Storm Warning. Code Red. Listen to him sing in the shower. Billy Joel. Elton John. Elvis, but only around Christmas time. Forgive, but don’t forget. And fuck. All the time. Don’t ever call it making love. That's idiotic, and you know it. Do it in your childhood bed after your parents fall asleep. Just once and only for the adrenalin. A quickie. A never have I ever completed. Afterwards, tell him about the time you lost your virginity to James Nelson in the backseat of his mom’s mini van. Tell him you think you were too young, but mean you wish you could take it back, and let him see you bare for a moment. Let him kiss you hard like he’s trying to tell you something, but don’t make any assumptions. He could be too drunk, after all. He’s always too drunk. Have the kids talk, the marriage talk, the my side of the bed talk. If you survive all of this, you should stay. Unless you say, “We need to talk,” and he squirms. This is cruel, but ultimately effective. Or maybe try, “I love you.” This, I warn you, is even crueler. When he says it back, ask why, and listen as he hands you pebble after pebble of ego. Don’t be fooled. You can still leave. That’s still an option. Clothes thrown haphazardly into a suitcase- his or yours, you honestly can’t remember. You say you want more, and he asks of what. It’s ok not to know, but even if you do know, don’t you dare clue him in. For once in your life play hard to get. Watch him watch you half-way through the threshold of something brand new. Does he cry? Not now, necessarily, just ever. If he didn’t cry when you watched The Titanic, you should leave. Unless he’s crying now. Which he is. Holy shit. Unpack your bag slowly, sock by sock, and let yourself wonder if you’re making the right decision. Let your heart break a little for the other side of the coin. Does he care about people? Not just you, but people. Humanity. Peace on earth. But then, okay, does he care about you? Enough, I mean. Does he care about you enough? He’s here now, and he says your name like a prayer, like a curse, like a thing he thought he’d lost in the fire. And then he’s mad as hell. Wait for him to clench his fists and practice patience. Push his buttons if you like, but don’t expect him to play nice. Sleep on the couch, just for a night, and hold on tight when he carries you back to your bed, his bed, in the middle of the night. Don’t bring it up in the morning. He’ll just blame it on your sleepwalking, and that’ll spark another fight about nothing. And by nothing I mean everything. Watch him pour your coffee a week later and add two sugars and a cream, just how you like it. Does he still pray under his breath right before bed? Listen to the way he says, “Amen,” and compare it to the way he traces your brow when he thinks you’re still asleep. He’s too proud to act that way in front of his parents. Or anyone else, for that matter. Look through his drawers, top to bottom, and swallow the thrill that arises when you find the crumpled love note you once left on his desk at the job that he quit last year. Remember the way he used to call you darling. Mourn for a moment, only a moment, the way he used to be. And watch him that night, stroking the cat you couldn’t leave at the shelter, and let yourself wonder what life might be like without him. If the answer scares you or excites you or makes you tuck your feet up under your legs, stop. Breathe. He’s staring at you, waiting for answers. Scoot a little closer. You know what to do.
— on falling in love and falling apart