Reindeer Games: The Key To A Happy Midlife Marriage

It’s ugly.

It’s heavy.

It’s the Holiday Armadillo.

And it’s been in our family for 20 years.

It’s now a fucking heirloom.

Two decades ago, I was the boss’ wife. My husband had landed a pretty big job running a trust department for a large bank. We had a new baby and his prestigious position gave me the financial freedom to give up my dream job with Merrill Lynch to stay home with said baby. A decision I will NEVER regret. Well… a decision I stopped regretting when I put it all in perspective that I was REALLY fortunate to have that time with my babies and now that I’m older and wiser, I can have my own business.

The first company holiday party for my husband’s employees was on a party boat. I wasn’t drinking because I was breast feeding and I wasn’t a prolific milk factory. There was no margin for “pump and dump”. Therefore, to amuse myself, I was fixated on gaming the white elephant exchange.

I had pretty good positioning towards the end of the line and had strategically ended up with an olive oil and vinegar set I would put to good use. But there was a woman. A trust administrator reporting to my husband. And she snagged my set.

To say I was incensed, may be the understatement of the century. How dare she! I am the young, adorable, newly anointed boss’ wife balancing cosmopolitan style with the coy modesty of new motherhood!

God, what an asshole I was.

And this seasoned professional, who in retrospect was probably about the age I am now, took tremendous joy in knocking me down a peg. Fuck her. But also, way to go. I get it now.

And so, despite desperate attempts to get, if not my set back, then anything that was better than a brass armadillo, were futile.

When we got home, I angrily threw it in the trash, complaining to my husband about “that one”.

The next day, the armadillo showed up at my bathroom sink.

I was not amused. Back to the garbage for the rodent.

Then it showed up in the refrigerator.

So I started to play along and hid the armadillo somewhere for my husband to find it. Back and forth it went on until the holiday decorations were packed up for the season.

Year two, the games began again. It was now named the Holiday Armadillo, and it got elaborate. I remember driving out to where my husband played basketball on Saturday mornings, unlocking his car, and setting it on his steering wheel. It travelled with us to show up on a holiday Hawaiian vacation. On and on.

And then it stopped.

Because we stopped playing.

Because life felt hard and stressed and un-fun.

And the Holiday Armadillo became a symbol of the staleness of marriage. It represented work. Why would I want to take the time to try to be creative and hide this stupid thing somewhere? For what? To amuse him?


For that.

And as we (ahem, I) worked through the shit, we started playing again. Well truly, I decided to get my head back in the game. So the Holiday Armadillo has become the lynchpin of our holiday festivities once again.

Is that an armadillo in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

You hear it all the time, marriage takes work. Yes. It does. If you want to have the type of marriage that I believe we all seek – one of fun, loving, nurturing partnership.

If you find yourself saying things like, “oh, you only do stuff like that in the beginning”, I want to challenge you to step it up. Make the effort to continue traditions, to make your spouse laugh, or just do something sweet and thoughtful. Find your playfulness and your creativity.

Yes, I know. He doesn’t. But someone has to. Keep your eye on the prize. What kind of relationship do YOU want? What can you be in control of to make that happen?

If you’re looking for some help to get started listen to my interview with Dr. Nate Klemp on The Midlife Podcast.

Find your Holiday Armadillo. It just may be the secret to your happy Midlife Marriage.

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