Byron York on Bob and Suzanne’s Marriage

Suzanne and some of her friends are livid over Bob’s drinking. They have a right to be angry — but not to be surprised.

There’s a war going on between this husband and wife in which Suzanne has shown contempt for Bob’s autonomy, and now, in response, Bob is showing contempt for Suzanne’s decision making. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s what Suzanne has wrought.

The latest development is that Bob threatened representatives of Pottery Barn with bodily harm, and had a bunch of his buddies co-sign the threat. Sent Monday morning, the letter reminds Pottery Barn that Suzanne unilaterally chose the new kitchen curtains on her own, without his formal approval. Suzanne is not pursuing compromise, which would have to be agreed to by Bob, or a joint marital agreement, which would also require Bob’s approval.

“We consider the choice of pink kitchen curtains, which was not approved by Bob, as nothing more than an agreement between Suzanne and Pottery Barn,” the letter read. “Bob could revoke such an agreement at any time.”

Just in case there’s any confusion, Bob and his friends remind Pottery Barn that he could easily divorce Suzanne and get a new wife.

The letter comes on the heels of Bob’s decision to invite his friends over to the house in what amounted to an extended attack on Suzanne’s choice of curtains.

It should go without saying that the reason Bob and his friends are doing these things is because they are deeply concerned about Suzanne’s irrational insistence that Bob stop getting fall-down drunk in front of the kids. But another reason they’re acting is because they can. On the curtains, and before that on a dispute over Bob’s refusal to help with the dishes, Suzanne has taken pushiness beyond its proper limits, on the flimsy pretense that she is entitled to act unilaterally if Bob won’t take care of even the most basic of his responsibilities. Could anyone fail to anticipate that in response Bob would stretch his own authority, too?

Suzanne’s friend JoAnne quickly condemned Bob’s letter, calling it “a cruel strategy to deny Suzanne’s ability to run her household.” Barbara, undoubtedly speaking for other of Suzanne’s friends, called the letter “bizarre” and “a desperate ploy to avoid responsibility.”

Remember what preceded Bob’s action. A number of Bob’s friends, led by Corky Smithers, had been thinking about helping Bob put in new cabinets. The discussion of remodeling the kitchen was a response to Suzanne’s decision not to seek approval for the curtains despite a long history of Bob playing a role in their home decorating, which has provided “added class and a male touch to many of their rooms,” notes Bob’s friend Garth.

Suzanne’s response to the remodeling plan was swift. “There is no way in hell that you drunks are ripping out the cabinets.”

Now, Suzanne and her friends interpret Bob’s letter as the latest in a long line of alcohol-fueled outrages. “It’s safe to say that no wife in modern times has had to put up with this kind of stupidity,” says Suzanne’s “friend” Paul. “But as Bob’s alcoholism enters its final phase, he’s embarking on an entirely new enterprise: he’s decided that as long as he’s still married to her, it’s no longer necessary to respect his wife at all.”

Actually, things are much simpler than that. Time after time, Suzanne has told Bob to go to hell. Now Bob is telling Suzanne to go to hell. It’s an entirely predictable development.

Of course, it is still a bad thing. It is not good to invite your inebriated friends over just to mock the kitchen curtains and threaten to rip out all the fixtures. It is not good to undermine Suzanne’s ability to make the most basic decorating decisions. But it’s not a good thing to cut Bob out of the decision making either, or to threaten even more unilateral decorating decisions in the future, as Suzanne has done.

It’s too bad for Suzanne that she couldn’t persuade Bob to stop drinking. That did not give her the right to just go ahead and pick whatever kitchen curtains she wants. They’re pink for Chrissakes.

Now Bob is pushing back. It’s a shame it’s come to this, but that’s the way things work.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.