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How To Cope With Marital Dry Spells: A Primer On Woodworking


There comes a time in every marriage when a man finds himself banished from his lady’s bedchamber for some perceived offense. A trifle, nonsense in most cases, but God help you if you argue with her until she realizes you’re right (which, of course, you usually are). If you successfully dispute her irrational arguments, the trap is sprung and she’ll proceed to catalogue every single one of your past lapses. At this point, my friend, you’ve entered what we in the marriage game like to refer to as the normal state of things a dry spell.

The most important thing to remember about dry spells is that they happen to everyone. This is the case even if you have married an infinitely patient woman who doesn’t find fault in every piddling thing you do and certainly never expects you to tidy up the bathroom counter every day, because she knows fully well you’re just going to use all that stuff again so it just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, even that saintly sort of woman becomes violently ill or otherwise indisposed from time to time, and since you’ve got the more typical variety of woman on your hands, your path is more fraught.

Outlast that Blasted Wife

The key is to outlast her until she comes around. For the first few days of a dry spell, you might still be annoyed enough at her absurd reaction to your unimpeachable logic that you weather this stage without difficulty. But that won’t last. While you’re restless and distracted, it’s common to start thinking some truly crazy things. You might even consider admitting your wife’s version of events is correct. Do not! This only serves to reinforce her preposterous behavior.

Any man who sticks to his guns will experience a dry spell sooner or later, but there are ways to cope. In fact, it can be a tremendous opportunity for self-improvement.

What better activity for a man with some unanticipated free time than carpentry? There are few better ways to relieve stress than taking a length of wood into your hands and manipulating it until you’ve achieved the desired result. It can really clear your head. With a few practical guidelines you’ll be up to speed and navigating dry spells with practiced ease.

The first order of business is to identify a project. For this exercise, we’ll go with something fairly easy that will take up some time. You like to sit around, as your wife never fails to tell people loudly enough for you to overhear. So how about a bench? I’ll run you through the steps of this basic woodworking project, which should be enough to carry you through until she works up the nerve to apologize.

Step 1: Materials

It’s important to have all your materials in place before beginning. You can obtain these from a lumberyard or one of the big home improvement stores.

  • (1) 2×10
  • (2) 8’ of 2×2
  • (2) 8’ of 1×4
  • (2) 2×4
  • Wooden dowels
  • Wood screws (1.5” & 3” length)
  • Paint or oil-based stain

You’ll also need some tools. If you are missing a few of these, go borrow one from an older neighbor. He’ll have them. He’s been there. Plus, at this point you should take advantage of any excuse to get out of the house.

  • Drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Circular saw or compound miter saw
  • Swanson® Speed® square
  • Pencil
  • 2 sawhorses
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask

Depending on how much time you spent hiding planning, visiting the lumberyard, and jawing with the neighbor, you may well have eaten up most of a day. Don’t feel like you need to finish this up in an afternoon. She probably hasn’t let it go yet, knowing her, even though this is obviously a ridiculous thing for her to be mad about.

You can pick this up tomorrow. Have a beer. Stay strong.

Step 2: Set Up

Preparation is key. A dry spell won’t always leave you in the best shape. Sleeping on the couch will leave you, if not quite bone weary, at least a little stiff. Limber up and pound some coffee because it’s time to crank this out.

Head to the workshop before your wife gets up and dressed. The last thing you need is to see her with her hair done the way you like it, or get a whiff of her perfume as she saunters past you without saying a word. That way lies madness.

As put-together as she might be, don’t let that distract you from the task at hand: finally winning an argument building this bench.

Before you start, organize your workspace. Sweep up and clear the area. Set up your sawhorses, arrange your tools, and be sure to remember your safety gear. Your wife may say you’re a hopeless slob, but if she was on speaking terms with you at the moment she’d definitely have to admit how wrong she is about that.

This process should take at least a few hours, as you putter around and stop to check your phone a few dozen times. Take yourself out for lunch, maybe to get a burger or some tacos. Since a certain person probably still isn’t talking to you, you can enjoy this without any comments about how tight your pants seem to be getting across the seat.

Step 3: Cutting

Once you’re back from lunch and set up, take your 2×10 and place it on the sawhorses. These will be the sides/legs.

Measure 17-19” down the board. Mark it with your pencil and draw a straight line across the face of the board using your official Swanson® Speed® Square. If you don’t have an official Swanson® Speed® Square just connect the two marks freehand, because whatever—you’ve got a problem.
Upon hearing the saw, most women will take the opportunity to check on your progress, and probably won’t be able to resist making a comment about how long you’re taking. She likely hasn’t spoken to you in a few days, so this nagging might actually sound ever-so-slightly like music to you. You may find yourself smiling like a goon as you recall the way she looked on that star-decked night you first met, when all your world was her, and you were grateful to be alive in it.

She’s doing this on purpose. Clamp down on your weakness immediately, and respond only in noncommittal grunts until she walks out of the room. Return to your sawing, making sure to keep your eyes on your work and not on her (see Figure 3A). Yes, losing a finger might get her to talk to you again, but ignore that impulse.

FIG 3-cutting

Cut the 2x2s to 8’. Just focus on your wood.

Cut the 1x4s to the same length. You’re one with the wood.

Cut the 2x4s, again, to 8’. She’s a beauty, isn’t she? The wood I mean.

Finished? Good. Time to call it a day. Maybe go for a run or something.

Step 4: Sanding

Back to it. Before you join the various pieces together, you should give them a good sanding. This will smooth the surface, prepare it to take stain or paint, and your arm will no doubt benefit from the repetitive exercise.

Starting from one end of the board, sand back and forth in unhurried, gliding strokes (see Figure 4). Switch it up with a few short ones here and there to break up the monotony. Apply firm, not intense, pressure. If an area needs special attention, focus on that for a bit.


Run your fingers gently along the length of the board, feeling for any remaining rough spots. Try not to think about the fact that this morning your wife smiled at you, a genuine smile instead of that pained, polite one she’s been using for the last…God, how long has it been? A week? Two?

Keep at it. It might get a little tiring, but don’t stop until you’re satisfied. When you’re finished, there will be a bit of a mess. You really don’t want your wife to walk in on you in this state. Sawdust tends to get everywhere, so take a moment to sweep up. Surely this will earn you some goodwill. She could very well be so impressed with your thoughtfulness that she’ll finally admit where she went wrong way back when this started.

Couldn’t hurt to ask if she’s given any thought to apologizing.

Step 5: Assembly

Ouch. That didn’t go the way you planned it, not at all. By now you’ve likely realized she’s not only unwilling to abandon her position, but also adamant that your version of events in no way comports with reality. You may have actually prolonged your dry spell.

May as well try to finish the stupid bench. It’s sort of the only thing you have to look forward to at this point.

You can try nailing your bench together (see Figure 5A), but that isn’t recommended. In this situation you really need to screw.

FIG 5-assembly

Mark 1 1/2” from the top of the side board and 1” from the outside edge. Align the 2×2 inside the marks and secure it with two 3” screws through the outside edge. Can you handle that, or do you need your hand held?

Once you have the sides attached to the brace, it should stand up. Wait—t’s wobbly? Oh, good job. Not sure how you managed that one, Bob Vila.

Attach the 1x4s to the front of the braces. There was a step about securing it with dowels first, but the hell with that. Line up the board, screw it in through the front with the shorter screws, repeat for the back side. An idiot could do this.

You can hopefully see how this is shaping up by now. Your efforts at both basic carpentry and principled resistance have devolved into a total #$%&show.

Step 6: $#^& This

Time to attach the %$&#ing seat. Take the 2x4s and drop them in. Make sure they’re lined up, then tack it in to the top edge of the 2×10 with 3 screws at each end. Brilliant. It’s ninety-%$&#ing-nine percent done. Take a step back and admire your handiwork for a moment. Well, this is…this…

This is a heap of garbage. How could you cock it up so badly? This lopsided monstrosity looks like something an eight-year-old would make with scrap lumber he fished out of a $#%@ing dump. Of all the lousy wastes of time…

Hey, you want to know what the next step is? Kick this trashpile to pieces. $%#& it (see Figure 6A). If it’s as rickety as it looks, you should have no trouble.


One kick. Two kicks. Three kicks. Ahhhh.

Now that you’ve murdered your carpentry project, you may experience a sudden epiphany: This was a terrible idea.

What did you think was going to happen? What were you really trying to prove? Look where that got you. You have a pile of broken wood, and you still haven’t had sex. Well done.

It’s time to admit something to yourself: your wife was right. Yes, the entire time. You’re the jerk.

As you’ve now realized, the best way for you to cope with a dry spell is to almost immediately give up, ask forgiveness, and promise to keep the bathroom countertop tidy.

The good news is that you can put this much better plan into action right away. The sounds of your rampage will have brought her down to check on you. It’s highly likely she will be receptive to your re-tooled message of utter capitulation. One caveat: you’ll need to issue the apology very quickly, to distract from the mess of splintered timber you intend to leave right there on the floor.

You can get to that when you get to it.

For more detailed instructions, see here.

Illustrations were provided by Rob Dewing, whose other work can be found here and here. The artist’s mother has asked the author to inform you that Rob is available for commissions.