At the College of Staten Island, Craig Gellerman was active in sports. Annemarie Dooling wrote about sports for the school newspaper. But they didn’t strike up a relationship until a few years after graduation — Craig, organizing an alumni group, wrote to Annemarie through MySpace to ask her to join. (“I didn’t remember him, exactly,” she told me.) The two became online pen pals, and then decided to meet again in person, taking Annemarie’s dog out for a walk. “A downpour started while we were in the park, and so he came back to my apartment — and never really left.”
How long were you together before you got married?
Annemarie Dooling: We were together for six years before we got engaged, I think. We had already been living together for a while, so it just didn’t really feel that different. We moved in together because he was living on Staten Island, where his family’s from, and I was living on Staten Island too, but desperately wanted to move back to Brooklyn. It was a short distance, but the Verrazano Bridge toll is like $12 and we knew there was no way we were going to see each other if I moved. So he just decided to come to Brooklyn with me. We were in Brooklyn for a few years, and he got a job offer on Staten Island and presented me with some real estate options on Staten Island that made keeping the Brooklyn apartment seem silly.
Craig Gellerman: I had always lived on Staten Island, so moving to Brooklyn was a new experience. I would definitely like to get back to Brooklyn at some point in the near future.
How do you manage the extra stress of having to maintain a house yourselves? There’s no landlord or super to call, like you’d have in an apartment.
AD: My husband is not very house savvy. He’s an academic, so whenever something goes wrong, either I try to fix it or we call someone to do it. And pretty much anything that can go wrong does. We paid $600 to put down sod, which was one of those checks you just cry over. Like, what is this? But you have to keep the value up for tax purposes.
CG: Owning a house is a little scary, but maintaining it is the hardest part. Taking care of lawns, yards, and decks are all things I have to do but I don’t necessarily enjoy. It sounds much easier having a landlord but I wouldn’t trade owning a house for renting.
AD: We lived in an apartment for a year together and we were always right on top of each other. Now, sometimes one of us will say, “I’m going to go upstairs and grab my charger” and just not come back for a few hours. Or if I need to make a phone call I can go upstairs so the other person doesn’t have to hear my husband and three dogs.
Craig was an accountant when you first met and you encouraged him to go back to school. Was that a difficult time to be living together and sharing bills?
AD: He’s always been good at teaching people things — he’s very patient. He was getting his business master’s and I said, “Just stop, pick up an education mtaster’s. It takes a year or two extra.” His family took a little convincing, but my family’s always been kind of the “live your dream” family, so that wasn’t hard.
CG: For me, leaving the accounting profession was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. I was miserable sitting behind a desk all day. I love sharing knowledge with people and meeting people from all around the world. Becoming an ESL teacher has been great and I haven’t looked back.
Did you have any strategies for making time for each other while trying to juggle work and bills and having him back in school?
AD: We give each other priority. We both have a lot of social circles that we dabble in, but we try and make weekends for the other person first. Otherwise we’d never see each other. There was a time when he was working weekends and I was working through the week and we didn’t see each other that much. That’s partly why our engagement was so long — we just didn’t have enough time together to actually plan a wedding.
Has your writing had any effect on your relationship? Is it something you have to accommodate for, or carve out extra time to protect?
AD: Yeah, I’ve stopped writing as much, I’ve been doing business development and social media more. I’ve basically been the breadwinner the whole time since he quit accounting, and it’s really hard to make a living as a writer. He feels bad when I turn down writing jobs because they’re not lucrative enough. He would always tell me just to do it, and we’ll figure it out.
Are you big cooks? Do you prefer takeout since you lose so much time commuting?
AD: He actually bought me a Kitchen-Aid four years ago and it’s just collected dust. But it’s really nice to be able to walk up the street and go to a deli where they can make fresh pasta for you or buy sauce in containers. He’s actually the worst cook in the world. He can’t even make powdered macaroni and cheese! Whenever he makes it, there are always still clumps of powder. I don’t know how he does that.
Who walks the dogs?
AD: My bulldog doesn’t do “outside.” [laughter] She won’t go if it’s cold, if it’s too hot, if it’s raining. My husband takes his dog walking in the morning. That dog just loves to run and run. They love the house, too, upstairs, downstairs. In the morning they just chase us around. They’re housedogs. We could never live in an apartment with them; it would just be too much.
CG: The hardest part is keeping our dog Scrabble off our bed at night. He likes to sleep right in between us.
Are you both neat people? Do you have similar senses of cleanliness?
CG: If you are asking if I shower regularly, yes. I am clean-shaven on Monday and usually have a full five o’ clock shadow by Friday. It’s great not having to work in an office.
AD: I’m always thinking, “If I leave this sock here, I better pick it up, otherwise no one’s going to do it.” That’s something I had to teach him. There would be something on the floor in the living room and I’d watch to see how many times he’d walk by it and not notice it. I’d say, “You think someone should clean that up?” And he’d be like, “I didn’t even see that!”
Have you learned anything new or interesting yourselves over the years of living with each other?
AD: I’ve learned that I can be a bit of an alpha dog. Sometimes I’ll ask him why he doesn’t have an opinion on something, and he’ll say, “You’re just going to override what I say anyway.” That made me start wondering, “Do I really do that?” And we’ve both learned to rethink how we argue. We had a fight early on after we got engaged: We were playing Wii and his controller slipped off his wrist and broke our television, which had cost like $800. He totally didn’t mean it, and neither of us should have been waving our arms around. Instead of cutting each other down, we try and think about how this is going to affect the other person later.
CG: I’ve grown up a lot since I moved out of my parents’ house at the age of 23. Annemarie and I have been living together for over seven years now and she still tolerates me, so I guess I am doing something right.