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Last week, I got a call from an ex of mine, a man I truly believed I would one day find in a tux at the end of the aisle on my wedding day.  He’s been dating the same girl since we broke up two years ago, and although I knew it was a theoretical possibility, I had (delusionally) hoped the moment which came next I could somehow avoid: “Julia,” he said, “I’m going to marry her.”

I promptly burst into hysterical tears.  This news officially made me a Wife Fluffer – and the worst part?  It wasn’t my First Time.

Wife Fluffer, n. – The last girlfriend before The Wife.

In fact, I’ve been a Wife Fluffer upwards of SEVEN times.  There was Jason and Steven and Tom and John and Mike and Tim and Paul and now Andrew*.  That is insane.  That is ridiculous.  That is … what IS that??

Was there something I did that primed these guys for the long-term relationships and marriages to come?  Had I sparked their desire for a Wife?  Or was I such a disaster of a girlfriend that they wanted out of the game altogether, and the next girl was the last stop on the Dating Express, before he reaches Wifeville, Population 1: her.

As I examined the situation, I found that I wasn’t the only girl whose Dating Resume boasted extensive experience prepping men for the big day … with someone else.  One fellow Wife Fluffer calls it “walking them down the aisle,” and some of us do everything but!

Either way, the truth must be told: behind every Great Man with a Wife is a Great Wife Fluffer.

Wife Fluffing, however, isn’t a “One Size fits All Potential Husbands” proposition.  What drives them to marry the next girl in line?  Some need perspective (#5), while others require extensive coaching (#2), some still others just want a Last Hurrah (#1) before they settle down into martial bliss.

Below, the Top Five Wife Fluffers of all time:

1) The Last Hurrah

She’s “the Marilyn” – the quintessential over the top, hedonist, fun, sexy nymphet.  He says: “Let’s go to Vegas,” she says: “I don’t even need to pack a bag, I’ll just wear my g-string and go topless at the pool.”  This doesn’t exactly scream Take Her Home to Your Folks, and so, he doesn’t.

“This type,” says my friend Ben, 30, an entrepreneur, “Is wildly undatable – in which case Guy says, ok, been there, that whole exciting/crazy/unrealistic thing isn’t going to work but at least I tried it.  And promptly marries the next (stable) woman he finds.”

Like a two-year-old, he thinks he wants freedom, but he really wants limits, and he’ll marry the woman who tells him “no.” 

“It’s the Legally Blond curse,” says Tiffany W, 27, an actress, “Guys want the Jackie, and not the Marilyn. Sad but true, some guys love when a girl embraces her sex appeal when they are dating, but all of a sudden when things get too serious, they freak out and decide they want someone more conservative.”

“Compared to the wives these men take on, I’m more fun,”  says Tyler R, 23, in artist management and a self-described “damn wife fluffer” 4 times in the past 2 years.  “We ‘wife fluffers’ must give off a ‘here for a goodtime’ vibe, and might scare them to the more stable women, obviously looking for commitment. I’m clearly a work in progress.”

2) Coach Wedlock

In the 2007 movie Knocked Up, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd discuss the always controversial “Trainer Girlfriend” (that is, the girl who puts in the hard work of shaping her man into the boyfriend he ought to be):

Seth: She thinks she could train ME?
Paul: Yeah, like you’re running the Triple Crown.
Seth: She can’t train THIS!

Oh, but she can.  The only problem is, she might be training him for his next jockey (the one who will win the race).

“I can imagine a guy who’s not quite ready for marriage,” my dad said thoughtfully (perhaps reminiscing?), “and the girl works really hard to whip him into shape, but in the process destroys the relationship.”  He’s not the only one who can imagine that, because many of us – in our overzealous quest to have the Perfect Relationship with the Perfect Guy – have attacked our boyfriends with the overactive enthusiasm of a paint-can, drill wielding Paige Davis of Trading Spaces or the bacon bits and whistles of The Dog Whisperer.  Come boy! Sit! Stay! Marry!

I’ve done this on at least two prior occasions, resulting in a devoted boyfriend – now-devoted to the next woman. “Perhaps the problem is,” says a guy friend of mine, “you conduct too intense a training program, and in doing so turn the man away?”

Exactly. Just like a particularly difficult professor, the student grows and learns a lot, but it’s painful, and pain – shockingly! – does not incite a man to get on one knee.  With you, that is.

That said, every man needs a Trainer Girlfriend, and for every man you train well, your dating karma will reward you (maybe with a pre-Trained boyfriend?? please?)

3) Breaking the Seal (of Holy Matrimony)

Awards should be given to the special Fluffers who begin the long, arduous process of him considering marriage as a “real thing” that might, one day, be applicable to his life.  Here’s the script:

You: Have you ever thought about the next level?
Him: Huh?
You: Marriage.  M.A.R.R.I.A.G.E.
Him: Huh?

Repeat – for months – until he shows some sign of recognition that it could be “that thing he’s gonna do.”

The whole process is like getting a horse used to a saddle for the first time.  They’re not huge fans of it at first, but then they calm down – and after a while? They actually enjoy it.  (Or so married men privately admit.  Turns out it’s so bad to have someone love and cherish you forever and ever, eh?)

In that time, you can get fed up and move on, while he may realize, a few months after your breakup, having become acclimated to the idea of marriage (THANKS TO YOU), it isn’t THAT scary, after all.  So when the next girl he dates brings up the “M” word, he no longer goes into the Fetal Bachelor position.

His Wife should send YOU a wedding gift.

4) His Cab Light is On – But Yours Isn’t

Men aren’t exactly known for their biological clocks – and, with the notable exception of Brad Pitt – they rarely talk about their desire to settle down and have a family.  That is not to say, however, that issues of timing don’t affect them.  They just happen to be less like elaborate timepieces and more like, well, taxicabs.

To wit: for most of their life, they’re driving around with their light off, unwilling to take on passengers, but – as their friends pair up, their hairline begins receding (yeah, that can start in his late 20s, believe it or not), and they’ve reached career cruising altitude, all of a sudden they want a dog and a house and a grill and a … oh god.  A wife.  And boom, just like that, their cab light goes on.  The next girl they see standing on the corner hailing them?  They’re gonna (try to) marry her.

But maybe your cab light isn’t on (yes, ladies, there are many times in our lives when we’re not ready for marriage!), in which case, you’re still a mismatch.  “Most men reach a certain point in their life where they’re ready to settle down.  It usually has very little to do with the girl he’s dating at the time, and more to do with job security, emotional maturity, biological clock, etc,” says Shanna D, 23, in public relations, “If a guy is ready, he’s ready, and if you as his girlfriend aren’t ready and for some reason it doesn’t work out between you, he’s still going to be ready after you break up. Most likely, the next girl he dates will be ready and then bam – you’re the Wife Fluffer.”

So for once, the traditional roles are reversed: he’s pushing for commitment, you’re resisting (which usually makes him want it even more).  Eventually, you both decide your timing is off.  But his increased desire – thanks to your refusal – certainly trickles down to his next lady.  Nothing primes a guy for marriage like a girl telling him she doesn’t want it – even if that girl isn’t the one he marries!

5) Perspective is 20/20

These are the fluffers who give their boyfriends an existential lesson in what’s important, who get them to reconsider their priorities, who push them to grow as people.

“I’ve been a wife fluffer three of four major relationships in my life,” says Elizabeth B, “and I think fluffers are just plain good, fun, entertaining, smart, provocative girlfriends who helped those we were in relationships with to grow the f—k up and realize that there’s more to it. To relationships. To life. That sometimes, when you find the right person, staying in and making pasta then doing it on the kitchen counter is more fun than going out and getting sloshed and going home with a random.”

And from a guy’s perspective?  “So, I date girls A, B, and C,” says Ben. “If I marry C, I might have learned something about about myself while dating B that better set me up for C.”

Exactly.  And sometimes it’s the breakup itself which lends that perspective.

“When a guy breaks up with a catch, he realizes what he’s given up and goes into marriage mode,” explains Michelle G, “‘She was a great girlfriend!  Why didn’t it work out?!  I’ll make the next one work! And we’ll get married too!!’  Somewhere in their brains must be a little clock ticking, waiting for them to settle down. I think, sadly, this kind of perspective inducing break up is needed form them to figure out it’s time to settle down.”

Someone’s Got to Do It

“It’s an important job, that of a wife fluffer,” Elizabeth says.  “Someone’s got to do the dirty work. Besides, the way I see it, one day, the guy some other girl fluffed will be knocking on my door, and I’ll be ready.”

In the meantime, Wives?  Add an additional thank you note to your after the wedding checklist …

Dear Fluffer,

How can I ever express my gratitude? I wouldn’t be here without you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love, The Wife.

* Names have been changed to protect the Fluffees, bless their married-to-someone-else souls. ;)

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