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The Second Time

<i>Beneath the sunset and over the sea<i/>
Beneath the sunset and over the sea

The second time couples counseling saved my marriage was in the summer of 2008, exactly three years after the most romantic marriage proposal in the history of all marriage proposals, and less than three weeks after the fight that was the biggest fight in the history of all fights.

The recent six-part story I wrote about babies was supposed to be a post about how important counseling can be when a couple stops communicating, but it ended up being a post about babies because that’s just how I roll.  I could sit down to write a story about ketchup going on sale this week and before I know it I’ll be writing a story about babies.  My biological clock has taken over.

Since I never made the point I wanted to make in that post, I’m going to make it now: Couples counseling saved our relationship and then it saved our marriage.  Now I think counseling is a magical elixir for relationships.  (You can read about the first time it saved us here.)

Instead of re-telling you about how not talking about babies nearly ruined my marriage, I’ll just say that Mike and I have learned the hard way.  Twice.  Ignoring our feelings + avoiding communication = disaster. You could try to argue that couples counseling didn’t work the first time, your evidence being that we had to go back a second time, but you’d be incorrect.  The second time we only needed a refresher course.  We lost our way for a minute but we got back on track in a matter of weeks because we had the strong base we’d built in our first round of therapy.  That being said, I have to admit that Mike and I were lucky in that both times we started counseling, we started before we got to the point where we hated each other.  A lot of couples wait too long and by the time they’re in counseling their relationship has been badly damaged, sometimes heartbreakingly, irreversibly so.

A marriage is another person sharing your home.  There’s you, there’s your spouse and there’s your marriage.  Each marriage has its own needs, it’s own peculiarities and it’s own character.  Marriages need to be nurtured, nourished and cared for.  If a marriage is neglected it will not thrive.

I realize I’ve been proselytizing about couples counseling, but far more important than counseling is simply taking care of your couple, however works best for you and your partner.  Counseling was the magical elixir that taught Mike and I how to take care of our relationship.  What is it for you?  What has been the thing that has saved you and your partner, whenever you’ve needed saving?

Kind of a big deal, Part 3

Click here for part 1
Click here for part 2

Mike has absolutely no idea what it’s like to walk into a super market at eight years old, praying that all the other shoppers think the baby doll clutched in his arms is his real baby.  I do.  Growing up all of my favorite toys were baby dolls and my favorite childhood play-pretend was Single Mother.

While little boys make forts with their blankets, I turned my bedroom into a multi-room apartment.  Hanging sheets for walls, I made bedroom, kitchen, living room.  Each of my dolls was given a name and an age and after getting everyone dressed and ready for their day, I would kiss them goodbye, warn them to behave, “lock them in” and be off to work.  From there I’d walk the exhausting distance to my mother’s kitchen, take all of the canned goods out of the cupboard, pile them onto the kitchen table, “scan” them, bag them up, and put them all back in the pantry.  I killed two birds with one stone by playing “grocery store clerk” and “tired mom buying groceries on her way home from a ten-hour shift” at the same time.  At the “end of my day” I’d go home to my seven children and inevitably someone would have gotten into trouble, someone else would need grounding and I would lay in bed and wonder how I would ever be able to take care of all these damn kids.

Lord only knows where I came up with this stuff.  When I wasn’t playing Single Mother I was wrapping white towels around my head and practicing my walk down the aisle.  In a real life twist of irony, there was no aisle to walk down on my wedding day.  Instead we said our vows on the exact spot in my parents living room where I practiced my vows to imaginary Prince Charmings as a child.

If I said that Mike and I had never talked about children, I wasn’t being entirely truthful.  While the subject of money and finances has never been a sore spot for us, the subject of children has caused a lot of tears, a lot of slammed doors and one particularly painful evening in a beautiful hotel room overlooking the ocean on Maui, which I spent sobbing on the floor of a bathroom.  It’s not that we never talked about children, it’s just that when we talked about it we fought about it and so we made a mutually-subconscious agreement to completely ignore it.

To be continued…

Kind of a big deal

Depending on whether or not you’ve read my About page, what I’m going to say may come as a surprise.

I am completely baby-crazy.  I can’t remember when it started.  I do remember a specific evening in April of 2008 when my brother asked me whether or not my hormones had kicked in and my response was to scrunch up my face, stick out my tongue and say, “Blegh.  No way.”
“Really?  Because all my chick friends are going crazy over babies right now.”
“I am so not ready.  The idea of having kids right now makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.”

That month I received what was to be the first of many emails announcing someone’s pregnancy.  I was horrified.  I wrung my hands nervously and wondered, what ever would she do?  The poor girl was going to have to give up her entire life!  What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was projecting.  My friend wasn’t going to have to give up her entire life, I was.  Except I wasn’t because I wasn’t the pregnant one.  But you know what I mean.

After the fifth email from my fifth expecting friend I started feeling wistful.  I wanted it to be me.  Except if I got pregnant I wouldn’t be able to send out an announcement saying, “we’re over the moon” or “we’re so excited to be starting a family together” or “we feel like we’ve been blessed with a miracle”.  My announcement would read: “Whoops! Looks like we slipped up somewhere because surprise!  We’re pregnant!  We’re totally freaked out and we don’t know what we’re going to do, we’re pretty sure this means we’ll be broke and miserable for the rest of our lives, but we’re gonna give it a go.  Pray for us, keep your fingers crossed, and try not to gossip about us.”

A few months later I realized I had eleven pregnant friends and family members and that must have been when it happened.  A hormone switch flipped.  I don’t know how to explain it any other way.  Maybe it was herd syndrome.  Like when you’re trying to get out of the subway at rush hour and you walk to the turnstile with the longest line instead of walking to the turnstile no one’s using.  I do that all the time.  Three turnstiles crammed with people, one person, one at a time, click, click, click.  At the end of the platform a fourth turnstile, empty, sad, alone, invisible to the herd.  I always stay in the long line because it feels like too much effort to walk over to the empty one, but maybe that’s a different issue I need to be dealing with.  Either way, it happened over night.  One day I was perfectly happy living alone with Mike and four animals and the next morning I woke up and I wanted a baby so badly I thought I was going to die.

Thanks to my Moon Cycle Chart I have learned that these feelings are greatly exacerbated between the fourteenth and thirty-fourth days of my cycle.  Between days one and ten I’m baby-crazy but not to the point where I believe my ovaries are berating me for the eggs I’m wasting.  On the eleventh day I begin rationalizing why this month might be a good time to start trying and by day fourteen I’m kind of like a cat in heat which sounds funny in a literary sense but is actually really awkward.  I recently made Mike promise that he would not agree to start trying for a baby unless we were making the decision between the first through tenth day of my cycle because  it’s a decision I’d like to make with my brain instead of my hormones.

To be continued…

Preface to a Prenup

Last week I mentioned how Mike and I have periodic romance-infused financial meetings, but I didn’t go into the how’s or why’s. We had our first financial meeting within a few weeks of getting engaged because we had to if were going to write a prenup.

The last time I told someone that Mike and I have a prenup, I promised myself I wouldn’t tell anyone ever again. But I’ve been thinking about it lately, especially after last week’s financial post, and the fact is that a prenup isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Our prenup is the reason we were debt-free less than a year after we married. Our prenup is the reason we have never had an argument about money. Our prenup is the reason I got to move with my husband to New York and live out one of my wildest fantasies. The last time I told someone we wrote a prenup that person grimaced as she said, “Why would you do that? Why would you marry someone you’re just going to divorce?”
“Obviously if you need a prenup it’s because you know you’re just going to divorce the person.”
“What? No, it’s not. I don’t –”
“That’s awful, Tricia. That’s just awful. I’m really surprised.”

She was actually that appalled, I do not exaggerate. And she’s not alone in her feelings. Enough people have had that reaction that when she had it, I decided our prenup was something people just didn’t need to know about.

Except now I’m telling the entire Webisphere.

I’m working on learning how to stand up for myself. Today I’d like to announce that my husband and I wrote a prenup before we got married and contrary to what you might think it was not because we were rich or because we were planning on getting divorced. We had a lot of debt and our only assets were each other, but we sat down and we worked out the complications of our finances and in doing so, he learned how important it was for me to have the opportunity to run with my dreams. I learned how important it was for him to save money so that one day he could have an old sprawling house to fix up and build furniture for, with a treehouse in back for the grandkids and five big-headed dogs. And when I learned that, I knew I really did want to spend the rest of my life with this man, because no matter what happened between here and now, we really did want the same thing.

Writing a prenup was a way to protect ourselves from divorce. Everyone has different feelings about money and no two people feel exactly the same way. Money is a tender, delicate thing that dances with pride and envy. It can be used to hurt just as easily as it can be used to help. A brilliant family lawyer once told me that money is the last thing couples talk about and the first thing they fight about. I was determined not to have a marriage that could be damaged because we never talked about money. You can’t write a prenup without talking about money, and so we used it as an opportunity to have a very honest and very real discussion that would go on to help us shape our lives. And it’s true, we could’ve just had the conversation without ever writing the contract, but the fun in writing the contract was including provisions like:

“Prior to filing for divorce, the parties must agree to a minimum of one hour of marriage counseling, once every week for twenty-four consecutive weeks. If, after twenty-four consecutive weeks of marriage counseling the parties still agree to divorce, either party may file the Petition without effect. If one party files for dissolution without completing the agreed upon counseling, that party agrees to pay the other party’s attorney fees and costs in full.”  (Except a lot fancier because it was translated into lawyer-speak.)

I really do believe that if both parties commit to marriage counseling for six months they won’t need a divorce. And if they really still want one, then maybe they do need it. However, if one person isn’t even willing to give counseling a shot, then they should pay the damn legal fees.