Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Couch

Wow! Happy 2011! I thought I would have the chance to write before the holidays, and again at least before the new year. This blog had been in the works for a while, but perhaps this post wasn’t ready until a few days ago.

Mark and I traveled to my parents for the holidays. It was the first time I was home since the wedding. Of course, the number one question everyone asked was, “How’s married life?”

With only three month under our belt, I think Mark and I believed we would fall into our new roles with ease. Me, wife, you husband. We would take moonlit walks, enjoy Sunday morning coffee and have friends over for Uno tournaments.

Well, our moonlit walks involve taking the dogs out, Sundays usually involve me studying for the upcoming week and being in a new city, we don’t know enough people to even have an Uno tournament.

But most troubling was the amount of disagreements Mark and I were having. If you know us, you wouldn't believe it. We are usually happy, goofy people. We enjoy playing with our dogs, paddle boarding, Chinese take-out and vegging on the couch watching America’s Funniest Videos.

As a dating couple, Mark and I rarely fought. We aren’t use to, nor are we happy with, arguing.

When Mark and I went through Pre-Cana (the Catholic version of the pre-martial preparation) we had a speaker that talked about merging of two families. Do you open gifts on Christmas eve or day? What foods do you have at Thanksgiving? What other traditions do did you grow up with and how will they fit in to your married life?

Those are more superficial discussions. What about bigger issues? Mark and I are both first-borns, who are used to being in charge and having our way. We are both super independent. We’ve both lived alone. We are use to doing our own thing. We have different ways of communication. Where Mark tends to an exceptional speaker and the more verbal one, as a writer, I like to think about and edit my words. How do you combine two very similar, yet different personalities?

It wasn’t until I had coffee last week with a friend that the truth came out. She asked me how marriage was. Then she said something that struck a cord, “We [her and her husband] fought all the time our first year.”

Her relationship mirrored mine. And she had dealt with similar stresses in the few years as well; a move, school, marriage.

As she continued on, she mentioned that her and her husband started couples counseling within the first year and still go once a month for maintenance. She said she was embarrassed about it at first.

It struck a cord with me. A couple months ago, Mark and I had a argument where Mark offered the thought of couples therapy. It only made me angry. Maybe it was the super-caffeinated Americano, but hearing it in Starbucks sounded different.

Why not counseling in the early stages of marriage? Counseling or therapy has become such a last ditch effort for most couples; why not start marriage with counseling? By the time most couples sit on the couch, issues are deep. Roles are established.

What if counseling was used proactively?

I think what my friend and her husband are doing is extremely wise and could be revolutionary.

My friend and her husband, like most couples who marry under God, went through pre-martial preparations (which can range from continuous counseling with a pastor until the wedding day to just a meeting or two with a priest). She mentioned that she wished the pastor had followed up a few weeks after the wedding, just to see how things were going.

Marriage is such a checklist now (and a multi-million dollar industry), that you can literally feel like a number while sitting in from of a pastor or priest. Those couples that actually marry for a lifetime and not for the white dress, the house and soon-to-follow baby, can get lost. Pre-martial preparation is about getting to the altar, not about what happens after the "I dos" are exchanged.

The issues Mark and I have are the usual growing pains that most couples face.

Mark and I drove back from Ohio last weekend. Mark had driven nine straight hours, with two more to go. So we started talking. We started asking questions, bringing up issues that were bothering us and overall just talking, calmly

We haven’t made a decision about counseling, though it would be nice to have a third party assure me that storing apples in the fridge is the right place to store an apple. But we also aren’t against it, especially as a maintenance initiative. People always say marriage is work. Romance and dinners out can only get you so far.

We decided to read the Love Dare to try and talk about potential issues before they real issues. And finally we decided to make an effort to go to church (We use to go back in Ohio, but have been a bit lost at finding a church that made us feel as comfortable, yet as spiritually-challenged as the one we left).

And wouldn’t you know it. God has a plan. One of the verses mentioned during service on Sunday was Proverbs 12:1, “He who loves instruction loves knowledge; but he who hates correction is stupid.”

Our thoughts about post-martial counseling aren’t out of fear or a last-ditch effort. It’s to seek to understand each other and to correct faults or shortcomings we may have so we can not only cultivate our relationship but have the best marriage possible. To not want to challenge yourself to be better and to grow stronger with your spouse … well that is just plain stupid.

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