We went to therapy for a few months, and it was fine, good stuff. We picked up great tips like "Just talk about the chair." I don't remember what that means, but it was helpful at the time. We talked about our childhoods, obviously. You ain't getting out of the Trump White House without legal bills, Congo without dysentery, or therapy without careful dissection of your family-of-origin dynamics. We practiced listening and empathizing and learned to say things like, "I'm feeling stressed," and "I'm hearing you say you feel stressed."
But then we went on a trip. No kids, just us, for one whole week. Kevin's mom came and kept our kids. We went to Arizona, which was incredible, but we could've gone to Omaha, didn't matter. We learned many things on that trip including:
- We are both really nice people when there are no kids around
- There is not much to fight about when there are no kids around
- We are both incredibly attractive when there are no kids around
- We sleep much better when there are no kids around
- We are both super funny and entertaining when there are no kids around
- Neither of us has any annoying habits when there are no kids around
- Our families of origin dynamics are totally functional and compatible when there are no kids around
- We don't need to talk about the chair or even know what the chair symbolizes when there are no kids around. We don't even need chairs. We can sit on the floor.
- No one feels stressed or says they feel stressed or needs to communicate that they hear that someone feels stressed when there are no kids around
- Food tastes better, the air is cleaner, skin is clearer, the weather more temperate, God is on his throne, and Abraham Lincoln is the president again when there are no kids around
We came back feeling like newlyweds, and while that wore off some, this one week brought real, permanent change to our relationship. It was like a miracle. It turns out the main challenge in our marriage is that we share it with two other, very demanding people who turn us both into trolls. We can't do much about them, they are here to stay and we of course love them, but we can periodically run away from them and our troll-alter-egos. And that is what we have continued to do. A week in California here, a weekend at the beach there, a week hiking in Maine. Less glamorous, weekends at in-town hotels. One time we stayed at the airport because we had points to burn. We stared into each others' eyes serenaded by the sounds of planes taking off. Needless to say, all of this is far more fun than sitting awkwardly in front of a marriage therapist and talking about chairs and feelings.
Of course, the only way we can do this is because of Kevin's mom (my parents have their hands full caring for my 97 year-old grandmother). She has literally broken bones taking care of our kids so we can recollect what we look like on a full night's sleep and why we ever liked each other in the first place. I'm not joking--She called us in California to tell us she had broken her foot "but I'm doing just fine! No need to come home! Have fun!" Is it terrible that we did what she asked? I told you we had troll-sides.
The only downside to all this is that our kids are seeing everything their grandmother is doing and I fear will expect the same of us. I guess I'll worry about that later. For now, I'm sticking with this program. Some people stay together for the kids, but we leave the kids for the marriage. I think everyone is better off in the end. Except maybe poor Grandma, hobbling around on one leg.