About four weeks ago, John and I went to our very first marriage counseling session. Not because we’re in trouble, but because we want to avoid it. It’s been kind of a rough year at our house and we’ve been married almost 14 years now, so we figure there might be a few things we could learn from the experts. That Thursday night was a good first meeting, I think. We came home with some things to read and discuss as well as an appointment set for the same time next week.
The next day, Friday, was a busy day of running around, taking kids to music lessons, getting caught up on writing and cleaning the house to get ready for family coming to visit. John had to work late at the church, so he didn’t get to hang out with Mimi and Poppa Friday night, but we still had fun. Then, on Saturday, I talked Mom and Dad into taking our littlest one home with them for a few days. After we finally convinced Benjamin he would be okay without his brother and sister, they all left. This meant our house was a bit more quiet on Saturday afternoon, and that was a nice thing.
John and I had the same idea: naptime, but I was a few minutes ahead of him in the execution of said idea. The thing you need to know about nappers is that there are two kinds. I am of the twenty-minute power variety and John is more of the two-hour snoring type. So when he came to bed ten minutes after me, I was wide awake five minutes later, due to his nostril orchestra. When it comes to rest time, fifteen minutes is doable but on that day I was still a little groggy, so I lay there for a few more minutes trying to fall back asleep. And as I lay there, I became annoyed. Why couldn’t John have gotten in bed a little more quietly? I thought. Why did he have to bring his loud snoozefest in here? Was twenty minutes of alone, peaceful time on my own bed, too much to ask?
Then I had a couple more thoughts and suddenly I was in a panic. I found myself wondering about the future, when all our children might be gone from the house and it would just be me and John. All. The. Time. We got married so young, and had children so quickly, I can barely remember what it was like when we were just dating and it was only the two of us. How will we survive? I wondered. How will we still love and enjoy each other when we no longer have the common goal of raising kids and building a great family?
My thoughts disturbed me so much that I had to get up and go do something else for a distraction. I decided to make dinner for the first time that week. This is not normally how our routine and budget operate, but Halloween and meetings and appointments had filled the calendar every night and convenience had been a necessity. I googled around a few minutes for a recipe, but since I was also lacking in grocery store time, I had to settle on marinating chicken breasts with mustard, garlic and Worcestshire and reheating leftover lima beans and corn. By the time the meat was finished cooking, I decided it was safe to wake the sleeping giant and call up the older kids for dinner.
During the meal we discussed our options for the evening. I was voting for projects that needed to be finished, but everyone else was more interested in having fun. Thankfully, John filled in as compromiser and we decided to work for an hour, then go out and do something. During the course of cleaning out my daughter’s room and sorting through all her mountains of clothing, I got discouraged. John saw the tension mounting and swooped in to save me. He declared that we would be going out for a date and the kids would have to settle for having fun at home without us, which of course, they were totally fine with.
John also let me have movie pick, which I’ll admit I based solely on my affectation for the male lead. Yep, sometimes, I’m that kinda lady. The movie I chose was 50/50, and we both loved every minute of it. Not just because it was funny, and not just because the actors were all attractive and talented. What we loved about this movie was its story, a narrative about friendship, hard times, and what’s truly important in life. So often our flesh is drawn to stories of secrecy and betrayal, melodrama and shock value, but here was a realistic tale which showcased the beauty of faithfulness, the loyalty between friends, and the value of accountability. And it made me laugh and cry and cry.
We talked about the movie the whole way home and even had an in-depth conversation about all the parts we loved the next day. When John wrapped me up in his arms that night, after putting the kids to bed, I remembered my panic from earlier that afternoon, but suddenly I was given the answer. This is how you will make it, I heard. By choosing to share what you both love, and staying connected to each other’s story. Over and over again. One day more.