What kind of couple are we?

Have you seen this new show called Perfect Couples? I believe it is part of NBC’s Thursday night line up along with the Office and 30 Rock. The show is about different couple stereotypes: the self help couple, the make up to break up couple and the couple that suspects they might have settled for one another only to rediscover how perfect they are for each other. The show goes to extreme examples for the purpose of entertainment and it got me thinking…what kind of couple are we?

If you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you know the story of Mr. Right and me. It was a romantic beginning resulting in, what I felt was, a perfect marriage. We frolicked about in the honeymoon stage until one day we woke up and realized…oh shit: this is for real. The same theme prevails in the show and the one couple has the exact same argument that Mr. Right and I have all the time. It goes a little something like this:

MB: “Honey, can you help me move the couch in the office?”

waits in silence

MB: “Honey? HoNEEEE?

Mr. Right: with distain “What do you want?”

MB: with newfound bitchiness “Can you tear yourself away from whatever critically important thing you are doing and come help me move this couch?”

Mr. Right enters room appearing grossly inconvenienced and beholds an angry MB

Mr. Right: “What’s wrong?”

MB: “Nothing.”

Mr. Right: “No, I can tell something is upsetting you.”

MB: “Nothing.” Shoots Mr. Right looks of death

Mr. Right: whilst moving couch “Honey, tell me what’s wrong.”

MB: “I didn’t appreciate the attitude when I asked for your help.”

Mr. Right: “What attitude?”

MB: impersonating Mr. Right “I asked for your help and you said ‘WHAAAAT!?”

*explosive accusatory verbal warfare ensues

Perhaps this is a lame example, but what I am trying to demonstrate and what the show is also attempting to prove is that our perception of our partner’s actions can drive us to react in a combative or exaggerated nature. In this example, I wanted help. I was probably tired from a long day at work and irritated by the idea of moving furniture. Maybe I could hear the TV in the background and became further agitated by the fact that Mr. Right was relaxing while I was stuck with housework. Mr. Right on the other hand, had also come home from a full day of work. He cracked open a beer, put his feet up and tuned into his DVR, only to be interrupted by the shrill of his wife’s voice. Why did she want to move furniture this very minute? His show was just getting started and housework was low on his list of priorities. Mr. Right and I are both entering the situation with frustration and preconceived annoyance. With duel bad attitudes, an argument is unavoidable.

Mr. Right and I are admittedly extra sensitive people; our feelings get hurt easily. In addition to that common trait, we also are both very independent fostered by years of living and supporting ourselves as single people. This combination of heightened sensitivity and fierce independence makes the teamwork efforts of a perfect couple hard to master. Constructive criticism (i.e.: my impersonation of him offending me) makes us defensive of one another and the concept of work together for a greater good is lost. Our defensive walls go up and the communication breaks down. It happens so often I gave it a name, maybe it even describes what kind of couple we are…emotionally territorial.

Am I saying Mr. Right is Mr. Wrong? Are we headed for inevitable doom and disaster? No, no, no, not at all, we are just novice communicators who have not fully abandoned our independent lifestyle behaviors. We are breaking out of our old habits and learning what sinks and what swims in terms of our marriage. We embody certain stereotypical “couple” labels and they are not all positive. However, I have faith that we can be the emotionally territorial couple and still weather the storm. The real key to survival is being honest about your joint shortcomings and acknowledging the part you play in the failure of communication. Mr. Right and I have agreed to sit down on a weekly basis and talk more about why we act and react the way we do. We can already see the progress because our preconceived notions of one another’s attitudes are changing. We can look in the mirror and wave confidently to the imperfect couple that is our reflection because we know those two people are committed to each other happiness and ultimately to becoming a better team.

More on this soon…hope you are well ~ MB

An Affair to Forget

So back to my friend Hank: When we last left off Hank’s Mom, Julie, found out that his father, Frank, was having an affair. It appeared that Julie had given up attempting to control Hank and his other siblings thereby creating a less the welcoming home for her husband. Though she did sense some stress in her marriage she did not know that Frank was having a yearlong affair with his coworker, Jan.

Frank and Jan worked together at a general contracting business. It was Jan’s job to book home improvements and make appointments for Frank’s clients. Compared to his wife, Jan was a rather simple looking woman. Jan had a hard appearance that suggested life had not been kind to her. Her tan skinned bordered on leathered and her mousy hair was in need of serious conditioning. She was not at all like the fair-skinned Julie whose cherub face was home to her sparkling blue eyes. Their personalities were almost polar opposites. Though they were both mothers, Julie was sweet and compassionate where Jan was more reserved and came off stoic. To an outsider, Julie was clearly the more attractive of the two and seemed to be a better overall companion. It did not make sense that Frank would start a secret life with Jan without trying to work through his problems with Julie. Nevertheless, start a secret life he did.

Years ago, when Jan and Frank started a working relationship, Jan was married to a firefighter. They were married at a young age and as they grew older, the relationship started to deteriorate. Her husband was the controlling type and Jan was not one to be controlled. Through her divorce, she leaned on Frank for advice and he helped her achieve independence. Frank met Jan’s young children and began to enjoy spending time with them. Slowly, Frank found himself visiting Jan’s home after work instead of going home to his own. Jan’s quiet tone and subdue lifestyle only highlighted the craziness that awaited Frank when he came home to Julie at night. He started to resent his marriage and own children and yearned more for Jan’s less complicated existence.

Julie never had the benefit of knowing any of this. Frank never explained that the kids and their friends were stressing him out. Julie was not given the chance to understand Frank’s problems and try to fix things for her husband. Frank never had a conversation with Julie to express hat he needed their environment to be more relaxed. Frank never even approached his own children about the parties; instead, he just retreated to Jan’s house for his solace. He found a way to get what he needed and did not see the point in fixing what he already had. It seemed easier for Frank to move onto “plan b”, a double life with Jan and her family. Frank gave up on his marriage to Julie assuming that thing had been a certain way for so long and therefore they would be impossible to change. He didn’t give the woman that he married the slightest benefit of a doubt.

Instead, Frank split his time between the life that he wanted and the life that he had let spiral out of control. He enjoyed his time with Jan, the woman that he now loved and resented his time with Julie, the woman he reasoned could not understand him. Frank assumed that Julie would perpetually allow her children to run wild, putting their need for fun above the needs of her husband. He ASSUMED that his marriage was not fixable and that Julie and his children would not change. So, when the evening came that Julie found out about Jan, Frank left Julie. There was limited conversation or explanation just a packed duffel bag and a promise to divide the assets in a fair manner. Julie was blindsided and powerless over the sudden failure of her thirty-year marriage.

Holes in our Hearts

As you might have been able to tell, the Laura and Peter saga is from the ghosts of friendships past. After the moving out/move back in fiasco, my friendship with Laura faded. Recently, I caught up with an old acquaintance that also knows Laura. She told me that Peter and Laura are to be married in 2011. My opinion on their relationship is not valid based on how stale it is. The drama and the shadiness happened over seven years ago back in college and most likely does not play a factor in their current situation.

If anything, Laura is a more tolerant woman then I will ever be. I do not have the ability to forgive and forget as she does. Knowing that Peter cheated at least once would put a roadblock in my ability to trust him. I can only hope that their choice to get married is based on growth, maturity, and the evolution of a rebuilt relationship.

The mutual friend sighted some evidence that things between Laura and Peter haven’t changed much, that the way that things are pretty much status quo from where I last left off. For Laura sake, I hope my friend is wrong. I hope that love is driving her to marriage and not the need to find validation in material wealth.

There is a moral to the story: We all have holes in our hearts. In Laura’s case, the loss of a parent created quite an emotional vacancy. She chose to fill it with purses and shoes. If you recall, I tried to fill the void with vodka (See “Vodka is not a Band Aid for a Broken Heart”). Sometimes now, I catch myself filling it with food and vodka. Here is the thing though, filling the hole with anything isn’t going to heal it. Time, patience and honesty mend the hole…filling it with stuff just prolongs the healing. Bad metaphor? Maybe. But, hopefully you get the point.

Welcome to Dark Side…

True love is complicated. I am sure you do not need my little blog here to tell you that. If you have ever been in a serious relationship, you understand where I am coming from. Up to this point, I have discussed how things like money, family, and monogamy influence a relationship. Mr. Right and I have had disagreements that span those topics. However, the focus of our most popular argument would most definitely be communication. Come now; let me give you a simple example:

It was a Wednesday somewhere in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Over the weekend, Mr. Right and I had made plans to have dinner with my parents. It was a casual affair where we intended to tell my parents about Ireland and discuss our upcoming wedding. Oh, do not roll your eyes…you know that sounds like great fun! That afternoon I phoned Mr. Right to coordinate our midweek restaurant rendezvous. Mr. Right seemed pensive and flustered. Whatever could be the problem? I coaxed the problem out him. You see, on Monday evening Mr. Right’s brother invited him to a social gathering scheduled for low and behold…Wednesday evening. Mr. Right accepted. He had knowingly committed himself to both events and was only currently realizing the pickle, which he created.

Now, let me just say. The dinner with my parents was far from formal. Had someone been ill, dinner could have been canceled without causing any major life disturbance. Also, as I mentioned the plans hadn’t been made that far in advance. Mr. Right had ample time to suggest an alternate night or time. If Mr. Right rescheduled the dinner on Monday night, I could have chosen to go to dinner with my parents solo or made different plans all together. All I ask is to be informed and nothing gets MB going like a last minute game changer.

Enter my problem. I like things my way. In reality, my way is the right way…so it is only common sense, you agree, right? This is one key reason that Mr. Right did not tell me that there was a change of plans prior to Wednesday. He wanted to avoid confrontation and the undeniable resulting lecture. In his mind, I would have been disappointed when he canceled the impending plans. I would probably launch into a speech about my precious time and the importance of respecting each other’s schedules. On top of that, in his mind, his brother would have felt similarly shafted. Brother would most likely classify Mr. Right as pu$$y whipped or some variation on that theme. It could be equally as unpleasant as my reaction! In Mr. Right’s eyes, it was a loose/loose situation. A “catch 22” if you will, leaving Mr. Right afraid to make a decision.

During our phone call, he began to reason that he could attend both gatherings. Did I mentioned they had the same start time and both involved eating dinner? I was insulted by the afterthought and cared not for his last minute placations. In fact, I had to get off the phone to start writing the lecture I would present him next time we were together. I would entitle it, “How not to Piss off your Fiancé, Lessons in Consideration.” Alas, Mr. Right had driven me off the edge. I was immersed in my own righteousness and dismissed him for the evening. I told him I hoped he enjoys his evening with his brother but in a snarky bitchy way that suggested I really felt otherwise. It was cleansing.

In true Mr. Right fashion, he showed up at the restaurant just as the bill arrived. He was there to apologize and swear up and down that this would not happen again. Of course, he had gone to his brother’s affair and fulfilled his familial commitment. I appreciated the apologetic gesture but reminded him that the last minute cancelation hence my annoyance could have been avoided. It was not that I needed him to be available. The point was, [insert prepared lecture points here], I wanted him to respect my time and give me the courtesy of planning. God, it was hard for me to drop the issue. I imagine it was even harder for Mr. Right to sit through my reiterations of what I perceived as his relationship failures that night.

Overall, the whole thing sounds silly, wouldn’t you say? Mr. Right promised too much to too many and instead of helping him work through his evening’s plan, I took the situation as a personal affront. Mr. Right screwed up and my reaction was to mount my high horse in order to dictate what was wrong with the situation. Mr. Right making two sets of plans was the wrong execution of the right idea. He was coming from a good place. Had I taken the time to consider the facts in their entirety I could have been party to a better resolution.

Do not fly off the handle, it is an easy mistake to make; we are an emotional people. It is hard to be objective when the outcome of the given situation personally affects you. Try to remember an argument may have a winner but your relationship will be the ultimate loser.

Preview…

Up and until this point I have been sharing all the positive good things about Mr. Right and the progression of our relationship. In the beginning, that really was the case…things between us were damn near perfect. Our honeymoon phase lasted a long while and we/are were very much in love. However, like most things in life, reality does set in and there are significant downturns in even the strongest relationships. So, for the sake of objectivity and honestly, I do plan to delve into the dark side…it only seems fair. After all, life is hardly a fairytale and I ain’t no Cinda-freakin-rella.

See you on the relationship flip side ~ MB

Ireland…the Grande Finale

Mr. Right and I headed back down to the first floor bar at Murphy’s. While we were dining upstairs, the local crowd had filtered in. There were middle aged and older men toasting their pints and drinking away the last few hours of the weekend. They overheard Mr. Right’s accent and asked us where we were from. Upon hearing that we were American, a large political debate ensued. It was funny to hear an outsider’s view regarding Obama’s upcoming Presidency. The old men found the results of our election shocking and progressive where Mr. Right and I thought them par for the course considering our options (cough Palin cough cough gag). The bartender, who we also found was the owner and proprietor, was thrilled to host international guests and as a result kept our glasses brimming with Jameson’s.

As night progressed and we were quickly becoming the hot commodity at the local pub. We posed for pictures and toasted to our new found friends in Arklow. As the night wound down, I assessed my impractical shoe situation. Of course, I decided to trek into town that night wearing stiletto heals. The walk to the pub was most painful; the walk home would be downright torture. I chastised myself for needing to look cute. I asked the bartender if Arklow had a cab company. He laughed and offered to give us a ride to the B&B himself! How could the owner of the bar up and leave with all these customers? Grabbing his coat the bartender yelled, “Now don’t cha be pouring your own pints while I’m gone!”

Outside, Mr. Right and I piled into the bartender’s silver Mercedes and took of for our B&B (http://www.pinebrook.net/). It was the nicest gestures I can remember. Can you imagine a bartender in Philadelphia, Boston or New York abandoning his bar to drive a few patrons home? Can you believe a bar owner leaving a crowd of men unattended with all that alcohol? Unheard of but truly memorable. Back at the B&B, we waved off our new friend, thanking him for his generosity a hundred times over. We were on a high after our night of fun and classically Irish experience.

Back inside, I took a shower and got ready for bed. When I came out of the bathroom, Mr. Right was propped on the bed wearing a scowl oh his face. I attempted to cuddle, a gesture that was immediately rebuffed. He wanted to take a shower himself and was not interested in my affection. Ok, now that was clearly not in my head. This time I could not be accused of over sensitivity. We just had, what I thought, was the most awesome night! Why now that we are alone, had the dynamic shifted? As Mr. Right closed the bathroom door and turned on the shower, I started to cry. I had come halfway around the world to be rejected by the man I loved. All the effort and planning that went into making this trip magical was in vein. It was devastating.

Mr. Right emerged from the shower almost a half hour later; this was unusually long for him. Had he been trying to avoid me? Was he hoping I would be asleep so he could escape potential affection? I had enough. I confronted Mr. Right as he dressed for bed. Why was he being so cold toward me? How come in a crowd we could enjoy our night but one on one he shunned my company? His inconsistent mood was putting me on the defensive and creating a black cloud over our trip. His face looked sad. He sat on the bed opposite of me and held both my hands, “I know. You are right. I have been acting distant and holding you at arm’s length since we arrived,” he said.

“Why?” I wanted to know. I braced myself for the worst.

“I have something I want to give you,” he started. With that, he reached into his suitcase and pulled out a box. Next thing I knew Mr. Right was down on one knee. “I was going to wait until our night in the castle to give this to you, but I see now if I don’t get this off my chest I could ruin this entire vacation. I thought a long time about something special to give you on this trip, something meaningful that would show you how much I love you. I thought long and hard about the perfect gift and you know what it is? It’s me. Will you marry me?”

Mr. Right opened a navy blue box that held a sparkly diamond ring. For once in my life, I was speechless, utterly shocked, overjoyed and totally speechless. I cried, Mr. Right cried and we hugged each other for a long while. Mr. Right broke the silence. “You never said yes.”

I laughed. “Yes,” I answered.

Mr. Right confessed that he had been so nervous about the ring and proposal that he had been driving himself crazy. He had intended to wait for a romantic evening planned on day seven of the trip but in the meantime, he was constantly rehearsing his speech in the shower and throughout the night. The stress of waiting was keeping him up at night and making me miserable. For the sake of the trip and my feelings, the engagement came sooner then intended. As they say, the best-laid plans (of mice and men?) often go awry. I’m sure you catch my drift…

The proposal may not have gone as Mr. Right planned. There was no champagne or chocolate cake. We were not on our way to a romantic dinner or in a luxurious Irish castle. It was only Mr. Right and I in a small B&B somewhere in the middle of an Irish village. With the climactic proposal out of the way, Mr. Right slept easy. I on the other had lay awake staring at the ring. I was getting married.