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

When the Honeymoon is Over…

I am sure that you have heard the honeymoon phase. The term refers to a stage in any relationship where the initial excitement and newness of the experience is overwhelming. Once the honeymoon phase is over, the mystery and intrigue allegedly wears off. I tried to Google “honeymoon phase” to gauge its average life expectancy but apparently, the time period is not subject to the scientific method. The length of the butterflies and willful blindness is unknown. Many times when “the honeymoon is over” a relationship will start to break down. The end of such a phase can be an indication of love vs. lust; with love going the distance and lust ending a relationship.

First, I give you our old friend Pizza Bagel…As I mentioned before we met in college. PB was the first upperclassman that had put effort forth to actually get to know me. The fact that he was older, attractive and interesting had me intrigued. We met in August or September of my freshman year and continued an on again off again relationship through the following summer. If you recall, he did not have his “epiphany” until the following summer (see “Commandments of Dating…when he didn’t follow the rules” if you need more information). In this scenario, the honeymoon phase was elongated by the thrill of the chase.

This is a popular expansion method of the honeymoon phase. The thrill of the chase adds an extra element of excitement. In the on again off again mode there is constant suspense due to the unknown outcome. I will get specific, two days went by and I had not heard from PB. I decide to hit up a popular bar. On the way inside, I spot it, PB’s car in the parking lot. My heart starts to thump…will I see him inside? Will he see me? Will he eat his heart out when he sees how good I look in my skinny jeans? The whole night just got more interesting. As I cruise into the bar and find friends, I scan the crowd for PB, careful not to be too obvious. After all, I want him to “notice me” first.

Have you even had that happen to you? You are having a conversation with a friend maybe sipping a beer, but the thing is…you are not present. You are 100% distracted. The person in the crowd you are waiting to approach consumes both your mind and your peripheral vision. It is all about that moment in the future when and if he talks to you.
In my case, the climatic moment came when PB would walk over and greet me. We would hug and he would explain that homework and whatever else had been keeping him busy. The night would be spent canoodling until it was time to go home. I would tell my friends, “I will catch a ride with PB.” This sort of cycle of non-commitment can prolong a period of excitement and lust. This type of back and forth can even create yearning that disguises itself as love

I would like to say that once college was over I realized that the elongated nature of the “chase” period was unhealthy. All the back and forth was just stalling the need for a real commitment. The cycle was never broken because soon after gradation I move to a big city in the hopes of perusing my relationship with PB. The element of a new city and a real job perpetuated the false sense of newness in our relationship and kept us under the guise that we were in love. After a couple years together in the new city, a routine eventually set in. We clearly enjoyed each other a great deal and it was amazing that our lifestyle had kept the honeymoon phase alive so long. But, once the routine set in and the allure fell out we both realized that we were not in love. We did not have the type of passion that lasts a lifetime.

The joint realization was a long time coming. Unfortunately, our honeymoon phase was fueled by our immature lifestyles and the fact that as a couple we did not truly “settle down” until years after our first meeting. Feelings that seem like love are distorted by other factors, like sex, mystery, accomplishment, attraction, or even jealousy. The notion that the “honeymoon is over” is usually viewed as a negative end to something fun. However, I think it is a powerful stage in a relationship where one can truly see the difference between love and lust. If the butterflies and rainbows wear off, and you are left with someone you adore…then you might just be basking in the glow of love.

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.

Mr. Right….Ireland Day 2

I woke up the next day in Ireland feeling rested and much more like myself. While partaking in our first official Irish breakfast, the owner of the B&B recommend that we visit Avoca, in county Wicklow. It is the oldest working woolen mill in Ireland and Ireland’s oldest surviving business. Apparently, it was also the site of a popular BBC TV show, “Ballykissangel”. I myself never heard of the show…but maybe you have. My Mom makes me watch some horrible BBC show called Keeping Up Appearances, which proves that I’m not much for European sitcoms. In any event, Mr. Right and I were excited to experience something so rustically Irish. To the Mill!

That day, the Mill was closed for business but the retail stores were open. A few days before we arrived, Ireland was hit with a foot of snow. The snow has since melted but the weather conditions were considered extreme by the natives. Apparently, the weavers had not been to work in many days because of the conditions. Mr. Right and I were amused because the roads were clear of snow compared to what we were used to at home. No matter, we were able to walk around the grounds and look in the windows at the looms. The scenery around the old buildings was breath taking and we took some amazing photographs.

After making our purchases at the retail store, we went to Fitzgerald’s, an old Irish Pub. The only food they served was pizza. Weird, right? Anyway, it was the first time that day that we sat down and talked to each other with out the distraction of planning our day. Suddenly, I realized Mr. Right was acting rather strange and withdrawn. He was more concerned with the Barak Obama look-a-like at the end of the bar and oogling the inebriated the rugby team. This left me talking to who I can only assume was the town bag woman. I tried to tell her we were headed to Waterford the next day but in my Philadelphia accent, it sounded like “Wood-er-ferd”. Needless to say, she had no freaking clue what I was saying. I point to my glass of water….”wood-er?” Oh well, it was a lost cause. Smile and nod smile and nod…where the hell was Mr. Right? Oh, yes, how could I forget he was distracted and preoccupied! I wondered if he was upset at me for my lame attitude the day before. Perhaps the jet lag was staring to hit him too, or perhaps he was staring to think that I was Miss Wrong…

After lunch, we stopped by a shopping mall to peruse the Irish wears. We passed a jewelry store and Mr. Right asked me if I wanted to go in a look at rings. Rings? Holy Sweet Mother Mary….did he say RINGS? Odd coming from a man that was somewhat avoidant the majority of the afternoon. Anyway, I declined the offer and opted for the Irish version of TJ Maxx instead. I bought a shirt, which, I believe, was size 38. Apparently, I am fat in Ireland! Mooo. I kept thinking back to the rings, I should have agreed to go in the store and look. Why did I say no!! It just seemed unfair to the Irish jeweler knowing we had no intention of buying. In the back of my mind, I figured that engagement would be the next logical step for us but it seemed too soon to introduce the concept to Mr. Right. I did not want to be the pushy spinster; marriage wasn’t an immediate need. On the other hand, I did not mind the idea…especially not with Mr. Right.

After we freshened up at the B&B we headed into the town of Arklow to partake in dinner. At the first pub, we found out that dinner was already served. It was 8pm on a Sunday and most places closed their kitchen about an hour prior. We asked locals on the street where to eat and two men told us we could find a late night supper at Murphy’s. Inside, Murphy’s appeared to be another quaint Irish pub situation. We inquired about dinner and were told to head up a back staircase. Upstairs we found a lovely dining room, way beyond what I imagined from the pub scene below. Although the scenery was romantic, there was something still amiss with Mr. Right. His attitude couple with the ring suggestion of earlier was truly perplexing. What was going through his mind? I asked him if he was having a good time. Mr. Right brushed of the inquiry but something was wrong. Had he come all the way to Ireland to realize I was not the one for him? Could it be? But what about the ring comment? Ugh, what a bunch of horrible thoughts; there was only one thing left to do…drink whiskey!

Mr. Right…the Trip to Ireland

A few people have asked me why I have not posted lately. The truth of the matter is that things in my present life have been rather chaotic. My nine-to-five had always been a bit grueling, but as of late, it has started to become downright discouraging. I have always believe that it is important to have a work-life balance but lately I have not been doing a good job of enforcing such an attitude on myself. As I explained to Friend Blue yesterday, “The Man is getting me down.” In this challenging time, I realize how lucky I am to have supportive friends and loved ones. I am lucky enough to have people around me who tolerate hearing the same vent repeatedly knowing that one day I will get past my personal drama. Alas, it is time to abandon my pacifier, loosen my grip on the blankey, dry those baby tears and move on. With that said…I am back with a new story. Enjoy and thank you for being a friend…you know who you are.

Now, where did we last leave off? Ah yes, I went ahead and blurted out my love for Mr. Right. After all that preaching about letting him come to you, I was the one who broke that ice. There is an important distinction in this scenario. Things were quickly growing serious between Mr. Right and me. Our dates and conversations were unlike any I had experienced in the past, and Mr. Right constantly made comments about the future and how much he cared for me. I could sense that “love” was already between us…although the words had not been uttered. By saying them myself, I had nothing to loose. Mr. Right could have thanked me instead of reciprocating, but at least I would have been able to understand that we were not on the same page. When you are feeling something so strong and absolute, I say…go ahead and let it out. Own your feelings because when you are in that deep, you deserve to know whether the other person is on the same page.

Shortly after the love outing, Mr. Right and I decided that we would book our trip to Ireland. It would be my first time in Europe and I was excited to be sharing the experience with Mr. Right. We boarded a plane to the Emerald Isle five months later. It was February and we left from JFK airport in New York. The airplane was over three hours late to arrive but thankfully there was a pub at our gate. We enjoyed dinner and some drinks while anxiously waiting to depart the USA. Eventually we got on the plane. Mr. Right had some magical sleeping pills; he popped them and went right off into sleepy land. There I was, wide-awake and nervous about my first trip across the pond. I have never been a huge fan of air travel and let’s get serious people, they didn’t even turn off the lights in the cabin. It was an OVERNIGHT flight!

My anxiety built and I started to fear I would be up all night. The time difference in Ireland would have us arriving around 7:00AM Irish time. Our plan was to rent a car and drive south from Dublin to our first bed and breakfast in Arklow. It would be a two to three hour drive and I did not want to be a basket case on the first day of our trip. I always do this to myself…sense the need to sleep so urgently that sleeping becomes impossible. I took my blanket and lame mini pillow and prepared to force myself to rest. Chair reclined, pillow on shoulder, and blanket over the head like a navy blue ghost on Halloween. Hellooo, remember the cabin lights?? Gloriously, I began to sleep. I have a faint memory of the flight attendant calling my name and telling me to upright my ghostly self into my seat and out of the aisle space. Is this even possible, could she have looked up my name on the flight register? I might never know.

As we landed in Dublin about six hours later I clocked about four hours of shut eye. By the time we secured our rental car and GPS (most necessary when traveling in Ireland), it was about 9:00AM. On so little sleep, I was practically incoherent. Mr. Right was giddy and excited which only made me want to bang my head against the dashboard. I could not even find amusement around the whole “wrong side of the road” phenomenon; only fear of dying in what felt to me like a driver’s seat with no control. Mr. Right was visibly disappointed. He had a vision of an joyful arrival and fun beginning to our adventure. The fact that I was uneager to start the first leg of our journey seemed selfish. Alas, I did not put on a happy face.

We arrived and the B&B and checked in; I literally went right to bed. Mr. Right continued to be dejected and took my exhausted state a bit personally. After all, the planning and effort, he was expecting a little more out of his fun loving girlfriend. I could not understand why my need to sleep was a personal affront to him. Maybe I was just being fussy and over sensitive. After some sleep, the first day of our trip would turn around. I would wake up refreshed and ready to take on tourism abroad. I would be a fun travel companion and turn this trip around. I would…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. 

Have a great weekend…and welcome back to my blog! ~ MB