Suburban Snapshots

The Work

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Here's what doesn't happen during your first appointment for marriage counseling: you don't walk in, lay down your best synchronized hip-hop dance duet and get sent home with a clean bill of happiness. That might have worked at your wedding reception, but 6 years in and 12 years all told, you realize that some most things take more than rousing choreography to sort out.

So you walk in with all kinds of trepidation, wondering what you'll be asked to explain, hoping you don't cry, faint, or drop dead, trying to get a read on your spouse and how he's doing, and if you're me, gnawing your cuticles into bloody lunchmeat.

Then you'll spend 20 minutes going over your insurance information and superficial personal details. You get situated on the nice, deep sofa, your leg still keeping time to the "Flight of the Bumblebee" loop in your brain but otherwise settling in, and this person with half the alphabet after her name and a wall of credentials hits you with, "So, tell me what you're hoping to get out of this."

Well, fuck lady, you're the professional. Can't you tell me what's up?

So for an hour we sat, we talked, I may have cried at kind of an inappropriate juncture. We both learned some stuff, and it turns out with a third party present who isn’t invested in either of you, you start to actually hear each other. (What therapists don’t seem to do, as it turns out, is laugh at the hilarious jokes you might make to break the tension in the room. Lame.)

After your hour, you might leave with perspective, you might feel optimistic and sad at the same time, you may walk in comfortable silence to the car, exhausted and starving and wanting to go home.

You know how people always say, "Marriage is work." and you're all like, "OMG tell me about it, my husband is constantly leaving the milk out." Well, that's bullshit. At some point there will be real work. Serious, gut-wrenching, hand-wringing work — even in the best of unions — and that's when you decide what your marriage is going to become.

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