Monday, September 28, 2009
Putting the “honey” back in the Honeymoon
Rob and Celia are finally
face-to-face to discuss money and honeymoon. Celia opened their lunchtime
conversation by telling Rob, “I will probably never make more money than you,
even when I do get a full-time job.
If this is a problem, you need to let me know now.”
that Celia was in front of him, holding his hand and speaking directly about
what she felt, Rob felt terrible.
don’t mind that you make less money,” Rob said. “I’m sorry about what I said earlier.” He paused. “I have been worrying about money more and more lately.”
have you been worrying about money?”
Celia said. “Our income
will be the same but our expenses will actually be lower for the first few
months when I am no longer paying rent on my apartment. I hope to have a real job by the time
my student loan comes due next year.
And if I don’t, we can cut expenses somewhere else.”
had had this conversation before, and Rob had signed off willingly on the plan
at the time. “I know all
nodded. “OK.” She withdrew her hand from his and
began to unwrap the other sandwich.
“But it doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that you are feeling this
way right before our wedding. So
what’s going on?”
was a good question, why with no warrning for the last month Rob had been
waking up in the middle of the night with his heart and thoughts racing over
his future – their future – house and kids and college funds and even paying
for a wedding decades in the future for some potential daughter whose
conception was still years away.
And medical expenses! How
long could he count on the good insurance his firm provided him? And retirement. He felt so alone during those times of
panic that he had no idea how to begin to share it with Celia.
don’t really know what’s going on,” Rob said. “I have no idea.”
He went back to eating his sandwich.
Celia said. “Do you want to get
Rob said without hesitance. As he
heard the words come out of his mouth he was reassured by the sound of his own
assurance. “Yes, I do.” Rob looked up at Celia and saw her
clearly for the first time all day.
This was a real person he was marrying, a real, smart person who knew
how to be a partner. He remembered
Celia’s ministrations to him when he had the flu last winter, when Celia had
decided she was ready to get engaged.
Suddenly he realized that when he woke up panicking in the middle of the
night, she would be there, and he could turn to her. About money, or about whatever this is about, or about
whatever this would be about in the future. And then it would be all right.
were they fighting again? Right --
does Celia respond to Rob?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Facing the Fears (Joanne’s response)
Remember when the royal marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di came to an ugly and public end? I remember reading one account of Diana's reticence before the wedding when she realized that Charles had no intention of ending his relationship with Camilla. "But your face is already on the tea towels," Diana's sister told her when she voiced her concerns -- as if to say, too late, this train has left the station, you have dug your grave now lie in it, and so on. Ignore the red flags, the sister seemed to advise. It is too messy to raise them now.
Bless Celia for raising the flags and risking a mess. I appreciate that she realizes,when perhaps Rob does not yet, that this issue (whether it is money or something deeper) may delay their wedding if it is not resolved, and that is OK with her. Because Celia can handle the possible consequences of speaking up, she is strong enough to do so. Diana, or at least Diana's confidant, did not believe the consequences of speaking up were worth the price that would be paid. Celia is keeping the long-term perspective on the marriage with each short-term wedding decision she makes. Oh, that Diana had possessed such wisdom.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Facing the Fears (Harold’s response)
I love this episode. Boy meets girl for lunch. Akwardness is evident. What do I say? Then, there it is...
Celia has put the cards on the table to bring this supposed "money issue" to the forefront. Is this really about money? In our last posts both Joanne and I sensed that something else was going on. Maybe Celia senses it too. When your gut feel is telling you something, Celia's gives us a perfect example of how to respond--at least in intimate relationships. First, Face it! When facing the issue both parties benefit when this is done in a loving attitude. Celia shows this by gently taking Rob's hand. This non-verbal action says that "I care about you." The second step is, Name It! Celia bluntly states that there will always be a disparity in their income. So, what do we do with that? She has now put it squarely into Rob's grill.
The next time you and your partner have a disagreement use Celia's model. Face It! Name It! Leave us a comment for what happens. BTW, don't forget about showing that non-verbal love action before you face it.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Facing the Marriage Fears
"Ann Arbor’s a great place! It’s a college town,” Rob said over the phone to Celia, as he tried to convince her that his accounting conference would provide a romantic yet nearly free honeymoon. “I am trying to take care of both of us here.”
Celia sighed on her end of the phone. “If you need to tell your boss about this by two o’clock, then I need to see you for lunch.” To her surprise, Rob immediately agreed – Celia had feared he would either refuse to end the conversation now or hem and haw about changing his lunch plans at the last minute. Celia would have to reschedule a meeting with the church organist, but if Rob could be flexible, so could she.
Celia waited for Rob at a table in the lobby of his building. She had bought sandwiches, chips, and bottles of ice tea from the snack bar. She would typically have picked a sandwich and already started to eat, but she thought she would let Rob pick first from the roast beef or turkey. It seemed like a nice gesture and a nice gesture might go a long way. But toward what? Try as she might, Celia could not figure out what direction to take right now. It was a real possibility that this lunch conversation might end with delaying – or canceling – the wedding. At least that would be the outcome, Celia thought, if Rob persisted in pushing his perspective without giving hers any credence at all. She watched the elevator doors for Rob.
There he was, looking buttoned-down in his khakis and pressed shirt. Celia’s mother had been thrilled to learn that Rob ironed his own shirts so that Celia would not have to. It was a quaint notion from another time and place that Celia would “have” to. But, perhaps “maid” will be in her job description in Rob’s mind, especially if he has a problem with Celia making less money. Ugh. When did this thing get so ugly? Or maybe there had always been an ugly thread lurking right beneath the surface. I should be glad it’s out before the wedding, she thought, as Rob spotted her and walked her way.
The awkwardness was palpable as Rob pulled out the chair opposite Celia and sat down. Neither of them had said hello, and they had not made eye contact after their initial spotting of one another. He began unwrapping a sandwich. He had not even looked at the labels to see which one he wanted.
Mid-unwrap he stopped and looked at Celia. “Hi,” he said.
Celia did not reply at first, but reached over and took his hand. “Hi,” she said then. They sat in silence for a long moment, looking at their intertwined fingers on the table between them. Celia tried to sense her love for Rob. It was there, but muted.
Rob broke the silence. “How are you?” he said. Celia could not tell if he was trying to ease into the conversation or if he was waiting for her to apologize.
“Rob,” Celia said. “I will probably never make more money than you, even when I do get a full-time job. If this is a problem, you need to let me know now.”
How does Rob respond?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Financing the Honeymoon with Ruining the Marriage (Harold’s response)
This is one of those points where Joanne and I disagree--well sorta. Joanne suggests that the latest conflict between Rob and Celia isn't about money yet the conversation seems all about money. So, I say the conflict is about money--well sorta. What accounts for this apparent disconnect?
Well, what is happening to Rob and Celia is the same thing that happens to a lot of couples in intimate relationships. We argue and focus on surface issues often without realizing that there is a significant emotional reservoir underneath that is fueling the issue.
On the surface of the current conflict Rob is determined to save money on their honeymoon and advance his position at work. Celia is just as determined that this money-saving idea is ridiculous. Rob and Celia can continue to argue about the economics of their respective stances. They may even come to a compromise. The bigger question, however, is exactly what is underneath Rob's concern? If they don't figure it out you can be sure that it will rise again.
My suggestion to Celia is to deal with the issue at hand with an eye towards understanding what is driving Rob's seemingly odd request. So, deal with honeymoon financing but make an investment in the marriage by treading lightly.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Financing the Honeymoon Without Ruining The Marriage (Joanne’s response)
Since Harold attaches the titles to our weekly chapters, his latest title confirms what I suspected from his last comment: he still thinks that this is about money. While there may be legitimate financial concerns about planning a honeymoon, Rob and Celia are not arguing about money. They have some money for a honeymoon, though it won't be three weeks at a Hawaiian resort. They had talked about a week at a Great Lakes resort within driving distance of Columbus, a good example of a romantic honeymoon on a budget. Nor had we ever heard a concern voiced about their post-marriage finances. Rob has already been paying for his bachelor pad on his own -- they will live more cheaply as two in one home. Of course a prudent couple plans for their financial future and they will soon take on a new batch of student loans. But for some reason Rob is panicking. He is therefore stubbornly attached to this honeymoon idea as a defense and is therefore unable to hear Celia. They need to understand what is at play here before they head down the aisle -- or at least agree to figure it out later.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Financing the Honeymoon without Ruining the Marriage
Rob and Celia’s
right-before-the-wedding fight, about the honeymoon destination, has escalated
to a crisis point.
sat in his cubicle at work, shaking after his outburst to Celia on the
phone. Although he had tried to
keep his voice down, three of his colleagues looked around the corner at him,
silently inquiring if he needed something. He shook them off.
If those around him could hear his distress, he needed to tone it down,
he realized. It occurred to him to
wonder how Celia felt but he was too angry to ask.
was silent on her end of the phone.
How long had it been since either of them had spoken? Time was moving in slow motion. He took a deep breath. Maybe she had hung up, he thought.
he asked. Just saying her name out
loud centered him. His shaking
began to slow.
was a long pause before she spoke.
“How can you put money and your job ahead of our relationship?” she
said. Her voice sounded
unsteady, too, but he could tell she was trying to keep it cool.
her voice also reminded him who she was and that he loved her, which felt good,
but it was also confusing because he did not know how to get her to
understand. He picked up a pencil
and began to doodle on a pad of yellow stickies. I care about money and my job because I care about our
relationship, Rob thought. His
anger began to rise again that she misunderstood his motives.
appreciate that you are smart about money, Rob. I knew I was marrying an accountant,” she said. That second part was an attempt to
inject some humor, Rob knew, and alongside his anger he felt for the first time
that maybe this would turn out OK.
“But if money is something that you are going to use to beat me up with,
then maybe we need to rethink this whole thing.”
would never beat you up about money!” Rob said.
I didn’t. I’m trying to take care
of you, and us.”
made some noise that was half laugh and half sarcastic “humph.” She just wasn’t getting him, at all,
and here he needed to let his boss know by two o’clock that he would be going
to the training in Ann Arbor.
“Rob. I will not spend my honeymoon in a
chain hotel in a dumpy town while you sit in accounting classes all day. Does that sound romantic to you?”
Arbor’s a great place! It’s a
college town,” Rob said, though as he said it he knew it was the wrong part of
her comment to respond to.
does Rob say next as he continues?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Honeymoon Craze (Joanne’s response)
Harold makes many good points, but the first thing that has to happen is for Rob to de-escalate. Celia ought to insist that this conversation continue when they are face to face, or perhaps even schedule an emergency session with their therapist Carolyn. Rob is panicking about something and money is probably just a convenient playing field, so for them to start down the money-conversation road is a waste of time, for now. Cold feet happen. Until they understand what this is really about, they will persist in a no-win cycle.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The Honeymoon Craze (Harold’s response)
There are a lot of reactions I have to this episode. First, I really like it because it is the reality in which most of us married couples live--those moments when completely different perspectives are evident when looking at the same issue. These are great teaching moments, if a couple can avoid escalating the emotional distress (that is admittedly a difficult thing to do).
What can we learn from this episode? One is about finances--one of the big marital splitters! Rob is obviously feeling quite stressed about his role as the primary wage earner. I think, however, that this may be the first time that I've heard him vocalize it. And, it probably would not have been stated if he didn't get upset. Yet, this is an important conversation piece. Rob needs to talk with Celia about how he sees his and her role. He needs to let her know if there is some latent issues that he has with her employment situation. It seems like both of them have been making some undue assumptions.
Another lesson we can learn is that Celia probably should have been a little more discerning in her response to Rob's "brilliant idea." While I certainly agree with her that the idea of spending your honeymoon at a work-related event to save money is a crazy idea, she probably should have done a better job affirming Rob's end goal and asking him for alternate suggestions. By calling his idea crazy, she certainly got his attention. But, it will quickly become defensive warfare if it isn't reigned in pretty quickly.
Situations like this current one are volatile because there are a number of stressors at play simultaneously. Recovering from such volatility requires that level heads prevail. Celia should probably apologize for the comment, reiterate her appreciation for what he's trying to do, and use alternate language to refuse to agree with Rob's proposal.
For his part, Rob needs to ask Celia what she sees as the disadvantage of his proposal. And, he needs to think of ways to achieve both of their objectives. And, one way might be to hold Celia responsible for making more income. The options are numerous. But, they need to see each other more clearly before they'll see these options.
Monday, September 07, 2009
The Honeymoon Craze
On the phone, Celia is
struggling to make Rob hear her resistance to his fantastic idea, which is to
enjoy a free honeymoon together while Rob attends an accounting training in
could feel Rob’s defenses spike with each subsequent comment. She hated to do this, but since Rob
refused to wait until later to finish this conversation face to face, she was
going to have to escalate it, which would probably start a fight, to get his
she said, raising her voice a notch.
“Please listen to me.”
am listening,” he said, and Celia knew he was angry enough that he would hear
very little she had to say.
was sitting in the courtyard of the church where she worked, right in front of
the spot where she and Rob would be married in three weeks. She suddenly envisioned herself in her
mother’s made-over wedding dress, standing next to a twelve-year-old version of
Rob in his wedding suit. In her
mind he was having a silent tantrum, petulant and immature, and here she was
about to commit the rest of her life to him, “before God and witnesses,” she
is not good, Celia thought, as panic began to rise. This needs to end now.
Celia said, her voice rising again.
“You are crazy if you think this is a good idea.”
could hear that bomb drop in slow motion, from her voice through the phone to
the floor of Rob’s cubicle at work.
It seemed like a long time before he responded and Celia braced herself
for the mushroom cloud.
he said. Celia could hear him trying to control his voice, but she knew that was less for her sake than
to avoid being overheard in the office.
“I’m crazy? You’re crazy, Celia!
I’m trying to figure out how to support the two of us and provide some
kind of stability for our future, and I am pretty much doing that alone! Here I have a chance to save money and
promote my career, and all you can do is throw obstacles in the road!”
was not sure where to begin to respond.
Rob had called her crazy, which she supposed was fair since she had done
the same to him. He had accused
her of being dead weight as far as their financial future went, which hurt,
because Celia hoped to find a full-time job as a music teacher soon. But the market for newly-minted music
teachers was shallow right now so she was piecing together an admittedly meager
living from the church choir job and a few private lessons. She thought Rob understood this. Then, he further accused her of being
the problem here, not the solution, when she had been a partner all along in
living economically. Look at
the wedding she had planned!
head began to spin.
does Celia say next?
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