Monday, March 29, 2010
The Communication Dead Zone
Rob’s parents are coming to Columbus for Easter to attend the church where Celia directs the music program, such as it is, and take Rob and Celia to brunch.
“I should look forward to his, but I’m not,” Celia said to Rob on the phone. “I just want to come home right now and forget about it all.” Rob disconnected the call and turned the volume back up on his basketball game, sighing in semi-frustration at Celia’s negative attitude about her semi-job. Everyone has a bad day now and then, Rob knew, but Celia’s mood was often as off-key as that ancient organ in the sanctuary. Further, her income was meager enough that, having just finished their first joint tax returns, Rob wondered if it was worth her keeping the job at all. It’s not like as if she was making connections there toward getting the full-time job she really wanted. And she sure wasn’t building her private piano lesson clientele networking with that bunch of senior citizens. And her mood after these rehearsals…
Rob loved the idea of his parents coming down for Easter. His mother would bring baskets with gifts, which Rob had not outgrown, and he found it quite thoughtful of them to suggest attending Celia’s church since it had never occurred to him to do so (though he had attended the last few Christmas concerts). His parents would pay for them to eat at a very nice restaurant, they would have enjoyable conversation all day, and for a few moments Rob would not have to feel like he was the one in charge.
He predicted the conversation they would have when Celia got home. She’ll complain that she was tired and discouraged. He’ll tell her it’s not that bad and she won’t be doing it forever. Then she’ll complain about the economy and the cuts to funding for the arts in schools – suddenly Rob realized that his mood after Celia’s rehearsals was pretty shabby too, once they began to replay this tired routine. And why isn’t Celia looking forward to seeing his parents? They have only ever been kind and supportive to her.
Celia walked in, set down her bag, and plopped next to Rob on the sofa. “Blah, blah, blah,” she started to say. She did not really say those words, but that is what Rob heard. This was the same old conversation he had feared.
“Blah, blah, blah,” she continued. “Blah, blah, blah-blah-blah blah.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Rob interjected. He was surprised he had reacted like this. He had spoken before he thought but honestly, now that the words were out, he was glad he had said them. At least the conversation would have to take a different path. Celia stopped short and looked at Rob. “What can I do about it?” she said. “I’m doing everything I can to find another job.”
What does Rob say next?
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Who has the perfect family? (Joanne’s comment)
I am concerned about Celia’s self-esteem. This deficit makes her externally focused, which means that Celia struggles to find inner value because she is reliant on others’ opinions of her. If we remember back to Celia’s issues around getting married—she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a teacher, or stay in Ohio, or even be married yet—we are reminded that there are parts of Celia that are young and unformed and desperately need some positive experiences. I agree with Harold that one of the places Celia can turn for validation is to Rob. I am, however, worried that the combination of Celia’s low self-esteem and professional dissatisfaction, which is hitting up against an un-motivating economic climate, could begin to cause a low-level depression that will undermine the quality of Celia’s life and marriage. Healthy individuals make for healthy marriages. I hope Rob can find ways to support and encourage Celia to continue to grow into who she is and wants to be despite the family shortcomings that she finds so burdensome.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Who has the perfect family? (Harold’s response)
Marriages are frequently plagued by a misnomer that wreaks havoc. It is the idea of the perfect family. While most of us intellectually realize that there is no such thing, we often behave as if we are so unfortunate if our family is less than pristine. In some cases we wish our family was like someone else’s. In other cases, we have a sense of shame about them. In still other instances, we become experts at pathologizing everyone else’s family while often remaining blind to our own familial idiosyncrasies.
In Rob and Celia’s latest episode, Celia is struggle with her own insecurities (choral shortcomings, neurotic mom, etc). She wants to be perceived as having things together by Rob’s folks. She hopes that they feel like Rob married well. In some ways, she appears to be placing undue pressure on herself because she sees herself as deficient in what she is bringing to the table. It would serve Celia well to understand that all families have issues. Sometimes we are so embroiled in our own issues that we cannot even see the struggles that others have. The bottom line, however, is that Celia needs to become comfortable and secure in the love that Rob has for her—bad choir, neurotic mother, and all. After all, who has the perfect family?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Who has the perfect family?
Celia looked around at the choir loft of the church where she worked part-time as the music director. The old pipe organ had not worked since the 80’s, she had been told, although there had been vague promises that “this would be the year” that the church would find the funds to allocate to the project. The hymnals were ratty, though the file cabinets full of sheet music of sacred choral pieces remained decent even if there had been little purchased in the last twenty years. Celia thought a little contemporary praise music might go a long way toward bringing in some of the younger families the congregation coveted, and at the very least it might blow some dust from the overall worship experience of Redeemer Lutheran.
The youngest member of the choir was probably sixty, there were only two men, and the sopranos could barely reach the highest notes in the register – Celia herself had to sing fill-in there. As Easter approached, Celia had been emailing furiously to find someone who was willing to come in and play a trumpet fanfare on Easter morning, but everyone who could play trumpet either volunteered at their own church or had a paying gig at another one.
Celia did not think she could listen to one more attempt at Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, so she called the rehearsal five minutes early, discouraged at how little she had been able to accomplish in this job. But as public school music programs were being slashed yet again across the country, her hopes of getting a full-time job as a recent college graduate were dimming.
“Good night, Edith. Good night, Martha. Thanks for being here, John,” Celia said, giving each choir member a personal farewell, the least she could offer them for their time.
As the last footsteps faded from the loft, she called Rob, who was watching basketball at home.
“My mom called tonight,” he said, after listening to Celia’s update. “They want to come down for Easter. We can come to your church and then Mom and Dad want to take us out to brunch.”
Celia was ashamed of her first thought: she did not want Rob’s parents to hear the choir. She desperately wanted to show her in-laws that she was bringing something to the table in this marriage, but between her neurotic mother and meager earning power Celia tended to feel chronically late to the party with Rob’s family. They were emotionally stable and capable of holding down good jobs. From Celia’s perspective, they were the perfect family – and she did not fit in.
What does Celia say next?
Friday, March 19, 2010
The danger of feeling ignored in marriage (Harold’s comment)
When I read this episode, the first thought that came to my mind was "make the first move." So often when couples are in conflict, no one wants to take the first move towards reconciliation. It feels like defeat--like letting the other person win. It is very hard, especially when you feel like you are in the right. Research shows, however, that couples that thrive are able to make de-escalating moves at a much higher rate than unsuccessful couples. These de-escalating moves can be as simple as a non-verbal glance and smile or as profound as a heartfelt apology. Making the first move isn't a weak maneuver. It is a power move. It places power in God's hands rather than having you feel as if the power is in your hands. In our current episode Rob and Celia have both made moves towards each other. And, I feel like these decisions will be rewarded.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The danger of feeling ignored in marriage (Joanne’s comment)
One of my colleagues is a reader of Martin Buber, the German-Jewish philosopher-theologian who coined the phrase “I—Thou” to describe healthy intimate relationships. In an I—Thou relationship, we are mindful that the people around us have their own feelings, thoughts, and issues which deserve our respect, even if we are hurt by them or disagree with them. Buber contrasts I—Thou with what he calls an “I—It” relationship, in which people become objects around which we play out our own issues—our defensiveness, our anger, our fears, and our fantasies. Relationships move between I—Thou and I—It with some regularity, and the more intimate the nature of the relationship the more “I—Thou” we should seek. Rob and Celia were at risk of degenerating into an I—It relationship indefinitely over this recent debacle. Independent of one another, they chose to be vulnerable; Rob in reaching out and Celia in responding to his overture. They turned toward one another not just physically in bed, but also spiritually and psychologically. I am proud of them and believe their relationship will grow for it.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The danger of feeling ignored in marriage
Rob is driving home to Columbus as Celia rests in the passenger seat.
There was still snow on the ground but the day was sunny and the highway, clear and dry. Celia was thankful that today had started better than yesterday had ended. I wonder what it means when my attitude about my marriage does a one-eighty in twelve hours and back again, Celia thought. But at least I’m facing up right now.
When Rob had snuggled in bed this morning, clearly wanting sex, it had been a moment of truth for Celia. She had not slept much – first ruminating on Rob, then on her mother’s behavior, then on Rob again, thinking nothing new on either subject nor resolving either thread.
Exhausted, she had finally relaxed enough to get some decent sleep just as the sun came up. She did not know how long she had slept when Rob’s touch woke her up. They had not reconciled last night though there had been a tentative truce on the drive home. But last night had seemed like a long time ago, and this morning both Rob and the bed were warm and comfortable. It had heartened Celia that Rob reached out for her, which made her realize how susceptible she was to his overtures one way or another. In fact, this worried her now, as she watched trees fly by outside the car window. If Rob had let her sleep this morning, she might have interpreted it as his still being mad at her, and she might have continued to nurse her grudges in response, which might have led into another bad day.
Making up this morning wasn’t about sex, Celia realized. It was about reaching out for each other despite issues being unresolved. Spontaneously she reached across the car for Rob’s hand now.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked.
Rob grinned. “Same thing I’m always thinking about,” he said.
“Besides that,” Celia said, smiling. They were flirting, and it felt good.
Rob looked thoughtful for a long moment as he watched the road. “I’m thinking about this morning.” Celia waited, because he said this in a manner that was not flirtatious but genuinely thoughtful. “I’m thinking about the moment I hugged you in bed. I really – I was afraid you would ignore me.” Rob took his hand back and ran it through his hair a little nervously. “When you rolled over and kissed me, I was the happiest man on the planet. At least in Ohio.”
He looked at her, and took her hand back in his.
What does Celia say next?
Friday, March 12, 2010
Sexual intimacy as a bridge to emotional attachment (Joanne’s response)
I struggle with the "just-have-sex-and-the-feelings-will-follow" approach to marital repair, which some espouse. However, healthy couples can have sex -- and I mean good connecting sex, not in-denial, going-through-the-motions sex -- despite there being unresolved issues between them. First, acknowledge the difficulty and that it exists; second, agree that it will be addressed; and third, choose to be close sexually anyway, from which the will to resolve the issue may flow. We shall see if Rob and Celia have that kind of resilience in their young relationship.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Sexual intimacy as a bridge to emotional attachment (Harold’s response)
Though a gender stereotype, the old adage is true. For men, physical intimacy is the bridge to emotional intimacy. For women, emotional intimacy is the bridge to physical intimacy. Sex is a powerful motivator—one that is wired into the deepest recesses of our brains. In other words, God wired us that way.
Rob wants to feel close again to Celia. And, he wants sex to be that bridge. We have yet to see Celia’s response. But, I give credit to Rob for the efforts he has made to re-connect after the conflict over Celia’s needy mother. Celia, like many wives, will have to decide if she is willing to share her body with her husband to foster a reconnection beyond just the sexual act itself.
We all have to be thoughtful about how we use our sexual power with our spouse. Irreparably harm can ensure when approached cavalierly. On the other hand, the strongest bonds can be forged when approached in a spirit of authentic sharing.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Sexual intimacy as a bridge to emotional attachment
Rob has started the ball rolling in the right direction by apologizing to Celia. “Today has been quite the family adventure,” he continued, as they sat in the cold car and prepared to drive home. “I guess that is one way to look at it,” she had said.
Now that Rob and Celia were married, Rob’s parents had put a full-size bed in Rob’s old room for them when they visited. Rob reclined flat on his back in it, trying not to fall asleep before Celia returned from the bathroom, but he was in the last stage of recovering from his drinking binge – still a little woozy – and in the early stage of his hangover at the same time. All he wanted to do was sleep it off.
He could hear the water running in the bathroom across the hall. They had not talked on the way home much, except to comment on road conditions and when Rob asked to stop at a gas station mini-mart, at which he bought a gallon of water and drank three quarters of it in one shot.
At some point, Celia is going to have to apologize to me for her part of this, he thought. Is that why he was trying to stay awake, to hear her apologize before he went to sleep? No, he was afraid that she had not yet accepted his apology, he realized, and he did not want to appear rude and complicate things by falling asleep on her, in his parents’ house.
Then the room was getting light and Celia was asleep beside him. He had fallen asleep despite himself and it was now morning. The house was still quiet, so it did not appear that his parents and younger sisters, one of whom was home from college, were awake yet either. Maybe he wasn’t the only one who had partied ‘til the wee hours following Grandma’s birthday party. His parents were usually early risers.
He rolled toward Celia and put his arm around her. She stirred and rolled on her side away from him, and resumed what sounded like very deep sleep. He moved closer, tightening his arm around her and spooning himself behind her. Celia was one who is cold all the time, especially her hands and feet, except in the morning before she got out of bed.
Maybe we’ll have make-up sex this morning, he thought. When he and Celia had taken a premarital class at her church the teacher had talked about make-up sex and thought it had a place in good relationships. But maybe Celia needed to apologize before that.
Then Rob realized he no longer cared. Last night seemed like a long, long time ago, and he was happy to be in his family’s home with everyone, including Celia, there. He would love nothing better than make-up sex with Celia right now. He found the bottom of her nightshirt and moved his hand underneath until it rested against her warm skin.
Celia stirred again and rolled onto her back, toward Rob.
What happens next?
Page 1 of 2 pages 1 2 >
Return to home page