Friday, October 29, 2010
how to ruin an evening without trying (Harold’s comment)
Joanne's observation that neither Rob nor Celia has done anything to necessarily "ruin the evening" is exactly the point that I would like to hone in on. In our marriages, there are times when we really screw up. We make an incendiary comment out of anger, frustration, or ignorance. We behave badly out of hurt.
However, this episode is meant to bring attention to the more common occurrence--those situations when neither husband nor wife have negative intentions. In fact, both are really trying to getting along maybe even hoping to get lucky that night. But, then something happens. Neither person might quite be able to put his/her finger on it. But, someone let the air out of the ballon.
It could have been a misinterpreted look, a untimely interruption, or a myriad of other things. But, the result is emotional disconnection rather than the connection that was hoped for.
Rob and Celia are in a situation where there words and/or deeds will set the tone for another possible romantic interlude later on. They each just need to recognize the need and vulnerability of the other.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
How to ruin an evening without trying (Joanne’s comment)
I am intrigued by this chapter’s title. Who, exactly, is ruining the evening? Celia, who has been as flexible as possible around Rob’s unannounced arrival? Rob, who had been longing to immerse himself in his wife and their shared life after weeks spent in his parents’ pain and sadness? It does not seem to me that either “ruined” anything; rather we have an unexpected situation and incompatible sets of wants and needs that have caused conflict. Rob and Celia can ruin things, though, by failing to acknowledge the conflict that arose before either of them saw it coming; by parting angry and letting it fester. This is a tough moment, though; one in which they are both hurt and feeling rejected by the other’s action. It is hard in these circumstances to reach out through the hurt to connect, first, and resolve, second, but it can be done by verbalizing it: “Look, I don’t think this is how either of us imagined our reunion. But we’ll get through it.”
Monday, October 25, 2010
How to ruin an evening without trying
Rob surprised Celia by coming home from his parents mid-week and unannounced. As she undressed to welcome him, he asked her to cancel her evening piano lesson so she didn’t have to leave.
Celia could not remember Rob ever making a request like that, one that was asking her not only to be impulsive, but also to put something else ahead of earning money. Especially, to put himself ahead of making money.
“Well, I might have cancelled it already if you had let me know you were coming home,” she said. “I won’t be long and I’ll get home as soon as I can. Then we can get naked again.”
For the moment as they fell together onto the unmade bed, Rob seemed content. But afterwards, while Celia dressed to leave, he turned on his side to watch. “I wish we could have dinner together,” he said.
“So do I,” Celia said. She was unwilling to be painted as the one whose responsibilities ruined their evening together. “But this is important too.”
Rob rolled onto his back again and said nothing, thought it sure felt like he was disagreeing with her. The whole tone of the room had changed, and suddenly Celia disliked that Rob was here at all. She had enjoyed her routine while Rob was away, sleeping in and preparing material in the mornings, working with Paul at the afterschool program in the afternoons, and seeing piano students or rehearsing her church choir in the evenings. There had been a rhythm, with few distractions. New Celia realized that much of their previous routine together would have to be rewritten. Certainly their weekday dinners together would be a thing of the past.
As if reading her mind and wanting to respond as passive-aggressively as possible, Rob said, “Then let’s have a special dinner tomorrow night.”
Celia sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. “I have two lessons in Arlington tomorrow night. I’m going over right after work”—
Celia was shocked. “So do you want me to cancel them?” she asked, though she had no intention of doing so. At this point she felt like she was picking a fight just to make Rob say what he wasn’t saying – that Celia’s work still isn’t as important as Rob or anything Rob wants, because Celia doesn’t make as much money as he does.
She stood up, realizing how hungry she was. She had been hungry when she got home from work and now it was going to be at least another hour and a half until she ate, since she had given her dinnertime over to sex with Rob.
What happens next?
Friday, October 22, 2010
Is Your Bedroom the Priority? (Harold’s comment)
“I’m more important.” Those were Rob’s words to Celia to persuade her to dismiss her job to continue their sexual rendezvous. While I admit that Rob’s words were an attempt at manipulation they do convey an important truth. It is important in marriage for each spouse to feel that they are most important to each other.
Spouses often lose this sense of mutual importance when the daily issues of life take a toll of the relationship. These issues encroach upon the bedroom leaving one or both spouses less than fully satisfied. How do you make your spouse feel most important in the bedroom? Here’s three pointers.
Spend time with foreplay that communicates to your spouse how much you love him/her
Communicate your needs to each other
Prioritize his/her emotional and sexual needs over your own
When these three things are practiced regularly, you don’t have to worry about those times when you have to choose work. Surely, your spouse will understand and a quickie will just have to do.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Is Your Bedroom the Priority?
Rob left his parents on short notice and arrived home unexpectedly, and much to Celia’s surprise.
Rob had never known before how much he relied on routine to make him feel together. The mere act of driving his car into his parking space centered him to the degree that the car was positioned equally between the lines; then both he and his car were home and all was right with the world.
During the drive from Cleveland he had worried that he was acting impulsively. Not that Rob ever did anything on impulse, but since his father’s heart attack a month ago no one in his family had been behaving in character.
But he did not want to think about that now; for the moment he had to assume that his mother and father, who had been shocked by his decision to leave with no notice, would find a new equilibrium that did not include Rob managing their daily affairs. Rob just wanted to be in his apartment, heading to his job tomorrow, and spending the evening with his beautiful wife, who at this moment was standing across the room from him, removing articles of clothing slowly, one piece at a time.
“Did you have a good drive?” Celia was asking as she unbuttoned her blouse.
He nodded. She smiled to beckon him to follow her into their bedroom. There was little else Celia could have done at this moment to remind Rob how glad he was to be a married adult man. The responsibilities of caring for his parents, while sleeping in his childhood room, had made him long for the time when someone else was in charge and all he had to do was play.
He followed Celia, pulling his polo shirt over his head and tossing it on his suitcase as he did. Actually, at this moment it felt like Celia was in charge now, in a good way. He just wanted to be led. He realized how tired he was.
He embraced Celia next to the bed. “I don’t want to do anything else for at least twelve hours except be naked next to you,” he said, kissing her.
Celia kissed back as she unbuttoned his jeans. “You can be naked all you want,” she said. “But I have to teach a piano lesson in an hour, so this is going to be a quickie.” She pulled him down onto the bed.
Rob forgot that Celia had rescheduled her private lessons to accommodate the church’s afterschool program, so they were in the evenings now.
“Cancel it,” he said, nuzzling her neck. “I’m more important.” He had meant to say that in jest, but he heard himself sound serious. Maybe he was, he realized.
What happens next?
Friday, October 15, 2010
Coming home (Harold’s comment)
On Wednesday of this week, the world watched as dozens of Chilean miners were finally rescued from the mine in which they had been trapped for more than two months. As I thought about this topic "coming home" they immediately came to my mind. In one specific instance, a news journalist told the story of one rescued miner who had entirely changed his stance about renewing his vows with his wife after being separated in a potentially life-theatening situation for a couple of months. Prior to the mine collapse, he staunchly refused to participate. Isn't it amazing how circumstances have a way of changing our priorities. For this man, coming home meant remembering the love that he shared with his wife.
For Rob, coming home means a return to normalcy without the weight of caring for his family of origin. As Joanne so aptly noted, however, things might not be quite as normal as he expects.
Just as the military soldiers understand about their return home from deployment, things change when you're away. The one who is left behind has to adjust their mindset, their responsibilities, and their interests to become more independent. And, when there is re-entry there is typically a tension as the roles recalibrate.
Rob would be mistaken to expect everything to return to the way they were before. But, he can make this "coming home" experience one that is a growth moment for his marriage--if, like the rescued miner, he remembers his love for his wife in a new way.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Coming Home (Joanne’s comment)
Partners live independently from one another and then come back together to be interdependent again. This independence-interdependence cycle repeats hourly, daily, weekly, and in even longer intervals at times. (It is also marked in certain seasons by periods of dependence, such as when one partner is ill, but that is for a different chapter of Rob and Celia’s life together.) Celia has developed her own routine in minor ways in Rob’s absence, and it is going to take some flexibility to open up her independence to make room for him. It’s not just the new routine, either; Celia is being impacted by her new role and the people she works with, and she and Rob have not had time to talk about how she is changing. The ways may be minor but Rob is coming home to a different person than the one he left a couple weeks ago. I’m curious how they’ll each handle it!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Rob’s parents are struggling to get into a new post-heart attack routine, and Rob is struggling with how to help them without enabling them. Celia, alone in Columbus, is enjoying her new responsibilities.
Today had been the best day yet for the afterschool program, and Celia was tired but encouraged as she drove home. After three weeks, they had a predictable group of kids showing up every day and an equally robust group of volunteer tutors, drawn mostly from local college and seminary students with several retirees from the congregation. One of the more annoying altos in Celia’s church choir turned out to be a former math teacher, and Celia was gaining a new respect for her by virtue of seeing her in her element, coaching pre-algebra. Five kids formed the crux of the music program and one of them actually had access to a piano at home to practice. She found their progress even more satisfying than she did with her private students.
She was learning from Paul, the intern who ran the program, that things like this were important because numbers drove funding, and if the numbers were good he would be able to receive more grants to keep the program going.
Her phone call with Rob felt like weeks ago though it was just this morning. I wonder how he’s doing, she thought. It’s uncharacteristic of him to be as powerless as he seems in this situation–
Celia was shocked to pull into their apartment’s garage to see Rob’s car parked in its space, and her heart raced over whether something was wrong. Why didn’t he call me if he was coming home?
Unlocking the apartment and opening the door, Celia walked in to find Rob on the phone with his office, letting them know he was back in town – yes, Dad’s recovering well, thank you – and that he would be in tomorrow morning. Early. His suitcase was on the floor next to him, like he had just arrived.
He waved at her. Celia set her purse and bag down and looked at him quizzically as he disconnected the phone call.
“I’m home,” he said. “I hired a gardener to come twice a week and I left.”
This seemed unnecessarily hasty to Celia, but then Rob was the one who had been immersed in his family’s dysfunction for the last three weeks.
“I’m talking to a cleaning service, too, but Mom’s dragging her heels on that one.”
Celia was not sure what to do next. She had fallen into a single working girl routine with Rob gone, with packaged meals in the freezer and control of the television remote for herself in the evenings. She had actually been craving the chicken piccata lean cuisine she knew was awaiting her.
What does Celia do next?
Friday, October 08, 2010
Who’s In Charge? (Joanne’s comment)
It is easy to mistake (in any relationship) being the one who does all the work with being the one who is in charge. Being a leader and being the butler are not the same things, and Celia is doing Rob a service by trying to bump him out of a helpless rut. She cares because she hates seeing him overwhelmed and discouraged, but her reflection back to him is also an important boundary of self-protection. Rob’s family is needy right now but they are no longer in a crisis—a couple of weeks ago we used the phrase “the new normal” to describe the situation. The new, post-heart-attack normal is here and the time for sacrifice is past. The time for leadership in the form of tough love is here, from Celia to Rob and from Rob to his family, or dysfunction will be enabled all around.
Monday, October 04, 2010
Who’s in charge?
With Celia in Columbus and Rob at his parents’ home in Cleveland, Rob is unloading over the phone about his family’s over-reliance on him in the wake of his father’s heart attack. It is early morning; Celia is lying in their bed and Rob is pacing in his childhood bedroom.
Something that had been built up for two weeks could now flow freely as he talked, and somehow Rob felt energized and relaxed at the same time.
“This look my mother gives me,” he heard himself saying. “About the dumbest things, like she can’t even begin to imagine what in the world should happen next when it’s five o’clock and dinner’s in an hour even though her entire life seems to have revolved around making dinner since I was a kid.” He was surprised at how strong his irritation sounded. “She should be handling this.”
“How’s your dad?” Celia asked. This may have been the first time she had spoken since answering his call. She sounded drowsy but he knew she was listening.
“He’s in a routine,” Rob said. “More than anything he just seems to be tired. He rests, watches TV, takes his meds – the doctor says he’s recovered from the surgery. He just needs to regain his strength.”
“What do they need help with?” Celia said. “I mean, what are you actually doing for them?”
“Mostly the house stuff,” Rob said. “The lawn, the leaves. The bills. Mom is just this running list of things that need to get done, every one of which has to be discussed first with me.” He continued talking as he fiddled with the car models he had built as a kid, still displayed on shelves. They were from back in the day when Mom handled things and brought him model kits, not vacant, helpless looks. He kept talking until Celia interrupted him.
“Rob – so take charge.”
“I’m in charge right now.”
“No, you’re the butler right now. Your father’s recovery is progressing normally. They may need help but it doesn’t have to be from you. What are the other options? Does your mom need a cleaning person so she can concentrate on taking care of your dad?”
What does Rob decide to do next?
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