Friday, August 28, 2015

A VERY Straight-forward Counselor

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
The Counselor we ended up seeing was a gorgeous red-headed woman. I instantly liked her--because she seemed sassy.
    "All I ask, is that you'll be honest with me, yourselves, and each other," she said point-blank.
    Mark and I both nodded.

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    "Well then let's start."  She sifted through mounds of papers before sitting down in a rocking chair that looked older than time. I peered around her room as she set some of the paper on her lap and took a sip of coffee. There was a mishmash of interesting objects and books all around. On one wall hung a humongous dream catcher. Another wall had a colorfully spattered picture hanging a bit crooked. I really wondered what type of woman this was--when she broke through my thoughts.
    "So you want to have a healthy relationship?" she asked. "Then I need to know how you fight--and don't tell me you don't fight, because you should know how someone fights before you marry them!"
    She turned to Mark first, who was obviously taken off-guard.
    "Well..." he paused. "Honestly, Gina can be really loud."
    "She yells," the counselor clarified--it was not a question.
    "Yes, she...yells."
    "And how is Mark when he's angry?" she asked me.
    "He pouts." I liked how direct she was--this was a game I knew how to play..
    "The biggest problem with marriage is discovering how we resolve conflicts."  She crossed her legs and her bright, pleated skirt swayed. I flushed when she said "marriage"--didn't she know we weren't even engaged! "So tell me about a fight you've had." She turned to me, her eyes piercing.
    A sigh left my lips as my thoughts bounced around, trying to remember a perfect example. I decided to pick a time from a few weeks prior, when neither Mark or I had handled a situation well.  "I had hung out with my friends a few days before, and Mark wanted to hang out with his friends later that weekend too. I think it's important for us to have time apart as well as time together. But later I found out there'd been a beautiful girl at the party--one I'd thought Mark had a crush on before he met me. He brought some people over to my house to meet me before going back to the party and when I saw her.... I didn't handle it well."
    "Mmmhmmm," Mark said, putting his hand to his forehead. We both knew where this story went.
    "They were about to head back over to his place, but before they could leave, I pulled Mark to my front door and said 'The two of you make a great couple!' Then I slammed the door in his face."
    "That wasn't the best. How did you respond?" the counselor asked Mark.
    "I knocked on the door and when Gina opened it, I said, 'I don't like her like that. Out of the two of us, at least I'm not the one who's dated a million people! I should be more concerned about this type of thing than you are!"
     The counselor cleared her throat. "So, at least the two of you are honest. What do you think about the ways you both reacted?"
     "I should have thought first before I reacted," Mark said.
     "Me too," I said. "I need to learn to communicate better instead of just accusing people."
    "And why did you say that to him, about the girl you'd seen him with?" the counselor asked.
    "I guess I'm really insecure. I've been cheated on before. I should have told him that instead of accusing him. But I was scared."
    "But you have to trust him at some point. Fear can push people away." She took another sip of coffee. "And Mark, I know it's hard stepping back when someone is being so accusatory, but if Gina does this again, can you try to gently say something like, 'Where is this coming from? Let's talk about it?'"
    He nodded. "It might be hard in the moment, but I'll try." 
    She studied both of us momentarily. "When the two of you learn to communicate and resolve these issues, I have a feeling you could be great together. Mark, you seem to bring a peace to Gina. And Gina, you bring excitement into Mark's life."
    We looked at each other and smiled because it really rang true.
    As we left the counseling session, we promised each other that we'd try to communicate better.
    "Relationships aren't always easy," I said. "But I'm willing to work to be with you. Sorry I can fly off the handle."
    "So can I," he said. "We'll get better at this. You'll see."
    We held hands, and instead of going straight to his truck, we walked down the block to a little Japanese restaurant and continued to talk about what both of us had learned that day. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Was He Cute? YES! Was She?

 If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
Mark and I decided that each of the kids needed some extra attention so we started bringing them out alone with us. It was my son's turn and we'd brought him to the Lego store because they had a deal going where kids could build their very own Lego people....
    "Okay, what about this Lego body?" my son asked Mark. "Or this head? He could be an astronaut. Or a ninja!"
    "Or you could make a cop...with an cowboy face!" Mark replied, showing us a really odd-looking face he'd found in the pile.
    And even after we walked out of the store, the two of them went on and on about the Lego people my son had built. Excited, strutting toward the big glass doors leading from the mall, my boy said, "Wait, Mama. Take a picture of me and Daddy! You go on the other side of the doors. I have an idea!"
    My boy said it so fast, he hadn't even realized he'd said "Daddy," but the word wasn't lost on Mark. He'd stopped walking, kind of blinked a few times, then tenderly reached down and patted my son on his back. "What's your idea?" he asked, his voice sounding reflective.
    Watching those two smiling at each other, I wondered how much both of them needed each other--how they'd already impacted one another's lives.
    "All right," I said, clearing my throat on the other side of the glass doors, "you still want your picture taken?" 
    That's when my boy shoved his face up against the glass and said in a mumbled way, "Come on, Mark!"
    I didn't take a picture for a second and when I finally held my phone up, Mark's face was pressed against the glass smashing his cheek and nose into a blob of flesh just like my son's.  I took some pictures, and my son started laughing so hard.  His laughter was darling, completely contagious. I began giggling. The Mark laughed, still pressed against the glass an shaking with pure happiness.  I thought it was the best moment ever, utterly cute. And of course that's when my phone vibrated in my hand--a message from The Schmuck flashed on the screen.
    It's strange, but he was my boomerang. No matter how any times I sent him away, he always swooped back in.

Every time I have a hard time I think of you.

The text said.

I miss you, Gina. I really am getting divorced now.
It's terrible.
We can really make it work now.
I want to be with you.

Mark had pulled away from the glass and noticed that something was wrong.
    "What?" he asked, sprinting toward me with my son,
    "It's the Schmuck." I handed my phone to Mark and let him see the message.
     "Why won't this guy leave you alone?" he asked.
     "I don't know," I said. "We said our goodbyes. I don't know why he keeps trying. I wish you could tell him we're dating now--that he needs to have more respect."
    "You mean that?" Mark asked.
    "Yes, actually. I do. Text him back if you want." And I insisted that he keep holding my phone.
    Moments later, the three of us sat in my car: my boy playing Lego revolution, me driving a little bit too fast, and Mark...texting The Schmuck.
    I bit my lip as I drove, a little worried about what they might be saying to each other.  But I trusted Mark; he'd take care of this, somehow.
    My house was about forty-five minutes from the Lego store, but that seemed like forever. After about twenty minutes Mark set my phone down. "Did you think The Schmuck was really handsome?" he finally asked.
    I didn't know what to say. What WAS the right answer? I decided honesty was best. "He was handsome."  I took my eyes off of the road and glanced at Mark, who looked very sad. "WAS, but then after I knew who he really was, he didn't look very handsome anymore." I went on, trying to rectify the situation. "He wasn't the person I'd expected he would be--that changed the way I'd seen him--I started noticing things I'd ignored before." 
    This seemed to pacify him, until a few more miles sped by.  I wanted to know what he was thinking and I also wanted to know what he'd said to my ex.
    But his silence slowly killed me, like a bad addiction. When I was upset, I was honest and in-your-face. How could he remain so quiet?
    "You have everything," I finally said. "You're handsome and a good guy." He didn't respond. 
    We'd arrived at my house and my son ran inside excited to see his sisters--and probably get away from Mark the Mute.
    I checked my mail while Mark stood staring at the mountains like they held the meaning of life. "Are you okay?" I asked, flipping through letters.
    "I'm just a little upset," he said. "The Schmuck seems like a dick."
    "Yeah...What gave you that idea." I said it sarcastically.
    He didn't laugh though and instead responded with, "It sucks that you dated him."
    What was that supposed to mean? "Well, it sucks that you dated people too." I smiled, but said the words in a rude tone. He glared at me. Oh it was on! "Like that one girl you dated years ago. I saw her picture on Facebook--you thought she was gorgeous!"
    "Yep." He nodded, that man of few freakin' words.
    "What? You said she was gorgeous? At least I was nice with my answer."
    "You thought that was nice?" he balked.
    Not even caring what he'd just said, my thoughts went back to the "hot chick" he'd dated. "Her picture on facebook was cute, even if she does have a huge jawline." I shut my mouth, wishing the words had never come out.
    "Big jawline, huh! I never noticed that."
    "Heck yes you did! Doesn't everyone?" What in the hell was wrong with me? I wanted to stop--at least some part of me wanted to. But I couldn't even quit while I was ahead.
    He didn't respond for a moment, just turned paler and paler.
    "You know what?" I put my hands on my hips and stepped back toward my front door.  Then I stuck my hand out behind me and felt around for the handle. "You and...JAWS, you'd make a great couple!"
    I stepped inside, then slammed the door in Mark's face.

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    It didn't feel great. There was no victory, no satisfaction. I realized momentarily that we were both being incredibly stupid. And after about a minute, I opened the door to see Mark still standing there, appearing a bit confused.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say, and I didn't feel like apologizing, so I just blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.  "Do you want to go to counseling?" I asked.
    "Yes!" he nodded, and we booked the appointment the following day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Have you ever had a stupid fight with your spouse?

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story

That weekend, Mark brought his doberman to the house. She was absolutely sleek and very well behaved. I knew someday we'd be close, but I shied away, not great with dogs. The kids instantly loved her, petting her, not giving her a moment alone.  My children--and the dog--were so tired at the end of the night that they practically put themselves to bed.
    "You two better get going," I told Mark after a while, motioning to him and his dog, who was dead-asleep in the corner of the front room.
    "I just made you and me coffee though," he said.
    We walked into the kitchen and I had to laugh because even though he didn't live there sometimes it sure felt like he did.
    I went to grab a mug from my cupboard, when Mark sidled up behind me and started tracing my arms with his hands.  I exhaled, hardly able to think. 
    "I don't want to leave any more," he said. "This feels like home. I come here every day after work and spend every chance I can get with you and the kids. I do homework with the kids. I cook with you. I mow the lawn. You guys are everything to me--you're my family."
    "You really love those kids, don't you?"
    He nodded. "They're pretty amazing."
    I threw my arms around his neck, then tip-toed so I could hold him closer. We stood in my kitchen, for the longest time, me slightly crying as I hugged him, and him wrapping his arms so tightly around me, I hoped he'd never let go. 
    You know, life can be so strange--when I'd gotten divorced and later found out the Schmuck was married, I'd never thought I'd find a love like this. It baffled me how Mark could love us so much, selflessly making sure our needs were met, being a father-figure to the children, and the man I so desperately needed.
    I wiped my tears and kissed him on the cheek. "I would like to snuggle with you tonight. I miss you when you aren't here--I feel like you should stay tonight too."
    So we walked up the stairs, hand-in-hand, to my bedroom, and that's when the dog woke up....
    I really don't have a problem with dogs, unless they're sniffing my butt, barking, pooping, farting, or barfing.  Really, other than all of those things, dogs are all right. And I really liked Mark's dog until her face was practically glued to my crotch as I walked up the stairs.  I wiggled away, trying to seem all right, but freaking out inside.  Didn't he notice I was getting molested?  Instead of saving me, Mark laughed--like his dog was hilarious.
    "Oh, how...cute!" I lied, side stepping up the stairs.  I thought once we got to the bedroom we could leave his dog outside, but Mark invited her into MY ROOM before I even got to go in!
    I was fine with Mark staying the night--until he invited his dog to sleep by us.
    I cleared my throat. "You want her to sleep where, honey?" My voice went up an octave, sounding like a pre-teen boy during puberty.
    Mark rolled close to me and started kissing me. I wasn't in the mood, but I tried.  Then his dog was licking my neck!  I swatted her away, trying not to cringe.  
    Seriously, getting licked on the neck while I was kissing Mark--that was sick.  I instantly remember something my aunt once told me: "If a man asks another woman into the bedroom, she better be a "dog!" 
    I never knew exactly what she meant by that, but either way, this felt like a night gone very wrong
    After a couple of minutes--dog free--I slowly opened my eyes while still kissing Mark and saw his dog glaring at me from the other side of the bed.
    "Okay!" I pulled away. "I'm a bit creeped out!"
    "Gina!  I've accepted your kids. You can't accept my dog?"
    I wanted to, but wasn't this fast! It was her first time over and now she was in my bedroom--alone with us--AND she stared at me like she wanted blood. 
    "Yes, you've accepted my kids--and that means the world to me--but at least THEY don't sniff your butt!"
    Mark was livid. I was livid.  His doberman looked back and forth at us, panting--happily!
    "Fine, you want to stay the night in here with your dog? Great!"
    "Gina, you're being ridiculous!"
    "I told you I'm not great with dogs, that you'd have to ease me into this. Now she's in my room?"
    He went to touch my arm.  "Don't touch me!" I said, then I went out of my own room, and slammed the door so loud I was shocked it didn't wake up the kids.

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    Mark didn't come out for a while. So I paced back and forth thinking, I could have communicated that better.... He was finally going to stay the night.... Why can't I just accept the dog?  But I was taught that dogs don't even sleep in your bedroom, let alone your bed.
    I paced and paced. That's when Mark came out.
    "I'm putting her outside," he said.
    "Why don't you two just leave? Maybe we can try this again another time."
    His eyebrows raised, and he looked genuinely heartbroken.  "I really want to stay," he said, then without waiting for a reply, he put his dog outside, and gave her a treat.
    I folded my arms and waited for him in the TV room.  I somehow knew that I'd been wrong, that I could have handled the situation better, but I couldn't quite figure out why I was so mad. 
    After coming back inside alone, Mark remained quiet, waiting for me to say something.
    "What?" I asked.
    "Why are you so upset?" he queried. "I know you said before you don't like to have animals in your bedroom. I didn't think it was this big of a deal though."
    That's when I exploded. "I told you I wasn't okay with something, and you did it anyway." And suddenly my anger made sense. "The men I've dated never listened to me. If I said I didn't want to do something, they didn't care--somehow we'd end up doing it anyway. Their hobbies became my hobbies.  Their dreams had to become mine.  I couldn't be myself, or say what I wanted! I always had to be nice. Did I want Chinese?  No, but I had to eat it and hardly ever got a chance to choose the restaurant.  Could I use conditioner, no because one guy I dated didn't like it!  Could I wear makeup? No, because I looked too pretty and other people checked me out.  Could I get new clothes? No, they cost too much." I paused then fearfully said, "You might be just like them."
    "You can't really think--"
    "You might be!" I interrupted.
    I expected him to yell at me, act like others had in the past. Instead, he calmly folded his arms. "Are you done yet?" he asked.
    I wanted him to yell, be angry. I wanted to feel something other than this uncertainty and fear. If he yelled, then we could have it all out for each other and make up--it would be fiery--and somehow it would feel like love had in the past....
    "Why aren't you angry?" I shouted.
    "Maybe I am. But I'm not going to yell back. I'm not like that.  And I'm definitely not like those other guys you've dated."
    I was sobbing now, so lost in memory. "They knew how to get their way. With money. With time."  I cried so hard.  He tried holding me, but I pushed him away and leaned against the wall. "And you!"  I could barely see him through the tears.  "I never have to be someone else with you.  You listen when I say 'no.'  Mark, you never push me.  You respect what I say. But you didn't tonight. I've been through some hard things.  I need to be with someone who respects my choices. And maybe you can't do that! I know this seems like something small, but that's how it starts. Next thing you know, I'm stuck in some shitty situation again, the shell of who I really am, a mirror of whoever I'm with.  I don't want to be a damn mirror anymore. I want to be myself."
    "I'm so sorry," he said, slumping down.  "I understand what you're saying. I'll get my dog and go.  I promise you, though, if you tell me something is a big deal to you, I'll respect what you're saying."
    He went to the back door, but I stopped him. "I'm so sorry, too!  It's hard for me to understand where all of this is coming from. Maybe I need counseling. I just hope this makes sense." I took a big breath. "You...meant what you said; you're not like those other guys?"
    "I just want you to be yourself."
    My body suddenly felt so exhausted.  My arms reached out for him, and he held me close, stroking my hair. Then he gingerly picked me up and carried me to bed.
    "You're tired, baby," he said. "You need some rest."
    "Will you please stay?" I pleaded. "I'm sorry I got so upset. I could have expressed myself a lot better."
    "I'll stay," he nodded, "but if it's okay, I'd like to stay up and drink another cup of coffee and write. Can I use your computer?"
    "Sure," I whispered. And I couldn't believe how tired I was.
    The next morning I woke up really early. Even though we'd fought, it was the best feeling in the world to wake up to feel Mark's arms around me. I gently moved from his arms, then tip-toed down the stairs to the back door and let Mark's dog inside. She seemed so happy to see me that I let her follow me into the kitchen.
   I started making Mark and my kids breakfast.  Mark's dog rested next to me, looking so cute that I had to give her some bacon. After each child woke up and hugged me--and the sausage sizzled in the pan--I realized my computer was open to a Word document that had my name on it.
    Spatula still in my hand, I went over to the computer and read the words as my kids pet the dog and chattered happily. 

    Yes, we both make mistakes. But, Gina, no matter what, I want to be old with you, feeling young 'cause we're together. Love can carry us through all of this. It doesn't age. Its back doesn't go out it doesn't get arthritis, it doesn't need a motor. It doesn't lose its hearing or become forgetful. It is what keeps on when the years get late and our hair is grey. Its what can heal and get both of us through anything. I'll work as hard as I can to be here for you. I want to be old with you yes, but I want to feel young with you forever.

That's why I have faith, 'cause I've grown into the man I am now and I know what I want and need and I choose where I'm meant to be. That's with you.

    "Are you okay, Mama?" my baby boy asked because I'd been covering my mouth with my free hand. as I read
    "Yes." I nodded to him and grease dripped from my spatula. "I just feel like a jerk," I said, then looking up, I spied Mark walking down the stairs.
    My three youngest kids squealed before running to Mark and hugging him. "You stayed! You stayed!"
    Mark's dog ran up too, wagging her tail.
    "I knew he'd stay," my little boy said. "That's why he brought us an awesome dog!"
    "I'm so excited," my middle daughter smiled, hugging him again, making it so he could hardly walk down the stairs.
    "You let the dog in, huh?" Mark's eyes widened. 
    My oldest daughter had remained by me. At this point, she whispered, watching her siblings, "It's weird, Mom, but sometimes I think we need Mark even more than you do."  I wondered what she meant, but I didn't have time to ask because she went over and hugged him too. "Parent teacher conferences are tonight. You promised you'd go!"
    "Wouldn't miss it for anything. All that homework we've done, you better have good grades." He smiled down at her, obviously proud.  And I found myself again, stunned by that man.