We’ve had arguments before.
Our marriage counselor insists that we will always have arguments. Having arguments is no reason to continue going to counseling, she assures us.
“Not that I’m kicking you out the door, it’s just – “
“Good to hear!” I cut her off before she can bring up the exit strategy discussion. Again.
Married people have arguments. Disagreements. Neither marriage counseling nor commitment nor love is enough to turn either of us into flawless people. It’s less, she tells us, about the arguments than it is about how we work through them. Do we continue to communicate? Do we stay connected and make progress? Are we resolving our arguments in a way that actually brings us closer together, rather than simply agreeing “not to fight” anymore?
We do. We are. We have.
But this was not just another argument.
This was The Argument. The Argument we’ve had hundreds of times in the last ten years. The Argument that grew roots and limbs and whole forests of resentment between us in the past. This was The Argument that turned into doubt and fear and hopelessness and disconnection and mistrust and – this was the seed we’d believed we’d cast out months ago.
“We’re right back to square one,” I heard myself say.
All these months of hard work were just a phase, I thought.
“You’re not talking like someone who’s been in marriage counseling!” he shouted.
“You’re not acting like someone who’s been in marriage counseling!” I screamed back.
Voices raised. Doors slammed. The phone shook in my hand as I contemplated who I could call to justify myself to.
This is why we’re not ready to leave marriage counseling yet, I reminded myself.
I put down the phone. I’d stopped making that call months ago, and it didn’t feel right to start making it again now.
“It feels like you don’t care,” I heard myself saying to him – to the only person in the world who needed to hear me say it. “It feels like I have no control over my life when you do that. More than that, it feels like…” I went on. Slowly. Calmly. Clearly, using my words instead of my fears and anger to communicate with him.
“What I hear you saying is….”
Less than an hour later I was back on the phone with him again. “I think we need to set aside some time to make sure we have the same expectations. Maybe that will prevent this from happening again – from going back to that place.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” he agreed.
“You know… this is… this is the thing – “
“I know. I know,” he agreed. “I don’t want to go back either.”
“Thank you for talking to me.”
“Thank you for calling.”
“I love you,” I reminded him.
“I love you, too.”
And I knew that he meant it as much as I did. More than that, I knew this time was different. That while this was The Argument, these were not the same two people from a year ago having it. We were not simply agreeing to “not fight” or white knuckling our way to another truce. We weren’t leaning on the fact that we loved each other and desperately hoping that would be enough.
We’ve had arguments before. But this was not just another argument. This was The Argument – and even in the face of that, the tools we’d been given were working.
I heard our counselor’s voice in my head, repeating the words she’d tried to make me hear for the last month or more. “You’re doing it,” she said. “Even when I’m not around, you’re doing it.“
I realized she was right. We were doing it. We are doing it. All on our own, even when our deepest insecurities are triggered, we’re doing it.
And I’ll happily tell her all about it at tomorrow’s appointment.