The Dirty Dancing of Marriage

Waking up at Gunstock Moutain Resort in New Hampshire for our first full day of vacation, all I can think is, where is the coffee? The 11:30PM arrival the night before which involved some not-so-nice words exchanged while the GPS evaded us, seasoned the RV air with the perfect ingredients for sweet dreams. Not. I went to bed, exhausted from packing the day before and my heart sinking for the weeks that lie ahead. If this is how we’re starting our vacation, angry and miscommunicating, I just want to quit now. Hide under the covers and wake up when it’s time to go home. That’s how I think when I feel desperate. Inadequate. Hopeless. And just genuinely messed up. 

It was just a fight over directions, I try to convince myself. But under ever petty argument lies a deeper issue. When you’ve been married for more than a decade, you know each other too well to know when something is just a tif or a tip. As in the tip of the iceberg of abandoned issues. I tell him he doesn’t trust me. He tells me I don’t respect him. Tempers flare. Words fly. And in the small confines of the RV, every sound is heard. By everyone. It takes us till 2AM to “iron” out our differences. Even then, we both wake up with wrinkles on our hearts. We are not done. Neither of us is in a place of peace. Last nights words still sting and the scent of unresolve peppers the air. 

I can’t recall a year when we, as a family, needed a vacation more. The stresses back home created a teapot effect that had us all boiling for weeks on end. And just when I thought things couldn’t possibly worsen, our tree house needed to be moved. And our backyard castle is not made of paper or sand or clouds. But solid. Heavy. Wood. With cemented in posts. Not to mention all its’ appendages: the slide, the steps, the rope bridge, the rock climbing wall, and the trap door steps. There’s a tiny, and I’m talking microscopic-sized, possibility that the status of the situation will change. And that droplet of hope is enough to shelve worry. For two weeks of vacation. 

And if our lives mirrored the tree house fiasco, we know that a tiny shift in position will change nothing. The inside of the house is crumbling. No ice-cream parlor paint job can fill in the cracks of our injured spirits. Did he really have to suggest I do things his way? Did I have to be so resistant to every suggestion? Clashing egos and fight for control over the silliest things seems like we’re returning to the battle of newlywed days. What is going on? 

Day one is spent setting up camp, pulling out chairs, and exploring the grounds. During our unpacking, come to find out hubby forgot to pack the tires to Sarah’s bike trailer. For a family who loves biking, this causes us to restructure our activities. We can’t bike long distances with Sarah on her training wheels, and being a heart on my sleeve type of gal, I cannot mask my disappointment. It takes a few minutes, but as I work through the journey from loss to acceptance, I realize something about myself. I secretly relish moments when hubby messes up. Because the truth of it is that I’m often the one on the receiving end of grace.
I’m not a fatalist, believing everything happens for a reason and is meant to me yada yada, but I do feel that things that do happen can create opportunities to grow and learn—if your mind can see through muddy words and your heart is open to rewrites. Realizing that just because your gut tells you something does not guarantee that it is truth. It might appear true from your angle of perspective. But flip the coin, and everything changes. 

And change can be good. Especially when both spouses change in a way that brings them closer together. Because power seems important, but unity is priceless. And hubby might know a more meticulous way of making a bonfire just as I might have a more efficient method to making eggs and sausage, but in the end, does it really matter whose fire uses up less kindling and whether the sausage was grilled the night before or sauteed in the morning? No. Not really. Not at all in the grand scheme of things. What matters is that you give up control if it means your spouse is free to live and breathe and soar. And he does the same for you. This is the dance of submission that is only learned with plenty of toes stepping on toes moments. Submitting to each other is an art of abandonment that leads to an expected joy and peace that only arrives when you arrive there. And no earlier. That’s the catch. And it’s not the flippant choice of giving in or giving up. That’s what so much of the world masks every decision under. Stand your ground. Hold to your position. Don’t let go. But the truth is, in marriage, this mentality chokes out the passion, oneness, and love.

Hubby lit the fire in more ways than one that first night. *Yes, this calls for a blush. But it all starts when we began to bicker over how much wood is being used for the fire. 


“Let’s play follow the leader.” Hubby says after returning from his self-appointed time-out to take a seat around the fire pit bursting with flames.

“Okay.” I’m glued in my pink camp chair from the reprimand of moments ago.

“Today, you’re in charge of the fire. Whatever and however you want to make it. Do what you want. I won’t say a word. But tomorrow I get to be in charge of the fire. Does that work?”

“Really?” I’m a little shocked. But even as I soak in the offer, my heart softens. And I’m feeling my wings loosen.

“Really.” Hubby puts a period on it.

“Okay.” I seal the envelope. And begin to fly. 

I rise from my seat and throw a bunch of branches in. Love watching the flames rise up and greet me. Especially on this cool night. I love making the fire. But I also love sitting back and having the fire made for me. The dance of marriage. Fourteen years in, and we’re still practicing. And day by day, we’re learning to lead and be lead. Love and be loved. Forgive and live again.

**If you LIKED this POST, you MIGHT also LIKE: 

“Stormy Weeks”
or
“Top Ten Hardest Things To Share in Marriage”
or
“Life Lessons from Under the Hood”


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