We’re not going to the couples retreat. My husband was vehemently opposed and I didn’t try to convince him.
He recognizes that being the one who won’t go, he has to come up with some other plan of action. I appreciated that much.
At one point, when I was trying to sell the couples retreat, I mentioned that if we didn’t go we could always make our own couples retreat, and work through some of the exercises in Gottman’s The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work. Or we could see a therapist on a regular basis. Last night my husband proposed Plan B.
I was surprised at how vehemently opposed to that I ended up being.
The thing is, I tried to do that years ago, to work through the exercises in that book in an attempt to help us be closer. My husband’s reaction was so negative and ugly–Why would we need to do that? There is literally nothing I’d rather do less. You may like that self-help garbage, but I can’t think of a way I’d less like to spend my time.— and felt like such a vicious personal attack, that I vowed never to suggest it again. That exchange has sullied my feelings for my husband, and our relationship, in lasting ways. I don’t think I realized how much it all hurt me until he suggested it as an alternative to the retreat weekend, at which point I struggled not to break down sobbing.
I said I would participate, willingly, but I refused to execute that plan in any way. I reminded him that I’d tried to work through those exercises with him–I’d even photocopied parts of the book I thought would benefit us–and he threw it all back in my face, without ever reading a word. I told him how hurt I had been by that–perhaps it was the first time he was hearing about the pain he inflicted–and that I couldn’t bring myself to be so vulnerable to his scorn toward this kind of thing again.
He understood, or he understood well enough to concede and accept the responsibility for planning the weekend moving forward.
We talked more about why we need to do this, about how distant we’ve grown. He feels a certain amount of resentment that we have to work so hard to be happy together. He believes that couples shouldn’t have to work so hard, that if we were meant to be together, the being together part should be more effortless. I tried to explain that a lot of couples work hard at marriage, but we don’t hear about it. I suggested that as a man, he probably never heard about it, because when would it even come up? Did he even ask his friends how their marriages were doing? And what of the high divorce rates? Honestly, I still don’t think he believes me. He chalks my insistence that something must be done up to my penchant for embracing self-help and trying to better myself. I told him my own desire to be a better person had nothing to do with what I know about other people’s relationships and my certainty that other couples struggle in the ways we are.
We’re looking at the weekend after the retreat would have been: mid-June. It’s better for me at least, so that’s something. I told him I wouldn’t participate unless he’d read the entire book–no choosing exercises without any context to their purpose or importance. He grudgingly agreed. He also conceded that if he failed to follow through on this I would get to pick the next course of action.
I honestly don’t know if he’s going to pull his shit together and do this, or just unceremoniously lob the ball back to me. I suspect the latter. He has never followed through on this kind of thing before, at least not in our marriage, so my hopes aren’t high, but I’m willing to wait until he’s determined that for himself. And I’ll read the book again, just in case.