As much as Jim tried to work with Mary to find a solution to the issues in their relationship, Mary felt that the walls were too thin to talk. She needed her parents to see that they were OK. Jim wanted to slip out the door and vanish until the parents left, however he couldn’t leave his wife alone to handle this. Her face was solid but he knew she was breaking. Furthermore, he was furious that she had frozen him out emotionally. Jim could see their marriage was over and was baffled that Mary was OK with it.
While he was under the strictest of instructions not to attempt to fix Mary’s parent’s marital woes, he wanted to take a crack at helping his parents out. However, the threatening look that Mary had given him made him second guess himself. Why would she not want him to help his parents?
The return date of the parents was rapidly approaching. Jim needed to act. This was his moment to shine, but how?
The Bold Get the Gold
On a hunch, Jim did the unthinkable. He cleared out both his and her calendar in the middle of the night. Satisfied that all the emails had been sent as professionally as he could, he nervously waited through the night for what would certainly be hell on earth. Jim needed to do something. And now he had done the worse cardinal sin… touching Mary’s calendar.
By the time Mary was up and in the kitchen searching for coffee, Jim was moving on to his set agenda for the day. He had gotten the confirmations that the day’s appointments had been canceled. He also had rescheduled the most important ones for the both of them.
Both sets of parents had agreed to the meeting invitation he had sent out. The only person left in the dark was Mary. Not that he wanted it to feel like an intervention, but not knowing her reaction, he had to risk it this way.
Breakfast was served and eaten in relative silence. The air felt cool and the tensions were low. Mary was happy to feel that things had eased up. Maybe the parents had time to think and process. They had stayed up pretty late. She was feeling good about reigning Jim in with her stern warning. Life was getting back to normal. Soon, they’d be gone and she’d go back to her busy life.
Jim broke the silence by thanking both sets of parents for accepting his invitation for some relationship counseling.
Mary froze in sheer terror. The bastard! He was going to ruin everything!! HE DARED!
Jim, undeterred, continued to explain that the day’s schedule was completely changed and that the conversation was overdue. While there was no moderator for the first part of the conversation, one would quickly come to their aid if need be.
To Mary’s surprise, both sets of parents clapped and cheered their support of Jim’s decision.
Mary took over the moment and explained that talk was not needed as there were plenty of sights to see and shopping to be had. She had made plans for a movie and a concert as well. There were other places that they could all hang out, there was no need to stay home. She also assigned a few chores for Jim to handle so that on their return, they all could be a bit more comfortable.
Confident that she had returned a degree of order, Mary watched the parents both look at each other and nod as they got up from the table.
CRISIS AVERTED!!! Phew!!!!
Now, to put Jim in his place, and all would be well… wait… how come he slipped away to go towards the living room? With the others?
Mary followed cautiously at a distance. Something was amiss. They were all sitting down in the living room. Was this… could this… be…
Mary’s dad spoke first to explain a few things. The parents confessed that they were modeling the behaviors they had witness in the relationship. They were worried. They didn’t want to overstep their boundaries, set by Jim, and meddle. However, they were gravely concerned.
Jim’s dad took over to explain how painful it was to see their children living parallel lives as well as being highly stressed by the presence of their parents together under one roof.
Mary’s heart was flipping about unsure what to do next. Jim spoke up to explain that he had asked for a dialogue to understand why the air had been so thick and painful the past two weeks.
He had dared!
Many Tears Later
As the six adults shared and opened up about their feelings, barriers were broken. Tensions flew all over the spectrum. Repressed sentiments found answers. Understanding starting to win. Clarity showed up.
The single biggest culprit was misunderstanding. There were too many assumptions built into the relationship matrix of these six. No one had time to talk. No one had time to freshen up ideas and understandings.
The constant rat race to win the opinion polls of others had robbed Jim and Mary a sense of themselves. They had listed and wandered from one appointment to the next without ever talking openly with each other.
Jim and Mary had become crisis managers instead of relationship builders. The mechanisms of avoidance had multiplied. It was necessary. To keep up their super active schedules, they had to avoid unexpected disasters such as a heated exchange to clarify desires.
The very unsexy work of relationship building had been sacrificed for the sake of time. Time that should have gone to the sexy bits of relationship fulfillment instead, had gone to appointments. In short summary, Jim and Mary had drained their joint marital emotional bank account dry. Any more withdrawals would quickly bankrupt them.
Just like the house needed some upkeep and refreshing, as the contractor had pointed out, their relationship needed maintenance. Not just when the parents were coming to town, but on a regular scheduled basis.
This regular upkeep schedule needed to be mastered now, the parents emphasized. Once children get introduced into a relationship, time to institute such a protocol would be that much harder. Jim and Mary nodded, they both understood how hard it was to keep any normal schedule whenever they had their nephews and nieces over. They’d be hard pressed to date each other with children in the picture.