Wait, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. When I say chore, I don’t mean the boring/repetitive/bucket-and-rubber-gloves variety (though to be fair, it depends who you’re with). What I mean is, sex can be scheduled. Monday: Grocery shopping. Wednesday: Laundry. Friday: Slap and tickle. This and other revelations came to me via a one-day group Marriage Success Training seminar, run by Patty and Greg Kuhlman.
How did we come to spend a Saturday at this event? When I start something new, I like to read books and do homework first, so I was game for premarital counseling. Plus, Meg recommends it in her book as part of the “Questions to Ask Before You Get Married” section. Done and done. Brandon, on the other hand, felt more like counseling was something you resort to if things go wrong. But he was open-minded enough to give it a try.
We scouted round the Internet looking for something non-denominational that might suit us. I’d heard of the very religious analyzing vaginal mucus during marriage prep, in order to perfect the rhythm method. We were definitely looking for something non-mucus-based. In this respect, MST, which talks a lot about “science” and “the latest research,” looked pretty good. We signed up.
In retrospect, that was the easy part. As the day approached, we were increasingly anxious about what might be involved. I’d read the part in Blink about the psychologist who can spot a successful marriage based on a few hours of observation. What if the seminar was just like that, revealing the Questions that we Should Have Asked before rushing off to City Hall in December? Would a red warning light start flashing when we entered the room to warn us of impending marital failure? In front of all the other couples?
Actually, we didn’t trigger any auto-eject mechanisms in the seminar room, and Patty and Greg did a good job of putting us at ease—though at 8:30am on a weekend in Manhattan, keeping us awake was an equal challenge. The day was a mix of group and individual couple discussions or exercises, which I liked, although Brandon struggled a bit sharing private thoughts in such a public space. Everyone was reeling from the amount of information we covered by the end, but I already felt I’d gained some new perspectives.
Most useful was the reminder that what we think of as romance can be unhelpful. Patty and Greg pointed out that “successful” love is not assessed on the basis of Partner A’s ability to guess what Partner B wants as a gift. It may, in fact, be judged by Partner B’s willingness to accept that Partner A is bad at gift-shopping and create a work around—perhaps by asking for something specific.
The challenge about this insight is that when you’re in the gown-and-tux phase, it’s hard to admit things won’t be perfect. Sure, no one would drive a car without lessons just because they couldn’t face the possibility of a crash. But it’s difficult to square marriage, in its fantasy incarnation as a “Happily Ever After” ending, with daily struggles needing hard work and elbow polish. Especially when you’re planning an event involving tulle.
So perhaps this is why reality-checking your romance is helpful early on. TV tells us if we drink this brand of coffee or use that brand of perfume, passionate sex will happen to us spontaneously! If this is not the case for you in your marriage, we learned, it turns out you are not a failure, you have not chosen the wrong partner, and it’s not time to start playing the field. It simply means you prioritize. Scheduling time to do the nasty may seem unromantic, but it helps keep romantic love going.
Ever commit to exercise regularly? Seriously, if getting sweaty on your own is that important, then adding a partner will be easy. Ladies, get your rubber gloves on.
Photo by: Julie Randall Photography