Perhaps that was the reason this day that Mary felt dissatisfied, disillusioned, and disappointed. But John would not realize it until later, as we off to work another long day at his new job. He wanted to be sure the "boss" new that we was committed, a hard worker, and dedicated. Funny how once the marriage was secure he was more concerned about his boss realizing these things, than he was his wife. During this stage, Mary longed for the communication they used to have; the long chats at dinner, staying up late in bed dreaming, and the off and on text messages sent all day. "Every full realized relationship is a trip from surface emotions down into the depths, descending through distinct levels of intimate communication that move from the shallow levels to the deepest level," (Smalley, 2007, p. 27). That deep level of communication was what Mary was once again longing for. She called Toby and he recommended that she do something to "recapture" John's attention, and once again, she took his advice.
When John walked in the door of their townhouse that night, the smell of his she favorite manicotti hung in the air, accompanied by Italian bread and a bottle of Cabernet, set to candlelight with Chopin playing in the background. He realized that tonight was going to be different, and the generous gesture immediately deflated his defenses, and put that smirk back on his face. "I don't want to loose us, John," Mary said. And with that, they talked all night, like the used to, about in-laws, and children, money, dreams, trips, vacations, hopes, and desires.
"I'll be on the flight tonight, the convention is ending early." The words put a smile on Mary's face as John would be home that evening rather than in two days as originally anticipated. Mary stood holding the little plastic stick with a '+' sign, and she knew their lives were about to change. Mary was glowing, or at least she felt she was, and she wondered if John would know when he got home, but then she remember he was not that intuitive. "There's no way for us to know how our lives will change after our baby arrive…Babies are the natural culmination of the love we share…Once the realities of new parenthood set in, the stresses stand out, too, like to much salt in a dish," (Gottman, 2007, p. 16).
The stresses would be obvious soon enough as they made the drive home from the hospital with their firstborn son bundled up in the appropriate five point harness restraint system, rear facing, in the middle of the mini-van with a grandma on each side monitoring (and often recommending how John should change his driving patterns) the safety of the child. The president, himself, has never had such security.
Between diapers, late night feedings, her mother, his mother, life insurance, hospital bills, the lack of sex (that dreaded six to eight-week period), John and Mary had never felt so apart. "Of all the arguments married couples can have, the fights about children can be the most intense and complex, and if the underlying problems are not solved, the fights can last a lifetime…" (Tessina, 2008, p. 87). John was working, and Mary was picking up odd jobs here and there as she committed to being home with the children, but that still left unanswered questions, such as, who does the dishes, empties the diaper bin, watches the child, does the shopping, and pays the bills. Of course John was tired when he got home from work, but Mary was waiting in anticipation for him to get home so she could have a break.
"Very often couples take their religious beliefs and backgrounds lightly until they have children," (Tessina, 2008, p. 106), and John and Mary were no different. This was reveled to them one night when John said at dinner that they should have their son baptized. John was baptized as an infant and never thought Mary would have an objection, but the look on her face was obvious that she did not share his religious conviction. They had not taken the time to discuss the differences in their faith, really, until this point, and it was clear that this issue would not be resolved tonight. John knew his mother would be devastated if her grandson was not baptized, and Mary knew here mother would be devastated if he was. "…In any argument or miscommunication, there is not one objective, absolute reality. There are always two subjective realities, both of them right in their own way," (Gottman, 2007, p. 66).
This would soon become the reality that John and Mary would have to approach all of the "conversations," with. Where they found they used to have so much in common, the more they were together, their differences were taking the focal point of their relationship. They learned through these years that setting aside time for conversations, would not only save their marriage, but be the very thing that would help them survive through one of the biggest crises they would experience.
The Teenage Years
Having one child is work, but having three is a full time career. John and Mary would find out as all three of their children were experiencing the teenage years at the same time. "It's been said that you will pick a partner who mirrors the most neurotic qualities of your parents. But this is a limited view: you will pick a partner who also mirrors the finest qualities of your parents." (Wolf, 1997, p. 86) Perhaps at time in marriage the latter takes precedence but during the teenage years, the children did a good job of letting their parents know how much they were like their own parents. By now, John and Mary had a good approach for dealing with their children and most of life's disagreements, by setting some ground rules early on in their parenting career, that Toby had help them resolve. Having a resolve or a basis for their conversations has saved them numerous times throughout their marriage, like when, their 8-year-old spilled red Kool-Aid on grandma's plush white carpet, or when their 12-year-old decided to pop the heads off the 9-year-olds Barbies, or when John decided to go back to school, and when Mary had to go see her brother who was going through cancer treatments for two weeks. Their resolve went like this:
1. Agree to resolve the issue
2. Do research
3. Give yourselves time
4. Talk about it repeatedly
5. Explain your partner's point-of-view
6. Focus on your children
8. Create a blend of your own
9. Avoid right/wrong discussion (Tessina, 2008, p. 109-112)
This pattern for handling life's stresses, conversations, and concerns in their marriage, was often accompanied by Toby, guiding them through the stages of these types of decisions. When the school had called that day, both John and Mary were home, and what they thought would be a routine, "What did he do this time?" conversation, turned into the moment that would define them as a couple.
When they arrived at the school, there were fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances. John thought, oh great, he pulled the firearm, and had to smirk remembering the time he had done the same thing. But as they got out of the car, the atmosphere was different, and this was no practical joke. "What do you mean he's not breathing?" That would be the last thing Mary would hear until she found herself sitting by his hospital bed with tubes and wires protruding from his body, and her had clasped in his.
"For people who haven't been through this, it's impossible to realize what it means to acknowledge all these emotions in yourself much less share them with your spouse. There may be such strong denial, anger or same, such sadness and pain that silence seem preferable to words which only remind you of the anguish," (Singer, 1980, p. 243). Mary longed to talk but didn't have the words. John did the opposite. He could not stop talking, to doctors, friends, family, his mother, and yes, even her mother this time. He went into the hospital room, and looked into Mary's eyes, and without saying a word, they knew everything the other was thinking, and they collapsed in an embrace gripping the hand of their now lifeless child.
What life brought during their lives as parents of teenagers not only effected them as a couple, but effected what they would do and what they would value as their other two children journeyed off to college, and thankfully they chose their alma matter. They could no longer retire early, after hospital bills, college loans, and mortgage payments. Mary would go…