A cup of coffee showed us that therapy will likely be inevitable — and that’s entirely okay.
I’m getting married in 3 months.
The wedding is just around the corner, and my partner and I are so incredibly excited to embark on this next journey together.
3 years into our relationship, and we still feel like we’re in “the honeymoon phase".
It never really ended. We still look at each other and can’t believe how blessed we are to have found one another.
We can’t believe how blessed we are to have the life we do. To have built this life together.
This relationship goes beyond anything I ever thought was actually possible.
But that doesn’t mean our relationship is perfect.
We are the relationship our friends aspire to.
We get this a lot.
Friends often tell us we’re “the perfect couple". Two blond-haired, blue-eyed ambitious 20- somethings with a house, a little dog, and the white fence to boot.
Many people attribute the success of our relationship to luck — we’re lucky to have found one another.
Nothing about the success of our relationship has to do with luck.
We work damn hard at this thing we have going on. Our partnership is something we intentionally work on every single day.
As a third party, they see the harmony between us and assume that’s what our relationship looks like all the time.
That’s obviously not the case.
Conflict can arise from the most mundane of things.
Our friends aren’t there on nights like last night.
My fiancé, who has become a high-end coffee nut, has claimed our espresso machine as his baby (even though I owned it for a year before he moved in). He is very serious about his coffee. I don’t poke fun at his coffee.
He’d started making his ceremonial “after dinner" flat white, with his new organic, high-end beans we’d bought the other day, when he exclaimed,
“Ah! No! There’s no more water! NO! I’ve ruined it!”
Hearing his alarm, I felt the urgency of the situation. I scooted to the cupboard, grabbed a glass, filled it at the sink, and within a couple seconds, I was pouring more water into the machine.
He swatted me away.
“No, stop! You’re not using filtered water! And you just spilled water into my milk. Stop, dammit!”
I took a step back from him, a half-filled glass of water in my hand, and we met eyes. His furrowed brow caused me to raise one of mine. In my head, I thought, “Well f*ck you, too.”
But I didn’t say that.
Instead, I took a breath to collect my thoughts, and explained: “I wasn’t trying to ruin your coffee. You were shouting out in urgency, and I was trying to help you.”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he turned back to the machine, looking at his half-filtered espresso with frustration and disappointment.
I picked up my tea, and left the kitchen, taking a seat in the living room. I sat there for several minutes as he continued to shout profanities at our espresso machine.
I patiently waited for the inevitable — when he would come to discuss our little spat so we could reach resolution.
He came out to sit next to me on the couch, putting down his flat white.
“Hey, I’m sorry I bit your head off back there. You were just trying to help, and I really appreciate that that’s your immediate instinct. You didn’t deserve how I treated you — especially not over a stupid coffee. I’m sorry.”
I turned to him, and smiled. “It’s okay. I know your cup of coffee is serious business. I didn’t mean to ruin it further. How does it taste, after all the catastrophes?”
He sipped it, and smirked.
“Dammit, how is this the most delicious coffee I’ve ever made!? That makes no sense.”
We laughed about it, and then turned on Netflix and watched some Friends reruns.
Marriage takes an active and ongoing commitment to communication.
No matter how small the argument, or how subtle the insult, we don’t leave it unresolved.
When conflict is avoided or swept under the rug, it piles up. It marinates, and it becomes a beast.
There’s a difference between picking your battles, and addressing real conflict. Both take patience and understanding, and acknowledging not only the flaws of ourselves, but also the flaws of others.
Whether it was an insulting tone or a rude comment, we do not accept passive aggression in our relationship. We also don’t pretend nothing has happened when we’re aware of the fact that we just took an unfair dig at our partner.
We apologize for the subtle nuances, because they can escalate to blatant and downright mean comments if we don’t address them.
That’s a lot of “life" coming our way in the near future. New careers, in-laws, babies, the list goes on.
We’re also going to continue growing and changing as we tackle these life changes, both individually and as a couple.
We are aware, more than anything, that the partner we know isn’t going to stay the exact same for the rest of our marriage.
We don’t even want that to be the case — we want to continue to grow. We want to continue to be challenged. We want to always be bettering ourselves.
And in those seasons of change, there will undoubtedly be conflict, friction and elements which will rock our happy little boat.
That’s relationships for you. That’s marriage. And that’s completely normal.
Therapy is just another effective form of communication.
Months ago, when we started our marriage prep courses, my partner and I made a promise to one another that we would always be open to couple’s therapy.
We made a vow that either one of us can suggest or bring up the possibility of therapy without judgement or insult.
We have built our relationship on the foundation of offering a safe place for either one of us to bring anything to the table, and be heard with the utmost respect.
That has opened further possibilities for more transparent communication, and conflict resolution.
We believe that creating space for those opportunities to take place is just as important as addressing the conflict head-on. Because it’s easier to do and say nothing.
At the end of the day, relationships take work. It is constant and ever-changing work.
No one has ever said that marriage is easy.