Just like a sturdy vehicle, every marriage needs a tune up every now and then. A twist of the bolts, a change of the air filter, a kick to the tires. So when I announced to Ashley that it was time for a check up, he sighed, rolled his eyes and asked, "What are we doing this time?"
He has a valid reason to ask this. Over the past 9 years of marriage I have dragged him to therapists, coaxed him to "couples" groups, and on one occasion even tricked him into seeing a psychic (that didn't end so well) all in the attempt to get him in touch with his feelings so that he would want to do "couple" things with me, like watching "Hope Floats" together while talking about the latest celebrity couple breakups. (R.I.P. Justin and Jessica)
My Master Plan was at work.
I paused for dramatic effect before announcing, "We are going to Marriage Camp!"
The excitement was lost on him. But instead of objecting, he let out a defeated sigh and went upstairs to pack. Because after 9 years of marriage he has learned that going against me is like swimming against the current- you will eventually get tired and start drowning- so it's best to curl up in a fetal position and ride out Wave Mandi until you safely reach the shore.
After arranging for child care and packing our belongings, we hurry off to the camp so not to be late for the meeting that starts at 8pm on Friday night. As I envision the weekend ahead I see us participating in exciting "trust exercises" where I am bravely climbing a rock wall while Ashley holds the rope and watches me in awe, feeling so blessed to be married to such a courageous wife. I picture us holding hands while meditating together sitting in a "circle of truth." This is going to be a great weekend.
And then I see this...
After we arrive at the camp and register, they tell us to take our seats in a room reminiscent of any standard church fellowship hall. I begin to notice that we are the youngest ones there- by about 20 years. Not to worry, I think, we will share in their wisdom of marriage and life.
Walking up to the front podium, the couple leading the meeting begins to speak. They bring out their notebooks and start reading verbatim from the pages.
Like... Literally. Reading. Verbatim. From the pages of the notebook. Line after line. With no pause. Talking about the technicalities of feelings and thoughts. For 40 solid minutes.
"Where the Magic Happens"
I look around me and notice the man sitting next to me has just entered the fourth stage of R.E.M. and is now starting to drool. His wife punches him in the arm and he twitches briefly before nodding back off. I look at Ashley who is giving me the full on "stank eye" and writing vigorously in his notebook, probably something along the lines of "Mandi Sux!" over and over again. By this time I am about to jump out of my skin with boredom. But since this was my idea and my pride is the most important thing in my marriage, I attempt to tough it out. That is, until they announce the schedule for the weekend which includes this same couple reading out of the same notebook, in this same room, for the next 48 hours.
To hell with my pride. I cannot take it any longer. Once the meeting is dismissed for the night, Ashley and I hurry back to our room where (after little to no convincing) I tell Ashley that we are hightailing it out of there. We take our bags, throw them over the railing down to the car and jump in like we are Bo and Luke Duke and never look back.
This could have easily been mistaken for the Ritz, right?.
On the way home I sheepishly look at Ashley and tell him that he gets to plan the next "Marriage Tune Up". To which he turns to me and says, "For my next marriage tune up, I am going on an all boy's camping trip- that will in no way include you. And that, my dear, will be the best marriage retreat that I could ever have."