Wednesday 4 October 2017

The one in which we subbed pre-marital counselling with puzzles.

Some couples work out their kinks before marriage by going to counselling. Hey, this is no shade, there should be zero shame in going to couple's counselling, or counselling in general for that matter. Personally I love talking & I love plans of action, so counselling is never something I've been ashamed to admit to. So yea, some couples go to counselling to work out the pre-marriage kinks, develop communication tools and conflict resolution skills; sometimes they do it for the sheer fact that their religion kinda makes them do it. Some buy interactive books and do it at home that way; some people go to retreats or seminars. Some people are perfect and don't need anything and just go full steam ahead - sometimes those couples are referred to as liars - I kid, kind of. We here at Casa de Stuch, bought a puzzle. A big ass, puzzle. That was the bain of my existence the second I realized just how fucking hard it was going to be to complete.

So, you know how every couple has a thing that they do? It's just their "thing" they do as a couple. Maybe it's hiking, maybe it's cooking together, maybe it's splitting the paper on Sundays, or playing cards, or dancing in their living room. We don't really have a "thing" specific to us. Well, that's not true, we chirp each other like we're on a hockey team and try not to burst out laughing when we land a really good burn. BUT, I refuse to accept that that is our friggin' thing. It's not, so shut up everybody reading this who is nodding their head thinking uhhh yes it is so your thing. You just zip it.

Jake works long hours, and often when he comes home he's exhausted. I've been really wanting us to get in the habit of doing something together, that doesn't solely include laying in bed on our phones or watching a show, showing each other funny/cute shit, and sneaking a kiss or an arm rub intermittently. I want something we can do together that encourages dialogue, and is unplugged in nature. In short, I'm getting sick of social media or television taking up our rare private time together. However, making someone who's just worked 13 hours go for a walk is an easy recipe for a not good time.

Enter, puzzles. Yes, like the ones your grandma used to do.

I won't take credit for this at all, one of our couple friends mentioned that they do puzzles and the next day we happened to be in a toy store getting a birthday present for our nephew, and there was a whole wall of puzzles! So, we decided to become puzzle people. Did we start off by buying a relatively easy, 300 piece puzzle to get our feet wet?
Of course not! We bought a 2,000 piece puzzle, of Cinque Terre and all of it's beautiful, varied & colorful condos! Because: "That's where we're going to honeymoon! Omg, it's a siiiign!" SUPER EASY. Not at all like learning how to swim by jumping into the middle of the ocean. Not at all like learning how to cook by preparing a souffle for the Queen. Nope, super simple. 

Well, let me tell you something. I did not pull the team here. I dragged down the average, so hard. One thing I didn't anticipate about being a puzzle person is that 2,000 piece puzzles are god damn hard. Here I am, "OMG Babe! I just got thee pieces in row!! Look!" And meanwhile Jake is casually finishing up his 30 piece spree like it's no big deal. Then he points out that my piece doesn't actually fit there. "It's not hard babe, it's just like math. Easy!" So basically, the hobby of my anxiety ridden nightmares. Why didn't we decide to become living room dancers!? I'm a good dancer, ish.

Here's the thing. We both have our shortcomings. Jake, while he is so many wonderful things, is not a teacher. He tries, but god love him, the man is just not a teacher. Or at least a patient one.You should've seen him explaining football to me!  And me? I do not take criticism well, constructive or otherwise. Or even semi decently, especially depending on the time of month. I instantly get my back up and get defensive. Criticism to me instantly reads as judgement against me personally. I know, it's bad, I'm working on it. So what do you get with not a patient teacher, and someone who bristles at criticism? Harmonious hobbying, obviously. The first few nights of puzzle making was a lot less romantic comedy montage of laughs, kissing & wine while a Michelle Branch song played in the background, and a lot more "Stick to your side, this is my side! I had that piece! What the fucking fuck this is so hard why did we pick this stupid fucking puzzle!?" " Sorry, I wasn't yelling at you I was yelling at this STUPID PIECE WHERE DO YOU GO". It. Was. Special.

And you know what happened? It kinda became Jake's hobby for a good two week span, because I hated it and I hated how frustrated I would get at my lack of ability - so to avoid fighting or being snappy, I just left it alone for a while. I would hang out with him, put a piece in here or there, but generally I hung out at the table doing my nails, writing lists or asking him questions while he worked on it. Was it being done the way we originally imagined? No, no it sure wasn't, but we were still spending time together without technology, and we were still talking without being overly distracted.
We figured out my niche was: getting the little condos together,  picking out the pieces Jake needs, and mostly just sitting there keeping him company while he blasts through the puzzle. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and as it turns out, puzzles that have every variation of orange, yellow and blue are not my strength, but they are for Mr. Details. My strength was lending him company, and taking the opportunity to talk to my slightly distracted fiance about the burning questions like:
"How will we schedule time for the two of us when our life gets overwhelming?"
"When and if we encounter possible financial/career troubles, how will we work through it together?"
"What are the pink jobs, and what are the blue jobs?" "No, all the pink jobs can't be the gross ones, you need to do gross ones too, that's the whole point"
"How often will you bring me flowers home without having to be subtly reminded first?"
"How much money would I have to bribe you with to go vegan for a month?" - that's the kind of stuff relationships counselors ask, right?

Who needs pre-marital counselling when you have THIS on your dining room table teaching you how to work together, communicate and conflict resolution? Are we geniuses? No, no we're not. We're two overachievers who jumped into a hobby at the expert end of the pool. By the time Jake had done most of the really hard stuff, is when I came back in to help out, and together we finished it. It was the most exhilarating few hours too the night it was finally complete, when everything just started fitting into place, and we were working together. "Is this piece the one you were looking for? Here you go." "Look babe! I just nailed that entire chunk! Look at us go!"  See? Teamwork makes the Dreamwork. Always, even if half of the team jumped ship for a while and sat on the sidelines maintaining the role of Cheerleader.

After we finished and admired our work, Jake goes "Okay so how about the next one we go for a 5,000 piece?" and then we laughed and laughed until Jake passed out because I was choking him :)

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