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Eavesdropping on Table Six

Saving Marriage

By Frederick Steed Hardwick III

My face became hot with embarrassment as I read the passage. Nervously,  sipped hot tea and leaned back into the comfort of the bed. My wife, Kathleen, stared at me intently as she envisioned the erotic scene. With each word I read, I became a slave: a slave to this moment and soon a slave to her desire. A phrased echoed in my mind. How did I end up here?

It had been two years ago when we started reading to each other. Our marriage had reached a serious point and we were contemplating divorce. I am not sure exactly how it happens, but somehow, some way - even the best of marriages eventually have problems. Well, at least that is what I told myself, as I sat in an outer office, waiting for a marriage counselor.

Like most men my reluctance to visit a marriage counselor was obvious. But the idea of ending an eight-year marriage with two beautiful children, for irreconcilable differences, motivated me. I was grasping at any solution to keep my family together. Our problems, I thought, were caused by wife's unhappiness with her career.


After six sessions and considerable time and expense, I was identified as the obstruction in the development of our happy family. My communication skills, or rather my lack of communication skills had undermined my wife's sense of intimacy and self-esteem. In the last three years, I had failed to convey or demonstrate my love for her. I had been consumed by work, paid the bills, balanced the check-book and provided for my children, but never told them how much I loved them.


During our marriage, Kathleen had slowly changed. She had become the woman I wanted her to be. My interests were now her interests. No longer did she play tennis but spent every other weekend learning golf. She exchanged romance novels and poetry for The Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. A promising writer now spent her days working part-time as an administrative assistant and shuttling our children to activities.

I would be lying to you, if I said I noticed the change. I had assumed that Kathleen choices were motivated by an interest in golf, The Wall Street Journal and our children. I had no idea that I had molded her into an image so contrary  to her wishes and desires. The therapist solution was for Kathleen to reclaim her interests. She was to enjoy, experience and relish all the activities she missed. My job, though seemingly unimportant, was to encourage and share her experiences. One activity changed our lives!


My wife use to read a great deal of romance novels, both modern and classical literature. The therapist suggested that she not only read these novels but that Kathleen and I shared the experience by reading them to each other-out loud.At first, I resisted this idea. I had a fear of public speaking due to an embarrassing childhood occurrence, where Mexican food turned on me. So, the idea of reading to my wife met with some intense groans. But as I mentioned, I was grasping at any solution; no matter how painful or ridiculous, I was going to try.

Our first novel was Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. It was an excellent choice. This novel dealt with issues that mirrored my marriage. The main male character, MacBain, found it difficult to express his love for his wife. Openly he protected her, provided for her, silently he loved and cherished her. MacBain was I, assuming my reticence between these pages. For the first time, through the character, my wife peered into my soul, and could see me, a glimpse of me more apparent and tangible than I could ever articulate. Using Garwood's dialogue, words that I wanted to express and Kathleen longed to hear, was now uttered.

And Kathleen also was here. Similarly, MacBain's over protecting love restricted his wife, Johanna, the heroine. Like Johanna, my wife was rebelling against a limiting image. She desired a full life. And whether I approved or not, Kathleen was going to have it. It did not take me long to concede this fact. After searching myself, I admitted that this strong, dynamic woman was the woman I ultimately wanted and loved. The heroine Johanna and her husband MacBain were aids, encouraging me to address my own selfishness and fears.


It would be wrong to allow you to assume that reading a simple novel solved all our problems. We endured some hard struggles and spent many nights in heated arguments. However, the novel did provide a focus and direction for most of our discussions. Issues of fear, self-fulfillment and a spouse's responsibilities in a marriage were packaged in a tolerable and enjoyable format. The added elements of passion romance and the occasional sex were also helpful, by teaching me how to seduce my wife again.


It has been two years since our first shared reading. We have read books and novels, mostly modern romances but some classical literature and even poetry. We have worked hard for our new happiness and our inevitable changes. Kathleen is now an editor of a local paper, while I spend weekends doing errands and shuffling our children to activities. On late nights, Kathleen and I read and enjoy tea by a fire or soft lights, within a rose and vanilla scented room. During these special private hours, we examine our ideas, concerns and dreams. Although we may disagree, I am never disappointed by the insights we share. And I am always happy that we ended up here.


About the Author
Frederick Steed Hardwick III, is a regular contributor of Cafesplendor.com, an online magazine honoring the café genre. As a passionate writer, he provides insight on relationships from a man's perspective.

 

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