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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest Post: On the Hazards and Pitfalls of Couple Dating

Regular MMM readers remember Aimee's thoughts on the complications of couple dating. If not, refresh your memories here before reading on.

Josh Weed writes a humor blog, The Weed, where he talks about things like colonoscopies and the cannibalistic tendencies of his four-year-old daughter. He is a marriage and family therapist and an aspiring novelist. You can also follow him on twitter.

All the married among us have been there.

A couple invites you and your wife over for dinner. You don't know them well, but you're happy to go and maybe connect with some people in your ward or from your work and get some free food. When you get there, you're seated at a sparklingly clean table, you're served a delicious pasta along with a broccoli salad that has nuts and Craisins and feta cheese in it, and as the night goes forward, the only thing that keeps flashing through your mind is "this is the most boring evening of my entire life." By the time dessert is served, you're already contemplating escape scenarios. You wonder how conspicuous it would be to send your wife a text that says "there is an emergency at home we need to attend to. Called not dying of boredom. Act like the babysitter just texted" but you decide against it because you're an honest fellow. In the end, you bide your time until 9:30 p.m., and at about the time the couple says "hey, do you wanna see our wedding video?" you yawn and stretch and say, "wow, I have a big day tomorrow. I'm all tuckered out! Maybe never..ext time."

You know you have officially not connected when the highlight of the entire evening is the broccoli salad. Find photo here.

It's only natural. Everybody can't "click" with everybody. You leave, and you never hang out with this couple again.

But, surprisingly, when it comes to "couple dating" or the process by which couples become bff's with other couples, things actually get more complicated when there is a click.

Let's say you spend an evening with some new friends, the Wilsons. The conversation goes swimmingly. There is laughter and light-heartedness. Skip-bo is played and won by both couples. Eventually the cards are put away because, by golly, you and this couple are really connecting. They so "get" you! It's like you should be family or something. There is a perfect balance--the wives talk about couponing and baby sleep-schedules, but those conversations are counterbalanced by discussion of profession, sports and status by the husbands. All four people feel heard, understood, engaged. It's like the four of you have known each other forever... like you knew each other before in some pre-mortal existence reminiscent of the sitcom Friends minus the swears and crude sex jokes, and you have finally all found each other again. You are finally complete as a couple now that you have found the Wilsons.

By the time this evening ends, you're already talking about going on cruises together next summer, and the possibility of attempting to retire together in the same Florida-based geriatric community.

But then, life continues, and schedules get complicated. You hang out several more times over the next month or two, and things continue to progress--the same feelings are shared during each visit and you connect more and more deeply. But the visits are infrequent because the husband, Rob, works the night-shift most weekends, and the wife, Tara, runs a day care during the day, and you all have kids, and life is just complex.

And then something tragic happens. It's Friday night, and you and your wife are driving home from the temple. Last time the Wilsons were over their daughter left her pink tutu during dress-up time, and you figure you'll drop it off on the way home and maybe see if they want to chat over some ice-cream you just bought and catch up. You pull up to the driveway, but there's a car there you don't recognize. You start to get suspicious as you walk up to the font door and see that the lights are on, and the Wilsons are sitting in the living room, laughing. They're talking to somebody. You can't see who it is, but the Wilsons look like they're having a good time. Maybe a little bit too good. "Is Rob's brother visiting from Portland?" you whisper to your wife as you near the door, but something deep in your heart tells you "no. This is what you think it is." You consider scurrying back to your car and waiting to drop off the tutu later, but your wife, always the pragmatist, says "we're already here. Let's just leave the tutu with them."

You knock on the door. And the door opens. And there, behind Rob, sits another couple you both know--someone from your ward--holding Skip Bo cards and looking awkward and uncomfortable.

Busted. Find photo here.

You have been betrayed.

"Hi there," you say boldly. "We just came to drop off Carly's tutu..." You hold it outward like it's covered in filth. Rob takes it and Tara walks over to the front door and says "Oh hey guys!" with a little too much enthusiasm. "What are you doing tonight?"

"We just did a session at the temple." You try not to let your voice sound smug, but it's hard. "What about you guys? I thought Rob was working tonight..." The bitterness is seeping through.

"Oh, well he was, but then they called and said he needed to work next week instead." Tara appears to be a little flustered. Rob is looking down in shame. The other couple, the Lewises just look at their Skip-Bo cards and try not to appear to eavesdrop. "I was going to call you but..."

And really, what can Tara say? Is she going to throw the Lewises (Lewis's? Lewis'? Lewis's'sss?) under the bus? Will she make it sound like they're the ones who wanted to hang out, and that's the only reason they're sitting on an over-sized Pottery Barn love-seat (does Pottery Barn even make love seats? Does Pottery Barn even have furniture, or is it just pottery? I'm trying to sound trendy here, okay? Forgive me for being a dude) shamefully sipping their diet cokes with lime, trying to look invisible.

She really has no out here, you think, gloatingly. She continues "...but I thought I remembered you mentioning you were going to the temple tonight."

Nicely played, Tara. Nicely played. "Was it a good session?" she asks with a smile.

"Yeah," says your wife.

There is an awkward second or two when you can see Tara is contemplating inviting you in. But, let's all just be honest. Skip-bo is WAY too long with six people. And there isn't another Pottery Barn over-sized love-seat to spare. And you're all feeling a little bit ashamed anyway. Before she feels compelled to invite you in, you zing them with a quick "Well, hope you guys have a fun night!" and make your exit.

You thought it would feel gratifying, the irony of that statement. But it doesn't. It just stings. As you walk towards your car the truth fully sinks in: it's very possible that you are in the process of being replaced. Which means you have been rejected. Which means your search for a couple-soul-mate will have to continue...indefinitely.

As you drive home to eat your ice-cream together, alone, you can't help but wonder what you did wrong. Did Rob need more support as the Elder's Quorum President? Did your wife not plan enough play-dates with the Wilson kids? Had you over-shared? Was the wedding-night story too graphic? Had you crossed a line somewhere?

The truth is, in situations like this, you may never know. Because when one couple who seems so incredible, so perfect as a Couple BFF, rejects you, the last thing you're ever going to find is closure.

You just have to find the strength within yourselves to let go of the visions of serving Nauvoo Missions together, and touring Church History sites in a mutually bought Winnebago. Those dreams have to die...and they'll never be fully resolved or forgotten.

When you find yourself in this kind of situation, my advice to you is this: don't lose hope. After you've healed, open your heart again. Because what if there's another couple out there? What if there's a couple who loves Indian food with the same fiery passion that you do, and who has all the same political ideas as you, and who is really great at conversation, and who is exactly like the Wilsons only better than the Wilsons? And what if you're so distraught about the Wilsons' rejection that you miss this new couple? And then you and your beautiful wife have to spend the rest of this life--Friday night after Friday night--utterly alone together.

That would be the real tragedy.

Just remember and have faith. There is a Pottery Barn over-sized love seat waiting for you somewhere. You just haven't found it yet. But you will.

You will.

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