Based on a true story
The Counselor we ended up seeing was a gorgeous red-headed woman. I instantly liked her--because she seemed sassy.
"All I ask, is that you'll be honest with me, yourselves, and each other," she said point-blank.
Mark and I both nodded.
"Well then let's start." She sifted through mounds of papers before sitting down in a rocking chair that looked older than time. I peered around her room as she set some of the paper on her lap and took a sip of coffee. There was a mishmash of interesting objects and books all around. On one wall hung a humongous dream catcher. Another wall had a colorfully spattered picture hanging a bit crooked. I really wondered what type of woman this was--when she broke through my thoughts.
"So you want to have a healthy relationship?" she asked. "Then I need to know how you fight--and don't tell me you don't fight, because you should know how someone fights before you marry them!"
She turned to Mark first, who was obviously taken off-guard.
"Well..." he paused. "Honestly, Gina can be really loud."
"She yells," the counselor clarified--it was not a question.
"And how is Mark when he's angry?" she asked me.
"He pouts." I liked how direct she was--this was a game I knew how to play..
"The biggest problem with marriage is discovering how we resolve conflicts." She crossed her legs and her bright, pleated skirt swayed. I flushed when she said "marriage"--didn't she know we weren't even engaged! "So tell me about a fight you've had." She turned to me, her eyes piercing.
A sigh left my lips as my thoughts bounced around, trying to remember a perfect example. I decided to pick a time from a few weeks prior, when neither Mark or I had handled a situation well. "I had hung out with my friends a few days before, and Mark wanted to hang out with his friends later that weekend too. I think it's important for us to have time apart as well as time together. But later I found out there'd been a beautiful girl at the party--one I'd thought Mark had a crush on before he met me. He brought some people over to my house to meet me before going back to the party and when I saw her.... I didn't handle it well."
"Mmmhmmm," Mark said, putting his hand to his forehead. We both knew where this story went.
"They were about to head back over to his place, but before they could leave, I pulled Mark to my front door and said 'The two of you make a great couple!' Then I slammed the door in his face."
"That wasn't the best. How did you respond?" the counselor asked Mark.
"I knocked on the door and when Gina opened it, I said, 'I don't like her like that. Out of the two of us, at least I'm not the one who's dated a million people! I should be more concerned about this type of thing than you are!"
The counselor cleared her throat. "So, at least the two of you are honest. What do you think about the ways you both reacted?"
"I should have thought first before I reacted," Mark said.
"Me too," I said. "I need to learn to communicate better instead of just accusing people."
"And why did you say that to him, about the girl you'd seen him with?" the counselor asked.
"I guess I'm really insecure. I've been cheated on before. I should have told him that instead of accusing him. But I was scared."
"But you have to trust him at some point. Fear can push people away." She took another sip of coffee. "And Mark, I know it's hard stepping back when someone is being so accusatory, but if Gina does this again, can you try to gently say something like, 'Where is this coming from? Let's talk about it?'"
He nodded. "It might be hard in the moment, but I'll try."
She studied both of us momentarily. "When the two of you learn to communicate and resolve these issues, I have a feeling you could be great together. Mark, you seem to bring a peace to Gina. And Gina, you bring excitement into Mark's life."
We looked at each other and smiled because it really rang true.
As we left the counseling session, we promised each other that we'd try to communicate better.
"Relationships aren't always easy," I said. "But I'm willing to work to be with you. Sorry I can fly off the handle."
"So can I," he said. "We'll get better at this. You'll see."
We held hands, and instead of going straight to his truck, we walked down the block to a little Japanese restaurant and continued to talk about what both of us had learned that day.