Sunday, November 15, 2015

Marriage Boot Camp : Bridezillas

If you’re unfamiliar with “Marriage Boot Camp” it’s where they take (barely) celebrity couples and put them in a house for several weeks for “Marriage Counseling.”

The season where they hosted previous stars of another cerebral show, Bridezillas, is on Netflix. And SINCE we’ve cancelled cable and SINCE I am about 99% homebound thanks to a gorgeous newborn baby peach I just finished the finale last night while the husband was out watching the fights.

It was horrible. First, it was just bad TV. Second, it was horrible.

I was almost most interested in the four licensed counselors.

When they would interview them and they had to describe why they were doing these specific “drills” they must have had to reach far, far down to justify them. It was great. “OF COURSE we have to put one spouse in a coffin and hire actors and make the other spouse, on the spot, perform a eulogy.”

You guys. Seriously.

Super helpful stuff. Not at all dramatic and surface. Not at all for TV.

SO ANYWAYS.  I am going to elaborate on two exercises that I felt were the most damaging (it doesn’t even include the one where they have everyone take off their wedding bands and go to a bar…) and then two exercises that I felt were … the least soul crushing and possibly, under the right circumstances, maybe even helpful.

First, the bad.

The second-worst-drill-ever-in-the-history-of-marriage-counseling…

The Sticky Note Drill

This one I thought was going to be awesome.

They gave each spouse one minute to write everything they needed from their spouse on a sticky note. They ranged from “more bling” to “trust” to “sex” … whatever.

Then they had each spouse explain each need and then post each sticky-note-need on their spouse.

Awesome! I thought. What an opportunity to then take off the sticky notes and put them on the giant crucifix they were obviously rolling out next.

Then, weirdly, they edited that part out or something because they were literally kind of left in this sticky-note filled purgatory of “….so what now?”

The message was “do better.” “Try harder.”

Your wife NEEDS more bling. That’s important to her. And if she doesn’t get it. You’re failing.


And, the WORST-worst-WORST …

The Fake Proposal

Now this one there is NO WAY those “marriage counselors” developed this one.

This was ALL the directors.

They had the men line up on one side and the woman on the other side.

Publically, they had to then propose to anyone BUT their spouse and then explain in front of EVERYONE what that person has that their spouse doesn’t.

Oh GOOD GOD. That’s stuff you cannot unhear. That’s stuff you cannot unsee.

It was AWFUL.

Comparison ROBS us of joy.

Everyone together: Comparison ROBS us of joy!!

Not only had they known these other “spouses” less than 72 hours, but what a horrible experience for everyone.

And, not to mention the underlying message of, if you don’t like this one, get another one!

Their actual goal in this “exercise” was to ACTUALLY create jealousy to “motivate change.”


And, now, two exercises that didn’t in my opinion immediately illicit further ACTUAL counseling:

The Tango
It was simple. They had to learn a tango as couples.

This drill actually addressed actual marital issues.

#1. Communication. They had to communicate. Both of them.

#2. Physical Touch. This was an appropriate level of public intimate touch for married couples. Sounds simple but apparently quite a few of them hadn’t touched in quite a while!

#3. Male Leadership. This isn’t even from the Bible y’all. This was from the women on the show. These are Bridezillas. These men didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities to lead. But, their spouses craved it. It was a recurring theme throughout the series. Eventually, these men forgot how. This was a teeny tiny step (pun intended) in the right direction.

And, finally,

The Boxing Match

The spouses were given a hypothetical fight and 3 minutes to mock fight.

Unknowingly, each person was knocked off a point every time they fought “unfairly.”
This included putdowns, name calling, history-bringing-upping, etc.

One gal got TWENTY “knock offs” in THREE MINUTES.

No wonder nothing is ever accomplished!!

Fighting fairly, and not avoiding the fight, is critical in a marriage. Unfortunately, this was kind of abandoned after the actual screaming and no actual growth was practiced. But…maybe a seed was planted?

In conclusion, I want to talk about my absolute FAVORITE part of the show.

It was also absolutely cringe-worthy.

As I mentioned before, a common theme with all these broken and struggling marriages were the husbands’ inability to express themselves in the relationships; let alone lead these marriages.

The counselors were “trying” to touch on this and the subject of “being able to check your wife” became a common conversation. This was said as a “desirable trait.”

Unfortunately, when you crave something Biblical (male led relationships) but you don’t go about it Biblically (i.e. 50 Shades style) it sounds a lot like that.

This one husband, in particular, had struggled for years with no voice.

Here at boot camp. He was finally given a voice.

However, like most unaddressed issues in a marriage, it bubbled over at the complete worst time.

No drill was going on.

The gang was eating breakfast.

The wife asked her husband to get her more potatoes.

And, after years of repression, he screamed at her, dead seriously, “You get your own G*damn potatoes, b&(*$TCH!”

And then, crickets.

It was amazing you guys.

It was like “Yes…nice try! … but…. Maybe about her maxing out the credit cards and less profanity and more Jesus?”

…can you just get her more potatoes?

I could literally talk about this show for hours and hours, but I want to leave with just a couple remarks.

#1. Address your issues now so you don’t end up like “No More Potatoes Joe”
No one wants to be married to “No More Potatoes Joe.”
#2. If you have a teenager in the house, I would really think this would be a GREAT exercise to watch with them and discuss these episodes. There is SO MUCH content in here about what the world thinks about relationship, verses the TRUTH, verses…oh my gosh so much to talk about. Skip the episode with the sex dolls.

#3.  It’s on Netflix…so…if you liked this blog and wanted to get more “information” and you’re near the end of the vino…. You know what to do.

Oh, What a Savior

The pain that I was going through was real enough. To bring pain upon myself in an attempt to heal pain is one thing. 

When I started perpetuating this mentality onto other people is when I started to know things had to change.

I met a young man named Max. Max took me, like a gentleman, out to lunch on our first date. He even paid! He was an assistant manager at a grocery store down the street from where I worked at a Mexican restaurant in college.  He asked me out, in person, paid for lunch and posted on facebook that he had the best, most wonderful time with me, and THEN sent me a dozen roses to my work thanking me for the opportunity. I had no idea what to do with that at that point.

It was completely and utterly out of context for me.

To be honest, I didn’t think that lunch had gone that well and I wasn’t that attracted to him.

He asked me out a few days later and I said that I had to stay home because the brakes weren’t working correctly in my car and I didn’t feel like I could drive very far safely with them (it was a partial truth). At that point my regard for personal safety was a little hazy. He came to the restaurant the next day with a friend who was also a mechanic and while I was on my shift they fixed my brakes in the parking lot. He wouldn’t even consider allowing me to repay him.

After that, I felt like I kind of had to date him. I mean, c’mon! What a sweetie! But I didn’t recognize the depth of these actions, nor had the ability to appreciate him, nor the things he did for me.

I would use him as a sober driver to parties and then make some excuse (“it’s girls night!”) as to why he couldn’t come with me.

I would make him take me to expensive events like concerts, professional sports games, etc. and just get drunk.

He was a virgin and that totally freaked me out. I wouldn’t engage in sexual activity with him (“my boyfriend” who actually was super awesome) because it just plain weirded me out! I had been so sexually active and I was, usually, so drunk that I just could not deal with that. 

I, underneath all that, knew that I was not the one who he should be engaging in sex with for the first time. I knew that I would not be able to be that person for him.

Because of his infatuation with me, the relationship went on far too long, probably about 5-6 months. I ended up breaking his heart because I just did not have the capacity to even understand what was happening.

I starting thinking something was wrong with him. How could he like me this much? ME.

I tried to prove him wrong. I would get super drunk and act inappropriately with other men in his presence. He always forgave me and blamed in on the alcohol. He tried to help me in every way possible, for NO GOOD REASON.

I still don’t know why that man was so nice to (that) me! What a kind heart! He must have a gift for seeing the good in people. He has a beautiful wife now and I love that. She is absolutely a lucky lady!

Still, Max placed in me a teeny tiny seed of “what if I am worth it?”

And I am forever in gratitude to him for placing that there.

In many ways, Max absolutely saved my life.

He made me take a second look at my drinking habits (the first time I tried to quit was after we broke up).

He showed me what it looked like to stand by someone in their worst (yuck).

And he placed that precious seed.

That maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there that can love, really love, me.

But before I could appreciate or recognize that, I had to love me.

And the only way that I could love me was to see myself as Jesus saw me, because if I were going to attempt to rationalize why I was worth anyone’s time, even my own time, I was going straight back to the bottle.

Something had to change. Something big. Something real.

Although my path had started aligning me more and more closely with a relationship with Jesus I had to hit absolute rock bottom to get there. 

People who have to learn things the hard way? Right here. This girl.

In college, I had dabbled intermittently with different Christian clubs on campus and attended a few random church services. I always felt such the outcast at these events. These college Christian kids were, seemingly, twelve years old and starry eyed and super happy. I was none of that. But, still, I heard the gospel in a few different ways, in a few different places, in a few different times. 

And that, really, is all that mattered.

I knew who Jesus was, you know, theoretically. I felt like if I placed my total hope in Him that I’d immediately have to be like “them.” I wasn’t ready to change. 

I couldn’t change. I felt like, sure, a relationship with Jesus sounds good, but maybe once I get my act together, I don’t want to be Ned Flanders, at least, not tomorrow.

That brings us full circle to the very first story in this book when I’m sitting in the car heartbroken over an abusive man with a live in fiancĂ©. We’ll call him Zane.

I met Zane at a fraternity party. He was a veteran who had returned to school and lived about 45 minutes away from campus. I didn’t even think twice that I had never been to his place. I lived a stone’s throw from campus and the frat house was also nearby as well as literally every place we hung out.

I got a phone call from his mother. She screamed at me calling me a “home wrecker.” I had learned the truth. He had a live-in finance and she knew about me.

When I approached Zane about the conversation it was standard: “I don’t know what to do, I love you both, blah blah blah. This is so difficult for ME.”

Both I and the fiancé allowed this back and forth for about 2-3 weeks.

I placed the ultimatum. Me or her. Period.

To make matters worse, and the pain worse, I approached some of my friends about his secret life (who were also in the fraternity) and.they.knew. 

They KNEW and they didn’t tell me, because, well, “bros before hoes” or some lunacy to that tune.

They refused to “take sides” making me feel like the crazy one.

When he texted me that he had flipped those coins seven times in a row and that they all pointed to her I felt totally discarded by everyone in my life. It was my own personal emotional rock bottom. I had given EVERYTHING to EVERYONE and what did I have in return: nothing.

I pulled over. I gave it to Jesus.

My wording was not rehearsed. It was garbled. It was a mess. I was a mess.

But I said, “Jesus, I don’t know who you are or what this means. But I trust in YOU to make this better. I cannot do this anymore. I am done. Whatever you have for me, if you even exist, I want it. Take this away.”

Now, I can’t say I was struck my lightening or that anything physically changed.

But everything had changed.

I felt lighter.

I went home.

I pulled out a poster board. I drew a calendar with 90 days.

I put a giant “X” in day one because I hadn’t had a drink yet that day.

I went onto Craig’s List and found the first house I could find looking for a roommate (my roommates were fraternity “friends”) near my childhood home, about twenty minutes outside of campus.

I was done. And I was on Day One.

I went to school. I went home. I went to work (two jobs).

That’s it for about three months.

I changed my phone number (Zane kept texting me threats).
I deleted my social media accounts.

My calendar filled up with red x’s and I was finally starting to think clearly again.

I didn’t talk to anyone in my classes (it seemed people were always connected to the Greek Life).

I had a few friends who I would occasionally hang out with at the restaurant (one of my jobs).

After I had broken my original pattern of drinking for ninety days (we’re talking a good sized bottle of vodka (or whatever) each night) I slowly started to bring back in a beer or two, or a glass of wine. Later I would swear off hard alcohol permanently.

One of my friends at the restaurant, Kayleigh, was about to be the Maid of Honor in a wedding in a town about two hours north of Sacramento. Her cousin was getting married and they needed waitresses for the wedding. I and another waitress / friend at the restaurant volunteered to make the trip and serve.

I didn’t know it then, but I was about to meet my future husband, and father of my four incredible children (the bride’s brother) at that wedding.