When Aleta and I celebrate an anniversary we like to go on little trips. Sometimes we can afford less on our trips, sometimes more. When we go on our anniversary excursions we have grown to love finding some kind of trinket that we can take home as a reminder of our trip. It wasn’t always this way. Our shared enjoyment of this part of our anniversary celebration came through a hard struggle.
One year we spent our anniversary at Fort Bragg and we stumbled into this cool shop where a local artisan made fantastic, one of a kind, pieces of furniture out of driftwood. There was this one little stick chair in their shop for $30 that was only big enough for a gnome to sit on it. One of us wanted to bring that stick chair home, one of us had no need for it. We had the biggest, emotionally draining fight over whether or not we should purchase that chair as a memory of our trip. This conflict exposed all kinds of things we didn’t know about each other: assumptions, expectations, needs, hopes, and more. As we slogged through our issues we found ourselves growing closer and closer towards one another through the crucible of a very uncomfortable fight on our anniversary trip. In the end, we celebrated our reconciliation by purchasing that pitiful little stick chair.
Our “stick chair story” has always stuck with us. We still laugh at our struggle and the little stick chair that set it all off for us. We also celebrate the fact that conflict is not something to be avoided, but something to be worked with, something that can be a doorway to greater love and intimacy if two people are willing to do the work of listening, communicating, re-stating, and re-stating again, then reconciling. A long-lasting marriage is going to have a few “stick chairs” along the way that can lead two people closer together, if they’re willing to do the work.