So Smartmom spent a long weekend in Michigan with her friend, Divorce Diva. The time away gave her lots of time to think about her life.
There’s nothing like sitting on a porch facing a really big lake like Lake Michigan to help you think long and hard about the state of your marriage.
Why wouldn’t Hepcat agree to buy a new couch? Why was he so attached to the old one? What was wrong with the Andre, the couch Smartmom picked out at Room & Board? And why is this such a source of conflict between them?
And that’s when she realized that a couch is a perfect metaphor for marriage:
• A couch is where you sit for years and years — like a marriage.
• A couch can be a source of comfort and relaxation — like a marriage.
• A couch can get worn out and dirty; it can even be dangerous and hazardous like when its springs start to stick out — like a marriage.
• A couch can be recovered — like a marriage (if you choose to work on it and accept that it might need the work, that is).
• And a couch could simply be replaced — like, well, you get the idea.
So Smartmom really worked the metaphor of the couch/marriage in her head sitting in a wicker chair on the porch of a beautiful old cottage facing Lake Michigan.
And then another metaphor appeared. From the porch, Smartmom had a clear view of the famous Mackinac Bridge, that five-mile span across the straits of Mackinac. It’s the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and it connects the lower and upper peninsula of Michigan, our weirdest geographical state.
Before the bridge, the only way for people and goods to get from one peninsula to the other was by ferry. Traffic sometimes stretched 16 miles — and to make matters worse, there was no year-round boat service because the straits often freeze in the winter.
Interestingly, it was the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 that inspired Michigan locals to dream about connecting their state’s disparate parts. It took decades, but they did it: On November 1, 1957, the Mackinac Bridge opened.
Fifty-two years later, the engineering achievement of uniting Michigan inspired Smartmom.
For Buddha’s sake, she thought, there has to be a way to bridge the gap between her own and Hepcat’s vision of the living room.
If the lower and upper peninsula can form one Michigan, surely Smartmom and Hepcat can figure out what to do with their green leather IKEA couch — and all the other “issues” that ail their marriage.
Getting away from Brooklyn really was a good thing. The anger she felt toward Hepcat about the couch definitely receded after a few days of bike riding, long walks and talks by the lake, fossil hunts and beach fires.
Indeed, the living room — and the leather couch — seemed very far away when she and Divorce Diva spent an idyllic day on Mackinac Island, a Victorian summer resort without cars.
By the time Smartmom had flown from Traverse City to Chicago and then from Chicago to LaGuardia, she barely remembered that she and Hepcat had had such an ugly argument about the couch.
But as soon as she walked into the living room she saw the couch and she felt the rage well up inside of her. Again.
She resorted to her metaphors. A couch is like a marriage. Certainly there’s a way to bridge their difference.
And then something mysterious happened. She sat down on the couch as she has done for 18 years (luckily, she didn’t get stabbed by the inner springs). The Oh So Feisty One came into the living room and sat beside her. They hugged. Hepcat sat next to her, too, and she told them about her weekend in Michigan.
Smartmom knew that it was going to be OK. This couch was not a referendum on the state of their marriage. It was a metaphor. It needed work, it needed TLC and it probably needed to be replaced. But that didn’t mean all was lost.
Somehow, like the engineers who built the Mackinac Bridge, they would find a way. Smartmom was sure of it.