We drove up to Little Rock in our cute silver Honda. The moonroof was open and the crisp breeze caressed our faces. For two hours we happily chatted. It was going to be such an incredible Weekend to Remember!

As we arrived at the first really fancy hotel we’d ever stayed at, I was jittery with excitement. The lobby was huge and beautiful. The splashing water tugged at my ears as the famous ducks paddled and dove in the fountain.

Registration went on forever, but the weekend finally began and the themes of the seminars began to emerge. Communication. Personality. Priorities.

That was 13 years ago. I remember walking the shady sidewalks along the river in my favorite city. I remember peering over balconies as we ascended that magnificent glass elevator. I remember the bronze trash can in the bathroom. I remember the view. And I remember the speakers. I remember everything about that weekend.

Except the bedroom.

I’ve blocked that from my memory. We didn’t have a clue that we had a problem, but looking back it’s obvious.

Read more stories from Weekend to Remember Guests.

What we brought with us that weekend

Brian was a workaholic. Our first married months saw him out the door by 6:30 in the morning and not home until 7:30 at night. After 13-hour days, he came home exhausted with no energy for marriage.

I, on the other hand, was a brand new stay-at-home mom. Early parenthood left me flailing in a world of lonely depression. I had one person to interact with all day long, and he couldn’t talk yet!

I was pushy and manipulative, demanding the minutes my husband didn’t know how to give me. By getting away for the weekend, Brian thought he was giving me a great gift, which he absolutely was. We would finally have some real time together. But neither of us had any idea that for years we had been sweeping marital junk under the rug. We had no idea that this wonderful weekend away would rip the rug up, revealing five years’ worth of dust, mites, and stale Cheerios.

I remember the speaker talking about how special date night was supposed to be. “You be you,” he would have said if that were a phrase at the time. But we didn’t know who we were. We could not decide what we wanted. We drove aimlessly through the city, and in the end had pizza delivered to our room. I was so disappointed.

We fought that night. About everything. With no resolution. Exhaustion finally won and we turned out the lights. Silent, bitter tears lulled me to sleep.

What we took away

Weeks went by. Months. We kept fighting. It was hard and it was ugly. But it wasn’t dirty because we had learned something during that weekend and we were desperately trying to resolve our issues. We were trying to fight fair.

In time, our communication skills evolved. Slowly, we learned how to lay down self-interest and pick up sacrificial love. Brian learned to make dinner reservations and to meet me at the door with flowers. I learned to give him a buffer zone.

It was all so long ago! As I lay here typing, I think about how different things are now. I snuggle next to my husband, softly snoring beside me, and I find myself glancing around our bedroom. It’s a good room! A good representation of our life.

We’ve put this space together slowly as we’ve grown and learned from one another. We have things that we’ve splurged on; also pieces that we’ve restored and repurposed. Little trinkets sit on distressed tables; tokens gathered in appreciation of one another.

This room has its problems. There’s an endless stack of laundry. The vanity needs wiping down, and I know just where we never replaced that outlet cover.

But this is our room. Our sanctuary. A sacred housing of the unforgettable love we’ve built together. Over 18 years of marriage, I’ve learned that weekends come and go. Some are sensational. Some forgettable.

But one weekend stands out among them all. Everything about that weekend was wonderful, except what we brought to it.

But what we took from it? We took away, not a wonderful marriage, but the tools we needed to build one.

We’ve been building ever since.


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