navigating communicationthe lawn clippings

Keeping an eye on the conglomeration of our belongings that we had brought with us was my responsibility. Securing four wheels to transport us and said luggage around the country for the next week was his. Excited as we were to be celebrating a decade of marriage with a getaway in Ireland, our fresh-off-the-plane, haven’t-slept-in-24-hours, nervous-to-be-in-a-foreign-country minds would be more at ease once we had the chance to get acquainted with our surroundings… and coffee.

We knew we couldn’t possibly be prepared for every scenario we might run into on the Emerald Isle, and yet had done a ton of research and even booked our trip through a travel agent hoping she would cover any bases our inexperience in traveling abroad left exposed. And yet somehow, with all of those minds working together, the best we had come up with was a traditional paper map and a 56 page, step-by-step print-out of the loop we planned to take around the country.

As Kelly made his way up the line and eventually reached the car rental counter, my attention was drawn to the couple immediately in front of me. Of course they were traveling lighter than us, but all of my focus was on that navigation device they had in their hands. What a relief! The thought of trying to make our way around an unfamiliar country without modern technology gave me a lot of anxiety, and knowing such a simple solution was readily available instantly eased my nerves. Being out of earshot and sans cell phones left me with the lone option of silently standing guard over the suitcases, watching the transaction take place from afar. I closed my eyes, channeled my non-existent clairvoyance, and willed my beloved to hear my thoughts. Get the GPS.

Telepathic transmission fail.

Over the next hour, we lugged our baggage back and forth across the airport in search of the shuttle that would take us to the rental lot, attempted to interpret the heavily accented English spoken by everyone we met, and eagerly anticipated that much needed caffeine fix. At one point, I asked the Mister whether he thought that GPS would be a good idea. A little later, I noted that perhaps it would be worth the extra few dollars in order to more fully enjoy what we had already invested in being there. And finally, in one last unsuccessful attempt to convince the leader of our family to truly recognize my concerns, I expressed my desire to give further consideration to our chosen method of navigation.

He’s very much a stick-to-the-budget kind of guy, so whether it was €50 or €500 didn’t much matter. Either way, to him it was an unplanned expense that he wasn’t eager to incur for “no reason”, and he sure as heck wasn’t about to let that lady behind the counter up-sell him on something he didn’t need. And so, with 56 pages of step-by-step directions including those ever-so helpful photographs in hand, we pulled out on the left side of the road in that tiny Volkswagen and set out on our adventure.

We made it all of about two blocks before we came to the first round-a-bout. Incidentally, we were familiar with its function thanks to our daily use of the three lane traffic circle they’d recently put in about a mile from our house. Yet just that quickly the difference between familiarity and foreign was enough to lead us astray from our diligently planned route. Our map rendered useless. And just like that, we were lost.

I turned to my husband and firmly suggested that he reconsider his decision. To my surprise, he flat out asked, “Do you want me to go back to the airport and get the GPS?” A little stunned that there was any room for uncertainty over my position, I very clearly asserted that yes, I believed a tool made for such a specific purpose would be invaluable in getting us through this 1300 km trek on highways that looked more like back country roads. To which he replied, “Well why didn’t you just say so?”

the elle in love, intentional marriage, navigating communication

Thankfully, we were able to make our way back to the car rental hub, where I’m quite certain they had been placing bets on how long it would take for us to return with changed minds. And as we set out on our adventure for a second time that day, we couldn’t help but find humor in how clearly the differences between how male and female operate had played out between us. The typical man who’d rather not ask for directions – let alone pay extra for them. The cliché woman who may not always just come out and say exactly what she’s thinking.

Yet in the midst of that comical happenstance, we also discovered an opportunity to be intentional in our relationship. By putting in to practice a communication technique we picked up at a marriage retreat months prior, we were able to learn something deeper about one another. He explained the significant responsibility he felt for managing our well-being in an unknown place, and that especially when sleep has been scarce and stress is high, I can love him well by being very specific and intentional with my words. I opened up about the struggle that is figuring out how to balance this inner desire to regard my own better judgement while ultimately being supportive of my husband’s decision. It wasn’t exactly an “aha” moment. There was no instant fix-all revealed that would make life side by side as two imperfect individuals easier. Yet we came away from that conversation more securely grounded in our bond as a couple.

We refer back to this story often because it represents a lesson we have learned first hand regarding the importance of navigating communication. And it is a great reminder that sometimes it is necessary to go above and beyond to obtain the proper tools to do so, even when we feel as though we have already done our homework.

-m