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Ounce of Prevention: Short Stories To Keep Your Marriage Healthy and Happy

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The following is a portion of the Creating a Soul Mate short story.

Creating a Soul Mate

He was perfect. My prince Charming. I was a terrible romantic when I met him and I gave up my heart the day he smiled at me. I know, what a sap. Still, to my credit, he was very dashing. The first time I saw him was at one of those fancy dances at the university. He was dressed in a long tailed tuxedo. His vest and tie were a deep burgundy. His skin was dark like brown sugar and his black hair was combed into carefully casual waves over his forehead. His cheeks were high and broad and his jaw was strong. He was my date’s friend and he introduced him to me. That was when he smiled at me. The smile spread across his whole face and lit his eyes so that they turned to golden honey.
We danced once that night. I can’t remember anything else that happened after we did. All I can remember is the electrifying sensation of his one hand at my waist and the other holding mine gently. I didn’t see him again for an agonizing two months. Then, fate or destiny brought us together.
We were in the same ballroom class. It was perfect; I got to see him every day for an hour. My semester revolved around that class and my chance to dance with him. He asked me to be his testing partner for the first midterm and after that we practiced habitually. After our last performance, in Spring, he asked me to marry him.
After a year, I found myself wondering what went wrong. If he was Mr. Perfect, then why was I unhappy? I still loved him. My heart ached just to think of him apart, but when he was near, I was annoyed. So, it was not without relief that I left him for two weeks to visit my family. It took a month to convince him to let me go.
“You know,” I said, “both my mother and my brother are graduating next month.”
“Yes,” he said without looking up from his dinner. When I didn’t say anything, he glanced at my face. “Yes, I wish we could go. Unfortunately, I have to work.”
“I think it is very important that I go, John.”
“I know, Jen. I’m sorry; it’s just that it will be impossible for me to take that much time off. Besides, you know we can’t spare the money.”
“I can work extra hours this month to make up for lost time,” I murmured, pushing the peas around my plate.
“Jen,” his voice was pleading. “We’ve been through this before. I don’t want you to work anymore than you have to.”
“My father has offered to pay for the flight.”
He sighed. “Jen, I can’t go.”
I suddenly felt unexplainably angry. Words came unbidden to my throat. A soft voice in my head warned me not to act rashly. I opened my mouth to say okay but the other words were already there.
“You’re being selfish. You just don’t want me to go.” My voice escalated until the last word was a shout. The intensity of my own emotions startled me and I was immediately ashamed. Then the hurt on his face registered in my brain and I felt mad and disgusted with myself. I left the table and fled to our room as much in shame as in anger.
I cried myself to sleep that night and only woke up when John slid in beside me. He enfolded me in his embrace and whispered in my ear.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “If you want to go home by yourself, I won’t stop you.”
My heart melted and I started crying again. I twisted so that I could bury my face in his chest. “I’m sorry, John. It wasn’t fair of me to say what I did. You’ve never been selfish towards me. Please forgive me.”
He tightened his arms and kissed the top of my head.

Those weeks before I left were hard. Every time I looked at him I remembered what I had said and I was filled with the same conflicting emotions. I began to notice more of his faults. After dinner, he would sit at the table and watch as I washed the dishes. He never once offered to help. If I was too tired to do them, they collected in the sink. When I complained about something, he never sympathized. He wasn’t silent either; he berated. I started to feel that anything I told him was a plea for his wisdom. Then, on top of that, he didn’t fill up the car until the needle was past empty and he chewed with his mouth open.
I became desperate for the day I could leave and spend two whole weeks away from him. The minute I stepped on the jet plane, relief and happiness flooded through me so that I immediately countered it with guilt. Still, the guilt was not strong enough to stay for very long.
I walked out of the terminal and into the arms of mother only two and a half hours later. With her arms around me, I felt a sense of peace and joy such as I hadn’t felt since the day I married John; it brought tears to my eyes.
A few days after her graduation, my mother brought up my marriage. She was cooking dinner and I was sitting at the kitchen bar with my chin in my hands. I hadn’t said anything about my marriage, yet somehow she knew everything was not all right. She had always known when I was upset about something.
“You’re not happy with John, are you?” She chopped onions while she waited for my reply.
“It’s not that I’m not happy with him…I mean, I still love him…it’s just that…well…” I trailed off, hopelessly. I tried again. “Mom, do you believe in soul mates?”
“Yes. Your father and I are soul mates.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s just that I’m not sure anymore that John is my soul mate.”
“Nonsense, of course he is your soul mate. You are married, aren’t you?” She moved on to the potatoes.
“But what if I made the wrong choice?” I picked up a leaf of lettuce and began to shred it.
My mother stopped chopping and looked up into my eyes. “Jennifer, you would have problems no matter who you chose. ‘Happily ever after’ does not mean ‘carefree ever after’. You made your choice, now you make it the right one.”
I picked up another lettuce piece. She had always spoken like that. I guess that’s what comes of having a writer for a mother. The problem was that it took awhile to digest what she had said. I was on my fifth lettuce leaf before I had my thoughts organized.
“Okay, Mom, suppose I did make the right choice, why does he annoy me then?”
“Why does he annoy you?”
I told her everything I could think of. I even told her that the way he breathed at night irritated me. I finished with a summary of our conversation the night he told me I could go.
“Oh honey, he really loves you. He loves you so much he can’t bear the thought of you getting hurt because he was not there to protect you.”
“But I’m an adult, mom. I can take care of myself. I don’t need constant supervision. That’s why I moved out of here.”
“I know you can take care of yourself. But you most keep in mind that men feel protective of the things they love. More importantly, you must remember that marriage is a bonding relationship. This means that he is responsible for your well-being just as you are responsible for his. Marriage means you have accepted him into your life. You and he are one person; damage to one is damage to the other as well.”
“That doesn’t change my irritation. I often feel annoyed with myself.”
“Then I suggest that you first..........

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