Looking For a Good Couple’s Therapy Idea? Go Throw Some Axes!

Let’s face the facts, people, especially if you’re a parent or just stressed the you-know-what out by life. There are many couples forced into stagnancy, whether it’s due to the compression of parental or other domestic responsibility or there’s a lack of oomph, creating a stuck mojo within. No matter what level of health your relationship may be in, it’s imperative for couples to get out of their day-to-day and release. It’s just that simple.

Without meaning to, children especially bog us down and hold us hostage to the point of outrageous stress as they seek recognition and love only a family focused on their welfare can provide. If we become parents for the right reasons, we go the extra step by investing our time and ourselves in our kids, not only because it’s socially expected, but it’s the right thing to do.

Even with the purist of hearts and intentions, intimacy between couples often gets thrown on the back burner in deference to “the job.” The unfortunate end result spells fatigue, forgetfulness, impatience, occasional resentment and ultimately, burnout. We stay home more, we do less for ourselves and all for our kids. Without meaning to, we risk losing focus on our commitments of interpersonal love as a couple while forging a family unit. Often the essence of being a couple is sacrificed to give our children the best upbringing we can. More often than not, it’s nobody’s fault; it’s the nature of the beast. Yet in its own way by attrition, this becomes a road lesser traveled.

It’s a special thing when adults choose to produce a child. Even more so when they give up their freedom in service to a child, particularly one not of their own DNA. My son is adopted and currently in my full-time care. Man or woman, being a single parent is bloody taxing and frustrating, especially to an apathetic 14-year-old electronics addict. I’m fortunate to have proposed to a woman who’s been in it to win it with me, inclusive of becoming his future stepmother.

For Valentine’s Day this year, TJ and I decided upon an unconventional route. She surprised me with flowers at my job on the 11th, while I served her a return favor on the 14th. We agreed ahead of time that this year, we would make time for ourselves, by ourselves, to find a romantic corner away from the kiddo, who is such an integral if demanding part of our evolving lives together. She and I tend to make the most of what little time we have alone anymore, thus we entailed a different modus operandi than roses, chocolates and an expensive dinner to make this Valentine’s weekend a memorable one.

TJ took me to Magoobies, a local comedy club outside of Baltimore, to see HBO’s Ryan Davis on the 12th. A total riot, especially by the emcee and warm-up comic out of North Carolina. We went home that night, energized by laughter, lighter on our feet, if heavier on the wallet. The following day, I took TJ to Kraken Axes and Rage in the Power Plant Live! entertainment complex in downtown Baltimore. The axe part should be self-explanatory. The Rage part is turning yourself loose in a room full of discarded machinery, scraps and other flotsam, all for the smashing. Coddling the id to a barbaric extreme.

I’d already taken TJ axe throwing a couple times before to Meduseld Meadery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Here at Kraken, we were bowled over by the Celtic and Viking decorum and the care put in by the owners who not only deliver a stress relief session, they create a sense of Old World pagan escapism. You do kind of lose yourself at Kraken, despite the blaring tracks of Aerosmith, REM, Michael Jackson and Mary J. Blige–the latter of whom performed the same night at Super Bowl 56 in a high-octane hip-hop reminiscence halftime show.

We considered ourselves, not so much experts, but at least experienced in axe throwing, and we’d been surprised after telling this to our host when he fitted us with a trainer anyway. We’re both glad he did.

The axes were bigger than the ordinary hardware store hatchets we’d been tooling around with (pun intended) in the past. So much that our muscular mentor, Axe Master Moore, would patiently correct our forms beyond the first few throws that plunked against the bottoms of the wooden targets without sticking. Moore’s forceful, singlehanded throws slammed into the wood like the drop of a toppled tree. He inspired us both with his skills, especially when he was whirling blunt instruments underhanded.

TJ’s Viking blood was especially determined to land those axes and Axe Master Moore made sure of it as you can see by her bullseye…

I eventually got into my own rhythm once Moore went back and forth between us and turned us loose in an axe-themed variation on Blackjack. Here you gain a single point by sticking your axe on the blue border, three on the red, five in direct center. If you go over 21, however, your score drops back by the same amount of points until you cleanly score Blackjack.

I quickly got to 19, but TJ soon revved up, and with my going over by one, we had a score on the line of 16-15. A few flubbed rounds and then we were at a tie, 20-20. One of many things I value in my relationship with TJ, we’re only competitive enough to feel we’re succeeding. Otherwise, we cheer each other on as we do in all aspects of our lives. We are for each other.

I wanted her to win and badgered her to come take the last point from me, but I ended up tagging the blue border for the win. All said and done, though, we’d both won, because we had two wonderful Valentine’s weekend excursions. We’d made it a point to do so.

I can’t say it enough to all of you couples out there. Make the time. Pay the sitter if your child isn’t old enough to stay home alone for a few hours so you can recharge. If you’re child-free, Netflix is great, but treat yourself to a new experience as a couple. It doesn’t have to be axe throwing but find something unusual that you’ve never done together. Maybe you want to go all Limp Bizkit and break shit to purge. If you have a bone to pick with each other, or you want to tap an extra charge into your physicality, there are places you can don oversized boxing gloves and have it with each other in a fun, productive way.

Maybe you’d rather go to a comedy club. Maybe fishing. Maybe an art museum. Hit a small club venue for a live music event instead of an arena. Go out for Thai or Mediterranean grub instead of an easy-in, easy-out chain restaurant. Support a local brewery or winery, something that gets you snuggly close with the one you love. It doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day. In fact, the more spontaneous a day, the better. At least plan to get away from the mundane and potentially debilitating as often as you can. It’s your love that first brought you together. Treat it with the respect it deserves, no matter how inundated you may be. The reverberations are almost always exquisite.
A happy Valentine’s Day to you, readers!

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.