Marriage links for the week

Alan at Imago Veritatis examines the question: What is marriage?

University researchers hit upon a novel idea. Instead of studying the things that tear marriages apart, they decide to examine marriages that survive extreme conflict.

Too many people forget the in sickness part of “in sickness and in health.”

I’ve tried twice to do something like this, but lost my nerve at the last second.

There’s something oddly peaceful and habit-forming about this game, though even after winning I’d be hard-pressed to explain it.


I don’t have much time to write today, so I just looked for a few pithy quotes about marriage in my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. All the quotes I found slyly disparaged the idea of marriage, although this one seemed to slyly promote it.

“Wen you’re a married man, Samivel, you’ll understand a good many things as you don’t understand now; but vether it’s worth while goin’ through so much to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o’ taste.”

—Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers

If you know any witty, pithy quotes that celebrate marriage, please share them in the comments.

Emotional intimacy

I left home at the age of 18 to attend a college a thousand miles away from my nearest parent (2500 km). There, for the first time in my life, I had to share a bedroom. I was fortunate to get along well with my assigned roommate. We had very little in common, but his friendliness and easy-going attitude made up for my extreme introversion and morose tendencies. Chad and I became friends in spite of our differences. Though we didn’t hang out much outside of the dorm, in the confines of our room we conversed and confided and laughed and complained and rejoiced as each day required. Whatever unpleasant thing might have been disrupting our lives, our room was a safe haven.

I especially enjoyed the discussions we would have after the lights went out. We would lay in our beds and talk across the room about anything that might occur to us. During that time when we were tired, relaxed, and on the verge of sleep, facades fell, imaginations ran wild, and we would discuss deep theological ideas as well as fatigue-induced nonsense with equal intensity until unconsciousness overtook one or both of us.

On one such night, our discussion lulled into several minutes of silence that I thought signaled the end of the conversation. I had cleared my mind to prepare for sleep when Chad said, “You know, this is great and all, but I can’t wait to be married. I mean you and I are friends, and that’s great, but some day I’m gonna have a wife, and she’ll be my best friend in the world, and we’ll go to bed at night and be able to talk about absolutely anything for as long as we want. That’ll be so nice.” Having recently left the Army, he was several years older than I was and had a more mature perspective on life, love, and relationships than I did. I immediately thought of a few other benefits a wife could provide that I felt were more important than late-night rap sessions. I told him as much, sending our conversation in an entirely different direction, but I never forgot what he said.

Thirteen years later I find myself living the dream. Some of the most enjoyable and intimate conversations I have with Mrs. Happy occur when the lights go out and we let go of everything the world threw at us during the daytime hours. At those times we can truly be emotionally intimate. At those times we can be mutually vulnerable. We can laugh, we can cry, we can argue, we can tease, we can lower all barriers, and let go of every inhibition without fear. There is no greater intimacy than mutual vulnerability, and that intimacy strengthens our love and trust and builds up our relationship every day.

Chad was right. It’s so nice.

Protecting marriage

I usually try to keep this site focused on its stated purpose of celebrating marriage in a hostile world. I write about things that I hope will encourage, and maybe enlighten, anyone who reads these pages. I write about topics that hopefully inspire a response from readers who can then encourage me as well as each other. My goal is to foster mutual encouragement among people who love marriage and feel little encouragement elsewhere. Because of that, I usually stay away from controversial issues. One time I wrote about same-sex marriage in what I thought was a sensitive manner, focusing on healing a sacred institution rather than on attacking those who wanted to expand its legal definition. That post inspired debate rather than encouragement. I almost regretted writing it. While I enjoy a good, healthy debate and exchange of differing opinions (and I must admit that that debate was both civil and thoughtful), that is not the goal of this blog.

Sometimes, though, controversies just can’t be avoided.

Yesterday, President Bush called on Congress to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. He said that passing a law would not be enough, since “activist courts” would undoubtedly strike down any such law as unconstitutional. For the record, I agree with him. I hate that the issue has even come up. I hate that marriage and the morals of society have fallen so far as to make this necessary. I wish society respected marriage enough to make the debate irrelevant. Sadly, such is not the case.

I believe society still respects the idea of marriage if not the practice. That same-sex couples want to marry shows that the noble ideal of an emotional, legal, spiritual, and lifelong commitment between two individuals still has enough appeal to inspire even non-traditional participation. That divorce rates continue to rise, that increasing numbers of children are born to non-committed parents, that marriage is ridiculed more than it is revered shows that society cares less every day about the practice of marriage.

Government exists in large part to protect the things that are important to us. The practice of marriage obviously is not important to many, many people. I believe, however, that much of society still values the idea of marriage, an idea that would lose its meaning, and therefore its value, with the first step onto the slippery slope of redefining it. So the federal government is now in the position of needing to protect an idea while neglecting that idea’s practice. That puts Congress and the president between a contradictory rock and a hypocritical hard place, making the debate all the more difficult.

I don’t foresee marriage or divorce laws improving any time soon, but I’ll never give up on marriage. If the government can’t make marriage work, then society must. I’m going to continue doing my small part to make that happen. And while the government can’t make people love each other, honor their commitments, and treat each other well, it can do something to protect the idea of marriage. That’s what I believe this amendment will do, and that’s why I’ll support it.

I think it will probably be a long time before I comment on political events again. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words that closed the president’s address yesterday:

America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.

In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency.


Stupid Millionaire


When they state that the ticket does not guarantee a seat, they mean it. After spending $35 on train and subway travel, we arrived at ABC studios (promptly at 5:15 p.m., as the ticket required, even though the taping did not start until 7:00 p.m.) and found ourselves at the end of a very long
queue. We had been waiting for about five minutes when a man with an official
ID and clipboard came and vertically chopped the air in front of us with his
forearm, constructing an imaginary wall, and said, “Okay, we’re filled to capacity,
so everyone from here to the end of the line might as well leave because there’ll
be nowhere for them to sit.”

I tried to argue with him, but to no avail. I told him I had taken off work and travelled many miles to be there, but he said other people had flown in from out of town and had still been turned away. He said people had been waiting in line since 2:00. He said there was nothing he could do. He was just a lowly peon with no more authority than the dog poop someone had failed to scoop off the sidewalk not five feet away from him. Yelling at him would have produced nothing but hard feelings, so we left graciously.

I was disappointed that I would not get to see the taping and, according to the guy with the clipboard, would never get another chance since the shows are all completely booked up through the remainder of Regis Philbin’s life. My wife was disappointed for me, though she didn’t have the same level of interest as I did. I love quiz shows, and I’ve been a fan of Millionaire ever since it premiered. I’ve auditioned for it at every opportunity. Many times I have passed the first qualifying round (of three), but I’ve never received a call for the second round. Mrs. Happy has supported me in that, sitting with me as I try to answer qualifying questions over the phone. She has also auditioned herself on the off chance that she might become one of the randomly chosen people to advance to the second round of auditions. I love her.

By the way, neither of us qualified for any of the February shows, so you won’t be seeing us on TV any time soon.

Anyway, we left the ABC studios, took a stroll through Central Park, and had a nice dinner at our favorite Manhattan restaurant, La Bonne Soupe. We even found it without much difficulty, unlike the last time we went. Even though there were disappointments, it turned out to be an enjoyable evening.

Marriage links for the week

Rev. Sensing of One Hand Clapping Wrote several posts this week on same-sex marriage. The issue is really coming to a head here in the United States, with passionate debate on all sides. Rev. Sensing says some thought-provoking things, and though I wholeheartedly disagree with several of his opinions, they’re still worth reading:

1. The “gay marriage” controversy: Traditionalists need to get a clue – we lost this fight 40 years ago.

2. Separate
the legal and the spiritual in the wedding business
: Let the state do the
former and the Church the latter; my solution to the “gay marriage” impasse.

3. What makes a thing a thing? The Problem of Universals and defining what is marriage.

4. Answering
Andrew Sullivan’s “simple question”
: explaining Jesus’ silence on homosexuality.

I don’t know how I missed this last week. A Florida newspaper tells the love stories of several local couples.

This is not an endorsement of any disgusting, blasphemous, socially destructive,
hilarious, hysterical cartoon, but at the South Park Studios Web site, you
can design your
own South Park character
This is what I would look like in South Park:

New link

I’ve been meaning to update the links in my sidebar for a while now. The URL for Peachwater, Tx. has changed slightly, and now I’ve updated that. Mainly, though, I’d like to call attention to Ryan’s Head, a new link in the Personal Blogs section. I’ve been reading Ryan’s blog for some time now and feeling a sort of kinship since he dearly loves his wife (whom he refers to as Ms. Lovechunk) and says so. Lately, though, I’ve just been too lazy to mess with my template and add that link.

Ryan has written a couple of recent posts about family that reminded me why I need to link to him. He also said some very kind things about me in a recent post and e-mail message, which made me feel guilty for being so lazy about the link. Plus, I just looked to see how long he’s been blogging, and the earliest post in his archives just happens to have been on my birthday (June 26) last year. So now I’ve finally gotten off my figurative butt and added the link. It’s there, now, and should remain there permanently. Please take a look at his site and see how another happy husband lives.

Also, Ryan and his wife are expecting a baby any day now. Very exciting.

Word games

Yesterday I mentioned some of the games that Mrs. Happy and I play at home. There are a couple of other games we play on the road and away from home, generally while we’re in the car or on the train. Today, I thought I’d share those games, and hopefully they can provide entertainment for others as well.

Word Mastermind

This is a take on the traditional game Mastermind that usually involves colored pegs or numerical digits.

  1. Both players agree upon a number (we usually use 5), and one player (hereafter referred to as P1) thinks of a word with that many letters.
  2. Player 2 (P2) thinks of a word with the designated number of letters and says it out loud.
  3. P1 compares P2′s word with his own, then tells P2 how many letters the two words have in common and how many letters hold the same position in each word. For example, if P1 is thinking of WITCH and P2 says TINGE, P1 mentally compares them both, finds that both words contain a T and an I and that the I is the second letter in both words. He then tells P2, “There are two letters in common, and one is in the right position.”
  4. P2 makes note of the information and guesses again with another word. P1 compares the new word with the word he chose at the beginning and tells P2 the results of the comparison. For example, if P2 guesses GREAT, P1 would then say, “One letter in common, none in the right position.”
  5. Players repeat the process until P2 guesses the word correctly.

We generally disallow plural words ending in S. A game might go something like this:

P2: Uh, let’s see…how about SPEED.
P1: None in common, none in the right position.
P1: Two and zero.
P1: Three and three.
P1: Four and four.
P1: Well played.
(It actually never goes that quickly, but hopefully you get the idea.)

You can set a limit on the number of guesses, or just play until P2 finds the correct word. You can also try a variation in which both players pick a word, then take turns trying to guess each other’s word. That method has the advantage of providing a clear-cut method for determining a winner.

Race to the Finish

This game requires a little more strategy and forethought.

  1. P1 and P2 (this can be played with as many players as you like, but it gets a little hairy if you have more than four) agree on a number, usually no less than five.
  2. P1 thinks of a word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number, then tells P2 only the first letter of the word.
  3. P2 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the letter spoken
    by P1. P2 then tells P1 the second letter of that word. P2′s word need not
    be the same as P1′s.
  4. P1 thinks of a word of sufficient length that begins with the two letters the players have chosen. P1 then tells P2 the third letter of that word.
  5. The two players continue taking turns adding a letter to the letters already spoken until one of them adds a letter that forms a complete word containing a number of letters equal to or greater than the agreed upon number. The player who does that wins.

That sounds confusing when written out, but in practice it’s fairly simple. Here’s a typical game in which the two players have agreed to build a word of at least five letters:

P1: A. (thinking of the word ABSTAIN)
P2: B. (thinking of ABJECT)
P1: S. (thinking, “Aha! This is working out!”)
P2: O. (forced to abandon ABJECT, considers ABSOLUTE)
P1: L. (thinking, “Crap, ABSTAIN doesn’t work now. I’ll go for ABSOLVE.”)
P2: U. (“ABSOLUTE has eight letters. That would give me the win.”)
P1: T. (“Crap again. The only word that starts with ABSOLU is ABSOLUTE. I’m gonna lose.”)
P2: E. ABSOLUTE. I win!

It’s important to note that players cannot just throw out random letters. They must always be able to complete the word using the letters they have played. At any time, P1 may give up and challenge P2 to complete the word using the last letter played by P2, and vice versa of course.

Both of these games pass the time and stimulate the mind. Try ‘em out.

The games we play

My Great Uncle Richard and Aunt Neita used to play at least one card, dice, or board game together every day. I don’t know how long they were married before Uncle Richard died, but it was somewhere around 50 years, and they were one of the happiest, sweetest couples I’ve ever known. I don’t know whether game playing was a root or a flower in their relationship, but it was definitely something they loved doing. The infectious humor that infused their marriage spilled over into their games and then back into their daily lives.

After playing a game of Boggle with my wife yesterday (and again today—this time she only beat me 106 to 104, so I’m getting better) I reflected on the fact that we haven’t played a game together in quite a while. We used to spend a lot of time playing games, doing jigsaw puzzles, and filling out crosswords together. Somewhere along the way, though, we seem to have become more interested in television than in shared activities. I think now that we have the game juices flowing again, we’ll probably make more of an effort to set aside some time for mutual amusement.

These are some of our favorite two-player games:

Mrs. Happy and I love games, due in large part to the fact that we both possess a competitive streak. Some people find it off-putting when they try to play with us. “It’s only a game,” they say. I believe that too. A game’s outcome doesn’t affect the world at large, or even my own life beyond the game’s duration. But saying “it’s only a game” doesn’t change the fact that a game exists for the purpose of competition, and that every legitimate competition has a winner, and that I want that winner to be me. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing at all? We grow closer and learn more about each other through competition. It’s one way we learn not to take ourselves too seriously.