An open letter to newlyweds

(inspired by Jessica’s
comment
on Saturday
)

Dear newly married person,

I’d give you some sage words of advice, but I know from experience that unsolicited
advice has no effect. I’ll just try to offer some encouragement instead. Marriage
is a gift of God, and as is the case with all Godly gifts, this world we live
in is overtly hostile to the idea, institution, and practice. Sometimes your
new life will bring you nothing short of absolute bliss. Sometimes your heart
will swell with such joy that you fear it may burst. Sometimes your heart will
ache with the pain you cause and with the pain caused to you.
Sometimes you will find sweet fellowship with others who cherish marriage,
though sometimes you may feel that you’re the only one(s) trying to honor your
commitments. Just know that you’re not alone,
that others love marriage as much as you do and that marriage can be better
than you ever imagined when you were single. You’ll cry tears of disappointment,
anger, fear, happiness, affection, and gratefulness, just as we all do. Remember
that in spite of numerous declarations you’ll hear to the contrary, marriage
can be enriching, empowering,
and full
of love.

Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice after all. Never
take your marriage or your spouse for granted. Revel in the bliss, grow through
the heartache, laugh through everything, and always
keep your focus on God.

Sincerely,

Curt

 

On birthdays, both happy and not

I celebrated my birthday this past Saturday. The day marked the beginning of
my 33d year on this earth, and it didn’t depress me a bit. There have been times
when I have found June 26 to be a day more appropriately devoted to mourning
than
celebration, but this year I felt content about my life and excited about the
future.

In my childhood and adolescence, my birthday actually marked the passage of
significant life events, mainly the graduation from one level of schooling
to the next. Since my birthday fell during summer vacation, it always signified
to me that one chapter of my life had closed while another was about to begin.
That changed during my third (of seven) year of undergraduate study. At the
age of 20, I could not imagine my life going anywhere good, or really anywhere
at all. Four difficult years of college had brought me no closer to earning
a degree than two good years would have (due to a few school transfers, a change
of major, a slew of bad grades, and some personal difficulties). I had been
working at low-paying manual labor jobs. I had one friend who lived a thousand
miles away (2,500 km, I think) but none where I lived. I felt like I had no
real home, having moved too many times to grow roots. You know the uncertain
man James mentions
whose doubts cause him to be tossed about like foam on the waves? That was
me. At that point in my life, a birthday served only to remind
me that my previous year had been as stagnant as a land-locked, algae-filled
swamp, and that the next year held little promise of anything better.

I remember one particular birthday—my 23d, I think—when the future Mrs. Happy
took me to a Cajun restaurant for my birthday. At that time, it had not occurred
to me that she would make an amazing wife even though I already loved her ("as
a friend," I insisted even to myself) more than I had ever loved anyone. She
beamed for the entire evening, such was her joy for life and for me. The sight
of her almost sufficed to enliven my pathetic existence, and even though I
appreciated her efforts I was too caught up in my own perceived misery
to enjoy the attention. The cycle of yearly stagnation and birthday depression
repeated itself for five years.

If I remember correctly, 1997 (No. 25) was the first happy birthday of my
adult life. My Happy Best Friend had earned a Bachelor’s degree, and I would
received mine in December of that year. We held hands on the day of her graduation,
sort of coming to a mutual realization of a love deeper than friendship. I
still had no ideas about a career or life after college, but I had grown enough
in faith to trust the future to God. Since then, I have made a conscious effort
to progress in life every year so that the arrival of my birthday would mark
a sort of milestone the way it did in my childhood, only better. I still experience
doldrums, of course, but one of the joys of my marriage is that I have someone
to help me out of the stagnant times. I also have the privilege of helping
her out of her own funks when they occur. It’s true what the book of Ecclesiastes says:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For
if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone
when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together,
they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" I thank God for her. She
makes my birthdays happier than ever.

Marriage links for last week

I’d like to thank everyone who e-mailed me birthday wishes. The day was wonderful.
I was just going to skip the links for last week, but the blogosphere had some
marriage posts too good to ignore, so here they are:

Stacy reflects on her attitudes toward her husband and ponders what
it would mean to honor him
in a Godly fashion.

Joe Missionary (another blogger I’ll add to my sidebar when I get a chance
to fiddle with my template) wrote last week about a
husband’s influence in a marriage
. What he wrote went nicely with my
post on the subject
, though we each wrote independently.

Jeremy at Parableman offers a stringent test for young couples to see whether
they’re ready
to have children
. Funny, but in many ways living with a small child seems
a lot like being a bachelor.

Rey sends up a prayer
for his son
as he grows.

This has nothing to do with marriage, but with my other passion: dogs. It’s
a story about how a
puppy was able to prevent
a Canadian man from going on
a killing rampage with a car full of guns and ammo.

 

Happy day

On Saturdays, I usually collect links from other blogs and from the news and publish them here under the title Marriage links for the week. Today, however, is my 32d birthday, so I’m taking the day off. If you know of a blog post or news story that celebrates marriage, please share it in the comments. Otherwise, have a great weekend.

His and Hers XV

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage.
On Friday,
my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s topic. I invite other bloggers
to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This
week’s question is:

What is the worst experience you have ever had in a
fast food restaurant?

Curt’s response

Earlier today, we visited a local restaurant that combines three stores into
one front: Togo’s (sub sandwiches), Baskin Robbins (ice cream), and Dunkin
Donuts (donuts). As we arrived at the counter to order, a young man asked
us what we would like. Mrs.
Happy said she wanted a bowl of chicken and rice
soup. It was the soup of the day, and a sign directly over the counter
declared it the soup of the day, but the young man stared
at us in confusion, as if my wife were speaking an alien language. "Chicken
sandwich?" he asked. "No," she replied, clearly and firmly, "chicken and
rice soup." She
pointed to the sign that said "Soup of the Day: Chicken and Rice." That confused
him even more, and he rushed away from the register to speak to a woman in
the food preparation area (a good 30 feet or 12 meters away).
They conferred for several seconds, then he looked up in our direction and
shook his head, which we took to mean that they had no soup left. He made
no move to
return to the register, and seemed to expect us to move to the counter nearest
to him.

So we walked over to him. My wife told him that she would like a chicken
Caesar salad instead. The words "chicken Caesar salad" being part of the same
alien language as "chicken and rice soup," we received another stare of blankness
and vague panic from the man behind the counter. After Mrs. Happy repeated
her order twice more, the young man was able to find his manager and
determine that the chicken Caesar salad was indeed still available, though
he omitted the word "Caesar" every time he spoke of the "chicken salad" we
had ordered—this worried us a little since of the three salads offered by Togo’s,
three were variations of chicken and salad. The manager assembled the
salad, then said, "Okay, well the problem is I only have
one
packet of
Caesar
dressing.
I have
some
Thousand
Island and
some Ranch…" I failed to see why that was a problem since one salad requires
only one packet of dressing, but Mrs. Happy prefers Ranch over Caesar anyway,
so that’s what she got.

The young man took the salad and returned to the bank of cash registers, all
three of which at that time were occupied by customers and cashiers. He handed
the salad to one cashier, mumbled something in her ear while pointing at us,
and walked away. So we stood in line behind people who had arrived after us
and waited. When we finally stood face-to-face with
the cashier, she said, "Okay, that’ll be $6.47." I replied, in a testier-than-usual
tone, "Can I have a sandwich?" This flustered her and incited the same
look of incomprehension and subtle fear that the young man had mastered so
well. She pressed a few random keys
on
her register, then asked, "What kind of sandwich would you like?" I had decided
on a sandwich called the Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich, which combined roasted
chicken, pesto sauce, marinated tomatoes, and melted provolone cheese on a
toasted bun, so I said, "I’ll have the six-inch Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich."

"Okay. What size?" she asked.

I repeated, "Six-inch."

"A large?"

The posted menu did not include size labels such as small, medium, regular, large, x-large, biggie,
or lard-butt, so
I simply repeated, "Six-inch."

"What do you want on it?"

"What does it come with?"

"Uh…" This stammer was accompanied by the patented Togo’s
stare
®. I pointed to the posted menu that described the sandwich I had ordered.
"I want everything it says there," I said.

She nodded as if she finally understood and pressed some keys on the register.
She then said, "Okay, that comes to—" but my wife interrupted her tersely:
"We’d also like some drinks."

Again, we had caught her off guard. "Oh. You want drinks?" she asked
as she
fumbled with the register. Mrs. Happy said, "I’d like a small
iced caramel
swirl latte." The woman asked, "What size?" After a second’s hesitation, Mrs.
Happy responded, "Small." Before she could total everything up, I said, "And
I’d like a small soda." "What kind?" she asked. It was my turn to be caught
off guard. Togo’s is one of those places that has a self-serve fountain for
sodas, and I hadn’t yet examined it to see the choices it offered. I repeated,
"Just a small soda." The woman insisted on clarification, "What kind?" I pointed
to the self-serve fountain and said, "Whatever kind is in that fountain over
there." The Togo’s stare again flashed across her face. "Oh.
I’ll just give you a cup then," she said, finding the perfect solution. I would
later discover that the soda fountain had no ice. I had to get someone behind
the counter to put some
ice in my cup for me.

Fast forward ten minutes. We got our food and we
got our drinks, and we paid nearly $18 for them. As I sat down at a table
and pulled my sandwich out of the carry-out bag (which they gave us
even though
we
were eating
at
the
tables),
I found
a twelve-inch roasted chicken sandwich. I looked at my receipt and found that
they had charged me $7.50 for the sandwich when I had ordered a $4.95 six-inch
sandwich. Fast forward another five minutes, during which I stood alone at
the cash registers being ignored by the workers. I finally got to talk to a
competent manager who refunded me three dollars and let me keep all 12 inches
of the
sandwich.

I noticed on the menu that adding $1.50 to a sandwich purchase entitled a
customer to a drink and a bag of chips. As I was walking away, I
saw on my receipt that the price of my small soda was
$1.62. I grabbed a bag of chips, ignored the prominently-placed and offensive-to-my-taste
tip jar, and never looked back.

Mrs. Happy’s response

There was one time at Wendy’s that I ordered a "cheeseburger, with lettuce
and cheese only" and received a slice of cheese and a leaf of lettuce between
two buns, with no hamburger patty. But I think the Togo’s experience tops that.

Impact, effect, mark, imprint

Today I was planning to write about the importance of influence in marriage.
I was going to say that a husband should influence his wife by his good behavior.
I was going to provide some examples from my own marriage of how I influence
my wife. But trying to discern my positive influences on Mrs. Happy was quite
a humbling experience.

If influence means "to indirectly or intangibly affect
a person or course of events," then I’m hard pressed to pinpoint any influence
flowing from me to her. I know that I provide daily encouragement, expressions
of
love,
and
practical
help, but do my good habits inspire imitation in her life?
My bad habits certainly do. My good habits often incite a response, but is
that the same thing as influence? Maybe the wife naturally possesses more influence
than the husband in the relationship. Maybe she does, but shouldn’t. Maybe
that’s what got Adam and Eve all confused in the first place. Maybe modern
husbands should try to overcome Adam’s influence on humanity.

I’m rambling. I do that when I’m confused. Any comments from older, wiser,
more seasoned husbands would be welcome.

RLTBâ„¢

Real life trumped blogging so completely yesterday that I didn’t even have
time to write an RLTB post.
Today, life is still holding a hand full of trump, but I managed to squeak in
a short blurb here. I’ll take this opportunity to draw attention to a recently
discovered (by me, anyway) blogger in New York named Kevin
McCullough
. He’s
a columnist and radio talk show host who I linked on Saturday because of a
post he had written about the science of monogamy. He sent me an e-mail that
encouraged me quite a bit:

I was quite impressed with your blog. Thanks for giving me the plug on yours.
As a talk show host one of the things I emphasize all the time is the need
to strengthen marriage in our world today. I feel very  good about
adding you as a blogroll bud to the KMC blog list.

I sign off my show in NYC everyday
by saying – "Guys – go home tonight,
kiss your wife, play with your kids, and be the ‘Kind of man, Every man should
be!’ – Because in doing so you go further to change the world than anyone else." I’ve
been signing off that way for four years – its a good reminder to myself
as well.

I’ll be adding his site to the list of links on the left as soon as I get
some time to mess with my template. In the mean time, check out his site and
the others as well. They’re all good reads.

More links

I missed some links on Saturday due to my performing research on two different
computers
and not e-mailing the results to myself. I don’t want these to go unnoticed,
so here they are. Consider this sort of a Marriage Carnival.

Brutally Honest Rick tells his own love story on the occasion of his 23d
wedding anniversary
.

Miss O’Hara laments the state of modern weddings and reflects on how many
of them cheapen
the meaning of the ceremony
and possibly the meaning of marriage
itself.

Messy Christian relates the love story of a couple from two different countries
during World War II. As she says, "if there’s one thing to be learnt, it is
that love can happen during the
most difficult times
."

Kevin McCullough shares a news item regarding what could be a
scientific, biological cure
for infidelity and promiscuity.

Another Kevin (Leman, this time), in a Christianity Today article, outlines
the concrete reasons a
good sex life is worth forethought
as well as foreplay.

 

Marriage links for the week

Finding herself facing an elegantly circular dilemma, Katy asks for advice
on giving advice to engaged couples
.
Her commenters come through for her.

Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping offers the opinion that the producers
of the new movie The Stepford Wives sort of misses the point when
it comes to modern relationships
. He later posts a reader’s e-mail about
how his earlier post missed
the point as well
.

Check out Rick’s story about his wife’s close
encounter with a dragonfly
. A sense of humor about yourself is one of the
most important skills for coping with life.

Statedog Blake reminisces about his honeymoon as he, his wife, and his child
revisit the same area on a vacation.

According to an article at ABCnews.com, a friendship with a member of the
opposite sex can cross a moral line and become an emotional
affair
. Link via Marriages
Restored
.

A newspaper columnist reflects on the
nature of romance
as he looks back on
two years of marriage.

Another columnist advises Tiger Woods to call
off his impending wedding
. I
link to this because it’s sort of funny and sort of sad and completely ignorant
and moronic.

In my earlier post about the joy that dogs bring to the world, I was remiss
in not pointing out that Messy Christian has a
blog dedicated entirely to her dog
.

His and Hers XIV

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I
post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I didn’t do that this week). On Friday,
my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers
to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This
week’s question is:

What song reminds you of your spouse every time you
hear it?

Mrs. Happy’s response

When Curt and I were just friends, we were best friends. He treated me with
so much kindness and affection that I grew to love him more deeply than I had
ever loved any other friend. I listened to a lot of Jewel back then, and when
I heard the song Near You Always, I realized that I was in love with
him. I knew, however, that he didn’t feel the same way about me (hah) so I
had to
guard my emotions with every ounce of will I possessed. He didn’t make it any
easier, though, because he never stopped treating me as though I were a lovely
and precious human being. Near You Always always made me think of Curt, and
I still do. The difference is that now I can completely omit the word don’t from
the lyrics.

Near You Always

Please don’t say I love you,
those words touch me much too deeply
and they make my core tremble
Don’t think you realize the effect you have over me
Please don’t look at me like that
It just makes me want to make you near me always
Please don’t kiss me so sweet
it makes me crave a thousand kisses to follow
And please don’t touch me like that
makes every other embrace seem pale and shallow
And please don’t come so close
it just makes me want to make you near me always
Please don’t bring me flowers
they only whisper the sweet things you’d say
Don’t try to understand me
your hands already know too much anyway
It just makes me want to make you near me always
And when you look in my eyes
please know my heart is in your hands
It’s nothing that I understand, but when in your arms
you have complete power over me
So be gentle if you please, ’cause
Your hands are in my hair, but my heart is in your teeth
And it makes me want to make you near me always
Your hands are in my hair, but my heart is in your teeth
And it makes me want to make you near me always
I want to be near you always
I want to be near you always
I want to be near you always

Curt’s response

When I was in high school, I had a girlfriend. I dated her not because I loved
being around her but because I was lonely and I thought having a girlfriend
would solve that. It didn’t. But I still behaved the way I thought a boyfriend
should behave, which meant that I often told her I loved her. It was a complete
lie, but I didn’t realize it until after we broke up. Once I understood the
weight of those words, I vowed to myself never to tell any woman I loved her
until I was ready to marry her. It wasn’t that difficult, because I never even
felt like saying that to any woman until I grew to love the woman who
would eventually become my wife. There was a period of a year or more when
I could have truthfully said to her, "I love you," and I desperately wanted
to say those words—at the time, I just wasn’t ready to marry
her yet. I did tell her about my personal
vow, hoping that she would realize my feelings without hearing that verbal
expression of them, but I didn’t tell her I loved her.

When I proposed, I serenaded my beloved with the song Do I Love You by
Cole Porter. During a musical interlude in the song, I told her I loved her
over and over again. I continued telling her throughout the evening. Since
then, not a day has passed without my saying, "I love you." Whenever I hear
that song, I think of her and of what a relief it was to finally give voice
to my passion.

Do I Love You?

Do I love you do I?
Doesn’t one and one make two?
Do I love you do I?
Does July need a sky of blue?
Would I miss you, would I, if you ever should go away?
If the sun should desert the day, what would life be?
Will I leave you, never?
Could the ocean leave the shore?
Will I worship you forever?
Isn’t heaven forevermore?
Do I love you, do I?
Oh my dear it’s so easy to see,
Don’t you know I do, don’t I show you I do,
Just as you love me.

Will I leave you, never?
Could the ocean leave the shore?
Will I worship you forever?
Isn’t heaven forevermore?
Do I love you, do I?
Oh my dear it’s so easy to see,
Don’t you know I do, don’t I show you I do,
Just as you love me.