Marriage links for the week

Ben Wilson celebrates 20
years of marriage
with Ann and ponders the value of
forgiveness, redemption, and respect in marriage.

Both Steve Lynch and Imago
Dei
bemoan the evolution of wedding vows from "Til death do us part" to "As
long as our love shall last." They say that’s no vow at all, and I agree.

The official record holders for world’s oldest living married couple, certified
by Guiness, are Herb
and Magda Brown
. He is 105, she is 100, and they
have been married 74 years
. Another couple
in France
could conceivably make that claim themselves, but I suppose such
hair-splitting is for the young.

I don’t want to be judgmental, but sometimes I can’t help it. I know there’s
no way of knowing what two people go through before a divorce. It just seems
that if a guy can contract testicular cancer, undergo surgery, receive chemotherapy
treatments that push him to the brink of death, then win the Tour de France
seven times in a row, he would have enough perseverance to keep
a marriage together for more than five years
. (Thanks to Amy
Scott
for the link.)

Bowden McElroy talks about the third and fourth (in a series) triggers for
marital arguments: cumulative
annoyance
and rejection.

Brian writes about 13
years with his wife
over at reasons
why
. (ht: CoffeeSwirls)

An article at Catholic Exchange discusses the
odd tendency in men
to treat
their wives well when life is going poorly, then do basically the opposite
when they find success. (ht: Ryan’s Head)

Jason Berggren challenges the idea of compatibility and endorses making the
choice to love your spouse. It’s a cliche, yes, but absolutely
true
.

Here’s an interview
with Gary Smalley
.

ireneQ has a wacky e-mail address, and she uses it to weed
out potential suitors
with no sense of humor.

I don’t often get theological on my blog, but a light meal brings out a different
side of me
. I should know better than to talk to Rey about theology, since
he makes me a heretic by association (at least as far as his commenters are
concerned).

His and Hers: How full a quiver?

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 others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage.

How many children do you want to have eventually?

Mrs. Happy’s response

I’ve always thought that two kids would be ideal, especially if the two were
a boy and a girl, though I think I could live with three. Now that I’m pregnant,
however, I’m going to wait to see how this one turns out before making any
firm decisions.

Curt’s response

Short answer: 3

Long answer: I have one younger (by 4.5 years) sister and no brothers. That
was a great arrangement in our childhood, because we had a lot of fun together
and
in
my relationship with her I learned how to love sacrificially and unconditionally.
I think the presence of a third sibling could possibly even intensify the
love and companionship inherent in that bond (a
cord of three strands
and all
that). On the other hand, I’d be kind of afraid if my children were to
outnumber my hands. As my wife so wisely said, we’ll just see how this one
turns out.

Audience participation

I received another contribution to the Where We’re From page today (from Julie,
who also has a blog).
Newer readers may not realize that I welcome—nay, desire—contributions
to that page. You may also be unaware that I enjoy hearing individual love
stories, stories of how a couple met, fell in love, and married. Love stories
are as varied
as the individuals involved, and they are always compelling. So if you type
out your personal love story
and mail it to me (happy at atimelikethis dot net), I’ll publish it here as an encouragement to others as well
as myself.

TEX revisited

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for Peachwater,
Texas
. I’m not
sure how many people clicked through, but I get the feeling from talking to
Jeff (Peachwater’s webmaster) that it wasn’t many. The topic of the post is
close to my heart, so I’m taking this opportunity to republish it
here, with a few minor revisions. Even if you don’t entirely identify with
this particular experience of mine, maybe you will at least find it interesting
or entertaining.


In the summer of 1994, I moved from Greenville (a city in Northeast Texas)
to the city of Austin. I was 22 years old, full of angst and devoid of hope.
I
intended
to
stay for
three months and then return to Greenville. I had been attending East Texas
State University for three semesters, and for a
change
of
scenery
I
decided to transfer to The University of Texas at Austin. That was a monumental
decision for me. To explain exactly how I felt about the transfer, and about
life in general at the time, would drive
readers away from this site out of maddening boredom. Suffice
it to say that I felt all alone in the world, with no real home and
with no
friend
who
understood
me.

So I transferred—another epic ordeal whose explanation would drive readers
away. I took the step in an attempt to improve my lot in life, but I still
felt empty and isolated. Registration at UT was done by phone at the time,
so I figured out what classes I needed and made the call. I expected that the
automated registration system would engender the same sort of frustration and
phone-banging that most of them do, so I prepared myself mentally, knowing
the process would take only 30 minutes at most. I was entirely unprepared
for what actually happened.

When I called, I didn’t even hear a tone indicating the ringing of a phone
on the other end. I just heard a soft click, and the kindest, most generous
grandfatherly
voice
in the world say, "Welcome to TEX, the Telephone Enrollment eXchange for
The University of Texas at Austin. TEX is now registering classes for the…fall
semester." Although TEX was
an acronym for the phone registration system, not one student in the 50,000
at UT thought of TEX as a program. TEX was a person.
He was a gentle old soul who guided and supported us all in some of the most
stressful times in a difficult education. The inevitable mid-sentence pauses
that occur with automated phone systems added distinctiveness to his personality
rather
than drawing attention to the fact that he was merely a recording.

Take for instance the way he would let you know that a particular class was
added to your schedule. He would say, "Class…number……3…1…5…1…5………has
been added." In the silence between the final number and the ultimate
verdict, your mind raced with possibilities. Will the class be added? Will
I have to try
a different section? Will I have to find a completely different class? What’s
going to become of the rest of my life?! But TEX always offered reassurance
in the way only he could. That pregnant pause never failed to raise my fears,
and TEX never failed to calm them. This always happened in spite of the fact
that when a class was full, he would simply say "This class was not added"
without repeating the five-digit number. Even then, he softened the blow with
a
simultaneously
apologetic
and
encouraging tone.

I can’t really explain the effect that voice has on those who hear
it. The soft central Texas drawl combined with statesmanlike intonations
just make you feel like you had an ally in your registration efforts. And he
ended every phone call with the eternally comforting words, "Good-bye
and…good luck." Though TEX will be disconnected on Friday, July 15, I will
hear those words in my mind until the day I die.

If you’re so inclined, you can give TEX one last call at (512) 475-9950.

Superbaby!(?)

When Mrs. Happy and I lived in Texas, we had an opportunity one day to visit
a traveling art exhibit at the Amon
Carter Museum
in Fort Worth.
The exhibit explored the personal and artistic ties
between Picasso and Matisse. At one point during our tour, I was examining
one of Matisse’s masterpieces when a young man holding a baby approached and
stood
barely
a foot away from the painting. I thought it strange that he wanted to examine
the painting that closely, but I thought it even more strange that he seemed
more interested in the baby than in Matisse. I heard a female voice behind
me say, obviously through clenched teeth, "What…are…you…doing?!"

The young man looked up from the baby, slightly startled. He looked confused,
but said, "I’m getting him close so he can see the colors." The woman quickly
stepped forward and grabbed him firmly by the sleeve. "No!" she said, yanking
her husband several feet and screaming quietly at him while trying unsuccessfully
to not draw any attention. "At three months he can see the colors fine from
six feet away."

I couldn’t believe
it.
Here were two young parents hoping to stimulate their baby’s brain and pave
his neural pathway to artistic genius simply by exposing him to two twentieth-century
masters. As if that would do anything. What a couple of freaks, I thought.
I gave the woman credit for at least having the presence of mind to be embarrassed
about
the
whole thing,
but still—what a freak.

Since then, I’ve seen parents pushing their kids into insane activities. I’ve
heard of parents doing even more insane things before their babies are even
born just so that the kids will grow up brilliant and talented. I have always
rolled my eyes (inwardly, at least) at such shenanigans. Let children be children,
I think. There’ll be plenty of time for accomplishments later.

So I’m sorry to say that I’m slowly becoming one of "those" parents. Oh, my
child will redefine brilliance and talent. He will be the neural surgeon/architect/novelist/triathlon
champion/concert pianist that the world has been anticipating ever since Thomas
Jefferson and Leonardo Da Vinci failed to live up to their true potential.
He will be the superhero who calls himself Renaissance Man. And I’m
not just trusting in genetics for this. I have strategies for building mind,
body, and
spirit
beyond
what
the
world
has
ever
seen—strategies
so ridiculous
and irrational that I will not speak them aloud for fear of derision and
laughter from friends and
passers-by, on top of the inevitable objections from my own wife. I’m afraid I will have to execute my plan in secret. I, at least,
have the presence of mind to be embarrassed about the whole thing.

Marriage links for the week

Jollyblogger offers some advice on how
to survive
while the wife is out of town for a week.

Jollyblogger also marvels at a rich man who thinks women
won’t marry him
because he’s unattractive, saying, "I’ve got to
the point where I have even been asking women I am meeting in the streets
to marry me, but they always say no."

From Doug at CoffeSwirls:
"Parents, do something with your children on a regular basis. Raise them
up to serve the Lord. No matter how they turn out, they will
always look to these good ole days as the formative years that shaped them
into who they will be."

Steve Lynch continues his review of the book Covenant Marriage with
thoughts about the connection
between communication and intimacy
.

Bowden McElroy talks about how unfair
demands
can trigger arguments in a marriage.

Marla lists the ways in which she
and her husband are opposites
, and how they
fit together like a beautiful puzzle.

King of Fools tells how he lost
his wedding ring
and found it again…twice.

When I was in sixth grade, the only worthwhile thing I learned in school was
how to diagram a sentence. I loved diagramming sentences, and in my entire
life I’ve met only one other person who could say the same. But Bryan posted a favorable link to a
grammar Web site
this week, and in the process became
sort of a kindred spirit for me.

His and Hers: Childhood perception

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 others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage.

What’s something you forgot to include in the post
about childhood misperceptions?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Mr. Rogers used to talk to me through the television. He was very nice and
treated me like I really special. I also thought Sesame
Street
was a place
that you could visit. The theme song even asked "can you tell me how to get"
there.

Curt’s response

An angel lived in the clock in my house (in the center of the clock face where
the hands come together). Another angel lived at the corner
of my dining table. Angels were everywhere,
in fact.
Everywhere
two
lines come
together, an angel lives. I knew this because I read a book from my school
library about angels, except in that book it was spelled angles.

A slightly random thought

I can’t believe in evolution because I accidentally bite my own lip at least once a week. I doubt that any of my supposed evolutionary ancestors are that inept when they eat.

A slightly morbid thought

There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where everyone talks
about who their spouse should marry if they die. (Sorry for the poorly constructed
sentence there, what with the abundance of pronouns and the confusing mesh
of antecedents, but I’m too tired to fix it. Hopefully the meaning is clear
anyway.) So I asked my wife who she thought I should marry if she dies. We
discussed several options, but I don’t think any of them would really work
out. I couldn’t come up with even a passable option for her upon the event
of my death. I mean, I’m not really good enough for her myself, and there’s
no one better for her than me.

I can’t imagine marrying someone else if my wife dies before I do, but I don’t
want to be alone. I can’t stand the thought of my wife marrying someone else,
but I don’t want her to be alone if I die before she does. Meh. Death fulfills
the obligation
of the marriage vows. I
figure
the
one
who’s
dead
won’t care one way or the other.

Worth the paper it’s printed on?

When I was a child, I used to sit and think a lot. While other kids ran around
doing things, I would sit and think. Sometimes I would imagine, sometimes I
would ponder, and sometimes I would follow a stream of consciousness. One particular
scenario I often thought about was what would happen if I were stranded on
an uncharted desert island with no hope of rescue, and what if the only other
person on the island were a woman. Would we try to carve out a comfortable
life? Would we focus all our efforts on leaving the island? Would we build
a house in the trees and train monkeys to be butlers?

As I got older, the questions grew in number, of course. How would we get
food if we had no weapons? How would we get water if there were no natural
streams? Would the woman even like me? One question that bothered me more than
any other, though, was this: Could we marry if there were no one to marry us
and no license to make it legal? And if not, would it still be a sin for us
to have sex?

I thought of this when I read the following interview (excerpted) by the Associated
Press with Johnny Depp (via FamilyScholars.org):

AP: You’ve been in a relationship for many years now, so what’s the secret?

Depp: Trust, have fun, respect for one and other. Respect
for one another’s privacy. Respect for what the other person does in their
chosen profession.
Obviously
a whole lot of love. Vanessa was like a bolt of lightning.

AP: So she knocked
you out?

Depp: Well yeah, because there were no pretensions. She has her
success on her own terms and when we met it wasn’t like she was anything
other than
this sweet,
cool, funny girl. I’d never experienced anything like that before. She
gave me these two beautiful kids.

AP: Is marriage an option? What does
it mean to you?

Depp: Marriage can be whatever you define it as. For example,
I don’t feel like I need a piece of paper that says I own her and she owns
me. I
think signing
a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of God or in the
eyes of people. The thing is, if you are together and you love each other
and are good to each
other, make babies and all that, for all intents and purposes you
are married.

I should say that at some point in my teens I came to the conclusion that
if no other human being were around, God could serve as a witness between two
people who pledge their lives to one another. (And lest anyone think me altogether
holy, I should also confess that at some point in my teens, my desert island
imaginings
became
decidedly less
innocent.)
Furthermore, if two people make such a vow, they are married in the eyes
of God and may
live
together
as husband
and wife the way he intended. In that respect, I would agree with Mr. Depp,
that a piece of paper in and of itself doesn’t actually "mean anything." The
fact that so many people have that paper and choose to ignore it further undermines
its objective value.

I think the value lies not so much in the paper as it does in the vows, and
here’s where Scissorhands and I part company. If marriage "can be whatever
you define it as," then it has no meaning at all. Sure, married people can
be together and love each other and make babies, etc., but I think that without
mutual ownership, there’s no actual marriage because marriage means giving
yourself completely to someone else.

Weddings and legal recognition are important to society because they reinforce
the validity and value of marriage. Vows and the keeping of them are important
to couples, individuals, and God, because that’s where the true meaning and
benefit of marriage lie.

[Jesus] answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from
the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall
leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore
God has joined together, let not man separate." Matthew 19:4–6