Saturday, August 23, 2003

Marriage links this week  

College journalist J. J. Babb learns how his (her?) parents have made their marriage thrive for 25 years. A good example of how a strong relationship benefits the children it produces.

Anniversaries in the news
Mildred and Carl Albright of Norcross, Georgia celebrate 60 years.
Ruth and Wally Brown have been married 60 years, with a big, happy family to show for it.
Bill and Fon Ezell went on their first date when they were in 9th and 7th grade, respectively. They're celebrating their 50th anniversary by driving across the country in a 50th anniversary model Corvette.

CBS correspondent Steve Hart periodically throws a dart at a map and pokes his finger into a phone book to find an interview subject on the theory that Everyone Has a Story. Here's a story of a wonderful kind of love. Check out some of his other stories by following the links at the bottom of the page.

In a column in the Washington Post, a young Pakistani woman living in the United States ponders her conflicting feelings about arranged marriage.

Money problems ruin way too many marriages.

Marriage rates are declining. This may be why.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Thoughts on Communication  

Yes, this is a trite subject. Everyone from Dr. Ruth to Oprah has told us that "communication is key." More often than not, that sounds like a rationalization for the female urge to prattle on endlessly about feelings and a condemnation for the lack of such an urge in men. But I do believe it is absolutely vital in any intimate relationship. You have to tell your wife when something bothers you. Just as importantly, you have to tell her when something pleases you. This goes for personal interaction, life in general, world views, everything.

Personal communication is very difficult for me. I communicate fine with groups, but with individual people I have to make a conscious effort. Let me illustrate with a true story (I have to give you some background in order for this to make sense, so bear with me). My nose is chronically congested. Even when my allergies are not flaring, I usually breathe through only one nostril at any given time. When I lie down on my side, all of my congestion drains into the nostril nearer to the floor and I breathe through the nostril nearer the ceiling. That's the background--here's the story. When I lie in bed facing my wife, sometimes she kisses me on the lips. When she does this, she tends to rest her nose on top of mine, thereby closing my only open nostril so that I can't breathe. She did this for a period of months, and I recoiled every time she did, because I like to breathe even during kissing. I used to get so frustrated with her. Finally, one night I thought (quite forcefully), "Why does she keep doing that? It's so uncomfortable!" At that moment, I realized I had never told her about my single-nostril breathing and how her kisses nearly suffocated me. So I told her, and now when she kisses me she's careful not to cut off my air supply.

My point is that one simple bit of communication would have saved me months of frustration and potential anger had it occurred to me to actually tell her about my problem. I could go on, but it boils down to this: Tell your wife how you feel and she won't have to read your mind.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Brainteasers and unconditional love  

The other day while browsing through the archives of Dean’s World I came across a fascinating little nugget of a post called The Brainteaser That Changed My World. I love brain teasers, and this one was especially intriguing:

You find yourself on a game show called "Let's Make A Deal." The game is very simple. There are three doors: door #1, door #2, and door #3. Behind one door is a million dollars. The other two doors contain worthless joke prizes. All you have to do is pick which door you want to open, and you get whatever is behind it. But you only get to open one door. By simple math, then, you obviously have a 1 in 3 chance of picking the correct door and becoming an instant millionaire.

You pick a door. As soon as you tell Monty (the gameshow host) what door you want to open, he stops and says, "Okay, you've made your choice. Now, I'm going to do what we always do here on this game. I'm going to open one of the other two doors for you that I know has a booby prize." And he does so. Then he asks, "Okay, now, would you like to stay with your original guess, or would you like to switch to the other door that's still closed? You only get one shot, so do you want to stay with your original choice, or switch?"

Here's the question: is there any compelling reason to switch doors?

Of course not, I thought. Why would you switch doors? They both have a one in three chance of being correct, or maybe even a one in two chance, but neither has a clear advantage over the other.

But then I had an epiphany and thought, “Yes, by all means switch doors.” Given that you initially choose one door out of three, the door you choose clearly has a one in three chance of being correct. The removed door has a zero in three chance of being correct, which means the third door (the only other door remaining) must have a two in three chance of being correct. Nothing could be more obvious, right?

I explained the problem to a few coworkers, and they all thought I was insane for insisting that it’s best to switch answers. Dance with the one that brung ya, they said, especially when there’s no reason to switch partners, which there’s definitely not. When faced with my irrefutable logic, they said I was arguing semantics, which doesn’t apply to mathematical problems.

I don’t remember the last time so many people told me I was wrong.

So I came home and shared the story with my wife. She too came to the conclusion that switching has no advantage over sticking with your first answer, but nevertheless agreed to help me do a practical test. Before we could perform an experiment, I was able to pick the brain of my father-in-law, a computer programmer who has a degree in math. I thought surely he would agree with my conclusion. But he said the same thing everyone else did: “I see what you’re saying, but I still think you’re wrong.” I should note, however, that my mother-in-law agreed with me. I love her.

Anyway, Mrs. Happy and I set up the experiment. I took three playing cards (taking the place of the three doors, which we don’t have), one of which was the ace of spades (taking the place of the million dollars, which we also don’t have), and placed them face down. She chose one. I removed one of the other two that was definitely not the ace of spades. She then changed her choice, turned over the remaining card, and marked down whether her first choice or second choice was correct. We did that 100 times. The first choice turned up the ace 35 times, and the second choice turned up the ace 65 times. Basically, the first choice has a one in three chance of being correct while switching will win you the money two out of every three times. So basically, I was right and everyone but my mother-in-law was wrong.

Here’s my point: My wife supported me and didn’t try to make me feel stupid even when she thought I was dead wrong. She always left open the possibility that I had come to the right conclusion and even took time out of her busy day to help me perform a tedious test of an inconsequential problem, because it was important to me. That, my friends, is a good wife.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I love being married  

I live in a culture that is hostile to marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. It celebrates weddings, yes, but it also celebrates divorces. Why wouldn’t it? We hear more about happy divorces than we do about happy marriages. And even bitter divorces serve to reinforce the idea that marriage makes people miserable—just think how much worse off those pitiful people would be had they stayed married.

I’m married, I love being married, and I love my wife. I think marriage is a divine gift, the natural state of mankind, the only condition in which all but a very few people can live full lives—the first thing in creation that was not good was man’s aloneness.

It’s difficult, though, because we have no comprehensive set of rules, no manual to cover every situation, no way for both my wife and me to be happy with each other all the time. On top of that, our entertainment media tell us that married people are bitter, bored, and trapped in an existence with no variety, sex, or passion. (Last week I heard a character on a TV show say, “Do you think it’s a coincidence that monogamy rhymes with monotony?”) And then I see the real-life marriages of my friends, family members, and acquaintances fall apart every day, while the new national pastime is finding unique and humorous ways to complain about spouses. It almost seems like a societal conspiracy to discourage contentment.

I’m hoping now to begin undermining the conspirators. On this blog, I plan to celebrate marriage and to communicate things I’ve learned about being married, but mostly to encourage and be encouraged by others who might feel oppressed by the pervasive negative sentiments in our culture.

Marriage: It's a beautiful thing.