Saturday, September 06, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

Wow. A couple decides not to kiss, ever, until the minister at their wedding gives them permission. I think that's probably the healthiest, most impossibly difficult way to handle physical contact in a romantic relationship. I'll say it again: Wow.

Premarital counseling really helps prepare a couple for marriage. My wife and I went through six weeks of premarital counseling with a Christian psychologist, and it prevented of loads of grief and conflict that would have arisen later on.

This is the kind of attitude that can ruin people's lives. Marriage is sort of like a garden: If you do it right, the rewards surpass every possible alternative—but if you can't commit, you're better off eating Ramen alone every night.

People who lost spouses to terror attacks deal with the excruciating issue of whether and when to begin dating again. (New York Times, free registration required.)

76 years. Incredible.

75 years and still gardening.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Reality TV update  

If reality TV can inspire a man to sit on a live firecracker, then it can also make someone believe that Who Wants To Marry My Dad? and Meet My Folks is a good format for finding a lifelong mate.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Wedding vows  

Today's society places a huge emphasis on freedom: of speech, of thought, of action, of any kind of expression. This attitude allows all sorts of horrible happenings, but it also (in many cases) allows good things that might be squelched in other cultures that care less about freedom. Sometimes, though, the idea of freedom becomes "freedom for the sake of freedom," and it can stifle good and meaningful traditions.

Take wedding vows, for example. People of my generation (I'm 31) tend to use wedding vows as a medium for expressing the intense emotions they feel for an imminent spouse. Instead of reciting the same old vows with the same old words that thousands of other couples have used, marrying couples now state their own feelings to demonstrate to each other and to all witnesses the depth of their feelings.

Personally, I see this as a case of freedom for the sake of freedom. The tradition of wedding vows serves a more meaningful purpose than a mere expression of love. Traditions allow individuals to personally invest in something larger than any single person or couple. My wife and I used traditional vows (minus the King James English) at our wedding:

Minister: John, do you take Jane to your lawfully wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto her, as long as you both shall live?

John: I do.

Minister: Jane, do you take this Man to your lawfully wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Do you promise to you love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto him, as long as you both shall live?

Jane: I do.

Later, as we exchanged rings, we said the following:

I, John, take you, Jane, to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

I, Jane, take you, John, to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

I have never heard any personal vows express lifelong devotion quite as well. We wanted to use traditional vows because we had heard them at previous weddings, and hopefully we will continue to hear them at future weddings. The vows I heard spoken at prior weddings made me think about exactly what being married meant. The vows I will hear at weddings in years to come will remind me of the vows I took and reinforce the power of the words.

Whenever I hear a couple taking the same vows that I took, I remember taking them myself. I remember seeing my wife standing in front of me, looking more like an angel than a mortal woman. I remember the overwhelming happiness that we felt from everyone around us. I remember that I pledged my life to her that day. That doesn't happen when I hear something like "My beloved, romance may fade, but true love endures. I choose to truly love you, with kindness, faithfulness, and respect, through every circumstance that life may bring."

Touching, meaningful, romantic sentiments work well in private moments. But for a public wedding, traditional vows express and celebrate the marriage covenant and allow a couple to invest in and perform a vital role in a holy institution larger than themselves and their own thoughts.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Quality time vs. Blog time  

I haven't been able to spend much time with my wife today, nor have I had any real chance to blog. Now I have a choice. Do I write an insightful, in-depth post, or do I hang out with Mrs. Happy? Hmm…

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Forgiveness and Apologies  

There's been a liveley discussion here and here over at One Hand Clapping concerning the issue of Christian forgiveness. People leaving comments to the two posts seem to want to be able to forgive people while reserving the right to punish offenders and harbor bad feelings toward them. I left a few comments myself, but I don't think anyone took me seriously. This is the gist of what I said:

As Christians, our model of forgiveness (and pretty much everything else) is Jesus. He was falsely accused, beaten, tortured, publicly ridiculed, stripped naked, and put to death on a cross, but with His dying breaths He asked God to forgive the people who put Him there. His death paid for all sins, including the sins people commit against me. I have offended God more than any man could ever offend me, and He has forgiven me of everything. How then can I refuse to forgive anyone? Jesus taught absolute, total, unending forgiveness for anything and everything. It's contrary to human nature, but if we aspire to a Christ-like nature, then we have to rise above our natural impulses of hatred and vengeance.

Anyway, the principle of forgiveness applies especially to a marriage relationship. My wife and I have offended each other more times than we can count. Without forgiveness we wouldn't have lasted through our engagement, much less 5+ years of marriage. This point seems obvious, but people still miss it: If you want to have a close relationship with your wife, you cannot let any hard feelings sit and fester, which means you must forgive everything she does that hurts you. She must also forgive everything you do to hurt her.

My wife's complete Christ-like forgiveness, though, does not give me a license to do anything I want and lay the blame on her when she can't let go of some pain that I've caused. First, I need to work to make my hurtful actions a rare exception rather than a rule. That builds trust and makes forgiveness easier. Second, when I screw up I need to apologize and change my ways. (This article provides some advice on that.) Here's something I've learned to keep in mind when apologizing: Try to refrain from using the words "but" and "you." Phrases within apologies that contain those words usually nullify the part that starts with "I'm sorry."

Update: Mrs. Happy just reminded me that a married couple should resolve any angry or harmful conflict before falling asleep. We've had a few sleepless nights adhering to that rule, but trust me when I say it's better than having feelings that fester.

Monday, September 01, 2003

U.S. Open  

I'm sort of a homebody, what my geek friends call a "hobbit." Taking a trip or attending some big event always brings out my latent insecurity by the truckload. I have an irrational fear whenever I approach an airline ticket counter or a hotel check-in desk, or hand my event ticket to an usher, that I will be greeted with a condescending stare and a command to go away and stop wasting everyone's time. Consequently, I tend to favor activities close to home.

My wife, however, is more of an adventurer. It never occurs to her that we might drive across the country to Wally World only to find it closed for repairs. So when a friend of hers gave her a pair of complimentary tickets to Sunday evening's matches at the U.S. Open, she was thrilled. I was nervous, and I stayed nervous and slightly irritable until we were in our seats, fourth row from the top of Arthur Ashe stadium.

We saw No. 1 seed Kim Clijsters (from Belgium) beat Meghann Shaughnessy (U.S.) in two sets, despite the fact that Shaughnessy had the crowd behind her. We also saw No. 2 seed Roger Federer (Switzerland) defeat unseeded James Blake (Yonkers) in three sets, though the battle was hard-fought. Blake has charisma, physical presence, wild hair, real heart, a fiercely competitive spirit, and a home in New York, all of which made the crowd adore him. There were so many close games, games that went on for no fewer than 20 points, that the match seemed to go much longer than three sets. It was exciting, and I was a little hoarse after all the shouting I did. Mrs. Happy and I both had a great time.

Sometimes it's good to let your wife drag you out of your comfort zone.

This is how you see the Blake/Federer match from the nosebleed seats.