Saturday, October 25, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

In the absence of a brutal dictator, love and marriage now thrive in Iraq. This story marks the first time I've seen the word ululation used by anyone other than my friend Mickey. It means "howl or wail."

News, views, and findings about marriage.

Two people find love late in life.

Never assume you're incapable of adultery, because that assumption will disintegrate your defenses and make an affair all the more likely. "Those who assume that only bad people in bad marriages cheat can blind themselves to their own risk." Read the story here.

I've loved every single pet I've ever had, but this is just wrong.

Speaking of pets, take a look at this great photo of Jeff's cat.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The marriage kitchen  

My wife and I share in the housework. One of my main responsibilities is the kitchen. I have to keep the stove and oven clean, sterilize the countertops, sweep and mop the floor, throw out old leftovers, take out the trash, etc. I hate washing dishes more than any other chore, though. I've heard of machines that wash dishes for you, and I hope against hope that they actually exist and that some day I will own one. For now, though, I wash them by hand in the kitchen sink. I usually put it off as long as I possibly can. I know from multiple experiences in my bachelorhood how unpleasant a kitchen can become when I wait too long on that: Mold grows, roaches congregate, mice investigate, and women run away screaming. I haven't let my kitchen get that bad since I got married.

The best, healthiest way to take care of a kitchen and keep it clean is to clean it every day. With a little bit of work every day, I can keep it clean so that mold has no chance to grow, roaches and mice have no reason to wander in, and women have to fumble around for some other excuse to leave. But I'm lazy. I let three or four days' worth of dirty dishes accumulate before I do anything about it. I end up doing a good deal more work washing half a week's dishes all at once than I would have if I had just put a little effort into maintaining a clean kitchen over each of those days.

So is it hard to have a kitchen? Yes. Would I give it up? Never. A kitchen is one of the biggest blessings of modern life. It's where my wife makes chicken pot pie and chocolate chip cookies, two of my favorite sensual experiences. It's where we can converse with friends over a common cooking activity. It's where we can find a bit of comfort in a late-night snack. Without my kitchen, what would I do? I'd have to eat out for every meal, a habit that would deplete my bank accounts and quickly become tedious in spite of the variety of restaurants near my house. I'd have to get all my glasses of water from the bathroom and keep the refrigerator on my porch. I'd lose the social heart of my home. I have to put effort into maintaining my kitchen, but I wouldn't give it up for anything.

I thought about this the other day when I read somewhere that there are two kinds of marriages: bad marriages and hard marriages. Everyone says marriage is hard, that it requires a lot of effort, that trouble and pain and knockdown drag-out fights are par for the course. Every time I hear such a statement, it seems that the speaker or writer is adding under his breath, "…and it's just not worth it."

The truth, though, is that marriage is like a kitchen, only more so. Every day I have to let my wife know how much I love her. I have to build her up, enrich her life, and make her glad to be married to me. This requires effort, sometimes strenuous and difficult effort, but the effort is a joy. If I maintain my relationship with my wife, I find rewards worth more than I ever imagined. If I didn't maintain, things would deteriorate and I would end up with more of a mess than I ever dreamed. So is marriage hard? Yes. Would I give it up? Never. Without my wife, what would I do?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Cold feet  

Seven or eight years ago, on a nippy night in November or December, I stood in the parking lot outside my apartment with The Happy Just-Friend. We used to stand in that parking lot quite a bit, usually at night and regardless of the weather, because I would always walk her to her car at the end of her near-daily visits and it always took us a while to get around to saying good-bye. At those times, we would stand under the stars of the big Texas sky and talk (at that point, yes, we actually did spend all of our good-bye time talking) about anything and everything to delay her leaving. This particular night, we had a conversation about marriage.

She spoke of things she wanted in a husband. I don't remember what they were. I spoke of things I wanted in a wife. I do remember one of the things I said: "I've always wanted a wife who would let me warm my feet on her legs in the winter." (That was on my mind because my feet were cold at the time, their constant state whenever the temperature drops below 60.) So my best Just-Friend looked at me and said, "I would do that." It didn't faze me. I nodded my head, gave her a hug, and said good-night to the fabulous young woman who was just my friend. I really was an ignorant clod.

Anyway, years later The Happy Just-Friend became Mrs. Happy, and she had to make good on her promise. She regretted ever having made it. My feet actually form a more accurate gauge of outside temperatures than inside. In other words, if the temperature in our bedroom holds steady at 70 degrees while snow falls outside, the skin temperature on Mrs. Happy's legs stays somewhere between room temperature and her overall body temperature whereas my feet feel more like the snow. Her legs serve as the perfect heating device for my feet, though, and however much she may dislike my popsicle toes I believe she cherishes the opportunity to warm them.

My hands get pretty cold, too, but I don't have to wait for bedtime to warm them on her back. Every time I do that, she grits her teeth and scrunches her face until my frigid hands make contact with her warm skin, and then she reacts with fairly violent spasms, playful slaps, and finally laughter. Sometimes her hands get cold and she does the same thing to me, and it's just as fun. Please forgive my sappiness, but I love her.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Marriage in the blogosphere  

I don't often see a post about marriage in someone else's blog, but yesterday the Rev. Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping wrote a fairly long post about marriage, cohabitation, and premarital counseling. Take a look at that, then read the lively discussion in the comments section.

I exchanged e-mails with a couple of the commenters, thanking them for their thoughts. One of them was Michael Williams, who has his own blog called Master of None. He pointed me to a couple of posts he's written regarding his uncertainty about getting married some day (in response to Rev. Sensing's post), his thoughts on love and marriage, and the importance of marriage. He has some good thoughts that are pretty insightful, especially for a single man. Check out the rest of his blog, too. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

More on marriage protection  

Last week, I wrote about President Bush's Marriage Protection Week proclamation. I said in the comments that "there's a difference between supporting the idea of marriage and supporting the practice of marriage. Everyone supports the idea, but a lot of high-profile people oppose the practice through infidelity, separation, and divorce. I think what Bush is doing here is supporting the practice, and I applaud that."

Predictably, some people didn't like the proclamation. Homosexual groups saw it as a flagrant attempt to undermine their efforts to get official legal recognition for same-sex unions. Out of the entire 398-word proclamation, they focused on ten words: "Marriage is a union between a man and a woman." An article posted on the Gay Financial Network web site stated that most activities surrounding Marriage Protection Week did not actually try to strengthen marriage but rather promoted "a systematic plan for stopping gay marriage in the U.S."

The article makes many points that are inaccurate, exaggerated, and paranoid. But I looked at the web sites for Focus on the Family and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and searched for the phrase "marriage protection." The results consisted almost entirely of articles about passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a one-man, one-woman enterprise, or as one article put it, "to develop a cohesive and workable plan to aid and assist churches in responding to the well-organized and well-funded effort to redefine marriage." Here are some of the search results from the FOTF site:

Family.org - CitizenLink - FNIF News - Marriage Protection Pledge Catching On
Arizona congressman, Colorado state representative among the first to declare their support for one-man, one-woman marriage.

Family.org - CitizenLink - Extras - Thank President Bush for 'Marriage Protection' Proclamation
Homosexual activists are in an uproar because the White House has acknowledged that marriage is a "sacred institution" and a "union between a man and a woman."

Family.org - CitizenLink - FNIF News - Marriage Protection Campaign Launched
Pro-family organizations hope to reach two million churches with the message that the preservation of marriage must be a priority for every American.

Family.org - CitizenLink - FNIF News - Marriage Protection Week Set for Oct. 12-18
Dozens of pro-family groups banding together to celebrate, defend traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Family.org - CitizenLink - Encourage Your Pastor to Support Marriage
Visit the Family Research Council's Marriage Protection Week Web site to download a sample sermon on the importance of one-man, one-woman marriage.

This is disappointing. What should have been a time to celebrate marriage, to encourage, to educate, to strengthen the institution, instead became a political attack. Pro-family groups should have offered programs to combat divorce, to grow couples closer together, to help families get along, to teach men to take more responsibility, to teach husbands and wives how to love each other more effectively, live in joyful intimacy, and make marriage last. Instead, two of the most prominent pro-family groups in the country (the ERLC is part of the Southern Baptist Convention) used it as an opportunity for political gain.

For the record, I believe in one-man, one-woman marriage. I wish the definition of marriage wasn't even an issue. I wish our past leader(s) had been strong enough and principled enough to let the country know by statement or example how the institution of marriage should function. I know that in reality there are people trying to redefine it, and they probably have a lot of support so it has become an ideological fight. But I thought that Marriage Protection Week was going to be an opportunity to advance the knowledge and the practice of marriage. Instead, it turned into a political argument about what marriage is not.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Stress  

Saturday was a hectic day. Mrs. Happy had a stressful day at work, and some stressful time ahead of her after she got home. Situations like this in a way affect me more than her because whenever she feels a lot of stress, I can't do anything right. It's odd, because I don't try to behave any differently when she's upset except perhaps to be more attentive and helpful. But I still manage to say the wrong things, cause catastrophes two rooms away, and be in the way no matter where I stand, sit, or cling to the ceiling. At least over the years I have learned not to invite disaster by trying to help with whatever task is stressing her out. Whoooboy have I learned that. And whenever I try to suggest that my incompetence may lie more in her addled perception than in true reality, she doesn't want to hear it.

It's kind of funny, but when I'm feeling stressed out and anxious, she suddenly transforms into a absolute clod, too. In those times, she can't say or do anything helpful because she doesn't understand the nature of the situation. No one does except for me. Plus, she tends to practice every one of her most annoying habits when I least need to be annoyed. She's not alone in that, though. Whenever I'm in a hurry, people purposely get in my way just to make me mad. Coworkers, parents, small insects, and the weather also go out of their way to tick me off when I'm feeling stress. And if Mrs. Happy dares to suggest that everyone's incompetence may lie more in my addled perception than in true reality, boy do I not want to hear it.

I'm beginning to learn that sometimes I can help Mrs. Happy calm down when she's feeling stress. I'm also beginning to learn exactly how to do that. I learned a long time ago that speaking sternly, acting defensive, and saying "I'm going to blog about this" only makes things worse, although those are still the first things I try. Sometimes I really am a clod.