Saturday, December 13, 2003
I just got an e-mail from my friend Geoff with some quotable quotes about
marriage. They're good enough to share:
A successful marriage is not a gift; it is an achievement.
I would say that the
surest measure of a man's or a woman's maturity is the harmony, style, joy,
and dignity he creates in his
marriage, and the pleasure and inspiration he provides for his spouse.
—Benjamin McLane Spock, 1903 - 1998
is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three
meals a day, sharing the workload
and remembering to carry out the trash.
—Dr Joyce Brothers
Marriage and the up-bringing
of children in the home require as well-trained a mind and as well-disciplined
a character as any other occupation
that might be considered a career.
—Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 - 1962
say that love is concerned only with young people, and the excitement and glamour
of romance end at the altar.
How blind they are. The best romance is inside marriage; the finest love
stories come after the wedding, not before.
A successful marriage requires
falling in love many times, always with the same person.
Marriage links for the week
Speaking of office Christmas parties (see Thursday's post), women in Scotland apparently see them as opportunities for bad behavior. I'm not Scottish, but I'll repeat what I said: I'm glad I left when I did.
Blogger Mark (of Minute Particulars) takes issues with the biggest blogger on the Web (Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, if you didn't know) on the subject of sexual purity before marriage.
The U.S. military recognizes the challenges faced by married couples and is offering to help with marriage classes offered through the chaplain's office.
Happily married for 60 years, 70 years, 73 years.
A married couple, both psychologists and marriage specialists, turn their academic eyes in on their own marriage on their 50th anniversary.
A newly married man offers advice to men who haven't yet grown accustomed to their wedding band.
Wednesday's post was posted (with my permission) at The Bible Archive.
Check out the where we're from page for Jeff's poem. If you write your own, send it to me and I'll make you famous.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Real life trumps blogging today. I will say, though, that it's important for married couples to do things together that they both enjoy. Mrs. Happy and I are involved in a project at church called Meet Me at the Manger, a children's musical production for Christmas. I get to play the Scrooge character Mr. Herod, the owner of Herod's department store, who refuses to let the children set up their living nativity scene and sing for his customers. Mrs. Happy plays Miss Ellie, the operator of a local mission. She gets to sing a soulful song, I get to have a change of heart, and a good time is had by all. We had our first rehearsal earlier this evening. The rehearsal taught us that when we start having kids, we should definitely stop before we have twenty.
If you're on Long Island on Dec. 21 around 6:00 p.m., come check it out.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
A recent study found that situations and attitudes in the workplace can have an adverse effect on marriage. Among the findings (some of these statistics are from other studies reported in the same article):
- Working with coworkers who are all of the opposite sex increases divorce rates by 70 percent.
- A married person is 43 percent more likely to get divorced if one-third of his or her coworkers are recently divorced people of the opposite sex than if none of the co-workers were recently divorced.
- The risk of divorce rises 60 percent if all co-workers of the same sex are single, rather than married.
- Working in the same office as a spouse reduces divorce rates by half.
- More than half of married survey respondents say they flirt back when flirted with.
The article talks about the dangers involved in spending long hours at work with coworkers of the opposite sex. "What starts out as a coworker relationship develops into a friendship, then a deep friendship, and then into a [romantic] relationship. In my wife's case, work led to business lunches. Business lunches led to 'nonbusiness' lunches and then to 'happy hours.' And the whole thing led to divorce," said one man whose wife divorced him after she had an affair with a coworker.
I read this article several weeks ago. It doesn't apply to me much because I have contact with only one woman at work, and all our contact is over e-mail. We've never even met face to face. Plus, I apparently have some sort of quality that makes women not want to flirt with me (that quality has been described by various people as an air of unapproachability, arrogant condescension, and snide indifference). That's a good thing now, but a source of immense frustration during my single days.
Anyway, I went to my company Christmas party last night and I felt like printing up a copy of the aforementioned article and handing it to whoever organized things. The company rented out a very nice building, complete with catered appetizers and dinner as well as a live band, an expansive dance floor, comfortable couches, and an open bar. Oh, and employees were not allowed to bring guests, including spouses.
I stayed for only two hours, but by the time I left I was already beginning to question the wisdom of having an open bar and an activity (dancing) that encourages people to engage in intimate physical contact with coworkers. Even after one hour, my friend Jerry was having to ward off advances from a tipsy coworker.
Fortunately I don't drink, I can't dance, and women rarely take notice of me (though that could be because I tend to begin every conversation with a mention of my wife). But open bar + comfy couches + dancing + no spouses allowed = recipe for disaster. I don't think I was in any danger myself, but I'm glad I left when I did.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
A political rant, sort of
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that our constitution guarantees consenting adults the right to perform pretty much any sexual act they can physically accommodate. Shortly after that ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that nothing in the state constitution prevented a legally binding marriage between two people of the same sex. Throughout everything, there has been a movement among religious and political conservatives to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as "the union of a man and a woman." I have avoided the topic here because it is a political powder keg, and to discuss it would be to veer slightly away from my stated purpose of celebrating marriage. But I figure I can weigh in once.
As I was formulating my thoughts, for some reason I imagined myself at a rally in Washington. I imagined tens of thousands of people gathering on a day when Congress and/or the Senate were meeting to debate and vote on the marriage amendment. And I imagined being given the opportunity to address the crowd. What follows is the text of my imaginary speech.
Marriage is a legal, physical, spiritual, lifelong commitment one man and one woman make to each other. We know that. Everyone knows that. Any attempt to alter that definition is an attempt to undermine and eventually obliterate it. The current effort to legally legitimize same-sex marriage mocks a sacred institution, but society has been systematically undermining marriage for hundreds of years. Is there any aspect of marriage that has not been delegitimized?
We have allowed this to happen. We have undermined marriage ourselves. If society still held the institution as sacred and treated it as such, same-sex marriage wouldn't even exist as an idea. We need to bring back commitment. We need to bring back devotion. We need to bring back love.
If you are a husband, love your wife. Make her the only woman in the world to you. Sacrifice yourself to help her achieve her dreams. Be the leader of your household, and be the type of leader that wants the family to love and respect each other and achieve things that its individual members cannot achieve alone. Serve your wife. Serve your children. Show them what it means to serve one another. Show them by example how Jesus treated people. Make your marriage sacred.
If you are a wife, love your husband. Love him actively and constantly. Never let him doubt that he has the undying devotion of a good woman, the best woman, the only woman in the world to him. The world tears him down every day. You build him up. Be his advocate as much as he is yours. Keep God at the center of your family. Make your marriage sacred.
I don't know what the federal legislature will do today. I don't know how the courts will respond. I'm afraid, though, that we're in a losing battle. In a democracy, the law exists to protect what we value most. In the United States, the law does not protect marriage. What we should do now is build marriage back up. Make it an institution worth protecting. If we can make marriage sacred again, we can show the world how God intended it to be. I truly believe that when we demonstrate how marriage should work, then even if the law recognizes non-sacred relationships, people will look at the pretenders and say, "Who are you trying to fool?"
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
The reading of books
Periodically I get the chance to buy books for next to nothing. Today I got the chance, so I picked up a book by David and Janet Congo called Lifemates: A lover's guide for a lifetime relationship. Looking through it, I see that it is full of mainly just common sense stuffcommit to each other for life, make your marriage a priority, make yourself vulnerable to your mate, be honest with each other, etc. It contains nothing spectacular, no magic spells for making a marriage perfect. But it did get me thinking about other books that have influenced me.
In my Christian life, the book of James (eighth book from the end of the Bible) made the first and biggest impact on me. Its opening admonition helped make sense of my life as a 14-year-old: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." The rest of the book contains some of the most practical spiritual instruction you'll find outside the Sermon on the Mount. Some day I'm just going to memorize the whole thing the way that guy in Fahrenheit 451 (another good book) memorized Ecclesiastes.
And speaking of Ecclesiastes, it was the second book that solidified my faith. At the age of 14, it seemed that all the smart people I knew denied the existence of God while none of the Christians I knew could explain their faith intellectually. Ecclesiastes proved to me that someone wise, wealthy, powerful, driven, extravagantly gifted, and thoroughly human could believe in God as firmly as he believed in his own life. I'm 31 now, and the Christians I have known over the past 17 years have put to rest my fears of faith's compatibility with intellect. The vibrant minds of people who love both God and knowledge make even the most accomplished atheists look sickly pale in comparison.
In a similar vein, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis demonstrated to me how intellect can strengthen faith and vice versa. I have read many books by Lewis nowyou can't have a philosophical/theological discussion with Curt and not hear a Lewis quote or twoand find myself eternally grateful that God gave him the gifts of reason and communication and allowed him to share those gifts with the world, and particularly with me. Other notable Lewis books include The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters.
As far as marriage goes, one book in particular encouraged me more than I can express. I read If Only He Knew by Gary Smalley a few months before I got married. I didn't intend to read it. I was living with my grandparents for a few months, and one night pulled that book off of a shelf in the guest bedroom I occupied. I don't remember much about the specifics, but it opened my eyes to the possibilities in marriage. I do remember that it explained the concept of the husband as servant-leader of the household, and that camping is the best family activity that has ever existed in the history of the world. Both points made an impression on me that I doubt will ever wear off.
I have never actually read The Five Love Languages, but the very idea behind it helped make me a better husband. In a nutshell: Find out what makes your wife feel loved, then do it; Find out how your wife expresses love, then let her do that. We all express and perceive love differently. For example, my wife feels more loved when I hug her and say "I love you" than when I buy her a gift or do her laundry. I still buy her gifts and perform acts of service, but I want her to feel as loved and as precious as possible, so I focus my efforts accordingly.
I've always loved to read, and I can almost always learn something new and useful and sometimes life-changing from any book. But these are the books that have really put my life on a new course and made me a better person and a better husband.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Saying "I'm sorry"
Christianity Today has a fairly extensive collection of articles about marriage dating back to 1996. It's good reading. The articles cover topics ranging from money and spirituality to communication and sex. One article in particular caught my eye. It is titled Don't Say You're Sorry and examines how the words I'm sorry can often ring hollow and make things worse. I personally have found it much more effective to admit specifically when I'm wrong and explain to my wife how and why I failed to take her feelings into account. When she knows that I understand how I hurt her feelings, she's more willing to listen and forgive, especially when I've acted out of a lack of information or insight.
I'm sorry by itself usually accomplishes nothing. True apology and repentance, however, can bring a quick end to an argument and start the reconciliation.
This brings to mind quotes from a couple of movies.
From Love Story:
OLIVER BARRET IV (Ryan O'Neal)
Love means never having to say you're sorry.
From What's Up, Doc?
JUDY MAXWELL (Barbra Streisand)
Love means never having to say you're sorry.
HOWARD BANNISTER (Ryan O'Neal)
That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
Update: In the comments section, Matt has pointed out that I misspelled Ms. Streisand's first name. That is now corrected. I must admit that I had no idea anyone ever purposely spelled Barbara without the second a. A search of the Internet Movie Database, however, turns up 19 actresses named Barbra. I learned something new today.
As a side note, nearly five years ago Matt pointed out the last word I spelled incorrectly. It was liaison and I had left out the second i.