Saturday, April 10, 2004

Marriage links for the week  

I'm adding a new link to my sidebar this week. Marriage Restored Weblog is a blog maintained by Ben Wilson, who acts as Director of Pastoral Care at a church in Colorado and also gives seminars, in partnership with his wife, on healing marriages that have been harmed by infidelity.

Irene offers her thoughts on the benefits of arranged marriage.

Jeremy at Parablemania writes about why he believes the Bible teaches directly against Christians marrying non-Christians.

Joe Carter of the evangelical outpost shares his thoughts on the biblical ideal of marriage in response to an article in Psychology Today about the current state of marriage. Key quote (from the PT article): "Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is supposed to make you married. When you are all the way in your marriage, you are free to do useful things, become a better person."

On the ChristWeb site, Rev. Scott Welch poses the question: "What are your children learning about Marriage, Family and Divorce in School? …Our children are being taught about these subjects everyday in the classroom, on the television set and the playground. The good news is you are a more powerful teacher and influence on your children than any of these others."

I'm not sure what to think, much less to say, about this: A soldier in Iraq marries his bride in Italy via two stand-ins in Montana. The rare double-proxy wedding is legal in that state.

A 37-year-old woman expecting her fifteenth child accepts an award for young mother of the year in Arkansas.

If you have any intelligent thoughts on who would win in a fight between Superman and The Hulk, please share them with Bryan so that he can enlighten his son.

I received another Where I'm From poem this week. Please check out the page and see Where Carrie's From. If you haven't already done so, write your own. It's fun, therapeutic, and educational. Before reading others' poems, I had never heard of kielbasa. It's a Polish sausage.

Friday, April 09, 2004

His and Hers VI  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday (though I forgot to do that this week). On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. This week's question is:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Mrs. Happy's response

Hugs, hugs, hugs! Hands down, no doubt about it, Curt's hugs are the most wonderfully endearing trait that he possesses. When he and I were "just friends," he would hug me at the end of every get together, whether it was at church or after a long night of card-playing or movie-watching. I remember one Sunday morning that I was feeling particularly lonely and insecure, standing on the outskirts of a group of friends, and as Curt was talking to some of them, he simply reached out his arm and pressed me to his side in a gesture of absolute unconditional love and acceptance. He has a rather small frame, but that hug would just envelop me and assure me that all was right with the world, especially his adoration of me.

Now that we're married, Curt has a much broader repertoire of ways to show his love and devotion every day, but the hugs are no less important. In fact, functionally the hugs have become more varied to adapt to different situations. There's the hug for greeting me at home after a long day, the hug for support when I've had a terrible day, the needy hug when he's had a terrible day, the hug after an argument that says "I'm not upset anymore," and the sleepy hug that ushers us into bedtime, just to name a few. In addition to absolute unconditional love and acceptance, the hugs are now gestures of a sweet familiarity, a solid protection, a tender intimacy, and a warm comfort. And as sure as he is nearby, they are always available. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make sure I've spoken accurately.

Curt's response

I had a unique relationship with my wife in college. She was young, cute, and sweet, and I had no romantic interest in her. At that point in my life, I would customarily obsess over the romantic possibilities of a relationship with any woman who had even one of those characteristics. I think God must have put a damper on those feelings where she was concerned so that I could get to know her without an agenda, as a person rather than as a possible wife. So it took me a while to see her as a long-term possibility. One of the things that first attracted me to her personality was her compassion and her recognition of humanity in others.

For several years before we married, my wife and I ate lunch together regularly, at least when our class schedules allowed it. One day, she didn't show up for lunch. I waited twenty minutes and saw no sign of her. I then left our regular meeting place to see if she had gone to any of our three regular eating spots. Not finding her anywhere, I returned to the meeting place one last time only to find it completely unpopulated. I figured that she had found something better to do and didn't get a chance to tell me ahead of time. I've had plenty of experience with being blown off by friends who don't realize that I have feelings underneath my well-composed exterior. By the time I entered college, I had resigned myself to the fact that my personal emotions and attachments mattered very little to other people. I didn't think that she would leave me high and dry like that, but I had grown accustomed to disappointment.

I left our meeting place to find a spot where I could eat alone. About a minute later, I heard someone call my name from a distance. I turned around, and there was my wonderful friend running toward me with all her might. She apologized profusely and told me that she had gotten hung up after class with a professor. She said she felt horrible and was worried about how I would feel when she took so long showing up.

That's a small thing, I guess, but her concern about my feelings touched me deeply and endeared her to me forever.

I still love that about her. She's always acutely aware of what others are feeling. She's the only person in the world who can consistently discern what I'm feeling. That's a rare trait in a friend, and it's even better in a wife.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

American marriage  

Jeff (of Peachwater, Tx.) e-mailed me the other day letting me know that the NPR program This American Life devoted its entire show last week to what it called "The Sanctity of Marriage." None of the three segments in the hour-long program has anything to do with sanctity, but they all three take an unflinching look at marriage, divorce, and commitment from a worldly perspective. There's very little encouraging or celebratory in the program, but it's interesting nevertheless. Have a listen if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Together time/Time together  

In the months leading up to my wedding, I worked at a dynamic, high-profile political consulting firm doing a tedious, low-paying, dead-end job. I desperately wanted to find work more suited to my skills that would also pay a salary more suited to supporting a family. I began looking for such a job, but halfheartedly looking since I would rather undergo a week-long oral surgery than subject myself to the fruitless labor and dashed hopes that always accompany my job hunts. I actually considered quitting my job, thinking that would force me to seek better employment in earnest. I had some money saved up, so it wouldn't have been entirely irresponsible. But I couldn't bring myself to give up my only source of income just as I was about to become a husband with bread-winning responsibilities.

Two weeks before my wedding, my boss called me to his office. He knew I had been looking for a job. I had his blessing. He knew that my job was below my abilities and that I had no desire to continue on in political consulting. He told me he wanted to restructure the way my division of the company worked, and that since I was the senior employee in that division and was looking to leave, he didn't want to do anything drastic until I was gone. So he offered me two months pay in one lump sum in exchange for my resignation. He pointed out that this arrangement would allow me to do my job searching full time and still stay afloat for a while and would also allow him to proceed with his plans for my division of the company. I discussed the decision with Soon-To-Be-Mrs. Happy, who at the time worked as a teacher's assistant at an elementary school drawing a paycheck even lower than mine. She agreed that I should take the money, leave the job, and look for another. So I did.

We married at the beginning of the summer of 1998. Our wedding took place on the first Saturday after Mrs. Happy's school adjourned for the summer. We spent a week on our honeymoon, then returned home to an apartment we had set up. I then began fervently looking for a job. The fervor wore off after a few days of fruitlessness. It took all summer, but I finally was hired by a computer company in Austin to write technical manuals.

I am sure that some people familiar with my situation at the time questioned the wisdom of voluntarily terminating my employment on the cusp of husbandhood. I questioned it myself more than once. But I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Not having a job meant that, in a sense, I had a three-month honeymoon. I was not working, my wife was not working, and we were able to spend every day together getting to know each other as husband and wife. It was a stressful time, but I look back on those days with fondness. I miss them.

We now count ourselves lucky on the rare days that we're able to spend three or four hours together talking and laughing and immersing ourselves in each other's company. Now we have to make more of an effort to set time apart for each other. Sometimes that means letting other things go. Sometimes that means missing a favorite TV show or missing a day of blogging. But it's something we have to do if we're going to continue to be Mr. and Mrs. Happy.

This week's question  

His and Hers is a question or discussion topic relating to marriage that I post every Tuesday or Wednesday. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in celebrating marriage. Here is this week's His and Hers topic:

What trait first attracted you to your spouse? How do you feel about that trait now?

Also be sure to visit this week's Christian Carnival for some of the best in Christian blogging.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Anatomy of an argument  

The context

The musical worship at my church is usually led by an energetic band and vocal group. They do their thing in our two morning services. Yesterday, due to capacity overload on Sunday mornings, the church offered a third service in the evening for the first time. Our gospel choir debuted to lead the music portion of worship in the third service so that the band would not pass out from exertion. My wife and I both sing in the soprano-dominated choir, and we both stand in front of the choir and sing into microphones (along with two or three other people) so that all harmonies will be clearly heard.

The setup

Our choir director, in an effort to give the group some visual cohesion, tells us to wear black pants or skirts with a white shirt or blouse, or jeans with a black shirt.

The complication

No matter what clothes I wear, I tend to look like a goof who doesn't know how to dress. My wife can, and often does, alleviate that by telling me what to wear. I do own a pair of black slacks and a white dress shirt (my only white shirt), but they were never intended to be worn together. I also own several pairs of jeans and a black shirt, but I am currently suffering from a raging case of dandruff and am afraid that a black shirt will make that condition all too public.

The initial solution

I speak to the director about my problem, and she tells me that I can wear jeans and a light-colored shirt.

Further complication

Mrs. Happy insists that the director is just too nice and too laid back to insist on conformity and tell me that if I dress in jeans and off-white, I'll look like the only one in the choir who didn't get the wardrobe memo. She is fiercely adamant that it is preferable for me to look like the "before" picture in a Head and Shoulders commercial (in jeans and a black shirt) or a New York cookie in awkward human form (in the black pants and white shirt) than to be the only member of the choir wearing neither black nor white. We discuss the merits of our viewpoints for at least an hour before we leave for church. Nothing she says convinces me that looking stupid is preferable to looking different.

The outcome

I dress in jeans and a light-colored shirt. Everyone else in the choir dresses in black and white. I concede to my wife that I look like a pork chop at a bar mitzvah. She apologizes for being such a bear. We sing our songs. We worship God with fellow believers. When the service is over, no one remembers or cares what either one of us wore.