Friday, October 31, 2003

The ghost of Halloween Past  

In October of 1996, the Happy Just-Friend approached me and asked if I would accompany her to a Halloween party in College Station, Texas. If you don't grasp the gravity of that request right away, let me tell you that College Station, Texas, is the last place on earth any University of Texas student wants to visit—especially on Halloween—because it is the home of Texas A&M University, UT's arch rival in football and our main competition for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of Texans everywhere. This rivalry is not typically friendly. Aggies and their supporters are some of the most rabid (seriously, mouth-foamingly rabid) proponents of an institution that you'll find anywhere, and their passion for their school is matched only by their hatred of UT. However, the Happy Friend's best friend from high school was attending A&M at the time. (Let me add here that Amy, my wife's friend, is a wonderful person and one of the best things ever to come out of that school.) She invited us to an Aggie Sisters for Christ party, and it apparently meant a lot to her. Since I didn't want my Happy Friend to have to make the two-hour drive alone, I agreed to go.

Three words: Worst Halloween ever.

The first thing I noticed when we showed up at the party was that it wasn't a party—it was a dance. I hate, hate, hate dances. I can't dance. I don't like to dance. I don't like watching people dance. I would rather spend an entire day at the beach than two hours at a dance, and I really don't like beaches. I wanted to turn around and leave as soon as we arrived, but I didn't. The next thing I noticed was that the dance was not a slow-dance-that-anyone-can-do kind of event. No, it was a country-and-western event where if you didn't know how to do the Texas Two-Step you might as well attach yourself to the wall and stay there all night. Then I noticed that the Happy Friend and I were pretty much the only people not wearing costumes. So we spent the evening sitting off to the side, drinking punch, talking as much as we could over the blaring C&W music, enduring a raucous rendition of The Aggie War Hymn (the words of which are basically "That school over in Austin sucks so much we refuse even to speak its name correctly and Aggies rule yeah!" repeated 173 times), looking like non-dancing non-costume wearing party poopers, and feeling pretty much like pork chops at a bar mitzvah. It was good that we got to spend some time with Amy, always a pleasurable experience, but the whole thing was pretty uncomfortable.

After it was finally over, we made the two-hour trek back home. When I dropped my Happy Friend at her house, I got out of the car and gave her a hug like I had always done before. At the end of the hug, as she was pulling away, she did something she had never done before. She kissed me on the cheek and said, "Thanks for going to the party with me."

Three words: Best. Halloween. Ever.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Comments, please  

Yesterday I wrote about my friend Todd, a married Christian man who struggles with homosexuality and a pornography addiction. I sort of expected to get a lot of comments on it, but the comments never came. I didn't mean to scare anyone away with my warning statement at the end of the post ("Please note that any discussion about…homosexuality lies outside the scope of this blog…blah, blah, blah…"). I just didn't want to get unhelpful comments like "Gay people suck and he doesn't deserve to be married blah, blah, blah…."

The whole story has been weighing on my mind for a while, and I haven't really shared it with people until yesterday. In fact, it is the first time this particular story has been told in public, albeit with a pseudonym for Todd. (The post had the explicit approval of both Todd and his wife, by the way.) We were both a little relieved to get it out in the open like that, and then we got no indication that anyone had read it.

Thus far in the life of this blog I have not begged for comments, and I promise never to do so ever again for at least another three months, but please leave your thoughts. (If you've never done that, you can leave a comment by clicking the Comments link below and typing a message into the text box in the window that appears.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Real commitment  

I have a friend who, for my purposes here, I'll call "Todd." Of the many things Todd and I have in common, two of the most important are that we're both committed Christians and we're both committed husbands married to wonderful women. He's one of the people I look to when I get discouraged, because he loves God and he loves his wife and he shows me that I'm not alone in my struggles.

In a conversation we had recently, Todd told me that he battles against an addiction to pornography. He had hinted at that before, but it didn't strike me as an insurmountable problem. All he had to do was avoid the magazines, porn shops, and web sites—problem solved. Until that conversation, I didn't realize that pornography can wreak havoc in a person's life as easily as heroin. I didn't realize how debilitating such an addiction can be, nor how helpless a person can feel against it. This addiction was real, it was serious, and it was damaging his marriage.

If that confession was a stick of dynamite, what he told me next was a full-fledged bomb. "I struggle with homosexuality," he said. "And the pornography I'm addicted to is gay pornography." Perhaps only another conservative Christian can appreciate the pain and difficulty involved in his making that statement, and in my receiving it. (If this bothers you, please read the statement at the end of this post.)

I can't really speak to his state of mind at the time, but I can tell you how it affected me. The revelation shocked me, to say the least, and in a way infuriated me as well. I felt no anger toward Todd—I love him as much as I ever have, maybe more, and nothing has changed that—but I felt a lot of anger at the situation. I know this is irrational, but I was furious at homosexuality for existing, for invading his life, for causing him feelings of guilt and isolation, for placing a nearly unbearable strain on his marriage, for holding him back from true peace with God and others, as if it were an entity that could be fought, an enemy that could be hated. Hours after our conversation had ended—days, even—I was still numb, not knowing how to feel. The entire situation confused me, addled my mind, and forced me to rethink a few things.

First, I had to re-evaluate the encouragement I drew from Todd's marriage. I had always assumed that both our marriages were based on the mutual love, respect, and attraction we felt with our wives. After learning of his homosexual struggle, though, I had to wonder whether his marriage existed more because of social pressure and familial expectations. Second, I wondered whether he would actually stay with his wife now that his secret was out (he had told six people, including his wife, before me). Third, I wondered whether his wife would actually stay with him.

Upon subsequent conversations, my fears about his commitment to his marriage dissipated. Regardless of his struggles, Todd truly does love his wife and will not repeal the commitment he made to her. The whole ordeal, I think, has been harder for his wife. From her perspective, she now lives with a man wholly different from the one she fell in love with, one in whom she has invested much of her life. When she found out, I'm sure she felt a betrayal that touched the core of her being. She continues to feel that. She continues to feel angry and wronged and cheated out of the life she knew, a life she knows she can never have again. But she remains committed to Todd and to their marriage. With God's help and the support of her closest friends, she makes it through those days when she feels no hope. The two of them have good days, bad days, and horrific days, but they so far remain committed to restoring their relationship to a state of true love, trust, and devotion. In a time when so many couples split for no reason other than boredom, their commitment inspires and encourages me and raises the bar for everyone.

This is an excerpt from a note I wrote Todd's wife recently:

Todd is quickly becoming one of my heroes in the faith, and I get the feeling that if I communicated as much with you as I do with him that you'd be near the top of my "most admired" list as well. I sometimes get discouraged when I see so many marriages fall apart for very little reason. For the two of you to persevere through one of the hardest tests I can imagine encourages me more than I can express.

And this is from a letter I wrote to Todd:

I have a tendency to look at the Christian life as a holy standard by which to live and judge ourselves, as a guideline showing us how to make the right choices, as a description of God and how we can serve Him. I'm slowly expanding that understanding, looking more at what God can do than what I can do, and a lot of that stems directly from you.

Todd still struggles with his addiction, and he and his wife are going through some pretty intensive counseling. But they both have exceeded any and all reasonable expectations of them and are emerging stronger because of it. True Godly love is not reasonable. True Godly love is sacrificial, extravagant, and enduring. Their efforts and their marriage encourage me more than ever before, because they are living proof of the power of true Godly love.

Please note that any discussion about the acceptability/sinfulness/biology/psychology of homosexuality lies outside the scope of this blog. Todd and I both believe that God intends for marriage and (therefore) sex to exist between a man and a woman. Trust me, we've talked about it and we both know all the facts/arguments on both sides of the issue, so have that discussion in another forum.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The name game  

In a conversation with some long-married friends the other day, my wife made a statement along the lines of, "No marriage is perfect. All couples encounter issues that threaten to tear them apart. I guess it's inevitable. But we've been married five and a half years and still haven't experienced anything like that yet. Sometimes I wonder what it's going to be." Our long-married friends pretty much simultaneously said, "Kids."

Our marriage hasn't been entirely free of conflict. We've had to work through deep misunderstandings, seriously injured feelings, and cherished but opposite ideas about how the world should function. But like Mrs. Happy said, we've never had to deal with an issue that shook our foundation. If that's ever going to happen, though, it will probably happen some time near the birth of our first child.

I say that because the first argument we ever had concerned the naming of children, and it occurred before we even thought about each other romantically. For some reason, we started talking about names that we liked, and I took the opportunity to share my thoughts about naming children. I love my name because I'm named after people in my family. My first name comes from my father's oldest brother, my middle name comes from a great grandfather who died before I was born but who my mother speaks very fondly of, and my initials match the initials of my grandfather, whose entire name consists solely of those initials. I'd like for my children to have names like that. A special bond forms between a child and his namesake. My uncle and grandfather are both still alive, and I'm sure that my bearing their names means as much to them as it does to me. I never knew my great grandfather, but I knew his wife, and I think I may have held a special place in her heart because the name everyone calls me was the name she called her husband. My name also gives me a feeling of connection to my family and my past that I might never have had otherwise. So I'd like to name my kids after family members.

When I explained my well-thought-out, deeply significant philosophy about naming children, the Happy Friend looked upon me with a mixture of pity, horror, and abject sympathy for any woman unfortunate enough to one day become my wife. "What are some of your family members' names?" she asked. I listed a few, none of which seemed acceptable to her. She shook her head sadly. "You can't just make a decision like that. You're leaving your wife out of the whole process entirely. You're so set on this that she won't have a choice," she said, continuing to shake her head. I tried to point out that I wasn't locked into any particular name. Once I'm married, my wife and I will have two entire families' names to choose from. Surely we would be able to find something that we agree on. I failed to convince her, and she didn't stop shaking her head for several minutes.

"Okay, fine," I said. "How are you going to decide on a name for your kids?" She got sort of a blissful look on her face, as if she had put a lot of thought into it and arrived at a perfect conclusion. She said, "I've always wanted to have a girl and name her Laura." I laughed for the rest of the day.

Now that we're married, Mrs. Happy has become the object of her own previous pity. We talk about names every once in a while and never reach any sort of agreement. She wants our kids to have nice, pretty names that somewhere include Laura. I would still like to draw names from our families, even though I admit that our families do have some pretty strange names. We haven't had any truly serious arguments about it, but then again we haven't conceived a child yet. Since we know it's an issue, hopefully we'll be able to work it out before it before it turns into a conflict.

Monday, October 27, 2003

The M-word  

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Jesus' statement on lust and adultery. An article in the current issue of Christian Counterculture deals with this topic in a frank and practical way by looking specifically at the topic of masturbation:

Is masturbation a trivial issue that we need to stop worrying about so much? Or is it a big deal?

I think it's both. Let me explain. First, I think Christians make too big a deal of masturbation in that we obsess over the act and neglect the more important issues of the heart. No question, God is concerned with our actions, but He's even more interested in our motivations. Men and women I talk to are often consumed with how many times they've masturbated, but I think God wants us to be more concerned with the soil of our hearts.

Read the whole thing.

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: - 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. - 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." - 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. - 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. - 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


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.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

Pastors in Cleburne County, Arkansas are taking steps to fight the highest state-wide divorce rate in the country (75%).

We shouldn't need Marriage Protection Week, but we do.

If God doesn't exist, then nothing makes sense—especially marriage. To me, marriage is a sacred lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. Still, there are still practical, non-spiritual benefits to marriage.

A study from a sociologist at my alma mater, The University of Texas, indicates that married couples experience joy and happiness on their wedding day, then enter into a gradual, irreversible decline toward dissatisfaction and regret. Whatta loada crap. In matters of human will, statistics are irrelevant.

This is so cool. Family history working its way into family future. Awesome.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Pillow talk: Mrs. Happy  

Hello again from Mrs. Happy, or Mrs. Put-on-the-spot-'cause-Mr.-Happy-has-writer's-block. Curt was just asking me to name a few things that he does to make me feel special, and though I can think of several general examples, one recent evening keeps coming back to me.

A couple of nights ago, the wind really started to pick up outside and eventually a storm ensued, bringing heavy rain that beat against our windows. We had just settled into bed, and as I nestled my head against Curt's chest, we started to talk. We talked about our future—how we would afford our own home, when we might have children, how long we might stay in New York, etc. These were not new topics that we hadn't discussed at one time or another by any means, but for some reason those moments in the rain-splashed darkness have really stayed with me. Perhaps it was simply the atmosphere of that particular night that makes it memorable, but I also think that Curt's attentiveness to me, despite his exhaustion, was really the key. So many times we've simply gotten into bed, cuddled awhile, and rolled over to fall asleep, having already talked about a million different things throughout the day. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but on the rare occasions that I feel the need to discuss my hopes and concerns regarding our future, I am so comforted by the fact that Curt is willing to sacrifice precious sleep to have those in-depth conversations, and the rain doesn't hurt!

I don't know. Maybe I'm just grasping at something to talk about, but I know that in the past few days I've told several friends of mine that Curt and I had a really nice talk the other night, so I know that it must have meant a great deal to me, even if it doesn't amount to a hill of beans to anyone else. Sometimes the simplest, most inexpensive, seemingly mundane moments in a marriage prove to be the most important, most meaningful, and the most special. Rain is optional.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Movie quotes  

Today is one of those days when real life must take priority over blogging. If you're desperate for something to read, though, here are some quotes from Hollywood regarding marriage:

"Make him feel important. If you do that, you'll have a happy and wonderful marriage - like two out of every ten couples."—Mildred Natwick, Barefoot in the Park (1967)

"A few months of good food, warm bed and warm wife was all I could stand. I had get back to the hunger and misery brigade so I could have something to complain about again."—Tom Mason, George Washington (1984)

"When I get a birthday card from my wife, I expect a loving, sickly verse. Not 'Another day 'till your coffin you old wreck!'"—Richard Briers, The Good Life (1975)

"You know, a friend of mine a while back broke his hand and put it in a cast. Very next day, he falls, protects his bad hand, and he breaks his good one. So he breaks it too, you know. So, now he's got two busted flippers. So, I says to him: 'Creighton,' I says, 'I hope your wife really loves you, because for the next five weeks, you can't even wipe your own bleeping ass.' [Laughs] That's the test, ain't it? Test of true love."—M. Emmet Walsh, Blood Simple (1984)

Post your own favorite love/marriage quotes in the comments.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Marriage on the Web  

Yesterday I happened to run across the Web site Googlefight during the course of my job duties (ahem). It surprises me that I haven't heard of it before now. Its home page offers two text boxes into which you enter search terms. It uses Google to search for both terms and then tells you how many hits each term received. The one with more hits wins. Thus,

(37 500 000 results )
(12 800 000 results)

(71 200 000 results)
"War and Peace"
(1 120 000 results)

I thought it would be interesting to see how marriage issues fare in a Googlefight. Here are the results:

happy marriage
(2 550 000 results)
happy divorce
(2 010 000 results)

faithful spouse
(113 000 results)
cheating spouse
(65 200 results)

happy wives
(2 400 000 results)
miserable wives
(96 500 results)

wife is my best friend
(16 400 000 results )
wife is my worst enemy
(2 450 000 results)

There are, of course, no conclusions to be drawn from this. The first result for the search wife is my best friend is a page titled I married my best friend's wife. Still, I was surprised at the results.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Adultery in the heart  

Back in my college days, I used to engage in quite a few philosophical/theological debates with friends and classmates. I remember one particular discussion with a guy I knew from church regarding the seriousness of sins of the heart. He insisted that imagining committing a sin was "the same thing" as committing the sin in the flesh. Greed and lust qualify as sins every bit as much as robbery and adultery, he said. He pointed to Jesus' words in Matthew 5:27–28:

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

I tried to argue that lust and adultery are both sins, yes, but not one and the same. I pointed out that you can't contract an STD, conceive a child, or (as long as you're reasonable about it) be caught with your pants down while imagining sex. At that point he held up his Bible and said with more than a little condescension, "You know, when I read this book I take the words in red pretty seriously." Which brings up the question: What did Jesus mean when He said that stuff about lust and adultery?

Here's something to consider when evaluating any rule or commandment in the Bible:

Psalm 19
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
—verses 7–11

In more modern terms, when Jesus said "Don't do so-and-so," He didn't mean to deprive us of fun, as so many people seem to think. He meant to deprive us of pain and suffering. His commands fell more along the lines of "Don't put your hand in the fire" than "Don't do anything you might enjoy." Biblical commandments not only tell us how to live, but also how to get the most out of life. That's what Jesus was doing when He issued His warning against lust. He even punctuated the seriousness of the issue with His next statement:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

I don't believe He meant that literally, since there's no record of Him telling anyone specifically to pluck out an eye, and no record of any of the early Christians doing so, as far as I know. I think He meant to underline the importance of keeping yourself pure and cherishing your marriage.

There's no defending adultery. It hurts everyone involved because it breaks the wholeness, the husband-and-wife-becoming-one-flesh-ness, of a marriage covenant. Lust without the physical act of adultery has a similar effect, though in most cases not as destructive, unless of course it leads to adultery as it is often prone to do.

In November of 1976, Jimmy Carter told an interviewer (from Playboy, no less), "Christ said, 'I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.' I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times." I'm with him on that. So is pretty much every man who has ever lived. I have looked on a lot of women with lust. And what did I gain from it? An aroused but unquenchable desire for an imaginary woman whose potential no real woman could ever meet. What did I lose? A little bit of my ability to appreciate the physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy a wife could offer.

This principle applies even before marriage. My entire adolescence was full of fantasies that still haunt my dreams and even my waking thoughts. Girls that I've kissed still maintain a residence inside my head, periodically popping up to offer a mental distraction. I didn't have sex with any woman before I got married, or else I'm sure that would still be with me as well.

I have found that when I can keep myself from thinking about other women and focus 100 percent of my thoughts and energy on my wife, our relationship deepens, grows, and offers more rewards than at any other time. That, I think, is why Jesus said what He did about lust, and why the act of thinking about a sin and the act of committing it can both wreak havoc and cause harm even without being "the same thing."

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.


Monday, October 13, 2003

To protect and preserve  

If I were president, I would use my bully pulpit to tell husbands to love and respect their wives. I would exert my influence to explain to the country the value and the rewards of strong marriages and strong families. I would probably even pick a week during the year and declare it "Marriage Protection Week." I'm not yet old enough to run for president, but it appears I may never need to:

Marriage Protection Week, 2003
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Marriage is a sacred institution, and its protection is essential to the continued strength of our society. Marriage Protection Week provides an opportunity to focus our efforts on preserving the sanctity of marriage and on building strong and healthy marriages in America.

Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and my Administration is working to support the institution of marriage by helping couples build successful marriages and be good parents.

To encourage marriage and promote the well-being of children, I have proposed a healthy marriage initiative to help couples develop the skills and knowledge to form and sustain healthy marriages. Research has shown that, on average, children raised in households headed by married parents fare better than children who grow up in other family structures. Through education and counseling programs, faith-based, community, and government organizations promote healthy marriages and a better quality of life for children. By supporting responsible child-rearing and strong families, my Administration is seeking to ensure that every child can grow up in a safe and loving home.

We are also working to make sure that the Federal Government does not penalize marriage. My tax relief package eliminated the marriage penalty. And as part of the welfare reform package I have proposed, we will do away with the rules that have made it more difficult for married couples to move out of poverty.

We must support the institution of marriage and help parents build stronger families. And we must continue our work to create a compassionate, welcoming society, where all people are treated with dignity and respect.

During Marriage Protection Week, I call on all Americans to join me in expressing support for the institution of marriage with all its benefits to our people, our culture, and our society.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim the week of October 12 through October 18, 2003, as Marriage Protection Week. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-eighth.


# # #

Of course, every week is Marriage Protection Week here at The Happy Husband, but it's encouraging to see such a statement coming from our country's leader.

One more thing: If I were president, I would consider the need for a federal marriage amendment to be an abject failure of my leadership on the issue.

Thanks to Jeff for the links.

Saturday, October 11, 2003


Due to popular demand, I have added a feature which allows you, the reader, to post comments. I have avoided it so far because I thought it would be too difficult and that I would get depressed upon seeing how few people care enough to respond to the things I write. Turns out that it's not that difficult, and I've had enough requests for a commenting feature that I think it might be worth having, so here it is. When you're leaving a comment, just keep in mind that I reserve the right to delete anything without warning or justification because it's my web site and my bandwidth and my mother reads this.

Who'll be the first commenter?

Update: First commenter is Matt! Thanks, man.

Marriage links for the week  

Steven Curtis Chapman married very young, probably before he was ready, and had some difficult problems to work through. But he's still married, happily, and in this article talks about those early days when he and his wife learned to rely on God in their marriage. The article is part of the segment of Christianity Today's web site that focuses on marriage issues.

Anyone who thinks marriage is just a piece of paper needs to talk to these people, for whom the marriage certificate was almost a matter of life and death.

The church used to be the center of all artistic expression. If you wanted to hear the best music, see the most powerful painting and sculpture, etc., you went to church. Modern Christianity for many years has gone in the opposite direction, denying its adherents the opportunity to engage in such "secular" pursuits as superior drama, dance, music, and art. Christian artists are beginning to realize, however, that art expresses what mere words cannot, and I believe we are now on the verge of a Renaissance. Exhibit one: Metron Press, a comic book company dedicated to communicating God's love through well-written stories and astonishing art. Their latest release is called Testament, and it looks to be phenomenal.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Blogger's block  

I've been suffering from a mild to medium case of writer's block for the past few days. I've been trying to write some serious posts, and I've even started a couple, but so far I've accomplished nothing. Thankfully, though, we have technology to help us. Yesterday, I came across an apology note generator, which I don't actually need right now. But when I do need it, it will help.

Just as useful is this love letter generator, which follows sort of a Mad-Lib philosophy of romance. It helped me write this:

Dear Daisy,

How do I love thee, let me build the ways. You are the most fresh person I have ever met. I especially think your are fresh when you wear your sock just gentley covering your ankle.

Please meet me tonight in our special place, the moon, and be sure to wear your sock. I will bring the pet, you just bring yourself. My heart is rancid with anticipation. All of my friends think I am the portliest person alive for finding someone as fresh as you. I hope to live the rest of my life with you, raise 23 fresh children, and move to my bedroom.

Before I met you I was nothing. I didn't know what I wanted. I was completely lost in frustration, But then you came into my life and turned that all around. I will spend the rest of my fresh life thanking you.

Forever you are in my thoughts.

Yours Lovingly,

And, last but not least, I also found an automatic blog entry generator for those days when the keyboard won't do the work for you (if The Happy Husband is the only blog you read, just be aware that most blogs follow the format of the one below fairly consistently):

What can I say?

Pretty much not much exciting going on these days. Shrug. I can't be bothered with anything. I've just been staying at home waiting for something to happen. I haven't gotten much done today, but it's not important.

Current Mood: bored

Hopefully, the weekend will refresh me and I will have something good to post on Monday.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Off-topic: Movie etiquette  

I like the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre for movies because it has the greatest potential for the expression of genuine creativity. The writer and director of a fantasy movie can construct entirely new realities to share with the public. They can let their imaginations run wild and really, truly create. The actors involved participate by portraying characters that have never actually existed. Set designers, prop designers, art directors, and everyone else do their jobs in a more purely creative state than any other genre permits. The best recent example of that is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkein was a genius.

Last week I went to see Underworld with my friend Jerry (Mrs. Happy hates sci-fi stuff, so she doesn't usually accompany me to such movies). I found it interesting, as it put its own spin on the mythology of vampires and werewolves. I also found it frustrating because it had a densely plotted, fascinating story that either the director or the studio felt was unimportant. The writer had imagined a thousand-year history between these two races, with detailed motivations and back stories for every major character, but it got lost among the copious fight scenes and, as Roger Ebert pointed out, people walking through doors. While watching the movie, I could imagine a studio executive saying to the director, "Hmm. Kate here doesn't seem to have as many fights as Wesley Snipes did in Blade, and we don't have as many stunts as The Matrix. We can fix that by adding three minutes to the fight in the subway and adding another in the werewolves' lair. Cut out some of that stuff about her parents if you have to. I don't want this movie being too long."

What irritated me more, though, were the other people in the theater. Jerry and I were able to catch a matinee right after work, so there were not many people there. However, the guy sitting directly behind us took a cell phone call right as the movie started. Jerry glared at him to let him know he was disturbing the people around him. For the rest of the time we were there, the guy never passed up an opportunity to kick the back of Jerry's chair.

Across the aisle from us sat three guys who seemed to have no interest in being there. They had full-voice conversations. They took and made cell phone calls, speaking loudly so that they could hear themselves over the fight scenes. And I can't be sure, but in the movie's quiet moments I swear I could hear headphone-quality music coming from their direction.

This sort of behavior can't be excused by ignorance. Even children know not to disturb others during a movie. Every film in America today follows a public service announcement asking patrons to turn off their pagers and cell phones. Not doing so amounts to willful disregard for others. When I was a kid, ushers routinely asked disruptive people to leave the theater. I think it may be time to revive that practice.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


I'm always on the lookout for others' (and especially Christians') ramblings on marriage and marriage-related topics. I rarely find any, but today I came across a post in the blogs4God archive in which one of the moderators uses the occasion of her first wedding anniversary to reflect on the reality versus the illusion of love, ending her thoughts with a prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of love in our lives. Lord, bless those who have been married many years, those who have not been married quite so many, and those who are looking to get married. Show them what your love really is, that it isn't what society makes it out to be, but rather that it is the coming together of a man and woman to live a common life. Bless the marriages of the members here at b4G and help those searching for their soulmate to look to you above all others because you, Lord, know our hearts and to whom we should pledge ours. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Read the entire post here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Duties of a Wife  

Yesterday, my post concerned the Duties of a Husband in 1883. Here are the duties of a wife, according to my grandmother's grandmother, along with comments on how Mrs. Happy measures up.

Duties of the Wife
Make your personal appearance as beautiful as possible for your husband. Your dress may be calico, but it should be neat. While hair dye is not advisable, the eyebrows may be improved by a slight application.

My wife sometimes gets frustrated with me because I think she's beautiful no matter what she's wearing. When she puts on a fancy, sexy dress and I tell her she looks beautiful, she sighs and says "Yeah, but you'd say that if I was wearing a potato sack." She doesn't dye her hair, but she periodically plucks her eyebrows. I don't know if Great-Great-Grandmother Happy would have approved, but I certainly don't mind.

Make every attempt to spend wisely the dole your husband offers for household expenses. Purchase with care.

We're both responsible for the household budget. Sometimes we're good about it. Other times we're more reckless.

Whatever the day's circumstances, greet your husband with a smile.

On the rare days when my wife's mood prevents a ready smile, she doesn't waste time finding something to smile about.

Do not estimate your husband by his ability to make display. His employment may not be favorable for fine show, but his superior qualities of mind and heart are all that matter.

When I proposed to the Happy Girlfriend, I was a college student earning $18,000 a year—my highest salary ever at that point in my life. At the time of our wedding, I was a college graduate earning exactly $0 a year—still the lowest salary I've ever had. I know she didn't marry me for money, and it's obvious to all who know me that she cares nothing about looks. Mind and heart are the only things left.

In your husband's dealing with his employees he is in the habit of giving commands and being obeyed. In his absentmindedness the same dictatorial spirit may possess him at home, so avoid all disputes until he gains his senses.

Mrs. Happy does periodically have to give me time to come to my senses after work, but certainly not because I have anyone to order around.

Maintain dignity in public with your husband. Loud talk or laughter, pointing, running, allowing your skirt to drag or sucking on your parasol handle all show bad manners.

Mrs. Happy is as dignified, confident, and comfortable with herself as any woman I have ever met. To my knowledge, she has never sucked on a parasol handle.

Do not use profanity, slang, or words of double meaning that will bring the blush to your husband.

Though every day she's surrounded by coworkers and clients who constantly use profanity and street slang, she generally refrains and lets no unwholesome word proceed from her mouth. At home, in private, she is not above using words of double meaning in order to make me blush.

I think we'd have a good marriage even in the 19th century.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Duties of the Husband  

Shortly after my parents married, my mother (a.k.a. "Mom") and paternal grandmother (a.k.a. "Grandmother") were cleaning the top floor of my grandmother's house when they came across an old trunk in the back of a long, narrow closet. Mom inquired after the trunk's contents, so Grandmother pulled it out of the closet. They sat down and went through the trunk, apparently unopened for many years, and they found two pieces of paper with short, hand-written essays titled The Duties of a Husband and The Duties of a Wife. Grandmother said that her grandmother had written them in 1883 as a wedding gift for her daughter, who I imagine was my grandmother's oldest aunt. Mom was so taken with them that she copied them herself. Nearly thirty years later, my mother copied the words onto a parchment-type paper, mounted them, and gave them to my wife and me as a wedding gift.

Here are the words written for the husband, along with comments from me about how I would have stacked up in 1883. (All comments made by me have been reviewed and approved by Mrs. Happy.)

Duties of the Husband
Now that you are married do not allow yourself a slovenly appearance. Dress neatly, bathe often and give attention to the trimming of your hair and beard, nature's badge of manliness.

Before I was married I didn't understand how to shop for clothes. I dress better now because my wife tells me what to buy and when to wear it. I shower daily for the most part and get a hair cut about every five to six weeks. I have no "badge of manliness", so I guess I'm failing there.

Take care your clothing or breath is not tainted with the fumes of tobacco or strong drink.

I once smoked a cigar, but I've never smoked a cigarette. I've tasted alcohol here and there (a glass of wine, a strawberry daquiri, etc.), but I've never been drunk and my breath has never smelled of alcohol for long. I even try to brush my teeth immediately after the occasional dose of Nyquil.

Your good manners captured your wife, continue them. Do not sneeze or expectorate at the table, or allow butter, soup, or other food to remain on your whiskers. Do not be a dictator at home, it is your wife's province.

I still do my best to treat my wife like a queen. I open doors for her, help her with her coat, and give her piggy-back rides when she's tired. I mind my manners at the table and wipe my mouth consistently. I probably belch too much, but at least I'm not a dictator at home.

Remember, your wife should be first to be cared for and given the most courteous attention. When traveling make sure the horse selected for her is reliable and gentle.

I hate to admit this as a native Texan, but horses scare me. I've ridden them quite a few times, but I've never enjoyed it. Mrs. Happy and I went horseback riding together once, and afterward she promised me she'd never ask me to do it again. The less said about that experience, the better.

Never reproach your wife for an error which was done with a good motive at the time.

I've been guilty of this, but I apologize once I understand the situation.

Always use the most gentle and loving words when addressing your wife in public.

Amen. I have at times said harsh things to my wife in front of people and had to apologize for it afterward. I've found that when I'm peeved at my wife in public, we're both better off if we discuss it later in private.

Never leave your home without a tender goodbye and loving words. They may be your last.

We make it a point never to part without a hug, a kiss, and an "I love you" or two.

More on Duties of the Wife tomorrow.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

On Saturdays, I usually just collect links from news articles on the web that in some way celebrate marriage. The pickins were slim this week. I found one article that focused on the topic of marriage, called Marriage: Just Say No, by Darren Blacksmith. Hardly a celebration, or even an affirmation, but it caught my attention because the writer's concerns precisely mirror the fears I had about getting married:

After several years of soul-searching, and before I ever met my wife, I came to the following conclusions:

Marriage is a noble and beautiful enterprise if the two people involved are fully devoted to each other. It's worth doing, it's worth preserving, and it's worth celebrating.

How long can a marriage last? As long as you both shall live. How about 75 years? Wow.

I don't know if any of my readers actually pay attention to the link bar at the left, but I made a few changes to it this week:


Friday, October 03, 2003

Kissing threshold  

See the 10/01 installment of Rose is Rose (link will probably expire after 11/01/03). I would post it here, but I think that's illegal.

A husband and wife stand under a tree, their faces turned upward toward the falling leaves. They embrace in a kiss. They join hands and skip away together. To their side appears the text: "Are falling leaves enough reason to kiss someone? If you answered 'Yes,' you may have a below-normal Reason-to-Kiss threshold. Further testing can be fun."

Heh. Our first kiss occurred when I asked the Happy Just-Friend (see About My Marriage for more info) to pretend I had mistletoe in my apartment. We eventually did some more testing, and we still come in at way below the normal threshold.

Please don't kill me, Rey.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Mutual support  

I was going through some of my old files yesterday and found this thing that I wrote a few years ago:

On a recent morning I was in my kitchen preparing lunches for my wife and myself before we headed off to work. I had just finished stuffing some chips into a plastic bag when I heard a small rustling in the pantry. Before I had time to process the implications of the noise, a mouse came scurrying out and ran behind the refrigerator. I am ashamed to say that I screamed. My verbal explosion did not take the form of a manly shout of anger. No, it was a high-pitched, otherworldly scream. The quality of the sound that came out of my mouth jarred me from my fright and prompted me to think, "Was that me?" Mrs. Happy was doing something in the bathroom at the time. She came running into the kitchen, more frightened by my scream than I had been by the mouse. I told her it was only a mouse and started laughing uncontrollably. I laughed even harder when she told me I had sounded like Ned Flanders. My laughter burst forth spasmodically throughout the rest of the day. I suppose it was a nervous reaction to the fright and the embarassment, mixed with a healthy sense of humor about what an incredible dork I can be.

This writing in and of itself has nothing to do with marriage, but it made me remember what the early days were like. We were learning how to live together peacefully, how to help and build each other up. We were making sacrifices and picking up each other's slack. The mouse incident showed us that we could each overcome an attack of the willies—or heebie jeebies for those of you in a different region—in order to save the other person from discomfort.

In this particular case, we set up a glue trap for the mouse so that we could catch and release it without hurting it. When I found the little critter stuck to the trap in the kitchen, I experienced some impressive willies. My wife stepped in and put the trap, mouse and all, into an empty bucket, and we took it out to a nearby park to release it.

This particular brand of glue trap required us to apply vegetable oil to reduce the glue's stickiness, then pry the mouse off with a stick. At the first drop of vegetable oil, the mouse started squealing, which inspired more willies in Mrs. Happy than I've seen before or since. That fortified me to take the trap from her and release the mouse, which crawled away tired and shaken but still alive.

This is, of course, a silly illustration of an important marital concept: mutual support. Twice so far in my marriage I've been out of work for several months, growing more discouraged, depressed, and even fearful every day. Throughout both times my wife was a rock, always positive, encouraging, and loving. After she earned her master's degree, she experienced a huge letdown and loss of personal momentum. I did my best to fortify her spirit and help her get her groove back. I have comforted her through the loss of her grandmother. She has held my hand through some pretty intense family strife. I guess love makes you strong when you know you need to be.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Honey-coated sugar syrup  

The feedback I have received for this site has been for the most part positive. Yesterday, however, I got a small bit of negative feedback from a member of the group I call "my geek friends." He thought yesterday's post was unrealistically sweet.

From: Rey
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:46 PM
To: Curt, Nick, Jerry
Subject: I may have to kill Curt

I don't have an option. I have to do it. this is WAY too...too...I don't know...Barney Sap? It's like PURE SACHARINE!


From: Curt
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:48 PM
To: Nick, Jerry, Rey
Subject: RE: I may have to kill Curt

I would agree with you if this were a work of fiction, but it's a realistic representation of a rainy morning a couple of weeks ago. The only differences are that we were sitting in our car at the time and I didn't abridge the song lyrics. Don't kill me for trying to cheer up my wife.


From: Rey
Sent: Sept. 30, 2003 4:51 PM
To: Nick, Curt, Jerry
Subject: RE: I may have to kill Curt

do you guys EVER fight? get nauseous? ANYTHING?!?!? I mean, you guys are like the SMURFS!!!

you can quote me on that. =)

It went on like that for a while, back and forth. My geek friends don't do much work after 4:45.

Anyway, the truth is that Mrs. Happy and I do fight. We pick playfully at each other quite a bit, and sometimes the picking goes too far. The scene I illustrated yesterday might easily have turned into strong words spoken with stern voices had Mrs. Happy been in a slightly worse mood to begin with or I in a slightly more annoying temperament.

We also have serious arguments (some might even label them "fights") that involve fundamental disagreements and deeply hurt feelings. We work through them, though. We have to. We are accustomed to enjoying each other's company, and when our moods, circumstances, and opinions put us in contention with one another, the world just doesn't seem right. So we talk things through, we look at each other's perspective, we sacrifice, we forgive, and we, uh…make up.

We don't live like the Smurfs, thank goodness (their peaceful, pastoral existence doesn't exactly stand up to much scrutiny anyway). We might more accurately be compared to Rob and Laura Petrie, or perhaps Rose is Rose with a little more conflict. The conflict always comes, but it brings growth and intimacy with it, along with a healthy dose of friskiness.

Mrs. Happy is this blog's editor. She reads everything before I post it, and by doing so has saved me from embarrassing errors several times. As she read this post, I could hear her muttering, "…that's not even how you spell saccharine…Smurfs? Shut up…" and so on. Then she pointed out that in the paper bag comic, she was in a snippy bad mood until the last three frames and I was being annoying the whole time. Nothing sappy about that.