Saturday, November 29, 2003

Marriage links for the week  

On most days, I spend 7 to 10 hours sitting in front of a computer. I've been doing that pretty regularly for the past five years or so. Yesterday, however, I played football with some friends. It was a lot of fun, brought back fond memories of the front-yard game of my childhood, but today I can barely move. When I was 19, I probably could have taken it in stride, but right now I can't point to a single muscle in my body that's not sore. That has nothing to do with my marriage. I just feel like complaining. Here are some links from the news this past week:

I love reading stories about happy marriages. This one involves a young Italian bride who grew to sincerely love her 59-year-old arranged husband.

Another reason I support President Bush: He initiated a federally funded effort to provide marriage counseling to political refugees who come to the United States. Key quote: "The refugee life has so many problems. If you have a good marriage, it's something that's almost too good to believe."

Blake, of StateDog, has a great story about rescuing his daughter from a scary and pretty awkward situation.

Trouble with inlaws? Stacy has it, but she and her husband don't let it bother them anymore.

And one more thing:
University of Texas: 46
Texas A&M University: 15

Hook 'em Horns!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Adultery of the eyes  

A short while ago I wrote a post called Adultery in the heart. I tried to make the point that sex is a sacred physical bond between a husband and wife and as such should not exist anywhere else, even in the imagination. Otherwise, we run the risk of diluting our sexual passion by spreading it too thin. My argument revolved around the short excerpt from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:

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.
—Matthew 5:27–28:

I summed up my own thoughts on the matter with this:

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.

While reading over blogs4God the other day, I came across a post at a blog called A Blog Apart that addressed the topic of pornography. It references an article by Naomi Wolf, a feminist social critic, that addresses the effect of pervasive pornography on our culture's sexual health. She says that when men see naked and nearly-naked women all day every day, their sexual energy disperses in many directions, with little left over for a flesh-and-blood woman at the end of the day. Here are some key quotes:

The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as "porn-worthy."

The reason to turn off the porn might become, to thoughtful people, not a moral one but, in a way, a physical- and emotional-health one; you might want to rethink your constant access to porn in the same way that, if you want to be an athlete, you rethink your smoking. The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity.

In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography.…These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.

Though she seems to be writing from a non-Christian perspective, her conclusion falls in line with Jesus' warning. Adultery in the heart hurts a marriage just like adultery in the flesh, though in a different way. Jesus didn't give us His command against lust to keep us from having fun, as so many people seem to think. He gave it to us so that we could have better marriages and lead more fulfilling lives.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving  

I know I have some international readers here who may or may not be aware that today is a huge holiday in the United States. It is the day that we set aside for spending with loved ones while sharing and contemplating the things that we're thankful for. Mrs. Happy and I drew up a short list of things we thank God for (the unabridged list would take days to compile) so that we could share it here. We are thankful for:

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Anything in the world  

For a few years after we met, the Happy Best-Friend and I used to spend quite a bit of time together. We would sit together in church, meet for lunch on most weekdays, go bowling between classes at the University of Texas student union, spend Friday nights with a group of friends, then see movies on Saturdays with a different group of friends. In between those regular activities, we would manufacture any excuse to be in each other's presence. Anything would do:

Of course, my roommate at the time would say things like "I like spaghetti" or "I can show you how to draw a squirrel" or "McDonald's sounds good" and I would have to shoot him with a rubber band.

One evening the Happy Best-Friend came up with the excuse that she felt like taking a walk through San Gabriel Park. It's a nice park: scenic, quiet, well-kept, and built around a river so wherever you are in the park you can hear the beautiful sound of flowing water. It provides swings, slides, trees, park benches, a hiking trail, open fields, and lots of opportunity for laughing, talking, and having fun. That particular evening we made use of the trail and the swings, then settled down on a bench facing the river. We sat there and talked until well after dark, until she began nodding off against her will.

I told her we'd both better get home. We had school the next day and I had missed too many classes already. She slumped where she was sitting and said, "Oh, I'm so tired." By that point in our relationship I loved her with all my heart, even if I didn't realize it. So I bent over, put my right arm behind her knees and my left arm behind her back, then picked her up and carried her to the car.

Mrs. Happy majored in studio art in college, and it happened that she had a watercolor class the day after we went to the park. That day, she painted a picture of a man carrying a woman in his arms and titled it Anything because she came to realize I would do anything for her (click on it to see the full image).

She came across that picture yesterday while going through some old work. She found all sorts of things wrong with it: "It's too faint, and I'm barefoot. Why am I barefoot? I was wearing shoes. And you never had a shirt that color. And I made you too tall and my arm is unnaturally long. Ugh."

I see something else in it, though. I see a picture revealing two people on the cusp of adulthood looking onto an indistinct world where even a tree, normally a symbol of firmness and stability, fades out of sight. I see her stretching her arm out to hold on to a man who will accompany her into that world, bearing her burdens when she can't carry them herself, when she's not "wearing shoes." I see that man (or a slightly enhanced vision of him) slowly coming into focus, not yet solid but much more than a shadow. I see how the future looked to us in 1995, as envisioned by a Happy Best-Friend who still signed with her maiden name. I remember how I felt about that future myself—unsure, overwhelmed, slightly terrified—and now I look back on it with fondness and thankfulness that we were able to meet it together.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Biblical love  

Here are a couple of things the Bible says about marriage, things I try to remember/practice every day:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
Ephesians 5:25, 29–31

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Proverbs 5:18–19

Like a lily among the thorns,
So is my darling among the maidens.
Song of Solomon 2:2

The Bible is in many ways a love story, the story of how and how much God loves mankind. It's only because He loves me that I'm able to love anyone else.


Poetry update:The where we're from page now includes a poem from Stacy.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Tired morning  

A long day yesterday turned into a late night last night which turned into an oversleeping session this morning which gave way to a "real life trumps blogging" situation (a concept promoted by Dean Peters, aka MeanDean, of Heal Your Church Web Site and blogs4God) this morning. Even so, I would like to point out that I have built a page for the Where I'm From poems that people send me (see this post for more details). The permanent link for the poem page is in the right-hand column under the About heading. Enjoy the poems there, and please consider writing your own and sharing it.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Sidebar stuff  

Nearly every blog on the web provides links to other blogs. That's one of the essential components of a blog. That's one of the defining characteristics of a blog. Philosophies about how to decide which links to display vary widely. Some bloggers will link to anything that catches their fancy at a particular moment. I don't do that because it tends to result in 50 to 100 or more links, which doesn't help readers find anything useful. Other bloggers link to sites that link back in return. If I followed that practice, I'd only have four links in my sidebar (Peachwater, The Bible Archive, The Noble Pundit, and Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS)). Others restrict their links to sites that also deal with the blog's main topic. I'd have an empty sidebar if I did that. So I, personally, just link to blogs that I regularly read myself and provide links to other sites that I enjoy and/or find useful.

The top three links in my sidebar fall under the heading of Blog Role Models. These are blogs that I want to emulate in some way. I read Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping every day. He is a Methodist minister (not Buddhist, despite the title) who served in the Army for a number of years. He writes about current events from a Christian perspective. His usually focuses on military issues, in which he has a fair level of expertise. I look to him as a role model because he writes well, prolifically, and with authority. He also shows humility, always making a point of setting the record straight when he has been wrong about something.

Martin Roth doesn't write quite as regularly—two or three times a week—but his posts are invariably insightful, educational, and well-written. Mr. Roth is also a Christian. He lives in Australia and came to Christianity through Buddhism, a background that gives him an interesting perspective.

Heal Your Church Web Site, aka HYCWS, probably doesn't offer anything of use to most people who visit The Happy Husband. I list it because it made me realize the possibilities of a Web-based ministry and inspired me to begin this site. Every post there offers absolutely practical information about running a Web site, particularly a church Web site, and I hope that this site will someday accomplish its purpose half as well as HYCWS does.

I found HYCWS while looking for resources to help me improve my own church's site. I found Martin Roth through a link at HYCWS. I found One Hand Clapping through a link at Martin Roth. That's why bloggers link to each other, so we can all share in the good stuff and form a sort of community.

I have recently begun reading a few other sites that I'm now adding to the sidebar. Stacy—a wife, mother, and devoted Christian—keeps a journal that chronicles her "walk through marriage, parenthood, servanthood and the family of God." Her site is called K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple, Stupid. I found it through my referral logs. I don't know how she found this site, but I'm glad she did because I enjoy reading hers as well.

StateDog is a more traditional-format blog, serving as a place for blogger Blake to write about whatever comes into his head. I don't usually care much for sites like this as they usually seem to be directed at close friends and family members. But Blake often has something worth sharing with the world, sometimes even about marriage and family issues.

I mentioned Fragments From Floyd in a post earlier this week. I've begun reading Fred's posts every day (Fred lives in Floyd County, Virginia, hence the name) simply for the stunning amount of creativity and joy for living that he expresses. And he has a cool dog.


11/23/03 Update: It has been brought to my attention that there are now two other blogs that link to The Happy Husband: :: blogging: mccord style :: and Martin Roth(!). Also check out this post's comments and see some of the biggest ego-boosters most encouraging things I've ever heard.

Marriage links for the week  

Really not much in the way of news this week. Here's the meager sampling.

The secret to a happy marriage? Separate kitchens.

Financial betrayal can hurt a marriage as deeply as sexual betrayal. It doesn't have to mean the end, though.

One couple's memories of the day JFK was shot include their wedding.

Friday, November 21, 2003

The trouble with critics, Part 3  

Today I conclude my response to Laura Kipnis's article, The Trouble With Marriage. See Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't read them yet.

And then there's the American mantra of the failing relationship: 'Good marriages take work!' When exactly did the rhetoric of the factory become the default language of coupledom? Is there really anyone to whom this is an attractive proposition, who, after spending all day on the job, wants to come home and work some more? Here's an interesting question: what's the gain to a society in promoting more work to an overworked population as a supposed solution to the travails of marital discontent?

At this point I begin to wonder what sort of lifestyle Ms. Kipnis would promote over marriage. Is there any ongoing situation in life that does not require work? Any meaningful relationship that functions with no effort from the people involved? Is the single life one of blissful relaxation? Does a hippie commune's existence automatically guarantee the mutual respect and cooperation of every one of its members? No. Life requires effort, sometimes difficult effort. To complain of this, or to expect anything else, betrays a misguided and egotistically entitled attitude.

Sometimes, marriages break. Sometimes, they require fixing. Every day, they require cultivation. You can call that "work" if you like and compare it to a factory shift, but take if from an ex factory worker: it's not the same. The work you put in at a factory (10- and 12-hour shifts in my experience) earns you a paycheck at the end of the week. The work you put into a marriage earns you a devoted partner and a lifetime of joy and contentment. Yes, it's work. But it's worth it.

What if luring people into conditions of emotional stagnation and deadened desires were actually functional for society? Consider the norms of modern marriage: here is a social institution devoted to maximising submission and minimising freedom, habituating a populace to endless compliance with an infinite number of petty rules and interdictions, in exchange for love and companionship.

Perhaps a citizenry schooled in renouncing desire - and whatever quantities of imagination and independence it comes partnered with - would be, in many respects, socially advantageous. Note that the conditions of marital stasis are remarkably convergent with those of a cowed workforce and a docile electorate. And wouldn't the most elegant forms of social control be those that come packaged in the guise of individual needs and satisfactions, so wedded to the individual psyche that any contrary impulse registers as the anxiety of unlovability? Who needs a policeman on every corner when we're all so willing to police ourselves and those we love, and call it upholding our vows?

I guess this argument hinges on definitions. What is freedom? If it means doing whatever you want whenever you want in any way you want, then marriage does not offer freedom. In fact, no private or public institution, no personal relationship, no government, and no religion in the world offers freedom by that definition. It occurs to me that I may be setting up my own straw man here, that perhaps this is not actually Lipnis's definition of freedom. But I don't know how else to interpret her statement that marriage is an "institution devoted to maximising submission and minimizing freedom." Living with, or even near, another person requires compromise. It requires investments of time and effort. Our government recognizes this, so it has given us reams of "petty rules" to maintain peace in society. Every married couple recognizes this, and decides where to leave the toothpaste, how to load the dishwasher, etc. That's not just marriage—that's life.

Marriage succeeds when a wife lives in submission to her husband and a husband devotes every ounce of his energy to his wife's well-being. My wife and I strive for that ideal. We are each other's slaves, so to speak, and we are benevolent masters who want the absolute best for each other no matter what the cost. That means I don't live for myself. That means I sacrifice my desires, up to and including my own life if necessary. That, to me, is the definition of love, and the essence of freedom. Without marriage, I would not be free to love my wife and experience the true joy of real intimacy.

In this respect, perhaps rising divorce rates are not such bad news after all. The Office for National Statistics blames couples' high expectations for the upswing in divorce. But are high expectations really such a bad thing? What if we all worked less and expected more - not only from our marriages or in private life, but in all senses - from our jobs, our politicians, our governments? What if wanting happiness and satisfaction - and changing the things that needed changing to attain it - wasn't regarded as 'selfish' or 'unrealistic' (and do we expect so much from our mates these days because we get so little back everywhere else?). What if the real political questions were what should we be able to expect from society and its institutions? And, if other social contracts and vows beside marriage were also up for re-examination, what other ossified social institutions might be next on the hit list?

I'm not sure what to say about this, because I'm not exactly sure what Lipnis is trying to say or how the body of the essay has anything to do with this conclusion(?). A few thoughts:

Kipnis's objections to marriage seem to stem from her view that marriage doesn't make people happy. She is correct in her premise, but wrong in her conclusion. Marriage doesn't, and can't, make anyone happy. Neither a husband nor a wife has the ability to bring about a condition of happiness in a spouse. Happier is the best we can hope for. A person experiences true happiness or, as I prefer to call it, joy when he or she understands the purpose of life and then works to fulfill it. The full implication of that is a topic for another post, and perhaps another blog. I will say, though, that I have explored/read/discussed/experimented all sorts of things in an effort to find that purpose. Here's what I've come up with, in a nutshell: Love God and keep His commandments, love your neighbor, and don't waste life by living it for yourself.

Laura Kipnis is the author of Against Love: A Polemic (Pantheon) and a professor at Northwestern University, Chicago.

Curt Hendley is a happily married man (5 yrs., 6 mos. as of this post) who has written several technical manuals for Dell OpenManage server management software that no one will ever read.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The trouble with critics, Part 2  

Today I continue my examination of Laura Kipnis's anti-marriage article. See yesterday's post for the first part. I meant to provide a disclaimer yesterday: Laura Kipnis holds a couple of advanced academic degrees (her Northwestern University bio lists them as a BFA, an MFA, and an independent study program at the Whitney Museum) whereas I hold a bachelor's degree in journalism, which took me seven years to obtain. She approaches her topic from an analytical, academic (though I might also add slanted) perspective whereas I address it based on life experience and anecdotal observation. That could account for many of our differences of opinion.

Let us contemplate the everyday living conditions of this rather large percentage of the population, this self-reportedly unhappily married majority: all those households submersed in low-level misery and soul-deadening tedium, early graves in all respects but the most forensic. Regard those couples - we all know them, perhaps we are them - the bickering; the reek of unsatisfied desires and unmet needs; a populace downing anti-depressants, along with whatever other forms of creative self-medication are most easily at hand, from triple martinis to serial adultery.

No doubt these conditions do exist in many homes. Unhappy people often self-medicate with whatever is at hand, be it pharmaceuticals, alcohol, pornography, or multiple sexual partners. But these are all symptoms of individual and specific problems needing attention, not an institution needing annihilation.

Yes, we all know that domesticity has its advantages: companionship, shared housing costs, childrearing convenience, reassuring predictability, occasional sex, and many other benefits too varied to list. But there are numerous disadvantages as well - though it is considered unseemly to enumerate them - most of which are so structured into the expectations of contemporary coupledom that they have come to seem utterly natural and inevitable. But are they?

This touches on an important topic. If I could give advice to every young couple contemplating marriage, I would tell them this: "Before you marry, you need a good reason to do so that does not include the phrase 'because we're in love.' If you base your marriage on 'being in love,' then your marriage will fail because that feeling does not last. If you base your marriage on something of actual substance, then that feeling can grow into something more wonderful than you can imagine. But 'in love,' if that is all you have, falls apart at the first serious conflict."

That's just sort of a sidebar. Kipnis gets to her real point in the next paragraph.

Consider, for instance, the endless regulations and interdictions that provide the texture of domestic coupledom. Is there any area of married life that is not crisscrossed by rules and strictures about everything from how you load the dishwasher, to what you can say at dinner parties, to what you do on your day off, to how you drive - along with what you eat, drink, wear, make jokes about, spend your discretionary income on?

Is there anything, any endeavor in this entire world, that does not include rules and strictures to somehow govern our behavior? Any activity, any situation, any and every bit of our lives that involves contact with other people carries with it rules of etiquette, if not law, regarding acceptable conduct. True, as long as I live with my wife I have to take her feelings into account with nearly every decision I make. If I get the urge to drink a gallon of vodka and sing Dont' Worry Be Happy at the top of my lungs for four hours, I resist. That may be "unnatural," but anything else would be uncivilized. If we do away with marriage because it does not allow us to act in any way we please, then we must also do away with society in general.

What is it about marriage that turns nice-enough people into petty dictators and household tyrants, for whom criticising another person's habits or foibles becomes a conversational staple, the default setting of domestic communication? Or whose favourite marital recreational activity is mate behaviour modification? Anyone can play - and everyone does. What is it about modern coupledom that makes policing another person's behaviour a synonym for intimacy? (Or is it something about the conditions of modern life itself: is domesticity a venue for control because most of us have so little of it elsewhere?)

Replace the word marriage with academia in that paragraph and you have a better question. The truth is that selfish people, married or not, are by definition self-centered and behave in ways that benefit themselves and hurt others. Kipnis' argument here is begging the question. Marriage doesn't make people selfish and controlling. Selfish and controlling people make marriage miserable.

Then there's the fundamental premise of monogamous marriage: that mutual desire can and will last throughout a lifetime. And if it doesn't? Well apparently you're just supposed to give up on sex, since waning desire for your mate is never an adequate defence for 'looking elsewhere'. At the same time, let's not forget how many booming businesses and new technologies have arisen to prop up sagging marital desire. Consider all the investment opportunities afforded: Viagra, couples pornography, therapy. If upholding monogamy in the absence of desire weren't a social dictate, how many enterprises would immediately fail? (Could dead marriages be good for the economy?)

I believe this is what professional debaters call knocking down a straw man, assigning an indefensible argument to an opponent in order to argue decisively against it and score an easy victory. "…mutual desire can and will last throughout a lifetime"? Is that really "the fundamental premise of monogamous marriage"? I have never in my life heard anyone make that ridiculous claim. In fact, I would bet that every happily married couple will tell you that desire ebbs and flows, that sometimes you like your spouse and sometimes you don't, that sometimes you pursue sex with real gusto and sometimes you just don't feel like it. But love and commitment infuse real joy into a passionate relationship and keep a couple content when desires cool.

Kipnis also seems to be implying here that the main purpose of sex is physical gratification—a common but fundamental misunderstanding. Sex in its purest and most satisfying form is a physical union between two people who share their entire lives with each other. Active love and unshakeable, exclusive commitment in a marriage inspire desire.

I will finish this tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The trouble with critics  

Today, I am attempting my first fisking. For those of you not up on the latest Internet lingo, a fisking is a point-by-point examination (usually the form of a refutation) of a news article, opinion piece, or blog post.

Last week, I came across an article written by Laura Kipnis, a professor in Northwestern University's school of communications. In it, she tries to make the case that marriage should be abolished for the good of society. When I first sat down to type out my response, I wrote things like "What's WRONG with you??!!! Are you UTTERLY INSANE or just COMPLETELY STUPID?!!" I realized that such language on my part would not have been helpful for anyone, including me, so I waited a few days and resumed my task once I was a little calmer.

Here's the article, originally published in The Observer, 9/7/03. I found it at The Age, 11/15/03. Kipnis's words are indented. My comments are not.

Laura Kipnis has provoked a storm in the US with a new book attacking marriage. Here, she explains why monogamy turns nice people into household tyrants.

Marriage: The new blue-light case of the week. Everyone is terribly worried about its condition: can it be cured? Or has the time arrived for drastic measures - just putting it out of its misery? Euthanasia is a dirty word but, frankly, the prognosis is not so great for this particular patient: a stalwart social institution is now scabby and infirm, gasping for each tortured breath. Many who had once so optimistically pledged to uphold its vows are fleeing its purported satisfactions. In the US, a well-publicised 50 per cent failure rate hardly makes for optimism; in Britain, too, the Office for National Statistics report that divorce has reached a record high at around 15 per cent. But this lower figure goes with a drop in the number of weddings - at their lowest level since the reign of Queen Victoria; this should mean fewer divorces, since not getting married in the first place seems the best way - these days - of avoiding this sorry (often expensive, usually ego-damaging) denouement.

I should first say that I have no idea what Kipnis means by "blue-light case." A google search for the three words together resulted in a few links to her article on various sites and a few Web sites selling a decorative PC accessory. In this context, however, she seems to be comparing marriage to a terminally ill patient who has no evident quality of life and no evident hope of recovery.

I have tried to find a reliable source for the divorce rate in the United States, but no one seems to agree on how many marriages actually end in divorce. The Straight Dope has a seemingly logical examination of the issue of figuring divorce rates. Suffice it to say, the 50 per cent figure is unreliable.

Avoiding marriage may be the surest way to prevent divorce, but in no other sense of the word is it the best way.

Certainly, there are happy marriages. No one disputes that and all those who are happily married can stop reading here.

Here is the crux of the problem. Good, happy, and fulfilling marriages do exist and always have. I'm in one. I know people who love being married. There are people I don't know personally who visit this blog because they love their spouse. I'll also go so far as to say that I am at heart a selfish, prideful man who would prefer not to compromise on even the smallest point. But still I have a good marriage and the love of a wonderful woman, however selfish, prideful, and averse to compromise she may be as well. I maintain that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Or at least this: If it's possible for some, it's possible for many, if not all. Even if most marriages fail, that's not a matter of statistics—it's a matter of human will. Statistics are irrelevant.

Additionally, there is always serial monogamy for those who can't face up to the bad news - yes, keep on trying until you get it right, because the problem couldn't be the institution itself or its impossible expectations. For these optimists, the problem is that they have somehow either failed to find the 'right person', or have been remiss in some other respect. If only they'd put those socks in the laundry basket instead of leaving them on the floor, everything would have worked out. If only they'd cooked more (or less) often. If only they'd been more this, less that, it would have been fine.

The failure of serial monogamy has less to do with feelings of guilt or mismatched fate than is does with unrealistic personal expectations stemming from an inaccurate concept of marriage. I've written before about how media mis-shapes popular ideas about romance and relationships. Anyone who expects a long-term relationship (marital or not) to resemble anything they see on TV, which I think most people do, will find more disillusionment than fulfillment. Anyone who believes that there is one and only one "right person" in the world with whom a successful union can be formed will never find that person. No one is perfect, and no two people match perfectly.

The fact that most people have egregious misconceptions about marriage does not necessitate a demolition of the institution. It simply indicates that older generations must educate younger generations more effectively in the ways of life, love, and relationships.

And what of the growing segment of the population to whom the term 'happily married' does not precisely apply, yet who none the less valiantly struggle to uphold the tenets of the marital enterprise, mostly because there seems to be no viable option? A 1999 Rutgers University study reported that a mere 38 per cent of Americans who are married describe themselves as actually happy in that state. This is rather shocking: so many pledging to live out their lives here on earth in varying degrees of discontent or emotional stagnation because that is what's expected from us, or 'for the sake of the children', or because wanting more than that makes you selfish and irresponsible. So goes the endless moralising and finger-pointing this subject tends to invite.

In times past a couple might have stayed in an unhappy marriage for lack of viable options. That probably is still the case in some instances. But modern society is full of legal and socially acceptable alternatives to traditional marriage (not many healthy alternatives, in my opinion, but they exist nonetheless). These days, most couples who remain unhappily married have very good reasons. They may want to restore their marriage, knowing that a difficult stretch of time does not necessarily foretell the imminent end of the world (see Todd's story, for instance). They may want to honor the commitment they made to one another. They may want their children to have a stable home and are willing to work through their conflicts to give it to them. Many parents, after all, put their children's well-being ahead of their own, no matter what the moralizers and finger-pointers might say.

I will continue this tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Where I'm from  

Through a series of links I can't begin to reconstruct, I came across a nice blog the other day called Fragments ~ from Floyd. It's pretty creative stuff. One post from last week particularly caught my attention. It was called Where are you from?. In it, blogger Fred (Floyd is the Virginia county where Fred lives) links to a beautiful and touching poem called Where I'm From by George Ella Lyons, then issues a challenge/assignment for readers to write similar poems based on their own experience and background. In his post, he even helps out with a sort of fill-in-the-blank guideline/template to help out the non- and timidly-poetic among us.

I wrote my own and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Where Curt's From
I am from books,
from teddy bears and little red wagons.
I am from the oil-covered roads in the sandbox.
I am from the honeysuckle bush,
from the bois d'arc
and its sticky, brainy fruit.

I am from hunters, from farmers, from storytellers and singers,
from Joe, and J.C., and Curtis, who (I) never knew.
I'm of the frigid feet, the weak eyes, and the strong heart.
I'm of the doodle, june, and lightning bugs.

I am from the snake snapper and the road builder,
from peanut butter crackers and chocolate-covered pretzels.
I am from washer pitchers, rocket launchers, and arms that emanated infinite love.
I am from treasure chests, from toy barrels, from loving kitchens,
and from sloping yards and vibrant trees that dropped nuts as well as leaves.

I'd love to see what others can come up with. Check out Fred's template as well as what other people have written. I also would like to encourage you to take some time to write your own and e-mail me with it (happy-at-atimelikethis-dot-net), and let Fred know about it as well (fred1st-at-swva-dot-net). If I get a couple of these poems from readers, I'll set up a special page and post them here on this site.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Searching  

I got the weirdest hit from a search engine yesterday. The search terms were:

how what is fair in a divorce , when the couple is 52 years old and have been married for 30 years with 2 grown children who live at home and the mother does not work. the father is having an affair.

The search engine hits I usually get are things like happy husband, happy wife, happy divorces, how to make a husband happy, that sort of thing. I've also received hits from searches like nicknames for boyfriends and girlfriends, wild hair cause, allison peed herself, etc. Never anything quite so painful as this, though. The search came from Yahoo, which listed this site as the 28th hit. I'm not sure whether to feel sad because people conduct searches like this, or hopeful because in their searches they actually visit a site whose tagline is "…celebrating marriage in a hostile world."


Update
11/19/03—I have a new weirdest search: "successfully transforming your husband into a lady." I'm speechless.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Football update  

University of Texas: 43
Texas Tech University: 40

Hook 'em Horns!!!

Marriage links for the week  

Spending more time at work than at home is hard on a marriage. Spending personal time with coworkers of the opposite sex can lead to adultery. Hanging out with people who are bitter about their marriages can make you bitter about your own. I should go into the research business. I could apply for grants to study marriage, write common sense reports that would be obvious to any idiot, then pocket the leftover grant money.

It's good for a husband and wife to spend their leisure time together, but only if they both enjoy the activities.

No matter how careful and loving parents are, divorce devastates children.

A husband and wife had seven sons, who all eventually got married. There hasn't been a single divorce among them, and now the family represents 433 collective years of marriage.

When I started writing this blog, I actually told my parents about it, and my in-laws as well. I don't usually write about embarrassing things, so it's not much of an issue. I pity this guy, though. My blogging service, Blogger, has responded to the article with advice on what to do if your mom stumbles across your blog. (In case you don't know, The Onion is a satirical newspaper, and its stories are not real. But they can be very funny.)

I have adapted atimelikethis.net into a romantic comedy screenplay. I'm trying to find a distributor now.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Choosing, part 2  

Yesterday I began examining some practical criteria for choosing a spouse from an article over at Deeper Devotion. Today I continue that.

  1. What are the people around you saying? Do your closest friends and family think this person is worth pursuing?
    My closest friends and family could not shut up about how I should be pursuing the Happy Potential. Not one person that I ever introduced to my parents made as strong an impression on them as Mrs. Happy. My friends constantly expressed bewilderment at the fact that she and I were not the hottest item in Austin. Even my friend Matt, who lived in Indiana and didn't meet her or speak to her until the wedding, told me I should be with her. Everyone knew a long time before we did that we would (or at least should) get married, and they weren't shy about saying so.

  2. Does she cause you to sin? Would you be compromising on your standards by pursing a relationship with her? Have you seen any red flags-sin or baggage that needs to be dealt with that shouldn't be carried into a relationship (i.e. lust, anger, bitterness toward God)?
    I lusted after her in my heart quite a bit, but that wasn't her fault. She never required any sin from me, and in fact she encouraged me in my ministries and my personal spiritual growth.

  3. Do you have similar life goals, dreams, and ideals? (Not that they have to be exactly the same, but have you made sure that neither of you are compromising what God has already told you to do?)
    We both wanted to grow closer to God and to each other. We both wanted to raise a loving, Godly family. I had no clear direction in life, so compromise was a non-issue for me. Mrs. Happy, on the other hand, had some pretty prominent gifts that she obviously needed to foster. I dedicated myself to helping her do that, and I've never regretted it.

  4. How does this person treat other people (especially her family)?
    Mrs. Happy's family has issues and conflicts, just like every family, but she loves them with all her heart. When we met, she didn't have a very close relationship with her youngest brother (they're 11 years apart in age), but he was able to hang out with the two of us quite a bit, and now we're all good friends. As far as non-family goes, she's the rare type of person who treats everyone with respect (except sometimes mean people, who, I think we can all agree, suck). She even has a special affection for those that society considers outcasts.

  5. Is this person someone you would want to be influenced by? A person that you would want to wake up beside every morning? Someone you could be committed to working through their faults with? Someone you would trust to make some of life's biggest decisions with?
    Yes. Oh, yes. Yes. Absolutely.

  6. Have you put in the time to know if this person is who she says she is—consistently?
    Mrs. Happy and I were friends for a year and best friends for three years (including a four-month courtship and a six-month engagement) before we got married. I estimate that we spent no less than 5 hours a week together during that first year and no less than 20 hours a week together in the next three years, which adds up to easily more than 3,000 hours that we spent with each other before we got married. It would be difficult for two honest people to keep up a facade for that long.

  7. Are you ready? Have you spent enough time with this person to know that your decision isn't based on emotions? Is your heart prepared for a relationship? Do you fit these criteria?
    I don't know if anyone can accurately gauge their readiness for something they've never experienced. I do know that we desperately wanted to begin building a life together, that 20 hours a week was not nearly enough time to spend in each other's company. For us, getting married was the logical, best, and only option.

I wish I had read an article like this when I was twenty. It contains quite a bit of solid, practical advice. It might have saved me some grief. Then again, I was probably too misguided and stubborn to have paid attention anyway. I'm just glad everything worked out the way it did.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Choosing  

I came across an article over at Deeper Devotion that offers some advice on choosing a spouse. It's the sort of advice a lot of married people gave me when was single, along the lines of If you just depend on your feelings, you could get yourself into a messy situation and Choose your mate wisely and don't settle for less. I resented it at the time, thinking that married people have no idea what it's like to be single and lonely. But now I can see the wisdom in it, and now I also realize that a lot of married people endured years of loneliness before their weddings as much as I did. Still, I look back and see that people told me a lot of stupid things, too. Fortunately, I didn't listen to the half-hearted encouragement and ill-informed opinions any more than I heeded the good advice.

Let me give some advice to people who like to give advice: Never say to a single person, "Don't worry. You'll get married some day." It's the most transparent, condescending, and unhelpful piece of falsely hopeful tripe ever uttered by a human being. Also, when a young man has been told by a young woman, "I just like you as a friend," don't try to cheer him up by telling him that the young woman's statement is good news because it's better to be friends first. It's true that the most enduring romances grow out of the deepest friendships, but that really doesn't apply to the situation. When a girl tells a guy that she likes him as a friend and nothing more, what he hears (and probably what she means) is that at best she sees him as a eunuch with a decent personality—not good news at all.

Anyway, there's nothing like that in the Deeper Devotion article. Kristy Smith, the article's author, actually provides practical advice on how to choose who you marry. She sets out ten questions to ask yourself when looking at a potential mate. Here's how they apply to me and Mrs. Happy:

  1. Does this person acknowledge God as Lord and the best friend of her life? Is she molded by God or molded by the people around her? Is she really committed to knowing God and what God wants, or is her spirituality just for you?
    When I met my Happy Acquaintance in 1994, she had been a Christian for a couple of years. She didn't attend church much growing up, so once she came to understand what Jesus was all about and that she could have a personal relationship with God, she wholeheartedly began growing her faith. We were absolutely compatible in this area.

  2. Does this person have a teachable spirit? Is this person quick to learn from situations, or does she get mad easily and blame things on other people? Is this person willing to listen to criticism and the opinions of others? How does this person respond to you when you do or say something she doesn't like?
    Mrs. Happy scores high in this regard, too, and always has as far as I know. She's quick to learn and slow to anger, if at times a little too quick to speak.

  3. Do you feel the Lord is giving you the "okay"? Have you prayed about it? Seriously? Are you willing to not pursue this relationship if you felt the Lord was telling you "no"?
    I prayed about girls a lot during my single days. Nearly every time I met an attractive girl, I asked God if I should pursue her. Every single time I prayed such a prayer, God's answer was crystal clear to me: Yes. The results were invariably disastrous. However, I didn't feel an immediate attraction to the Happy Acquaintance, so when I prayed about her, God's crystal clear answer to me was not to pursue romance. I have found that in my life, hormones trump the Spirit…and hormones are always wrong.

I will address the remaining seven questions in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Vermont art  

My wife is something of an artist—not the bizarre, fixed, cold type of artist who obsesses over color spectra and schools of technique and philosophy, but rather the thoughtful kind of human being who tends to see things a little differently and skillfully puts her vision down on a blank page or canvas so the rest of us can see it too. She's not extremely prolific or driven to spend four hours a day in her studio, but probably about once a week she gets the urge to create something. For her the act of creating art is a spiritual experience. In her own small way she emulates the One who created her and expresses something of herself in the art she makes.

Our stay in Vermont last week inspired her to paint a landscape. We saw rolling mountains bursting with fall-colored trees. We saw early American architecture in houses, inns, shops, and covered bridges. We saw the work of artists such as Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell, and a number of incredibly talented regional painters, sculptors, and craftsmen. If I were an artist, I would have been inspired myself. After viewing the furniture of Peter Maynard, I felt a sincere desire to become a carpenter. Of course a memory of my failure to construct a six-sided box in junior high woodshop quickly squelched that feeling, but Mr. Maynard's furniture was cool nonetheless.

Anyway, one day during our vacation Mrs. Happy really wanted to paint. She hadn't brought any of her art supplies along on the trip, however, so we went to the nearest grocery store in search of cheapo kid water colors, colored pencils, drawing paper, anything that she could use. The grocery store disappointed us greatly. It had drawing paper, but no paint of any kind, no colored pencils, no colored pens, no markers, nothing. Drawing on all the ingenuity at our disposal, we purchased a pad of drawing paper, a bag of Skittles, a bag of M&Ms, a package of Q-Tip brand cotton swabs, and a seven-day pill organizer.

When we got everything back to the hotel, Mrs. Happy put seven different colored candies into each compartment of the pill organizer and put some water in a glass. She dipped a cotton swab in the water, rubbed some of the coloring off of a Skittle, then transferred the artificial dye to paper, thereby creating her own sweet water color painting.

I usually write about things that directly concern the topic of marriage, but today I just want to say that my wife is so cool. Click on the small image below to see her candy-colored painting. Click on the small image below that to see a pencil drawing of her impressions of the trip in general.

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In sickness  

As I mentioned yesterday, I don't feel good. My symptoms include congestion, sneezing, coughing, headaches, sore throat, fatigue, and an aversion to Dr Pepper (that's how I know I'm really sick). These symptoms might stem from a cold or flu virus or an attack of allergies, though I'm pretty sure it's the allergies. Whatever their cause, the symptoms kept me in bed pretty much all day today (I'm writing this at about 6:30 p.m.). I don't get sick very often, but every illness I do experience makes me gladder than ever to be married.

In my single days, I hated being sick for two reasons: 1)it felt bad, and 2)I had no one to take care of me. I still don't particularly like feeling bad, but now that I have someone to take care of me I don't especially mind being sick. I never feel more comfortable and cared for than when I'm too weak to leave my bed and Mrs. Happy takes my temperature, wraps me in blankets, makes me chicken soup, keeps me supplied with water/tea/hot chocolate, and kisses my forehead all day long. When I'm sick, I'm vulnerable. I entrust my well-being to her, and she always proves worthy of the trust.

On the other side of things, I don't much like for her to be sick. I do enjoy and crave the responsibility of caring for her in her vulnerability, but I hate the helpless feeling of not being able to heal her myself. About a year ago she developed some sort of bronchitis and could not stop coughing. She suffered quite a bit, but (even by her account) not as much as I did. I hated that I couldn't defend her from the infection inside her body. I wanted to take it into my own so that she wouldn't have to hurt anymore. But I couldn't. All I could do was give her medicine, keep her as comfortable as possible, and kiss her forehead all day long.

The illnesses my wife and I have experienced so far have been fairly minor. Five years ago we promised to love each other even in sickness, and we've had no problems doing that. Several people close to me have had to love a spouse through both serious and terminal illnesses. I can't begin to imagine the pain of that. I take comfort, though, that Mrs. Happy and I will be together to nurse each other through any future catastrophe that may arise.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go lie down. I think I hear the tea kettle whistling.

Monday, November 10, 2003

achoo...  

I'd like to thank all my guest bloggers from last week for filling in for me while I was secluded in the mountains of Vermont with Mrs. Happy and her parents. The week was wonderful and relaxing, but also aggravating because of some horrible and unidentified allergen permeating the air. Fortunately, I didn't feel its effects until Friday, but I have still not fully recovered, hence the late and sparse posting today.

Until I can regain use of my nasal passages and mental faculties, I'd like to point out a couple of links I added to the left sidebar recently. Dr. Bradley writes a blog called kill as few patients as possible. He is a husband, a dad, Catholic Christian, and family doctor in semi-rural east Texas. He writes about whatever is on his mind, but his posts often focus on medical issues, and they are always enjoyable. Ten Years of My Life is an ambitious effort on one man's part to take a photograph every day for ten years. Matthew Haughey posts a new picture every day, and I enjoy seeing what he comes up with.

I guess I'll also take this opportunity to explain the links at the bottom of my posts for those of you who are not blog-savvy. If you clik the link titled Comment on this! (0), a new window will pop up in which you can type a comment and read comments that others have left. The number in parenthesis is the number of comments people have left. If you click the link titled Permalink, your browser will take you to an archived page containing the post that offers the Permalink. Since posts on the front page move to archives after one week, this feature allows you to bookmark, cite, and e-mail specific posts.

That's all for today. I have to go blow my nose. And take an Advil. And a nap. Again. I hate allergies.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Marriage links for the Week  

Jeff Walters was my roommate for several years while I was just friends with Mrs. Happy. He is possibly the most technology-savvy person to have ever lived in, visited, or had any sort of affiliation with the town of Peachwater, Texas. You can read his stuff at peachwater.com.
—Curt


This is Jeff here... I've never lived in Peachwater, but it's a nice place to visit.

I am running a bit late today in getting my post up on Curt's site. I spent the day in San Antonio, Texas.

(If you are interested, I'll post pictures of the Alamo and such over at my site Peachwater, Tx. I'll have them up Sunday afternoon.)

Curt asked me to post the Marriage Links for the Week. I have to admit that I thought this would be a simple task. Each week Curt has great links to articles which celebrate marriage in some way or another. I am finding that those articles are not easy to locate.

In the easy-to-find category, a search of major news sites turns up a story about the Defense of Marriage Act (arguing its way through Congress at the moment), an article about a recently-married high school student expelled for being married (and possibly for the fact that her husband is a former teacher at the school), and news of a police search for a self-proclaimed preacher who married at least nine women and then stole their money.


And from the slightly more difficult to find category, here are my picks for this week's links:

Two key things every marriage should have: An abundance of patience and the ability to compromise. Especially during hunting season.

I don't recognize the name of singer Daniel O'Donnell, but he could learn a few things from the hunters above to improve his golf game.

There is always more than one solution to any situation. Another take on the marriage and deer hunting

A creative way to start a marriage. I wonder what they'll do for their first anniversary?


Long-term marriages to learn from:

50 Years of Marriage and a complicated family tree. (I have mixed feelings on this one.)

50 Years of Marriage and still living in Mooroopna. Not too far from Shepparton. I have no idea where that is, but their secret to long marriage: getting along.

66 Years of Marriage and the secret is love.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Married... with Pets  

Jamie, today's guest blogger, is Ron's wife (see yesterday's post), a vital part of our church's youth ministry, one of Mrs. Happy's best friends, and an all-around joy to know.
—Curt


Before my husband and I were married, we talked about children. We discussed when, how many, whether I would stay home and so forth. We had it all figured out.  We decided that we wanted to wait about five years so that we could save some money with me working, get to know one another (we had a very short dating and engagement period) and just enjoy being a couple.

Well, for the first year of our marriage we were right on track with our five year plan.  That is until Dexter came along.  At three weeks of age and all of one pound, this little bundle of gray fur and bones won our hearts.  He was a tiny little kitten, and the first pet to enter our lives.  He had been abandoned on the side of the highway near where I work in Queens.  I brought him home and we immediately took our little treasure to the veterinarian.

The news was not good.  He was severely malnourished, full of worms, fleas and who knows what other feline diseases plagued his tiny body.  The doctor told us that he was not sure that Dexter would make it.  He instructed us to keep a close eye on him.  We worriedly watched and cared for him, and eventually he pulled through and is now a healthy, happy addition to our family. We are now cat people.  Whenever we see anything with cats on it, our attention is quickly drawn to it and we start our long list of Dexter comparisons and memories:

"Oh, doesn't that look like Dexter?"

"Dexter is so cute, we have the cutest kitty in the world!"

"Do you remember when Dexter....?"

Our lives are consumed with our precious baby, I mean kitty. Our family... my husband, Dexter and I.  We were all set.  Until one day when I was talking to Mrs. Happy.  She mentioned that she would love to get Curt a puppy.  They really wanted to have a dog but were not able to have one in their apartment.  She was sad, but I on the other hand had an idea.  It was my husband's birthday and I had been at a loss for weeks trying to pick out a gift.  A puppy!  That would be just perfect.  Dexter needed a playmate and we had already talked about getting a dog.  We were just waiting for the right timing because we figured that it would be an added responsibility.

So that very day, on a whim, I took my husband and surprised him with a trip to the animal shelter to adopt a puppy for his birthday.  We know absolutely nothing about dogs and our only consideration was that it was not going to get too big, that it was cute, and that it would get along with Dexter. After seeing all the dogs our hearts had softened to a black and white border collie/terrier mix. We named him Reggie and brought him home with us that night.

Those first few weeks were filled with nervousness, anxiety, amd excitement about our newest addition.  We had no idea what to do so we were often online, looking up something in a book or calling the vet.  Those first two months we took turns getting up every couple hours to take Reggie out to go potty.  I quickly learned that puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour for every month of age.  We were definitely not prepared for this responsibility.  It was like having a newborn baby.  We made a great team though, and my husband was wonderful.  He would always take care of Reggie early in the morning so that I could get ready for work, and the days that I would have to work long or get up really early, he was always doing more than his part to make my life easier.

Now, we are dog and cat people.  When we get together and people are sharing stories about their children, my husband and I smile at one another knowing that we are both thinking about our two little ones at home.  Reggie is almost a year old.  He gets along with Dexter pretty well.  They love wrestling, although sometimes Reggie gets a little rough. We love playing and cuddling with Reggie and Dexter.  We love getting them treats and toys when we go to the grocery store.  We love taking pictures of them and talking about them and finding greeting cards and calendars with pictures that look like them.  All in all, we are crazy about our animals.  We love caring for them and it really brings my husband and me closer together. These little guys depend on us and together we bring enjoyment to each others lives.

This experience has definitely strengthened our relationship and if having children is anything like having pets, then I think that although it will be rough at times, it will be a great journey.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Individually Dependent  

Today's guest blogger is Ron. Ron is the youth pastor at my church and one of my closest friends in New York.
—Curt


What advice can a guy that has been married only a year and a half give on marriage? I will preface the rest of these thoughts by saying that most of what you are about to hear are lessons that I have learned by watching others and that I am still working on myself. I've had three models of married couples that have helped shape what I want to be in a husband. The first and obvious is my parents. The second is Mr. and Mrs. Severance. These were parents of one of my best friends growing up. The last is Ron and Marylin Sears. This was my pastor and his wife while I was in high school. I consider him to be a second father to me.

As I've watched these couples, I have tried to observe and ask questions as to what makes a healthy marriage and how to have effective communication. One thing that they all had in common was what I would call being "individually dependent". What I mean by that phrase is that within each couple, there were two individuals. When those individuals were by themselves they were great people to be around. They were their own person and could function well and had their own personality as an individual. Then when they had their spouse around they were even better. If they were funny, they became funnier. If they were smart, they became smarter. If they were kind, they became even more kind. I think you get the picture.

You see, as married couples we are to complement each other, not paralyze each other. I've seen the negative side work in many instances. I've seen where one individual was bright, funny, happy, and a delight to be around. When their spouse came around, however, they became quiet, subdued, serious, not fun, and well, not themselves. I've also seen where the couple themselves became so isolated with each other that after awhile, they couldn't function without each other. Come on, we've all seen it happen. It's scary.

As a husband, I want to encourage my wife to be the woman that God created her to be. That means that if there is something lacking in her life that might be one of my strengths, I can help her develop that in her life. Also, if she has a strength in her life that is a weakness of mine, she will help me. In her helping me in that area that she is strong already it is actually encouraging her to become even stronger in that area because she is getting a chance to "work it out" just like you would a muscle.

You see, I want to be the man that God wants me to be, and I know that God has brought me a godly woman to encourage me in that. One of the greatest compliments I ever heard was one given to my Pastor. He was out at our college visiting us and his wife was back home. Someone that was with us said to him, "Pastor, I love being around you, but I wish that your wife was here. You're like funny and stuff on your own, but when your wife's around you get hilarious and mischevious and just more fun." To that comment, my Pastor smiled greatly and said, "Thank you so much." You see, we were having a great time with our Pastor and he was his own person when he was on his own, but he was just...better when his wife was around. I want to make my wife better by being around her. Are you working at helping your spouse be better? Start today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Surrounded by love  

I wrote about Todd last week. If you didn't read that post, read it now before you go any further.
—Curt


Todd here. Curt has asked me to be a "guest blogger" for today. I'm a little stuck... What in the world should I talk about? There's a lot on my mind, and a lot in my life that I could share.

As my wife and I were talking about Curt's post, we realized that he left out a really important part of the story, something that would give you a little more insight into the reality that she and I find ourselves in. Yes, I struggle with homosexuality. Yes, I would consider myself a sex addict, and I have continued to battle pornography and masturbation. But even more devastating to my marriage is the hard reality that I had a sexual encounter with another man several years ago, its damage has been incalculable. That might help you to understand why this whole thing has been so hard on my wife. It's not only that I have homosexual desires, but also that I have broken the bonds of sexual fidelity with another man.

From a very early age, I knew I was somehow "different" from other boys. Around the age of ten, I realized that my "different" feelings had a name: homosexuality. I was in an evangelical Christian environment, which was certainly not a safe place to struggle with feelings like this... I always prayed that God would change me, and, well, He never did.

For many years, deep down, I knew what I had to do. I can't tell you the number of times I sensed God telling me to just tell someone! I consciously told Him no. I promised Him that I would do anything, go anywhere He asked... Missionary to Mozambique? No problem. Where do I sign up? But I swore I'd never tell this. I'd go to my grave with this.

James 5:16 says "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." For me, it wasn't until I opened up and let someone else in on my secrets that I began the journey of healing. It was utterly terrifying. I had been hiding for 20 years! I'm married and I have kids. I knew that if I opened up and told the truth about my struggle... the adultery, the porn, the masturbation, not to mention the homosexual angle, I'd lose everything: my family, my reputation.... But God gave me the strength to finally do it, and within about 6 weeks' time, I had told my wife and five other trusted friends, including two church leaders. It was wretched and glorious, all at the same time. (Those simple sentences can't begin to describe what it's like when you're on the edge of the cliff, trying to work up the nerve to jump. I knew that God was with me, and that no matter what I had to lose, I would always have Him, but "knowing" that information didn't make it feel any easier.)

When I did finally jump, I found amazing grace, love, and support. It was like God himself was loving me through my amazingly grace-filled wife and my precious friends. What a miracle that He put me here where I could heal and be restored in safety, surrounded by love. With the help of my friends, with some intense Christian counseling, and through the ministry of an awesome organization called Desert Stream, I am learning God's plan for gender and sexuality. I am learning to stand up in the truth of who God created me to be. I am learning to be a man! And I know that as a result of my struggle, I will be a better husband and father... certainly better able to handle difficult things. I know that spiritual chains were broken off somehow in heavenly realms and that my children and my grandchildren don't have to struggle like I did because I've (finally) been obedient.

My wife and I still have really hard times, especially when I screw up and look at things I shouldn't... I've gotten a little bit of "Geez, man... Stop it! Look what you're doing to yourself and your wife!" and I know, believe me. But like Curt said, sexual addiction is as strong as an addiction to cocaine! I've been in the process of laying this sin down for a year and a half now, but it's still really hard sometimes. I've come a LONG way, but there's still so far to go. I have become acutely aware of my own sinfulness. For so long I was a Jeckyl/Hyde character: Good church boy on the outside, raging gay sex addict on the inside. Now at least I'm one person instead of two. I may be broken, sometimes so badly I feel like giving up, but at least I'm myself. No one can claim I'm living a lie.

Well, enough rambling. Why am I even bothering talk about this in a public forum? Because I know I'm not the only one in this situation. I know I'm not the only one who has damaged his marriage. And I want everyone to know that broken relationships can be fixed. If ever there was a hopeless situation, it's mine. But God is bigger than our fears. Bigger than our biggest problems. Bigger than our sickest secrets. He is able to heal and change and forgive and restore. And, let me tell you, it's a heck of a ride.

If you want to talk, I'd love to hear from you. Write me at todd-at-atimelikethis-dot-net. I'd be happy to pray for you or just read what's on your mind. If I can be of any encouragement to you, it would be a privilege.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Favorite Cereal  

Today's guest blogger is Shelley. Shelley is my pastor's wife, the mother of three beautiful children, a frequent speaker at Christian women's conferences, and quite an energetic and wise woman.
—Curt


"We're going to win. We're going to win." I wasn't saying it out loud but in my heart I was chanting. "We're going to win." We were at a young married activity where we were playing the Newly Wed Game. We were on the bonus question and Steve and I were in the lead. The question was to the wives: "What will your husband say is his favorite cereal?" It was so simple I couldn't believe it. I listened as the other wives gave their answers. Fruit Loops, Trix, Lucky Charms, then it was my turn. I smiled with confidence. "My husband doesn't eat cereal," I replied. I knew I was right.

Are you sure the announcer asked. "Come on," I said, "we have been married longer then all these couples combined. For 10 years I have bought every kind of cereal imaginable and Steve never eats them." I rolled my eyes and sighed just to emphasize my point. "OK," the man said. "If you are sure?"

"I'm POSITIVE," I practically shouted.

In a few minutes the men came out to answer the bonus question. All Steve had to do was say what I knew to be true and the certificate for a free dinner was ours. The man cleared his throat and said, "Steve if you get this question right you and Shelley are the champions. If not, this other couple wins." The tension was high. "Steve what is your favorite cereal?"

Almost instantly Steve smiled and said, "That's easy." This was it. The moment I had been waiting for. My heart was pounding. I was thinking how I could look happy and not be too arrogant about our win.

Then, the man that I knew and loved for 10 years, looked right at the announcer and said, "I love Captain Crunch."

"What?" I gasped. Now I can feel my face turning red. I had been so sure. "How can anyone LOVE Captain Crunch?" I asked in utter disgust. "It rubs the roof of your mouth and leaves little stringy things." He just shrugged his shoulders.

"Hey, I've never seen you eat Captain Crunch!" I said in a very accusing tone. Then he looked at me and said "You've never bought them for me." Ouch!

Steve and I learned two very important lessons that night. He learned, You have not because you ask not. I learned that just because you have been married to someone 10 years, doesn't mean you know everything about them.

Philippians 2:4 says, "Let each of you look out not only for his interests, but also for the interests of others." I realized I had never taken time to ask Steve if he liked cereal. I bought what I liked and since he didn't eat it I assumed he didn't like cereal. I looked out for my interest and assumed his interest were mine.

When was the last time you and your spouse sat down and asked each other what they liked and didn't like? Maybe you did at the beginning of your marriage, but have gotten into a rut of taking each others interests for granted. Are you the same person that you were when you got married? Neither is your spouse. Interest change. God is such an awesome and creative God. Do you think He would say marriage is to last a life time and not keep it interesting? God is constantly doing a work in us. Why would we think the things our spouse liked or didn't like 10 years ago are the same? In fact they probably change from year to year; or if they are like me month to month. Take time each day to enjoy the changes in your spouse and get to know them all over again.

In fact, that gives me a great idea. I need to talk to Steve. Maybe that's why there is an unopened box of Captain Crunch in my cabinet!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Looking for Sue  

Today's guest blogger is Russ. Russ and I are both happily married men and deacons at my church. Despite the fact that he's as old as my parents, we're good friends who have more interests and personality traits in common than any two people from separate generations have ever had.
—Curt


The other day Mr. Happy mentioned that one of the things he looked for in a wife was someone who would allow him to warm his feet on her legs in the winter. This got me to thinking about what kind of qualities I was looking for in a wife before I got married. I couldn't remember any. This makes sense to me because (1) I have been married for over thirty years and my memory isn't worth two cents and (2) I met my future wife, Sue, when we were fourteen and immediately fell in love with her. Although we didn't start dating until 3 years later she was never out of my mind. I compared every girl I dated to her, and I am sure that if I ever thought about marriage during that time I thought about marrying a girl just like Sue. I wasn't looking for qualities; I was looking for Sue. But looking at our marriage now I realize that I cherish qualities about her I never could have dreamed of looking for. The qualities that emerge through regular daily living, the kind of qualities I tend to take for granted unless I make the effort to look for and recognize them. So I decided it was a good time to look for them, and I'm finding lots of them. Lots of them. And I thought it might be nice to share a few, at random:

  1. Sue does not cook fish. This is a good thing, because while I don't like the taste of fish I absolutely loathe the smell of fish cooking, particularly in my own house. Sue does like to eat fish, but in deference to me she only partakes of it in restaurants.

    When we were first married Sue did make fish for dinner a few times, and one other thing I appreciate was that she never said to me "the way I cook fish, it tastes like chicken." Everyone else who has ever cooked fish for me has told me they make it taste like chicken, and they all lied. Nothing tastes like chicken except chicken, with the exception of the hydrolyzed vegetable protein at the Zen Palate restaurant. I love my wife for never saying that.

    I am still waiting for someone to claim that the way they cook chicken, it tastes like fish. That would probably be a lie too.

  2. Sue knows how to bargain with salesmen. I hate to shop for a new car. Left to my own devices, I would pay full sticker price for the first car the salesman showed me, and I would throw in a tip. Sue not only knows the specs on every new car that comes on the market, she somehow brings the salesman to his knees on the sale price, and she doesn't even break a sweat. I am the only man I know who will not go car shopping without his wife. Thank God for her.

  3. Sue has nice feet. Dainty. Her toes are nice and straight, each one just the right size. I don't know why this is important to me but it is. I read a poll recently that named Catherine Zeta-Jones the most beautiful woman in the world, and that may be true, but I'm telling you, if I found out Catherine had ugly feet she would suddenly look like Ernest Borgnine to me. Well, back to Sue. She was standing in the kitchen barefoot the other day, and I was in one of those moods where I just felt like thanking God for some of the little things he has done in my life, and two of those little things are Sue's feet. Thanks, Lord.

    And she almost never tries to warm them on my legs. Thanks again, Lord.

  4. Sue not only indulges my secret desires, she participates in them. No, not those kinds of desires. Wholesome stuff. One illustration: Last February Sue actually shared in the fulfillment of my lifetime dream of going to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog Day. This may not sound like much, but believe me, the real experience is nothing like the movie. Groundhog Day in Punxie (we insiders call it that) involves standing in a crowd of 30,000 people on top of a mountain from 3am until daybreak in the dead of winter, waiting for the moment when a group of men in tuxedoes and tophats marches up the mountain to help Phil the groundhog emerge from his (heated) tree stump and predict the coming of spring. Not exactly a night at the Plaza Hotel. But Sue knew it was important to me, so she not only came with me, she actually enjoyed it. In fact, she bought more souvenirs than I did.

So I never had the opportunity to come up with a list of qualities I was going to look for in a wife. God let me fall in love before I had the chance. But I've had all this time to discover the qualities that make up the woman he planned for me to marry.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Marriage Links for the week  

I'm pleased to announce that next week I will be hosting a series of guest writers here at The Happy Husband. They are all good friends of mine, and all have good things to say about celebrating marriage. So tune in. It's gonna be cool.


How long is the world's longest love letter? 300,000 words. Of course, that's in Chinese, so when it's translated into English it'll be closer to 12.

82 years. Holy freakin' cow.

I guess if you were devoted enough to someone, you would get yourself arrested in order to share a cell with your spouse. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that neatly.

This couple claims to have more in common with each other than any other couple alive.

I didn't know there were (m)any Christians in Pakistan. I surely didn't know that there were enough to keep a Christian publication going. But there is a Pakistan Christian Post. What's more, its publishers care about marriage even in the face of, or maybe especially in the face of, religious persecution.

Love in limbo is difficult, especially when your life and/or freedom may be at stake.

What less common Simpsons Character Are You? I'm Flanders. No surprise there, I guess.

I got my copy of Testament this week, and it's amazing. It's also available through Amazon.