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Hate, Love, and Valentine’s Day February 12, 2015

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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The marriage counselor was wrong.  We took personality profile tests, interviewed her together and separately and together again, and she told us that we should not get married.  She told us that our interests were not very closely aligned, our plans and goals in life were too very different, and she also told me that I was immature.  She further told me that the differences in our personalities, goals, behavior patterns, ambitions, and ways of handling conflict would result in ongoing, irreconcilable differences. She told me, in effect, that I was still, on so many levels, just a kid, and I shouldn’t marry her because she would divorce me and I would thank her for the papers.  I don’t know what she told her privately, but when we were together she said she advised against us getting married because “in [her] mind, it will never work.”

I finally convinced my girlfriend, and we were married 22 years ago in the middle of August.  Nothing romantic like on Valentine’s day or eloping to Virginia.  Just a beautiful church wedding at the First Baptist Church.  I wore a functional, rented tuxedo and she wore the most beautiful dress I have ever seen.  Ever.  She told me that I looked so pale and nervous, a few of our guests were worried I would pass out on the altar.

There were tests along the road to the altar.  I was so blind.  I was so in love.  I didn’t know how to do anything.  I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know the right things to do and frequently did the wrong things.  But I knew I loved her, and that voice in the back of my head said “She’s the one,” and never changed its’ mind.  Along the road to me saying, “I do,” I wondered.  I asked.  I tested, and so did life.

Ephesians 5 says we’re supposed to submit to one another.  When she told me that she believed I was called to minister and should submit and go to seminary, I packed and left, after asking her to come with me.  She declined.  I took it as a test of my own submission, not hers.  A few years later, we had kept the long-distance relationship going and she had an opportunity in a neighboring state and took it to be closer.  I had social opportunities, where I met other women, and wondered.  They were beautiful.  They were charming.  They were engaging, and they seemed to like me.  And they weren’t “the one.”  A year before we got married, I was feeling impatient, and lonely.  I bought her a calendar for Christmas and asked her to pick a day so we can finally get married.  She laughed and marked December 31.  And I was OK with that.  As it turned out, the Person I’ve always believed was behind the voice in my head arranged things and we were married a few months earlier than that.

There are still other women.  They are beautiful.  They are charming.  They are engaging, and I think they like me.  But they aren’t “the one.”  I might daydream about that for a second.  But honestly, that’s a very far possibility in my mind.  First, my wife is a smart woman.  Dumb as I am, she would certainly either already just know, or find out.  Even if she wouldn’t, I don’t think my conscience could bear it.  Second, I don’t know what they’re thinking, or why they’re thinking what they’re thinking if they’re thinking what I’m thinking they might be thinking.  Wow.  Did you get all that?  Sorry, I barely did myself.  But if they’re thinking I’m a charming gentleman and they’d like to try to charm me away from her, beautiful as they may be, I want to know why?  I’m not rich.  Oh, maybe that’s why I haven’t jumped, I can’t afford the one I’ve got the way I want to afford her, so I certainly can’t afford two.  I’m not powerful.  I’m not ugly, but I’m not that attractive, at least in my own mirror.  I can’t figure out why she finally chose me in the first place, unless it was just my persistence.  And third, I just love her.  She’s beautiful.  She’s a wonderful wife, a great mother, smart, funny when she gets in a humorous mood, she is, in so many ways, perfect.  I don’t think another woman would measure up.  And, she’s humble enough that when I assert she is perfect, she says she’s not.

Temptation leans on the doorbell.  (Mom says that, after “Opportunity knocks.”)  There’s always some beautiful woman who is charming and flirtatious who makes me wonder.  So far, if there was a pass made, from one side or the other, it was left, in football vernacular, incomplete.  At least once, she was a coworker.  Not a few fellow-students at whichever school you look at.  Once she even lived right next door.  A few were fellow-writers, and [expletive deleted] they are fine.  Yeah, you know who you are.  If I wasn’t married I’d be chasing one of you, the thought of which I apologize for, I guess.  Or not.  I suppose it’s the nature of temptation to be ever-present.  I hate that.  But if it’s a fact of life, at least they’re not exactly throwing themselves into my arms, and thank God I’m not trying to throw myself into theirs.  The book of James says to resist; so far, I’ve resisted.

So the marriage counselor was wrong, because I’m a stubborn guy.  “She’s ‘the one'” and I want to keep her as long as she will keep me.

And

The marriage counselor was right.  I hate that.  I hate that we speak totally different languages.  This fact means when I say something she doesn’t get it, or doesn’t hear it the same way I do, or doesn’t feel the same way about it that I do. This fact means that the way I love her and the way I want to be loved are very different than the way she loves me and the way I want to be loved.  Because as I’ve asserted before, those are linguistic.  She doesn’t like the same shows i like, I don’t like the same shows she likes.  We are different.  I hate that we are on two very different schedules.  I hate that she needs so much sleep.  These two facts really cramp my style.  Style and cramp are substitutes for what I really want to say.  Suffice it to say that neither one of us is totally satisfied with what we get from the other person.  And both of us think we’re doing everything possible to make the other happy.

I really hated that she called me out for immaturity.  It was true, but I still hated it.  It still is true.  But I hate it.  Who wants to be an old fogey, a curmudgeon, a hyper-responsible tightwad all the time?  If I want to do something flighty and impulsive, I want to be allowed to do it.  The extra purchase at the store.  Responsibility says I shouldn’t because it’s not in the budget.  But I like giving roses and expensive chocolates to her.  Most of the time, I’m the “fun” one and she’s the “responsible” one.  Here substitute “immature,” for me, and “mature,” for her

I hate that we’re on very different clocks.  I’m up half the night.  She goes to bed so early I feel put off.  I hate being put off, or pushed away.  I tease her about her responsibly mature early bed time; I joke about her getting dinner around 3:30 (she doesn’t) and paying the early-bird-senior-discounted-special price (she doesn’t), and we’re not seniors.

I hate that our interests are so different, she can’t watch anything I want without critiquing its’ lack of appropriateness for children.  And she doesn’t appreciate what I like or what I do, which are writing, and music.  Maybe it’s unfair to say that she doesn’t appreciate it, so much as she doesn’t see the value of it, inasmuch as it isn’t paying our bills.  I pour my heart into it.  The audience raves.  And she just says, “Yup.  It’s what he does.”  I feel blown off and taken for granted again.  I’m Rodney Dangerfield, for those of you old enough to know the name.  “I don’t get no respect.  No regard either.”

I hated the marriage counselor.  Maybe it’s better to say I hate what she said that I believed in my heart was dead wrong.  I hated that we wasted money paying that person.  Person is a polite substitute for what I really would like to call that person.  And I hated that my wife listened to her for a while, and put me through an extra “cooling off period,” during which I did not cool off.  I hated the waiting game.  I hated the waste of time.  But as much as I hated her message, she told her side of the truth.  Fortunately for me, there are at least 3 sides to the truth.  My side, her side, and the truth.  And as much as I hated her, I love my wife and still want to stay and work on our marriage.  We were not disillusioned.  We walked into it with our eyes wide open.  The pastor cautioned us both on our appropriate roles, the counselor told us what we might expect, and they were both right to a degree.  The pastor was more right.”  He just said if we both worked on it hard enough, it would work, and if we didn’t, it wouldn’t.  I heard a rumor that some people in my own family, immediate or distant, were making bets on how long it would last before it failed.  She has worked on the relationship.  I have worked on the relationship.  And I don’t expect the need to work on it to just miraculously disappear one day.

I love my wife.  She’s worth every bit of the effort.  I hate that my stamina flags when it comes to dirty dishes left in the sink, or when I’m feeling like we’re not communicating.  Or when there are other things I need to do after I’m too tired to move, but they need to be done and she’s off to bed.  We go through these cycles.  I once heard a preacher thank his wife for 15 happy years of marriage.  And then he quipped that they’d been married 25 years.  If I ever get a job in public speaking, there’s a joke I won’t be repeating.  Funny as it sounded, it was not a nice thing to say in his wife’s hearing.  Our days haven’t all been happy.  It’s up; it’s down.  We haven’t won the lottery yet, or come into a large sum of money, so we have to keep our day jobs.  And it’s hard.  But I love her and I live to look into her eyes and hold her hand, or give her hugs and back rubs and other expressions of affection.  Perhaps she would say the same.  And if not, I’d leave filing the divorce papers up to her.  Because it’s too much effort, first to file them and then to find someone new.  I wouldn’t even know where to find a courthouse to file them in.  Sure, I’m certain whoever it is, is waiting in the wings to take the lead role, but whoever she is, she’s not “the one.”  I joked with my wife that if she ever divorced me, she gets the house, the cars and the kids as part of the settlement.  Oh, and she gets me too.

It’s like that.  I love my wife, and I intend to make good on my vow.  The joke I heard was that a couple who had been married a long time were asked if they ever thought of divorce.  The response from one of them was, “Did we think of divorce?  Never!  Did we think of murder?  Occasionally.”  Well, I’m not ready for either of those kinds of drama.  I promised “…’til death do us part,” so if she decides to murder me, I guess it’ll be over.  Otherwise it’ll be whenever one of our cards get pulled by the Guy I believe is behind “The Voice” inside my head.

She’s my Valentine.  I’ve loved her through the endurance and obstacle courses of courting and then the endurance and obstacle courses of marriage.  Who’s your Valentine?  Is it real?  Have you got the stamina to endure, and the wisdom to avoid the pitfalls and obstacles?  Do you hear The Voice inside your head that reassures you it’s right?  Who’s waiting in the wings to replace your leading lady, or your leading man?   Or am I the only one who feels there’s some evil conspiracy.  I’m constantly worried about taking the bait.  It’s always out there, but I know that would be a disaster.

Whoever your Valentine is, I hope you’ll make the effort to make the day special.  We’re going out on a date.  And I’m excited about it, still.  It’s been 22 years.  And I still get that same feeling when we are going out on a date.

“She’s the one.”

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