Marriage is not a piece of cake. A pastor from my youth, displaying his keen wit, once noted, “I didn’t know what happiness was until I got married. Then I rmembered.” Each of us marries a fantasy and as the work of marriage begins the fantasies begin to crumble until at some point we are met with the reality of who we are and who we are married to. That is the point at which many marriages dissolve, one or both parties decided to go back to the supermarket shelf and pick out another model.
Here is a favorite poem of mine about marriage, written by Wendell Berry, and describing the “work” of marriage::
How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.
A few weeks an Indian friend of mine produced a facetious Top Ten Signs of a Happy Marriage an challenged me to produce one of my own. My wife and I have produced one and it includes a degree of facetiousness. Here are our TOP TEN:
1. Let not the sun go down on your wrath…too often!
2. Have happily married friends; osmosis is relevant.
3. Get a life! Both of you!
4. When she talks, “listen”, don’t merely “wait.”
5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
6. Remember, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”
7. Experience new things together.
8. If you have kids, remember they don’t belong to you alone. Remember, you still have a life also. And your kids need to see that.
9. Talk to each other. Share your thoughts.
10. Must have two lovely dachshunds