Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wife Rule #4: The Big Things Don't Matter Either

My wife and I married young, and to be honest, I think we were both wearing rose-colored glasses when we wed. We both came from happy homes, with wonderful parents who met challenges head-on and conquered them. We had seen them make it; so would we. In fact, our universes revolved around each other so completely that it was beyond my ability to imagine any serious challenges ("Big Things") in our marriage.

Nearly ten years later, I have now seen this world through an adult's eyes long enough to have lost a little of my naivety. I try not to take our marriage for granted. I am beginning to understand that nearly every couple in nearly every marriage, even those which appear to be "perfect" from the outside looking in, go through Big Things--major ordeals that stretch the fabric of their union to the breaking point.

But this is where the power of a covenant marriage comes in. You see, I have been taught that there are two types of marriages: contract marriages, and covenant marriages. In a contract marriage, there are two parties, each giving 50%. Each takes as much as they give. Each expects a return on their investment, and if that return fails to live up to expectations, or even if the "market" shifts, providing other opportunities, they feel free to abandon their contract and seek better results elsewhere. The contract marriage is based on conditions, and is not much more than a piece of paper.

In contrast, in the ideal covenant marriage, the two spouses each give 100%. And in addition to them, there is a third party: God. Neither spouse is concerned with measuring ROI, and if they did, there would be no room for complaint because each could see that God provides a return above and beyond what they each give. He is there to supplement the marriage when there are shortfalls. He is there to encourage and help and protect and strengthen. And because the two spouses made their marriage promises to God, He is woven into the fabric of their union. It cannot break, even if the spouses temporarily abandon each other, as long as they have not abandoned Him. The covenant marriage is based on promises, and is a living thing that exists outside of either spouse individually and contributes to the strength of their union.

My wife and I have yet to experience anything even remotely as difficult in our marriage as what we have seen some of our loved ones go through. But in all likelihood, Big Things will come, and when they do, we won't be relying on a contract marriage to see us through. You see, when I married my amazing wife, we made promises. We made promises to each other, and we made promises to God. None of those promises were conditional. We made promises not knowing what Big Things may come, so it really doesn't matter what Big Things do come; we made promises. We made promises.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wife Rule #3: The Little Things Just Don't Matter

My wife and I both unroll toilet paper from the top, and we both squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle. So you'd figure we've got it made, right? But wait--enter bathroom cabinet drawers and our simple life becomes more complicated. You see, my wife loves to leave cabinet drawers open. When I walk in the bathroom, I am greeted by the unsightly sight of the toothpaste and Q-tips and a drawer full of other very personal cosmetical type items, all of which are gloating and sneering at me.

"Ha ha," they say, "We are clearly in a drawer which was meant to stay shut, but HERE WE ARE, out in the open, right in your face! Plus, with our combined weight hanging precariously out in the open end of the drawer, we are likely to weaken the drawer supports, eventually causing the drawer to collapse and leading to the downfall of the entire bathroom cabinetry, taking the hairdryer and other more expensive cosmetical type items with us. You are DOOMED!"

Well, this type of behavior just can't be tolerated, or democracy and the Bill of Rights and Oprah and everything would soon crumble. So naturally, I shut the drawer. Just for good measure, to show those Q-tips a thing or two, I give it a little extra "umph," producing a nice little BAM as the drawer makes contact with the cabinet.

In the bedroom, my wife flinches. You see, through some phenomenon I will probably never understand (just like electromagnetism, I'm sure you can relate), the little BAM absolutely frays her nerves.

"Please don't slam the drawer," she calls to me casually.

"Please shut the drawer when you are done with it," I retort back. "Not shutting it will ruin the drawer. And then no more Oprah Winfrey." For some reason, this perfectly logical logic is lost on her.

Before you know it, our minor annoyance at one another's behavior, like the last chili bean doused in Tabasco sauce in the proverbial pot that you knew you really shouldn't have eaten, but did anyway, has caused us to, well, feel some painful discomfort and bloating. No, really, the minor annoyance has caused us to feel like the other person is way out of line, while we of course are completely justified in feeling the way we do. Soon we are both plotting our next moves: she will open up every drawer in the bathroom, and I will wait until just the right moment (preferably when she's drifting off to sleep) to slam them shut.

Thankfully, we quickly come to our senses, and realize that our happy marriage and our kids' entire future lives are slightly more important than the Battle of the Drawers (which would be a great new hit TV Reality show, don't you think?) So we cast our annoyances aside and embrace and apologize. And the next time I enter our bathroom, if the drawers happen to be open, I close them quietly. She's worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wife Rule #2: It's the Little Things that Count

Last night, while my wife and I we were watching the State of the Union address, I took three short breaks, each of which lasted about five minutes. During the first one, I ran some bath water. During the next one, I washed, dried, and dressed our 2-year-old son. And during the last one, I repeated the procedure for our four-year-old son. Afterwards, my wife thanked me warmly for doing the baths, as if I had done her some great, personal favor.

She could have easily done the baths, but she is almost seven months pregnant, and leaning over to wash little pink bums can be kind of uncomfortable. It wasn't a big deal at all for me to do them, and it had to be done by somebody, so why not me? But the fact that she chose to interpret it as an act of love towards her was, in fact, an act of love towards me.

As our family size has multiplied, it has become a little harder to show those small acts of courtesy, such as opening her door. Not because I love her any less than when we were first dating, but because there are now four doors to open, children to hoist, and car seats to fasten. With all the additional busyness, I'm so grateful that my wife still allows me to show little acts of love to her, in somewhat different but no less meaningful ways.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wife Rule #1: She is my Number One

I spent several days thinking about which of my Wife Rules should be listed as the Number One rule. I won't usually ponder it so deeply, but the symbolism of the Number One slot was too much to just brush off. And it came to me tonight. Wife Rule Number One is that my wife is my Number One. She is the most important person on this earth to me. The scriptures give direct commandments to "cleave unto" two people--God, and my wife. That tells me that she should always be at the top of my priority list.

In our short nine-and-a-half years of marriage, I have learned the truth that our marriage works best when I put my wife above myself, and when she puts me above her. It's a paradoxical truth that the best way for each of us to ensure our own happiness is to work tirelessly towards the happiness of the other.

All that work could be a real burden, but this is where love comes in. I love my wife with all my heart. I'll admit that it's not often in my nature to serve her above myself, but when I take the time to think about how much I love her, putting her first comes naturally. She should be preeminent in my life--above our kids, above our parents, neighbors, friends, and yes, above myself. It's the way God designed it to be.

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it." (Ephesians 5:25)

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Wife Rules

My wife rules. She rocks the house. She really is all that, plus a bag of chips. She is one of the few passions I have in this universe that could motivate me to get online and bear my soul to the world. She doesn't need it; she doesn't crave it; but she deserves it. This blog is meant to be an ongoing celebration of the woman who has grown to mean more to me than any other person in the world. Think of it as a tribute to our love, as well as a penance for all the deserving times I should have left her a note or a card or flowers, or even just said "Thank you," but didn't.

This collection of my "Wife Rules," or lessons I have learned over the last ten years from my wife and our marriage together, includes thoughts and stories about her, about me in relation to her, about our family, and about our lives together in general. In addition, each of them mentions some jewel, some precious part of my life or learning that I owe to her; something that I would have missed without my main squeeze in my life. These glittering gems are the common thread that ties all these thoughts and stories together. I hope that by showing them to you, I can paint a broad picture of the richness in my life that I owe to my wife.

To anyone who reads this: as I share my Wife Rules with you, I not only hope to convey to you exactly why my wife is so special, why she is my love, my passion, and my queen, but I also hope to help you contemplate the loves of your lives and the fullness you enjoy because of them. May you feel the same way about them, as I feel about her.

Let the roast begin.