[private] In a scene from the play, “The Skin of Our Teeth” by Thorton Wilder, the main character Mrs. Antrobus says to her husband, “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect, I married you because you gave me a promise.” She then takes off her ring and looks at it, and then continues by saying, “that promise made up for your faults and the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage.”
I have had thirty-five plus years of marital experience and I can assure you that in every marriage no matter how well two people know each other, many mysteries remain. Very often, each person comes to the marriage not fully knowing about life, and not fully knowing him- or herself, and not fully knowing his or her spouse.
Recently, I was watching a television program on 3ABN and the speaker remarked that his favorite condiment is garlic; his wife however, hates it. He found out after they were married and had he known this, it could have been a deal breaker. We’re talking condiments here, what about all the serious personal stuff? Like unrevealed past relationships?
What is unknown often is far greater than what is known. Becoming a faithful, loving spouse not only takes faith and courage, but also patience and a desire to keep learning and growing. Perhaps instead of asking, “what kind of spouse do I desire to have,” we should ask, “what kind of spouse do I aspire to be?” Success in marriage is more than finding the right person, it is becoming the right person. I can’t remember where I read this quote or who wrote it, “be careful that your marriage doesn’t become a duel instead of a duet.” These two little words, duel and duet are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One signifies combat, the other harmony. Newspaper columnist and attorney George Crane writes about a lady that came to his office full of hatred toward her husband. Fully intending to divorce him she said, “Before I go through with the divorce, I want to hurt him as much as he has hurt me.” Mr. Crane advised her to go home and act as if she really loved her husband. “Tell him how much he means to you,” he said. “Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him, make him believe you love him…then drop the bomb…that will really hurt him, he will be devastated!” The woman exclaimed, “Beautiful!” And she did as Mr. Crane suggested; with ebullient and lively interest she pretended as if she really loved her husband. A couple of months later she returned to Mr. Crane’s office, and he asked her, “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce!” she said, “Never! I discovered I really do love him!” What happened here folks? I submit to you that actions can change feelings. Motion can result in emotion. Love is established by often-repeated deeds. The late actor Peter Ustinov describes love as “an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” Even William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest literary genius of all time wrote, “Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.” One final illustration, a woman went on a long-weekend retreat with a group of women from her church. Halfway through the Monday morning meeting she suddenly jumped to her feet and left the room. A friend followed her to see what had caused her to leave so abruptly. She found her friend just as she was hanging up the phone. “Is everything alright?” she asked urgently. “Oh yes,” the woman responded a bit sheepishly, she added, “I suddenly remembered it’s trash day.” “Trash day? Isn’t your husband at home? Surely…” “Yes” the woman interrupted, “but it takes two of us to put out the trash. I can’t carry it, and he can’t remember it.”
Marriages are meant to be complimentary – two pulling together as one, not in competition, but in mutual association. Learning how to work together and how to live together is the “maintenance” of love. It is said that “a marriage may be made in heaven, but the maintenance must be done on earth.” Oh, by the way, those thirty-five plus years of marital experience that I claim have all been spent with one very special lady!