First of all, yes. I was a child bride. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I can tell you October 1, 2012 will mark our 35th wedding anniversary.
Like most people, I’m super easy to live with—when I’m alone. If I could travel back to 1977 and present my groom with a manual called “How to Live with Terrie,” below are just three of the things it might contain. Too bad I didn’t know any of them then.
#1. She’ll expect constant praise.
The first few months we were married, I was crushed when nary a word was forthcoming about the meals I placed on the table. I grew up in a home where expressions of appreciation for food were a natural part of the meal. At the very least, “mmmmm” was heard as we enjoyed whatever was placed before us. If nothing was said, that could mean only one thing: nobody liked it.
Somehow, I’d failed to notice Jon’s family didn’t necessarily share this custom. You came to the table, you ate what was offered, you left. Conversation flowed freely, but rarely about the food.
Gradually, I got used to this and stopped expecting applause for my efforts. And Jon has learned to say “thanks for lunch” before he leaves the table.
#2. She’ll try to run your life.
We were about eight years and two children in when Jon gave me the loveliest surprise for Christmas: a coupon for a weekend away, just the two of us, to do whatever I wanted. Being the planner I am, I prearranged every half-hour slot of our weekend. My schedule included times for rest and recreation, but also long chunks devoted to evaluating our financial, housing, parenting, and every other goal I could imagine. I created charts and graphs to keep us on track. I was in my glories, knowing we would return home with all our problems solved. I just knew that once Jon saw how great this was, he’d agree it should be an annual event.
At last, the big weekend arrived. I couldn’t understand why Jon wasn’t thrilled with my plan. My schedule lasted about 30 minutes before he had enough. One small goal would have been sufficient to tackle in a weekend.
#3. She’ll become a writer and blab your life to the world.
I promised my family I’d provide the opportunity to veto anything pertaining to them before hitting the “send” button. Jon’s a good sport. Last Valentine’s Day, he agreed to let me tell column readers the story of his on-stage pants-splitting adventure. That story later landed in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, many of which are translated into foreign languages and sold all over the world.
One day, we’ll find ourselves on a tour bus in Jerusalem and a little old lady will read our nametags and say, “Hey, you’re that guy who split his pants on stage after his wife dragged him into a church drama.”
But she’ll say it in Hebrew and we won’t have a clue what she’s saying. I’ll assume she wants my autograph. Jon will assume she’s saying, “God bless you, you poor man.”
It’s just as well such detailed manuals don’t exist, or most of us wouldn’t have the courage to commit in the first place. But had I stayed single all these years, I would still think I was practically perfect. We’d both have missed out on countless rough edges rubbed smoother, and on the multitude of private jokes that accumulate during three and a half decades together.
Life’s storms have made us lean hard on God, family, friends, and yes, counsellors to help us hold on. A song sung at our wedding said, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.”
True then. Better understood now.