I stood next to my wife and below us, on the counter, was a card-sized envelope with my first name written in her hand. Its purpose totally escaped me.
“What’s this for?” I asked. She answered by saying, “Happy anniversary!”
I had forgotten.
But I had earlier bought her a card. Now I just needed to find where I’d put it.
It was our thirty-sixth year as husband and wife. She’s used to me.
A few days later we were at the video store. Our kids were here and we wanted to eat pizza and watch a movie together. But after a ten-minute search, I’d given up on finding a movie that I wanted to watch. I walked up to my wife to tell her we might as well give up.
Without really thinking about it, it registered as odd to me that she was looking at an action-adventure movie. She’s more likely to go for the boy-meets-girl-they-fall-in-love variety.
“Babe, I don’t think we’re going to find anything. Let’s just get the pizza and go home.” I said this as I scanned the movies on the wall just beyond her, but something struck me as odd. She was taking too long to answer. So I looked down (I’m six-foot-four, she’s five-feet-five) and saw a woman I didn’t know looking up at me, with a startled expression on her face. My wife was standing about ten feet away.
I turned several shades of red and apologized profusely. She seemed relieved that I wasn’t some kind of crazy stalker. Crazy, maybe, but not a stalker.
Full disclosure: this was not the first woman I absent-mindedly mistook for my wife. Years ago at the baseball field, I took a woman by the arm and walked with her for about three seconds before I realized something was wrong. She had the same look on her face. I hope I’m not getting a reputation.
Did I mention my wife is used to me? That’s because we’ve been married for thirty-six years. I’m used to her too.
This article is a brief defense of long marriages. Or put another way, it’s an argument against divorce, as it is now practiced.
When people divorce, they almost always divorce too soon. Statistics show that if people in deeply troubled marriages, even on the verge of divorce, stay together for another five years, they overwhelmingly testify to being happy.
My wife has never considered divorce. I know that because she told me so. I’m not so confident she hasn’t considered murder.
We’ve had our arguments. Some of them have been heated and ongoing. We’ve sometimes stopped liking each other for a while. But we’ve never given up our commitment to each other and our greater commitment to God that binds us together. And after thirty-six years, we can testify to being happy together – even when I forget our anniversary.
I’m not making a case that divorce is always wrong. Jesus did not make that case, so I dare not either. But divorce as it is currently practiced in western culture is nothing short of a sociological and spiritual disaster.
Frequently when people divorce, they short-circuit the work (the sometimes painful work) that is shaping and maturing and fulfilling them. They start a new relationship at the same place they left the old one, and can expect many of the same problems.
This is one of many reasons St. Paul discouraged divorce, as did Jesus himself, when he said, “…what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They understood that life is not about meeting the right person, as in the boy-meets-girl movies, but about becoming the right person. And marriage, intelligently entered, carefully guarded, and resolutely pursued can help us become that person.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 7/11/2015