Yesterday, it happened again. I was with the Supermodel, and we ran into an old friend of mine, someone I’ve known since my college days in the late ’80s but haven’t seen in years. And somewhere in the conversation I mentioned that we’d just celebrated our tenth anniversary. His response was effusive … maybe a little too much so.
I’m always a bit uncomfortable when someone credits us with doing something amazing by staying together for a decade. It used to be assumed that once you married, you stayed married until one or the other of you croaked. You made a commitment, and unless there was no way to do so without risking bodily injury or worse, you stuck with that commitment. My own parents’ marriage was horrendous, and they stayed together for over 13 years. My in-laws will be celebrating their 41st anniversary this summer. And that’s not even the record in our rather small social circle — we know one couple who in July will mark 56 YEARS together! Ten years? Big whoop.
And then you hear something that gives you a bit of insight into why other people are so enthused about a measly decade …
A few weeks ago, I got a short note from a friend of mine in another country. In the context of apologizing for not having written sooner, she mentioned that her husband had filed for divorce in October, because “Hubbie doesn’t want to be married to a pastor.” (She recently finished her studies to become a minister.) Around the same time, the Supermodel was keeping tabs on a longtime friend of hers whose own husband had run off with their apartment manager (blowing up their 15-year marriage in the process) and was fighting her for custody of the older of their two kids. Just the older one; the younger has Down’s syndrome, and dear old Dad doesn’t want him.
I wish I knew what went through the minds of men like that. (Besides strong breezes, I mean.) Who abandons his wife and three kids just because she’s becoming a pastor? If the Supermodel were to become a full-time minister, I wouldn’t be packing up and bolting — I’d be loaning her my old Bible college study guides, and buying another copy of Strong’s Concordance so she could have her own. Yeah, her being a pastor means she might not be able to wait on you hand and foot as much, dude — and you know what? You should be able to handle it! So why don’t you grow a pair? Act like a man! (Ahem … sorry, turned into my grandfather there.)
And leaving your wife and kids to run off to another state with some other woman? Where is your brain?!? Forgive my bluntness in this regard, folks, and I’ll try not to be too graphic … but guys, if you’ve been married to a woman for any length of time, you’ll find that she has learned your physical needs, she has learned what pleases you and what doesn’t, how to satisfy you, what lines not to cross, and likely how long a conversation you’re willing to have afterward (if any). Put as clearly as I can — unless your wife either a) refuses to sleep with you at all, or b) is a quadriplegic, you are NEVER going to find better sex elsewhere than you do at home. Why? Because she already knows you and knows what you need, and no one else can say that. So why would you even look at other options?
I know I’m more fortunate than most men because my wife is smart, funny, caring, patient, godly and conscientious (not to mention drop-dead gorgeous). She’s not perfect, and that’s fine, because standing next to perfection would make a schlub like me look just that much worse. She’s close enough. The chance of me finding someone even more smart, funny, caring, patient, godly, conscientious and gorgeous is virtually nil. But even if I did, I wouldn’t go after them.
And you know why not? For three reasons, the least of which I alluded to above — doing so would mean throwing away everything I’ve learned of how to relate to her and starting from scratch. That’s more work than I ever want to tackle unless I absolutely had to. No one goes through ten years of medical school, enters their last year of residency and goes, “you know what, forget this, I’m going to go back to school and become a cosmetologist!” So why would I toss aside a decade of studying Supermodelogy in order to go back to square one, with no guarantee of future success? I may not be the brightest bunny in the hutch, but I’m not that stupid.
A second reason is even more obvious: we have kids. Now, I’m a child of divorce, a divorce that in my eyes was pretty much necessary. My father was an irrational, antisocial, dictatorial drunk who expected his wife to be a slave to his whims and his kids to be his personal punching bags. When Mom asked how I would feel if she moved us to a new place — without Dad — I greeted it like it was the end of the Cold War. (I was eight at the time. Kids usually know a lot more of what’s going on than you think they do.) So in our situation, divorce was the lesser evil. And over thirty years later, I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that lesser evil! I still have holes in my psyche I have to patch that are the result of growing up for much of my life without a father around. You think that I would inflict that on my kids? Heck no — I love my kids! Why would I do that to them?
And the third reason … well, I’m told it used to be obvious, but I have to take people’s word for that because it isn’t demonstrated much these days. It’s this: I gave my word.
I’m told that back in the day, a man’s word was their bond. If a man said he’d be at a certain place at a certain time, or he’d deliver a product for such-and-such price, or he’d support somebody in some area, that was all you needed — no legal contract was necessary, it was as good as done. That’s not so much the case anymore in our society … but it still is in my conscience. When I tell someone I’m going to do X or help them with Y or be there at quarter after Z, I make every effort to follow through. And if I can’t, I make sure to not only explain why not to the people involved, but do my level best to make up for the inconvenience caused by my failure. Maybe it’s the way my brain is wired. Maybe it’s a reaction to all the promises my dad didn’t keep. All I know is that’s how I am.
And there’s no bigger commitment, no bigger promise you can make than getting married. The Bible says that when two people marry, “the two shall become one flesh.” If I’m one flesh with my wife, then to hurt her is to hurt myself, and to tear myself apart from her is the same as cutting off half my body. I’ll admit that it took a while for that to get through my thick head. But it did get through. Above all else, I will never leave the Supermodel because I gave my word — before her, God, myself and over a hundred other people — that I wouldn’t. And if that isn’t enough, then the thought of walking around as half a person should be enough to at least make me pause before heading out the door.
I’m not going to say that there aren’t justifiable reasons for divorce. My mom had some — Dad had all but abandoned her, and was abusive toward her, me and my little brother. Those are reasonable grounds. If your spouse is committing adultery, that is reasonable grounds. If he or she has left you for an extended period and is not planning on coming back, that is reasonable grounds. If they are physically abusing you or your kids or involved in dangerous illegal activities, that is reasonable grounds — after you have them arrested, of course.
But don’t bring that “irreconcilable differences” mess in here and expect me to do anything other than reject it like I was Bill Russell blocking a jump shot. And don’t say, “oh, we’re just not in love with each other anymore.” You fell in love before — if you’re willing to try, you can do it again. I know; the Supermodel and I have done just that a couple of times, and we might need to do so again someday. Leaving for any other reason than the ones I just stated is a cop-out, a coward’s way out, a loser’s mindset. And if you take that route, you don’t get to pretend you’re anything other than a coward and a loser. At least not around me.
Love is a commitment, a choice, and a whole lot of hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s also worth it, now and forever. That’s the choice the Supermodel and I have made, and the one we plan to keep on making, because we love each other.
Sorry if I came on too strong, but I felt it had to be said.