Monday, October 30, 2006

Love Languages

Emily posted recently about Love Languages, specifically referencing Gary Chapman’s book. In recent years, I’ve had numerous conversations with Molly on that topic, and also several e-mail conversations, with FTN among others, in recent months.

Molly and I were discussing it the other night, and we came to an interesting conclusion, I think. As with all communication, there is both the sending and the receiving of messages in our ‘love-languages’. Thus, the wise lover needs to know his spouse’s love-language in both its sending and receiving modes.

That is, he needs to know what his spouse’s love-language is, (a) so he can speak it to her, but also (b) so that, when she speaks it to him, he can recognize and understand what she’s ‘saying’ to him. If I speak English, say, and Molly speaks Chinese (a not-entirely-inapt comparison), I need to understand Chinese so I can speak it to Molly, but also so that, when she speaks Chinese to me, I can understand what she’s saying. If I can speak Chinese to her, but can't understand when she speaks it to me, my understanding of Chinese is incomplete, at best.

Many years ago, there was a joint space mission between the US and the Soviet Union; in order to solve the 'communications problem', whenever the two crews were together, the Americans spoke Russian, and the Soviets spoke English. That kept things on a simple enough level; by placing the burden on the 'speakers', the strategy biased things in favor of the 'hearers' of the message. And, I suppose, that is similar to what we want to be doing with 'love-languages' - sending our love-messages in a language that we ourselves might speak imperfectly, but which the 'receivers' of our messages will easily understand. .

Alas, egocentric creatures that we are, we all tend to operate out of our own love-languages in both the sending and receiving modes. My love-language is ‘physical touch’; Molly’s is ‘acts of service’. Thus, my tendency is to express my love for Molly in lots of physical affection, but she’s inclined to receive love more easily if I give it to her by, say, sweeping the kitchen floor. Likewise, she shows her love for me by cooking for me and doing my laundry, whereas I would most easily recognize her love if she would initiate some steamy sex. So both of us have a ‘double-challenge’ – I need to learn how to give her ‘acts of service’, realizing that that’s how she’ll most easily receive the message, “I love you” from me, but it’s also extremely helpful if I understand that the cooking, cleaning, etc, that she does for me is directly expressing her love for me. Conversely, Molly needs to learn to give me the ‘physical’ messages that I easily understand, but it’s also helpful for her to recognize that the ‘physical’ messages I send her are a way that I show my love to her. We need to be sort of ‘bi-directionally bilingual’.

We can fail to communicate love in either way – by failing (or refusing) to ‘send’ messages to our spouse in the language they understand, or by failing to understand the messages our spouse sends us in their own language.

We have two friend-couples who illustrate the two sides of this. In Couple A, the husband’s ‘love-language’ is ‘words of affirmation’, but his wife is a fairly reticent woman, who, when she and her husband went through the book and he told her how he’d like her to treat him, said, “I can’t do that; it’s not natural for me.” So, she fails (refuses, really) to send her love-messages to her husband, because she won’t learn to speak his ‘language’. In Couple B, the husband loves to give his wife gifts – throw her elaborate parties, take her on exotic vacations, etc – but his wife wants no part of it, and is vocally critical of the waste of time, money, etc. So, while he is sending out love-messages in his own ‘love-language’, he might as well be speaking Swahili, because she doesn’t ‘get it’. (Now, I’m not meaning to imply here that these ‘failures to communicate’ are always the wife’s fault; those are just the two examples that came up in our conversation. I’m sure that the failures are sufficiently reciprocal; or, if anything, that men are more clueless than women – that would hardly be surprising, would it?)

So, at the end of the day, my point is this: when we learn about the concept of ‘love-languages’, it’s easy to complain that “my spouse can’t/won’t speak my love-language”; but we can mitigate the problem, at least to some extent, by recognizing our spouse’s love-language when they speak it to us. Even if it’s not the ‘language’ we prefer to hear. It’s nice to hear “I love you” in Italian or French, but if our spouse says it to us in German or Russian, it helps if we can understand what she’s saying.

And even Germans and Russians can figure out how to be happily married, can't they?


And, in a couple days, I'm sure I'll be able to step back and appreciate the wonderful season my Tigers had. But, for cryin' out loud - HOW FREAKIN' HARD IS IT TO THROW THE DAMN BALL TO THIRD BASE?!?

OK, I'm better now. . . I think. . .check back with me in a couple days. . .


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

If I Had a Hammer

When he was little, our son 4M (now 16) was into ‘working man stuff’ – tools and machinery. One summer, the city re-worked our sewers, which meant that the street was torn up all summer, and a whole menagerie of heavy equipment passed in front of our porch the whole time. 4M was in juvenile testosterone heaven.

Hammers, in particular, held a kind of ‘Jungian archetypal’ fascination for him. A hammer was like a symbol of power for him – “I hammer, therefore I am”. Molly bought him a little tack-hammer, and he carried that hammer around with him like it was the Mighty Hammer of Thor. Of course, this also got us into the realms of parental nonsense – “I gave you this hammer, but don’t hammer anything.” I eventually gave him a little 2-foot chunk of a two-by-four, and a little box of nails, so he could hammer away to his heart's content.

One time I was working on some minor maintenance project, which required the use of my hammer. I brought 4M along with me, thinking that I could give him a few small hammering jobs where he could actually be helpful, and he was. But he also noticed that Dad’s hammer was bigger than his, which made perfect sense to his four-year-old cosmology – Dad was bigger and more powerful than he was, so it only stood to reason that Dad would have a bigger hammer. And it was hard to miss the vaguely (or maybe not-so-vaguely) phallic aspect of it.

That year, for Christmas, we went to my parents’ house for the holidays. One day while we were there, the wheels got to turning in 4M’s head – if Grandpa is Dad’s dad, then. . . He went to my dad and asked, “Grandpa, how big is your hammer?” My dad didn’t understand, and asked him to repeat the question.

“How big is your hammer, Grandpa?”

My dad gave a little chuckle, got up from where he was sitting, and went down into the basement, calling over his shoulder as he went, “I’ll be right back.”

A minute later, he returned, carrying a 12-pound sledge-hammer. 4M’s eyes bulged out of their sockets. “Oh, Grandpa – you’ve got a BIIIIIG hammer.”

“That’s right,” my dad told him. “And don’t you forget it!”

While we all rolled on the floor laughing.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Dueling Selfishness

I've been blogging here for about five months now, all told, and I've told you several great stories from Molly's and my lives. In the course of 26+ years of marriage together, we've really come a long way, and I've enjoyed sharing with you all some of what we've learned over the years.

But we're not this wonderfully saintly couple living in a faint glow of unearthly light. We can be as petty and selfish as anybody else; probably the biggest thing we've learned over the years is how to repent and apologize sooner than we used to.

From the beginning years of our marriage, our most persistent, uh, 'challenge' has been what I call 'Dueling Selfishness', or, as Molly puts it, 'My Needs; No, My Needs'. For various reasons, I think we both grew up being fairly accustomed to getting our own way. Which meant that we were ripe for some real choice ego-clashes when we were married. "Of course, you can easily see that I need thus-and-such, so you should just step aside and let me have my way." "But, it's even more obvious that you should defer to my needs, isn't it?" And so it went.

Over time, we got tired of the endless circle of 'My needs; no, my needs', and started learning to deal constructively with the situation. Sometimes, it meant one or the other of us had to defer to the other; sometimes it meant finding an agreeable compromise. But the most fundamental change was to our attitudes.

The biblical epistle to the Romans says, "Outdo one another in showing honor," and that was a real straightforward challenge to us. We had been outdoing one another in asserting our will, and here the apostle was urging us to outdo one another in looking after each other's good, rather than our own. And what a fundamental transformation that brought. Rather than trying to manipulate Molly so that I got what I wanted, I needed to simply look after her good; and likewise, she needed to look after mine before her own. And the result was that both our needs got met, without all the bickering and anxiety.

Of course, this entails a pretty significant 'leap of faith' - that, if I give up worrying about my own needs being met so as to look after Molly's, my needs will indeed be covered. And likewise for her. I honestly don't remember if one of us 'went first', hoping the other would 'catch on', or if it was something we worked out together, but in the fullness of time, the magic worked.

Someone has said that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, it's a 100/100 proposition. That is, it's not about me giving half and Molly giving half; it's about both of us giving all we have - my life for hers, her life for mine. And it's not about 'keeping score' of who's putting in more or less than the other. We both just 'go all-in'.

And of course, we've learned this perfectly, and our marriage is a smoothly-running machine. . .

Uh, no - not really.

Just this past weekend, we had one of our classic 'Dueling Selfishness' quarrels. Molly got to feeling exhausted by the day-to-day work of running the Jones family household - shopping and cooking alone are a huge amount of work, especially the type of cooking she's doing to keep me in good health and (we hope) long life. So she got kind of cranky and snappy. . .

And I responded very sensitively and graciously, you can be sure - I told her that if having me alive and healthy was just too much for her, why I'd be happy to go back to 300 pounds and leave her a widow with kids at home. (See how helpful I was?).

And it went round and round like that for an hour or more, and both of us were feeling like the other had suddenly, inexplicably stopped caring about what happened to us. Until finally Molly stopped and said, "My needs; no, my needs".

The spell was broken, and we knew what we had to do. I had to shift my focus, and instead of making sure that I got what I wanted, I needed to think about what Molly needed, and how I could help that happen. And she needed to step back from ultimatums and assure me that I was worth it to her. And we both needed to apologize for the hurtful things we'd said.

And the thing is, those hurtful words don't just dissolve when the apology is made and accepted; they leave psychic wounds behind that take some time to heal. The 100/100 marriage takes a LOT of trust between spouses, and when trust is damaged, it isn't instantly built back up. But we're building some 'good history' with each other, and establishing a firm base of trust which we can stand on, even when some peripheral chunk of trust is damaged. Because we've got many years' worth of experience now that the other is looking out for our good, it's easier to treat specific instances of selfishness as aberrations.

So I want you to know that we aren't this perfect couple with a perfect marriage - I'm as selfish as anyone else, and I can be as petty and pissy as anyone else. But, by God's grace, we've learned how to be married in a good and life-giving way. . .


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sexual Wisdom. . . From the Pope?

In recent years, Molly and I have made a fairly comprehensive study of the late pope’s Theology of the Body, and it has really enriched our marriage, especially our sexual relationship. Perhaps it seems counter-intuitive that theology (and perhaps Catholic theology all the moreso) could improve anyone’s sex life, but that has definitely been our experience.

I touched on the Theology of the Body in this previous post, and Molly gave her perspective in this post. Today, I wanted to give you all a fascinating quote from Love and Responsibility, the philosophical foundation for the Theology of the Body, which the late pope wrote in 1960, when he was the auxiliary bishop of Krakow, and still went by the name of Karol Wojtyla:

“Intercourse must not serve merely as a means of allowing sexual excitement to reach its climax in . . . the man alone, but climax must be reached in harmony, not at the expense of one partner, but with both partners fully involved. . . Love demands that the reactions of . . . the sexual ‘partner’ be fully taken into account. . .

“There exists a rhythm dictated by nature itself which both spouses must discover so that climax may be reached both by the man and by the woman, and as far as possible occur in both simultaneously. . .

“Non-observance of these teachings of sexology in the marital relationship is contrary to the good of the other partner to the marriage and the durability and cohesion of the marriage itself. . . There is a need for harmonization, which is impossible without good will, especially on the part of the man, who must carefully observe the reactions of the woman. If a woman does not obtain natural gratification from the sexual act there is a danger that her experience of it will be qualitatively inferior, will not involve her fully as a person. . . Frigidity. . . is usually the result of [selfishness] in the man, who failing to recognize the subjective desires of the woman, and the objective laws of the sexual process taking place in her, seeks merely his own satisfaction. . .”

The language is a tad ‘clinical’ and ‘high-falutin’, but bishop Wojtyla is telling men not to be sexually selfish, to be considerate of the sexual needs of their wives, and to work at seeing that she comes to climax; if not, your marriage will suffer. Not the sort of thing that one necessarily expects to encounter from a Catholic bishop, let alone the future pope, but there you have it.

And good advice, too, as far as it goes. . .


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I've Looked at Adoption From Both Sides Now

Today I’m going to post a couple of shorter items that sort of coalesce around a theme of Adoption. . .

A couple weeks ago was the 17th anniversary of my reunion with my birth-mother. She called on the phone, just as she did 17 years ago, and we had a really warm conversation.

Once I decided to search for her, years ago, the actual search went surprisingly quickly. I had my birth name, from the adoption order my parents got from the court way back when (and which they were happy to give me). I contacted the agency that had handled my adoption, and they gave me a sheet of ‘non-identifying’ information (things like her parents’ and siblings ages at the time I was born, hair/eye color, what county the family had lived in, etc.). That basic information gave me enough to go on, and in two months’ time, I had found her.

I didn’t have the slightest idea if she would even want to hear from me, so I arranged for an intermediary to make the first contact – if she didn’t want to have contact with me, I wanted her to be able to say so without having contact with me in the process. But of course, she did want to have contact with me, and rather than wait for me to call her, she called me first. And the rest, as they say, is history.

About a month later, I flew off to meet her (she lives in a completely different part of the country from us, one that I would likely never visit if she weren't there), and since then, she has come for annual visits to our place.

I want to say something about ‘why’ – what motivated me to search? First, let me be as clear as I can possibly be that it was in no way related to any dissatisfaction with my adoptive family – our family wasn’t perfect, but it was ‘plenty good enough’. My parents did very well with some fairly challenging circumstances, and I feel nothing but love and gratitude toward them.

Mainly, I wanted something that they simply didn’t have to give me – my beginnings. I knew the history of our family, I knew I was adopted, but certain ‘big questions’ – where did I come from; who do I look like? – they simply couldn’t help me with. My knowledge of my life went back to the point at which I was adopted, but before that was a blank page. And on top of that, I was having children of my own – 1F was the first person I ever knew who was genetically related to me, and as I saw different characteristics of hers that had obviously ‘come from’ me, I wondered who I had gotten those things from.

Anyway, it’s been 17 years now. At first, our relationship was very emotional, very intense, but it’s long since settled down to a pretty ‘normal’ family relationship – kind of like an extra set of in-laws. But I’ve been surprised at the sense of solidity that it’s given me – what someone called ‘a sense of being rooted to the earth’. There’s a richness that I didn’t quite anticipate – and which I’m sure most people don’t even think about – in just being able to know where I came from.


Also a couple weeks ago, 1F and Molly and I went for a visit with 1F’s daughter (I’ll call her AG) and her adoptive parents (call them AM and AF). 1F has gone for several visits by herself, but this was the first time that Molly and I had seen her since the day she was born.

It was a nice visit. It was good to get a look at our grand-baby, now 9 months old, crawling and pulling herself up, and assure ourselves that our gene-pool is doing OK. I was actually more fascinated than I had expected to be, just watching her move around and play.

Her parents are great people, and it was good to spend some time getting to know them a little bit. It would be very understandable for them to have some anxiety about AG’s relationship with her birth-family, but if they had it, they didn’t show it to us. And for our part, we are absolutely clear that they are AG’s parents; we know that we don’t have any claim on her, and we’re grateful to them for letting us have such relationship with her as we can.

It’s a new kind of thing for us – I never had a relationship with my birth-family until I was 33 years old, and my adoptive family never had to have anything to do with it, so we’re breaking some new ground here. But we’re committed to making it work, and so far, we’re as happy as we can be with how it’s going.


*edit October 13*

O272 and Emily had questions from the above post, and I want to answer them here, since they're really good questions and require more comprehensive answers than I wanted to leave in comment-space.

O asked: How did [1F] deal with putting her child up for adoption? It had to be a very difficult decision.

In a related vein, Emily asked: Was there a specific reason that [1F] didn't want to raise the baby herself?

From what I know of her decision process, her decision was both easy and wrenchingly difficult. Easy in the sense that, looking at her own life and circumstances, she simply didn't have the wherewithal to raise a baby, and she was clear on that virtually from the moment she knew she was pregnant. She didn't have a job, let alone one that would provide support for herself and a baby, and she hated the idea of making herself and the baby 'wards of the state' on welfare. She wanted to go back to college, but she needed time and money to do that, both of which would militate against her raising a baby. Her psychological state was (and really, still is) more fragile than a single mother's would need to be. But most fundamentally, she wanted her baby to have a family, and that would never be the case if she raised the baby herself.

The baby's father . . . how shall I say it . . . was a shithead and a loser of the first order. He essentially dropped her as soon as he found out she was pregnant, and after that, his entire role was to try to obstruct the adoption, so as to maintain some form of lasting 'control' in her life (it was not terribly unlike a dog pissing on a tree to 'mark' it as 'his turf'). He showed up at the adoption hearings with his new girlfriend in tow, herself now several months pregnant. Wonderful fellow, this guy. . .

In the context of giving a child up for adoption, nine months gestation can seem terribly cruel. She made her decision for all the right reasons, and really, pretty early on. But all the little signposts that are usually markers of impending joy - the first time she felt the baby kick, the first ultrasound picture, etc - were, for her, markers of impending sadness. She could have the greatest confidence in the decision she had made, and the firmest resolve to see it through, but the day-to-day reality of being pregnant ran smack against what her rational mind was telling her. On a very basic level, which for all intents and purposes she had no control over, she was bonding with her baby, whether she would end up raising her or not. And that was the wrenchingly hard part.

Childbirth was poignant, as you might expect. There was great joy at the arrival of a healthy baby girl, at finally being able to see and hold this little person who came from her. The adoptive parents were present for the birth (AM cut the cord), and their joy was very gratifying. If this was a difficult time for 1F, the pain was mitigated by the knowledge that something wonderfully good - a family was getting a daughter, and her baby was getting a family - was coming of it.

Emily asked about 1F's, and Molly's and my, relationships with the adoptive parents, and how they were 'chosen'.

1F chose the adoptive parents, although, for the adoption to be finalized, they had to be evaluated and approved by the agency which handled the adoption, and ultimately, by the court. She wanted her baby to be raised in a Christian community like the one she had been raised in, but she didn't really want her baby to be the same town as she lived in. So we made some inquiries among several other communities in the US, related to ours, and found a young couple in a community near ours (but not too near) who were childless after seven years of marriage. They were loose acquaintances of ours; although I couldn't say that we really knew them, we knew who they were.

The 'open' adoption arrangement that 1F has with AG's parents is purely informal - there are no legally binding 'agreements' in force. If the parents decided tomorrow that the arrangement wasn't working out and they wanted no further contact with 1F or with us, they would be within their rights, and we would have no legal recourse. That's just the rules of the game, and we all knew it going in.

But, as I said, they are good and gracious people, and, at least so far, they are happy to include us in the life of their daughter. And, as I said previously, we are completely clear that, in every meaningful way, they are her parents, and we are grateful to be included.

As an interesting aside, within a month of AG coming to live with them, AM was pregnant, and that baby is now due any day. . .

Emily was also impressed that Molly and I, as the 'birth-grandparents' are included in the 'open' arrangement. I actually hadn't thought of it as all that unusual, but I suppose it might be. I can say that, of all that has come into my own life as a result of being reunited with my birth-mother, the relationships we've formed with my extended 'birth-family' have been the most surprising. My own grandmother was sick and scant months from death when I appeared on the scene, but her reception of me was incredibly heart-warming; it hadn't occurred to me that other members of my 'birth-family' would have been all that strongly affected.

There is a kind of 'kinship' that is almost 'built-into' us genetically. I've been amazed, as I've met my own biological aunts and uncles and cousins for the first time, at the way that we're 'like each other' in some innate, undefinable way. With my adoptive family, there were differences that would crop up from time to time, and we mainly dealt with them with good humor. But with my 'birth-family' it was almost the opposite - we would discover unanticipated ways in which we were like each other, or just understood each other in some intuitive way.

So, ladies, I hope that this gives a helpful answer to your questions, or at least helps you understand the situation a little better. . .

(7/4 comments)

Monday, October 9, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different. . .

I've generally organized this blog around the general themes of marriage and family life. But today, partly in the interest of full disclosure, and partly because I'm just so giddy about it, I'm going to do a 'sports post'. With apologies in advance to those of you who are wondering, "What the heck is up with that?"

Mr. Husbland has been posting in recent days about the Detroit Tigers and how exciting this baseball season has been in Tigertown (I've already told you all that I live in Michigan, so I don't suppose that I'm 'blowing my cover' by admitting this). But, I thought a more, uh, seasoned treatment of the subject might be helpful for you all (ie, I'm a whole lot older than he is).

I started following the Tigers when I was a little kid - we used to try to imitate Rocky Colavito's stretching exercises when we played pickup games. I was 12 when the Tigers won the World Series in '68, which I think is just about the perfect age to take on a passionate, lifelong commitment to a favorite sports team. Al Kaline was my boyhood hero, and I've come to learn that a boy could do a whole lot worse than emulating Al Kaline (in all sorts of ways). Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain (well, OK, a boy could do a whole lot better, but come on, he went 31-6 in '68) - these were the ballplayers who were at the very front of my youthful consciousness.

I was older (married, with one daughter and another 'in the oven') when the Tigers won in '84, but I had been a college classmate of Kirk Gibson, and that whole group of guys - Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris - were all about my age, so I had a certain, more 'peer-ish' identification with them.

After the World Series that year, a buddy of mine came over to my house and handed me a baggie with a small hunk of sod in it. "Thought you might appreciate this," he said. I looked at it, thinking, what the heck? until it slowly dawned on me what it was - he had been down to the stadium for the final game of the Series, and afterward, had torn up a hunk of sod, which he divided into smaller chunks and gave them out to his buddies. And that little piece of sod - about three inches square - grows in my back yard to this day.

The thing that's so cool about this year's Tigers is how they just absolutely came out of nowhere. Three years ago, they set the American League record for losses (and ten guys from that season are still on the team!). We were hoping that this year they'd be better than they had been, but nobody expected them to be anywhere near this good. So it's been just an astounding baseball season. I've just been shaking my head all season - they can't really be this good, can they?

Saturday, I was with a group of 20 or so guys at a buddy's house, ostensibly to watch our alma mater play a football game against our hated in-state rival, but before the first quarter was over, we had switched over to the Tigers game. Jeremy Bonderman is getting a special place ready for himself in all-time Tigers lore (and, I'm not gonna lie - it was all the cooler for beating the Yankees). When the game ended, and the players were running along the stands, spraying champagne on the fans, it was one of the most incredible moments I've ever seen at a sporting event - you don't see players and fans bonding like that very much these days. It was very cool.

There is a cool, trans-generational thing that baseball has that none of the other sports can quite duplicate. I can talk about Al Kaline and Willie Horton, or Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, and my kids can talk about Justin Verlander and Pudge Rodriguez, but my dad can also talk about Charley Gehringer and Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe, and you've got 70 years of Tigers history spanned by three generations of our family.

So, thanks for induging my bliss for the moment - I promise we'll get back to our 'normal' topics as soon as possible. And I do realize that we've still got to play the A's, whose pitching is just about as good as ours, and even if we beat the A's, then we have the World Series. But in the context of recent years, it's all a gratuitous gift.


Also, the other day Emily was asking for our favorite jokes, and this seemed a fitting time to tell my own personal favorite:

Two guys in the men's room do their business at the urinals. When they finish, one guy goes to the sink, while the other guy heads for the door.

The guy at the sink calls over his shoulder, "I see you went to Michigan State."

The guy at the door stops, and says, "Why, yes I did. How did you know?"

Sink-guy says (in telling the joke, it really helps if you can affect a Thurston-Howell-type accent at this point), "Well I went to the University of Michigan, and we were taught to always wash our hands after urinating."

Door-guy says, "Oh; that's a really good idea. But at Michigan State they taught us not to piss on our hands."

And with that, I will leave you until next time. . .


Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Desmond and Molly - The Adventure Begins

I first met Molly when we were both in college. I've spoken before about the Christian community I joined when I was in school; I think it was during my junior year that Molly started showing up at campus functions of the community, and in due course, joined the community herself. I’d like to say that, the first time I laid eyes on her, I was instantly star-struck and knew that one day she’d be my wife. But it didn’t happen that way. In fact, I’m pretty sure I barely noticed her at first.

That summer, between my junior and senior years, I lived in an apartment near campus with a couple buddies, and took a couple summer classes. Molly, as it turned out, lived with some women in the same complex, about a block away. The girls she was living with were good friends of the guys in my apartment, so she and I spent a fair amount of time that summer hanging out together, and we became good friends. I enjoyed her outgoing, sanguine personality; she was just generally pleasant to be around.

Over the next couple years, we became good friends. In the context of the life of our community, we spent quite a bit of time together, praying, studying the Bible, serving together in various and sundry ways. For a while, I was the leader of a music group, and she was sort of loosely my ‘secretary’, so we’d meet every week to plan music for a worship service; I have to say, we worked very well together.

All during this time, I came to admire what a solid, godly woman she was. I wasn’t remotely ‘in the market’ for a wife yet, and, while I certainly enjoyed her company, I wasn’t looking at Molly in any kind of ‘romantic’ way. In my mind, we were really good friends, and brother/sister in Christ, and that was great. Also during this time, I sort of cycled through a series of ‘crushes’ on other women in the community, all of which crashed and burned in various comical ways. So, I sort of ‘swore off’ romance for a while, and concentrated more on my studies.

When I graduated, I took a job in the same town where the college was (Molly continued in school for another year or two). I bought a car and a house, and started to think about settling down and getting married. I actually thought about asking Molly out – I certainly admired her, and we always enjoyed each other’s company. But, when I was ready to ‘make my move’, I discovered that she was dating another guy. Down in flames again! So I retreated, and pondered my next move.

One Sunday morning not long after that, I was sitting on my porch, reading the newspaper, when Molly came hopping up the stairs. She had moved into a house with some other women, just up the street from the house I’d just bought. She was carrying a dingy little rubber ball in her hand. “I know you play paddleball,” she said. “I found this ball, and I wondered if it was the kind you could use.” Well, it wasn’t, but I thanked her for thinking of me, and we chatted for a while before she continued on her way.

I was sort of chuckling at the whole thing, at how silly it was for her to bring me this grubby little ball, when it suddenly dawned on me – this wasn’t about the ball. She was letting me know that she was available and interested. Sure enough, I discovered that she wasn’t seeing the other guy any more, and when I asked her out, she eagerly accepted.

And the rest, as they say, is history. We were married the following summer; and we recently celebrated our 26th anniversary.

I want to say that all those years of friendship have paid dividends in our marriage – long before either of us thought of the other as a potential mate (well, long before I thought of her that way, at any rate), we just liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company. More importantly, we admired and respected each other on a purely human, interpersonal level, without the starry-eyed romantic overtones. And, when it came time for us both to think about choosing a life-partner, we had pretty objective, clear-headed assessments of each other. And, even today, I still have that fundamental admiration of Molly as a woman, quite separately from the fact that she’s my wife. And that’s like money in the bank for us.