LETTERS TO KEREN!
--On Keeping Love in Marriage
Several months before she was married, Keren asked me to write her some special letters. "Daddy," she said at her beaming best, "I'd like you to tell me how I can keep him loving me forever!"
I am a pastor. As such, I have discussed matrimonial matters with countless couples. These letters left my mailbox with a father's prayer that they might be useful to my daughter & her beloved, & I hope they will be of benefit to you too. Most of us need every possible aid for better fulfilling the laws of love.
WE KNOW IN PART
One of the greatest things ever written on love is 1Cor. 13. The next time you read it, notice that the only repetition in the entire Chapter is this: "We know in part!"
The writer seems to be saying, "Back up & have one more look at the endless vistas of love. Here is something you must consider again. Beauty in human relations does not require total knowledge all at once."
We can be eternally thankful for this in many ways. Aren't you glad that people don't know all about you? And isn't it also fine that we don't know all about other people?
But when it applies to marriage, it is nothing less than a stupendous gift. To be married to someone in whom you see islands to be discovered, mountains to climb, valleys to explore, & new wonders beckoning off in the distance, this is absolutely the greatest!
It does create some problems though. You can't learn how to handle people such as this all at once. It's true the days will never grow dull as you begin this journey of exploration. Yet on the other hand, it may also be exasperating sometimes.
So when you feel like saying, "Men! Why does my husband do such crazy things? Will I ever understand what makes him act like that?"--when you feel this way, just be grateful for a man you can't comprehend all at once.
Always remember in your life together that marriage is not just a ceremony but a creation.
HAPPINESS IS TO GROW UP!
Many couples make the mistake of thinking that two saying "I do!" means "We did it!" They assume that by the mere act of climbing the church stairs they have already vaulted the stairs into seventh heaven.
Marriage may be "made in Heaven" in the original, but the whole deal is more like one of those kits which comes knocked down for putting together. It will take some gluing here, sanding rough spots there, hammering a bit now, filing down the scratches on this side, carving a piece, bending this section slightly, varnishing, backing off for a frequent look, dusting, waxing, polishing, until at last what you have is a thing of beauty & a joy forever.
Marriage does not suddenly make imperfect people perfect. Every human being has some flaws. This sweeping statement, I regret to inform you, includes your husband Vincent. It also includes you.
Handling such a challenge is largely a matter of mature thinking. Every one of us at some earlier stage has been in love with the "dream image" of what our perfect love would one day be. If either of you insists on clinging to your fantasy unduly, you may be in for some real disappointments.
If you hang on too tightly you may risk a couple of serious errors. You could waste a good deal of time & energy trying to make your man over into something he was never meant to be. You might also be concentrating so much on what he is not that you become blind to some of the fine things which make him what he is.
With almost everyone whom we learn to know well, we discover that certain defects are part of the price they pay for their virtues. An attractive person is not so much a collection of miscellaneous parts, good & bad, strewn about. What makes him appealing is more likely to be the way in which he has organised those parts.
The same thing goes for homemaking. In a vital marital combination two wise persons are trying to organise their parts into oneness which will be good for both of them. To see each other work on this, to help each other accomplish this, is one of the dynamics of marriage at its best.
So don't let glamour victimise you. You are not flawless yourself, & you'd be very uncomfortable if Vincent should prove the first exception to this rule--boys have blemishes & young men come unfinished to the wedding.
We like to believe that you are both mature for your age. We never forget that maturity is in part knowing where you need to become more mature.
We've heard you say, "Vincent & I are terribly in love." Whether your love is terribly terrific or terrificly terrible may depend on just two words: "Grow up!"
LET FREEDOM RING!
"Divine Wedlock" is a religious term which has a nice solid ring whenever you hear it. In two words it seems to bring together the security which just about everybody hopes to find someday.
But you do well to understand that this is never right unless there are two keys to the lock. You are each entitled to one of these, & they are yours to use in wisdom. Marriage lives by the gradual integration of two people who give each other plenty of room for personal development.
Like so many other things in husband-wife relationships, there is a fine line here. Because each marriage represents the bringing together of two unique persons, no one can tell exactly where the "liberty line" is best marked off in your union. It will take careful testing & stretching to find yours together.
Some men never get the message that their wives are free. They operate under the delusion that a successful husband is one who imprisons the "little woman" within the prison of his desires.
Some women give in to this treatment & resign their individuality. But this is not living, & it is never marriage at its best.
So I hope you'll remember this paradox about "togetherness". It must include whatever amount of "apartness" is right for each of you. And if you allow plenty of room for the apartness, this has a way of magnetising the togetherness.
In other words, the more you can be free from each other without resentment when you feel the need for freedom, the more you will be free with each other in sharing your full selves. Don't hold on in your marriage so tightly that you squeeze one another away.
This is a big order for a woman who loves her man so much that she wants to share everything with him all at once. You will only reach the sublime heights of perfect union if you pledge each other freedom enough to develop the original creation which is the "high holy place" in each individual.
This is divine wedlock--two people growing both individually & in unity until they become what they were meant to be together.
EMPHASIS ON THE GOOD THINGS!
High on the list of happy marriages which your mother & I have known is the union between Bob & Helen. On the surface they seem to have little in common. Bob is a pusher & she is retiring. He is the life of the party. You'll usually find her in the shadows. But they are radiantly in love.
One night we were invited to dinner at their house. After dinner, while we were alone in the den, I decided to find out more. "Bob," I said, "you & Helen seem so perfectly adjusted to each other. I've watched you for some time now, & I think it's great. I see so many unhappy marriages. Do you have any secrets I might pass on to others?" He laughed, but then recited a story which I think is a classic.
"We had a terrible time when we were first married. In fact, we even talked about calling it quits. Then we read something that gave us an idea. We decided to make a list of all the things we didn't like about each other. Of course it was hard, but Helen gave me hers & I gave her mine. It was pretty rough reading. Some of the things we had never said out loud or shared in any way.
"Next, we did something which might seem foolish, so I hope you won't laugh. We went to the trash basket in the back yard & burned those two lists of bad things. We watched them go up in smoke & we put our arms around each other for the first time in a long while.
"Then we went back into the house & made a list of all the good things we could dig up about each other. This took some time, since we were pretty down on our marriage. But we kept at it & when we finished we did another thing which might look silly. We framed them & hung them on our bedroom wall.
"If we have any secret, I guess this is it. We agreed to read these things at least once a day. Of course we know them by heart now. I couldn't begin to tell you what they've done for me. The more I consider the good she sees in me, the more I try to be like that. And when I really understood her good points, I tried all the harder to build on these. That's all there is to it!"
Of course you must face up to the negatives. But you will be more attractive to each other in the home, you will learn to appreciate the good in others outside your walls, & they will readily recognise the best in you if you slant your marriage in this direction.
TELL HIM HE'S WONDERFUL!
While couples are courting, they usually give considerable thought to ways & means of pleasing each other. "What can I do to make him happy?" & "I wonder if she would like this?" are common questions on the wooer's list.
It is a wise couple who continue this expression of their love into marriage & even increase it as the years pass. I'm not contending for words alone. Sometimes by your actions you can "speak" the depths of your feeling. A silent bit of tenderness well done at the right time may get your message through every bit as much as if you had said it out loud.
But three sad words describe many a marriage: "They quit courting." Sometimes this happens all at once. More likely it leaves the place gradually as they begin to take each other for granted. Will your marriage see an increase or a decrease in the little chivalries which make all the difference between a continuing romance & just another marriage?
The emphasis on chivalry or courtesy is not meant to minimise the importance of well-chosen words sincerely spoken at strategic times. This is one of the least expensive ingredients in the great marriages I have known. But it too does a steady fadeaway unless you consciously cultivate it daily.
Remember, my darling daughter, you can keep him loving you forever if you learn a thousand different ways to tell him he's wonderful. But you must learn how to do this right. There are some important things to keep in mind.
For one thing, if you do it nicely, appreciation can even be the background for showing him his faults. Every couple in marriage should be growing toward personal betterment on both sides, or their union is stuck & dying. You can only tell him he isn't wonderful where he isn't if you have told him he is wonderful where he is.
Now comes another cue for the clever wife. Every man has certain areas where he's especially pleased if his woman applauds. This can be a secret little game you play between you. If you play it well, he may grow beyond it until he doesn't need it anymore. But it will be important at the outset of your marriage because most every man is not as good as he would like to be at some points. Your mother was an ace at this in our early days together. As you know, I played football, baseball, basketball & nearly every game with a ball in it. Because I was big, I got by rather well at some of them. But the truth is that I was lazy.
As I look back over the gridirons & diamonds & courts where I played, I was never as good as I would like to have been. But there was one spot where I was a walloping success. (Well, at least for a time.) This was in wrestling. I even hold a title back in our home state. So what if it is the record for being thrown faster than anyone else in the heavyweight finals? I loved wrestling & I was right there in the thick of it. Then I met my match, & Goliath went down with a resounding thud.
Yet you'd never have known this from your mother. She guarded my secret until I was grown up enough to tell it myself. She skillfully cast my praises about. Then, as your husband will, her husband made it over the hump. He decided to come clean. Yours too will have these places of pride & places of shame. You will do well to learn them & play to the gallery.
One key phrase is, "I think you're wonderful." If ever one sentence weighed a ton, this is it.
Whenever you see a radiant woman, you can be sure she knows she is loved. The same thing goes for men of genuine confidence. You can bring out the best in each other if you look for the best & put it in words.
MOODS! MOODS! MOODS!
Last night before you left for college you asked me, "Can't I do something about these awful moods?" You said Vincent was "down in the dumps" & I could see you were aching inside.
Let's begin with a fact which you must face: Moods are a natural part of every personality. In my experience there are no exceptions. The only variation to the rule is one of degree or place or time or what motivates the mood.
Another item of real importance: Try your best not to go down into the swamps of despair when he goes down. This is much easier said than done, of course, & it will take some time to learn this one. It is easy for you to become melancholy when he becomes melancholy.
Because you love him so much you want to share all things with him fully, & it may appear on the surface that you could help him best by glumming it through together. But "togetherness" of the highest kind does not mean sinking together to the lowest levels.
If you can keep your heart filled with high level kindness when he is down, you will really contribute more to his recovery than by almost any other method.
I have observed some skillful women doing another clever thing. They get ready for their husband's bad moods before the low ceiling comes down.
One of the most successful wives among my friends says that she asks her husband to barbeque her a steak when she feels some inner woe sneaking up on him. She testifies that the combination of a big meal & her praises of his cooking work wonders for him. Or maybe you could go dancing. Perhaps a long drive in the moonlight is the right antidote.
There is one more thing you can do. This is, in fact, the big curative. It is the one where your mother & I find our most effective remedy. You spell it with four letters: Talk! (Editor: Most important, pray & share the Word.)
THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION!
Since sharing your hearts through your lips is basic to every marriage, let's begin with some do's & don'ts which might help you in tending the bridge.
1. Do greet him with gladness when he first comes home. One husband made this picturesque statement: "She throws the garbage in my face first thing when I open the door." Then he went on to explain that she had a knack of saving the worst news of each day & giving him this promptly on his arrival. He mimicked her patter: "Junior broke the neighbour's bird bath...That left rear tire on the station wagon is flat again...Won't you please fix my kitchen faucet? I told you 5 days ago how bad it leaks."...and so on in woeful detail. So from what I've seen, it's a good idea to now & then check your words of greeting.
2. Do set aside time for visiting together. Every husband should have his hobby. And the same goes for your side. In one of our early letters we discussed time apart from each other as a magnet which will eventually draw you closer to each other. But the land is full of foolish couples whose love has been diverted until now they are enthralled about something other than their hours together.
So what can you do about this? Sometimes little remedies bring big changes. I'm sure you'll remember what a good thing we did at our house when we all agreed to the pledge: "We will save time for loitering at our evening meal. We will share the day's highlights & discuss these things together. We will present the most interesting events of the day & vote on matters important to us all."
3. Do learn all you can about his work. A man came to my study one evening to give me a check. It was a tithe on his first royalty on an invention. How about this for an ideal wife:
He said, "This patent which has begun to pay off is not really my idea. Grace studied everything she could find about my work. She read & attended lectures. She talked with every expert she could corner. Then one day she said, `Al, with your brilliant mind, I'll bet you could invent an electronic eye to tell the difference between good peas & bad peas while they're still in the pod. This is how I've got it figured'..."
Then he went on to detail the idea. It was over my head, but it wasn't over his. He went after it with zeal & developed this ingenious device.
This isn't all the story. Measure the woman now against this additional statement: "She made me promise I would never tell anyone where I got the idea. My bosses think I'm really something. They gave me my own private lab to work up some new money-makers. And guess who's helping me the most?--My wife Grace!"
"Don'ts" are also important for the traffic of your heart through your lips. Here are three worth remembering:
1. Don't let your common interests get away. Nearly every couple facing marriage has many things which have drawn them together. But sometimes these die a gradual death from other causes.
One major origin of this demise is when one member tends to dominate the conversation. Rushing madly from secondly to thirdly to fourthly, they suffocate the dialogue with monologue.
Many of us have this tendency. We love the sound of our own words, & we forget that although our voice may ring like a bell to us, it can be like the caw of a crow to the other person who waits & waits to express himself.
Skillful wives I've known seem to have several marks of wisdom at this point: a) They know many clever little ways to give their men the "you go first" treatment. b) They "yield the floor" quickly when they see any indication that he has anything to say. c) They learn how to read their husbands for these signals--the raised eyebrow, a movement in the corner of his lips, a furrowed brow or some special gesture peculiar to him.
2. Don't try to impress him with how much you know. Jealousy of any kind is dangerous stuff in marriage, & one of its worst forms is mental envy. If he knows things unknown to you, you have discovered a great thing when you can humble your mind to say, "I admire your brains! Teach me!"
Then there will be places where your knowledge supercedes his. With this you must be at your tactful best & reduce your brilliance to reachable heights. Wise wives should remember this--he'll take more pride in his woman's discernments if she never parades hers while she plays up his.
3. Don't fail to still your lips when you should. This is just what we've been saying all along, & we'll probably say it again & again. The reason for this repetition is that I see a steady stream of these chattering women as I work with problem marriages.
One group might be labelled "the Interrupters". This is a common human tendency for many of us. We sit on the edge of our chairs & wait impatiently for an opening. Or sometimes we don't wait. At the first drawing of breath by the other fellow, we seize the floor & tell how it really was or how we know it should be. Since I'm not a lady, I can't tell how it feels from your side, but I have observed that not many of us men go for women who are constantly breaking in on our wisdom.
Another variety of the "ceaseless" might be classified as "Overquestioners"!
The same man who hopes sometime to get in a word, may yearn at other times for nothing more than a peaceful reverie with himself! We all have within us those personal places where our minds are tied in knots, & we know that the knot is not yet ready for loosening. Other items require working over in private before they can be shaped in the correct phrases.
EYEBALL TO EYEBALL!
"Eyeball to eyeball" is the shortened version of what your mother & I call "Our seven official rules for a good, clean fight."
The "oneing" of two hearts calls for much billing & cooing, but if you are wise you will get ready for another sound. This is the battle cry. Whenever two red-blooded people are building a home, you'll find occasional spats, & now & then some fiery encounter.
Good clean fighting can actually be excellent preventative medicine for common good health. It might prevent headaches, heartaches & high blood pressure. Ulcers & allergies, moods & nagging & a whole host of other things you'd like to avoid can be added to the list.
Here now are our "Seven Official Rules for a Good, Clean Fight."
1. Before we begin we must both agree that the time is right. There is an eager little beaver in nearly everyone which likes to get right on with it when something is needling inside. Then we have other days when it takes all our strength just to go on breathing.
A wise woman learns to purr with the kittens sometimes when she would prefer to scratch with the cats. If he's suffering from "battle fatigue" at the office, this is not a good time for a fight. The smart man also learns how to command "arms rest" even if his spleen is ready for venting. Since women have hard days with the children & other days when they're not up to their best, he too must practice self-control. The little word "both" in this rule grows more important as you study it.
2. We will remember that our battle aim is a deeper understanding of each other. "Humility & honesty" will be the theme of a later letter, but you'll need these now as well. Neither of you is "all St. George" & neither of you is "all the dragon".
"Patience" is another requirement. Without it you could tear up more in an hour than it might take weeks to repair.
"Mercy", "grace" & "telling the truth in love" should be in your hearts as you shout, "Ready, aim, fire!"
If either of you is to hit the bull's eye you must never forget this: Your main aim is to improve your marriage by deeper understanding.
3. We will check our weapons often to be sure they're not deadly. "The battle unto death" may be all right in its place, but its place is not in the home. Here you are shooting down troubles, not firing for funerals. So be especially careful of the words you hurl when the smoke gets in your eyes.
Right now I am working to patch up a marriage where they lost their tempers & he made a serious mistake. He shouted in anger, "I never did like your darned old freckles anyway!"
She had freckles all over her face, & they were honestly one of the nicest things about her. But they had bothered her since her early teens. He had always told her that he was crazy about them, & I'm sure he was with part of him. But perhaps another part was not, & he let that part get out of hand when their fight was at fever pitch.
We're making some progress. He has apologised a thousand times. Yet for a long time there will be that sneaky little worry in her mind, "Does he really like my freckles like he always said he did? Or was he telling the truth when he lost control?"
Sadism is bad in any form, & one of its worst forms is to throw up to others those things they can never change.
4. We will lower our voices instead of raising them. This is one rule which your mother & I built into our courtship before we were married. It came, as so many good things of our love, from out of your mother's quiet. In my stormy upbringing we "hollered" when our ire was up, & the volume went higher with the increasing ire.
5. We will never quarrel in public or reveal private matters. All dirty laundry should be done in its place, & its place is at home.
There is one more subpoint to our rule. This is our agreement that we will never fire at each other publicly when we are not together. I have known very few men who could readily forgive their wives for criticising & complaining behind their backs.
6. We will discuss an armistice whenever either of us calls "halt". Notice the wording "discuss an armistice". Some men are quitters by nature, & some women run up the white flag too soon. With us it requires a vote of two before we finally sign the truce. Silence is not always golden. It may be yellow.
How can you end it if you want to quit & he wants to continue? Here is one move for cease fire which seldom fails for us. It goes like this: "I'm beginning to see what you meant. But I'll need some time to think it over. Please, let's make up now so I can consider awhile how you could be right." (He could be, you know!)
7. When we have come to terms we will put it away until we both agree it needs more discussing. A healthy union requires that you never forget some things & never remember others. Wedlock must have its lock boxes. In some of these you put certain items & throw the key away. Others you keep for later opening.
Did you notice the "both" in this rule also? If one "eyeball" glowers unduly at "wait-a-while", you will do well to talk it over & maybe take out the problem for review.
One of the most infinite understandings in any husband-wife relationship is that you can still love each other even if there are things you don't exactly like!
I'M SORRY, HONEY!
The three most important words in marriage, apart from "I love you," may be the humble little admission, "I'm sorry, Honey!"
Since apology is a prime ingredient in marriage, we will dedicate this letter to three thoughts which I hope will be helpful.
1. Some people find it difficult to express regret. One wife, married to a holier-than-thou husband, gave this sad witness in our consultation together: "Tom is always on the Lord's side, & it is so hard to get along with a man who is always on the Lord's side."
These are tough men to live with. It is also rough for husbands whose wives comport themselves as self-ordained saints. Let's begin with this chant of many great women: "Bigness may never begin unless it begins with me!"
Even if it is all his fault, which isn't likely, you can patch up a quarrel & still keep your self-respect. If he refuses to be honest, you can be honest enough to say, "I'm sorry we quarreled. Forgive me for anything I said which I shouldn't have. There are so many things I like about you. I appreciate your love more than anything in the World, & it makes me feel just awful when we are out of sorts with each other."
Apology usually requires that the most mature member of your duo make the first move. Some marital experts say that the secret to success in the home is to change the customary 50-50 sharing of everything to 60-60. They tell us that when both members of the union are willing to go more than half way, this couple has it made. Their wisdom applies especially to expressing regret.
2. Regrets & humour go well together. Whenever a couple learns how to laugh & smile & make merry over their mistakes, a wonderful thing happens in their home. Heaven has special clean-up squads which respond to these signals. They come to sweep away the broken pieces & give that marriage a fresh beginning.
3. Apology is one of those places in marriage where "Who did it" isn't as important as "What is the quickest way of making things right again?" Mr. Reed taught me a great thing. The little town where I grew up was an ideal spot for boys who loved water. One day the river authority announced a canoe race. The contest was upstream in a section which none of our gang knew. We had plenty of time to prepare, so naturally we practiced many hours. Mr. Reed lived along the banks where we played regularly, & he was our friend. In one of our evening visits I was complaining about the jagged stones & boulders up there. He listened to my sad story for a time. Then he stopped me with these words of wisdom, "Son, you'll never win by fussing about the rocks. Quit worrying about them & learn where the channels are."
This is a fair word for lovers. Let's say he did start it. Or maybe you are the guilty party. Possibly neither one can remember its origin. But where it began isn't the major matter. What counts most is when it is settled. With some things of love, "the sooner the better," & that especially applies to apologies & forgiveness.
HUMILITY & HONESTY
Tracing it back to its original usage, I get the feeling that to be humble means to face up to the difference between what we are & what we ought to be. The greatest people I meet are rich with this kind of humility. The same goes for the finest marriages. You will add much to your life with each other when you can say, "Blessed are the couples who are humble & honest, for they will reach a higher love!"
Several fine things happen when you live by this beatitude. Courage to analyse yourselves, grace to apologise sincerely, patience to hold your tongues when you should--these are but a few things which humility & honesty bring along if you invite them into your home.
Gossip is one of the things that will have to depart if the "H twins" enter in. Naturally there will be times when your talk centers on folks & days when it shares events. But you do well to check your conversation often to be sure it isn't blowing bits of outside dirt & dust into the center of your thoughts.
Judgement & "jury duty" have their place. So do censorship & criticism. But their major place is not in your home. To allow yourself a "we are good but they are not so good" attitude will eventually dirty up your bridge of communication & make it unattractive to both.
Nagging is among the major gripes heard in my study from husbands. For some reason, more husbands bring me this complaint than women. Again, I'm not certain that wives do it more than their men, but I'm sure of this--one way to keep him loving you is to avoid carping & harping of any kind.
Those who nag may need to travel back down the paths of their personal histories to discover some reasons for their judging natures. Whenever a child is brought up by adults whose spirit is "nothing but the best from you will satisfy us," that child may develop a pointed tongue. A severe upbringing which engrains unnatural standards is almost certain to create dissatisfaction with everything & everybody.
Men who must live with women of this temperament do not become more teachable. They only build up their defenses that much higher & finally erect soundproof barriers in their ears. Or they tend to stay away from home to avoid the nagging mate that their partner has become. Working overtime when they don't need to, excessive drinking, philandering & finally their lawyer's office for a divorce may be havens of rest compared to the wild winds of their woman's words.
One final word: I just remembered this one woman who said, "I was operating under the delusion that I needed a new husband. Then one day it occurred to me that perhaps my husband needed a new wife."
GETTING THROUGH TO THE REAL SELF
It is very important for you to understand this about men: Most of their day is spent in an impersonal World.
Modern business is so developed that the person is often eclipsed behind the almighty Dollar, & a man's real self may be seriously repressed. Because of this, a man will do almost anything for a woman who can get through to the inner man.
A word of warning: There are certain things which will not be conducive to your man's opening his full self to you. Right now I'd suggest you eliminate three words from your marriage & keep them erased if you hope to get through all the way.
1. Ridicule. Of course he'll have some wild ideas. Every thinker does. But when he comes up with one, hear him out in rapt attention. This may represent something which came to him in a flash at the office. He's been asking himself, "Have I made a brilliant discovery, or are there some `bugs' here which I didn't see?" He'd like to be sure before he presents it to his superiors. He knows that men often judge other men by their ability to consider every angle before they go off half-cocked.
So let him talk even if he is far off in left field & you know it. Don't cut him off too soon. Perhaps he'll discover the flaw for himself in talking it over. A mature man gets a real thrill from catching on to his own loose thinking. But if he doesn't see the mistake & you do, hold yourself back. There will be plenty of time later for you to bring him carefully back to where the facts are.
You can laugh with him. But never laugh at the things he shares with you until he laughs first. Ridicule in small doses or large will clam up any man eventually.
2. Overfastidiousness. This is a long word & it would take too long to spell it out in all its meanings. The reason is that some men like one kind of neatness & some another. But my observation is that the perfectionist wife is headed for trouble. This applies both to keeping the house & keeping yourself.
The well-equipped woman wears something else with her fresh garments & cologne. It is that subtle invitation which seems to say, "Come touch me! Take me in your arms!"
This is an art to be learned. It varies with each wife because each husband has his own peculiar likes & dislikes. But it is a wise woman who knows that every man is equipped with a subconscious radar that scans your spirit & attitude.
3. Pushiness. Most husbands also have something inside which automatically erects barriers against the wife who is forever pointing out how much better his friends are doing. So, Joe did get to be Vice-President. Maybe Vincent doesn't want to do it the way Joe did it! Maybe he doesn't want it period! Praise him for his accomplishments, but don't continually wave before him the honors of others.
There is a secret gnawing in the heart of any man who feels that he is constantly measured not by his own merits but by the merits of others. Excessive pushing from a woman is one sure cause of friction in marriage. Few males will freely open up in the presence of the "drive-drive-drive" female.
Breaking up the protective crusts we have built around us may be slow business. Sometimes it is painful. Because this is true, there will be times of inner resistance from each side. But don't let these continue too long. It is good to constantly measure your progress & make certain that your opening to each other is moving in the direction of increasing revelation.
You'd better believe it, my darling daughter--a man will do almost anything for a woman with whom he can learn to share his real self.
THE BABY & THE MUSCLE MAN
You will be wise to remember that your husband has a little boy in his makeup somewhere. So there will be times when Vincent will wish to go back to his childhood & live it over again. He'll want to play like he is a little boy.
Then at other times your little boy wishes to step forward as the big, brave man. At these moments he wants you to be "oohing" & "aahing" as you behold all that hair on his chest. He prefers that you swoon a bit in tribute to his biceps & triceps.
Whenever you sense him getting ready for this act, run quick for the soapbox & place it firmly under his feet. Sit there before him with stars in your pretty eyes. Give him the "what would I ever do without you to protect me" treatment. Praise God every time this happens & encourage him to exercise the Tarzan calling to his mate from within.
Let's end this particular letter with a beatitude. We'll call this "Beatitude of a Fortunate Male." Blessed is the man with a wife who admires her husband for the might of his manhood, but coddles him now & then as a mother comforteth her child.
SEXUAL DIFFERENCES, MALE & FEMALE
They say that no two people in the World are alike. Most of us do have two eyes, one nose, five fingers on each hand & a certain number of other things in common. Yet we have our differences too. Differences are a part of the background in even the most compatible marriages.
In addition to this, there is another important point for your agenda. There are some distinct differences between men & women just because that's how they were created in the first place.
For example, man is likely to be objective & abstract. Woman is generally subjective & concrete. Man's world of creativity & occupational involvement tends to center his attention outside the home. Woman's most important goings-on will probably focus more on the family.
Because this is true, it is easier for most men to interpret their world in an impersonal manner. Some of us have learned the hard way that women often take things more personally than men.
They forgot to teach us this in school, & it was a mistake. Those of us who work closely with both genders soon find out that you can level with most men & they level back, & then you go drink coffee together as the best of friends. But working with women requires an altogether different set of gears. Many a novice (I speak from experience) has stripped some important cogs in the machinery before he caught on to the difference.
There are also some natural biological differences between male & female. Let's examine a couple of real importance:
1. Sex probably has deeper meanings to the woman than it does to her man. Man's seeming obsession with sex does not prove that it means more to the male than the female. His sex drive is more of a surface, physical thing. Yours is likely to be much deeper, a matter of spirit & soul.
One sweet little wife said something to me that I'd like to share with you. She had been awed at the apparently insatiable sex appetite of her husband. Unfortunately it was also obvious that he was a clumsy clod in his approaches.
So we discussed this differences-in-the-sexes theme & then she said wistfully, "I had always thought that sex begins at breakfast. A few tender words to start things off would mean so much. Then perhaps a phone call some time during the day. Some endearments exchanged when he comes home & maybe some help with the supper dishes. Talking things over after the children are in bed. Exchanging ideas. Discussing what we've been doing during the day. A love pat here & a few kisses at the right time. I guess I've had the wrong idea. I thought maybe sex could begin at breakfast, build up during the day, & then explode in bed at night."
The facts are that she is 100% correct in her analysis of how it ought to be. She couldn't have said it better. That's what it should be like for most women! And it is a wise man who learns this skill & seeks to become an artist at playing on his wife's heartstrings.
2. Most men need sex more often than women. No rules can be laid down which apply to every marriage, of course. Frequency of intercourse is something each couple must work out for themselves.
You do well to remember that quality is more important than quantity in nearly everything you can mention. But from the marriages I have seen, it is apparent that "how often" usually matters most to the man & the "how to" is most important to the woman.
Yet no matter what the frequency, the main thing is to come to it joyfully. Learn to rest with it. The majority of wives who complain that it exhausts them will find their weariness in their head. Of course there are variations to every rule & sometimes physical problems must be examined.
You are a prudent wife when you look on sex, in part, as your opportunity to be a blessing to your husband. The tender women train themselves to receive a large measure of contentment just from contenting their men. Some women tell me that they love to minister to their husband's emotional & physical needs when they care nothing at all about physical culmination for themselves.
There is one more thing to remember about wise wives & husbands whose sex drive appears insatiable. The smart girls do not ration their men. They do not prescribe time, nor place, nor frequency, nor circumstances, nor manner.
I have known dozens of men who left home for sexual entertainment, & many of them belonged to women who insisted on always dictating the terms.
There is one more death knell to sexual happiness which you should guard carefully. This is sounded whenever a woman thinks of sex as a prize to be awarded when he has been an especially good boy. Whenever she holds it out to him as a bribe, she contributes a number one prospect for the women who go in for casual affairs. Here is another beatitude for you. Let's call it, "Beatitude for an always warm marriage": Blessed is the woman who can celebrate her husband's virility with a true generosity that often seeks not so much to be loved as to love.
THE SAINT & THE SWEET LITTLE SINNER
It's been said that the perfect mate for any man is an angel in the home & a devil in bed. Most men have an innate hope that their wife will be a combination of that old phrase, "The saint & the sweet little sinner!" Here are a few pointers towards that direction:
1. Be sexually aggressive some of the time. Do you remember when we played hide & seek? It was lots of fun for everyone. But to play the game right you had to take your turn as seeker now & then. The same thing is true of sex, & there are some profound reasons behind this.
Never forget that Vincent wants to be wanted. The fact that sex is more of a surface matter to men does not eliminate the factor of male depth completely. You can count on this: Your husband longs to believe that he's wonderful enough for you to yearn sometimes for his sexual companionship.
He will love you more with his soul if you overwhelm him now & then when he wasn't expecting your need for his body. Learn to interpret him well & you be the seeker some of the time. Because most men think about sex more than women, the proper amount of aggression in you will add zest to his anticipation.
2. Keep your body as alluring as God meant it to be. One afternoon at five I was calling on a church member when she suddenly stood up, turned toward the door & said, "Now if you will excuse me, Dr. Shedd, John comes home in half an hour & I always spend the last 30 minutes before he arrives getting ready for him."
She did this quite naturally. Then when she realised that she had asked me to leave she blushed & was quite embarrassed.
But not I! I inwardly rejoiced for women such as this. As I drove along towards home, I thought how much better our World would be if every woman spent the same 30 minutes in like manner. I should also add that this particular woman has 5 school age children of various ages. Don't ask me how she has organised them for this ritual! But I do know this--her husband is very much in love with her.
Take care also to dress yourself in the loveliest things you can afford in preparation for your intimate moments together.
WANT YOUR OWN WANTS!
In your life together, make the very most of all you've got & make the very least of what you can't get yet.
Some mathematical wizard has figured that the average modern family is exposed to a sales pitch some 1,158 times daily. Turn on the radio, read the paper, flick on your television, read a magazine. Everywhere the swamis cry, "Lo, here! Lo, there! Buy these! Buy those! Hurry now, don't miss these bargains! Be the first in your crowd to own one!"
These sharpies will get you if you don't watch out! You'd be surprised how few things you really need, if you think about it, & you certainly don't want to borrow & go into debt to buy things you don't need! One poet put it better than I could when he said,
If the bank won't make the loan
Go without it until they do.
If it isn't good for them,
It can't be good for you!
I see them often, these foolish people, who have clamoured so greedily for "stuff" that they have overextended in their hysteria. Then, in their panic, they grasp for more & clutch so tightly to "things" that life's true values slip from their hands.
So want your own wants. Don't let the "Buy buy buy" boys steal the pleasure of your present enjoyments. Make the very most of all you've got & make the very least of what you can't get yet!
An old English proverb makes the claim, "There is but one hour a day between a good housewife & a bad one." Since my lifework is not housekeeping, I couldn't have much of significance to say here. But I do get into many homes, & I have observed some things which I offer humbly, realising I am way over my head in this field.
1. The good housewives I see seem to be organised.
2. The good housewives I see take pride in their homes. There are two extremes here & "right" must be somewhere in the middle.
3. The good housewives have somehow learned to make fun out of duty. Maybe "pleasure" would be a better word than fun. Most men have no idea how much there is to housekeeping. They find out, of course, when something happens to mama for a time. It never occurs to most of us males that there are floors to wax, pans to clean, sheets to change, furniture to polish, diapers to wash, blouses to iron, towels to fold etc.!
A SAVOURY SMELL FROM THE KITCHEN!
Here's your mother's alphabet for savoury smells & meals at their best:
A is for attractive service.
B is for blessings (saying grace) at the meal.
C is to cook according to your budget.
D stands for don't let him make his own breakfast. Especially for brides & mothers with children, it's "early to rise" for keeping your man in a mellow mood.
E is to eat by candlelight now & then.
F is for festive occasions! We make the 29th of each month our "special" day because we were married that day in May, & have a gala "holiday" dinner.
G is to go out together now & then.
H is to have your meals ready on time.
I is for imagination in cooking, a gift of the Lord!
J stands for joyful thoughts! In my home economics major we learned that digestion & attitudes are closely related.
K is to kiss before the meal!
L is for lingering when the meal is over.
M is for manners! "Thank you" & "No thank you" & "Please" make the meal nicer for everyone.
N stands for nourishing foods. Have well-balanced meals for good health's sake.
O is to often prepare his favourite dishes. Learn how he likes them & serve them enough.
P is to plan ahead. It saves time & energy & fussing & fretting & headaches & money!
Q is for 'quainting yourself with the cookbooks. Learn to thank God there are people who know how to cook better than you do!
R is to remember the little things. Napkins & all the utensils, salt & pepper at both ends of the table, & flowers in a pretty vase are nice.
S is for sharing with others. Let him bring his friends home. The children will also love you if they can invite theirs.
T is for television--turn it off! This goes also for radio & the news.
U stands for unexpected surprises, perhaps an exciting new recipe from a friend can work wonders!
V is for variety! It's easy to get in a rut. Experimenting is fun, so diversify for the good of all.
W is for welcome him warmly, both at the door & to the table!
X stands for 'xtra helpings! Some need them, others don't. Yet nobody likes stinginess.
Y is for your own appearance. Grooming & cleanliness & fixing your pretty face to its very best are worth your attention.
Z is for zest! One of my friends is fond of saying, "A warm meal can be ruined by a cold-hearted cook!" Learn to enjoy your kitchen & fill it with love from your soul!
GREATER THAN THE TWO OF YOU!
You will remember from your science courses that it is the sun which keeps the solar system from flying apart. The World & everything in it, including you & Vincent, would come undone if it were not for this magnetic force holding things together.
This is how it is with marriage. Two may be born in opposite hemispheres, or they may have grown up in the same block, but what matters most is this--are they being held together at the center by a holy Love which is stronger than their own?
Here is the key of keys to love at its radiant best: That couple who understands that their union is for Someone greater than the two of them has discovered the secret gate to marriage at its best!
I hear some of the sociologists arguing that one solution to the marital breakdown of our times is to make divorce harder. That could help in some cases, but the real answer is not to make divorce harder but to make marriage what it should be. And what it should be is a sacred triangular relationship between the Lord & you & your husband forever & ever.
Prayerfully yours, your Dad.
TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS! (pg.169)
Affection & touching go a long way--in fact, they're better than going all the way, according to Ann Landers readers. Three weeks ago, the American advice columnist asked readers if they would be content to forget "the act" if they were cuddled & treated tenderly. More than 100,000 people, nearly all of them American women, have answered, said Landers. 72% declared themselves willing to forego intercourse for affection, she said.
"The importance of sex is overrated", Landers said. "Women want affection. They want to feel valued. Apparently, having sex alone doesn't give them the feeling they're valued." Too many men, she said, use sex "as a physical release & it has no more emotional significance than a sneeze." Landers said 40% of the women who said they would swap sex for cuddles were under 40.