Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Marriage and rush-hour traffic

Recently Older Daughter and I had a conversation about husbands. Specifically her question was, “How do you know you’ve found the right man?” I explained the importance of Red Flags and dating (courting) for at least two years so each person can see the other in a variety of circumstances, etc. We discussed the importance of having similar views on religion, handling money, and raising children. I told her some of the qualities I think are important in a husband.

Long ago I worked with a woman who told me some advice her father had given her as a teen. “If you want to find out what a man is really like,” he told her, “Spend an hour with him in rush hour traffic and then go home and see how he treats his dog.”

I thought this was rather comical but not especially realistic advice until, shortly thereafter, I witnessed my roommate’s boyfriend who would fight rush hour traffic to come see her and then treat her dog very poorly.

Rush hour traffic, as any commuter knows, ties people up in knots of frazzled frustration. How they treat their helpless and innocent dependents (i.e. dogs, children) after a bout of rush hour traffic says a great deal about their character. (To be fair, my roommate married the fellow in 1988 and they’ve been very happy. But he would not have been a match for me.)

I remember many years ago, shortly after Don and I got married, I received a troubled phone call from my younger brother. I was the first sibling in my family to get married, and so my brother turned to me as an “expert” on marital issues. He wanted to propose to his girlfriend, he told me, but how did he know she was the right one? How does one ever know someone is the right one?

Put on the spot, the best I could come up with was: “If you wouldn’t change anything about her, than she’s probably the right one for you.” In retrospect, it probably wasn’t such bad advice. (My brother and his girlfriend were married in 1994 and have a very stable and happy marriage.)

The whole idea of marriage is going into it with both eyes open. Although there have been happy exceptions, I tend to believe people shouldn’t get married before about 26 or 27 years of age, since by that time people gain maturity and can look beyond the superficial when it comes to choosing a life partner. Younger people tend to only see the handsomeness/prettiness of the other person. “He was rich and handsome,” a divorced and remarried friend once told me about her first husband. “I was eighteen and I thought, ‘What more does he need to be?’” The answer became painfully obvious after he started beating her.

Being slightly older allows people to recognize and pay attention to the ever-important Red Flags. If someone has an addiction (be it drugs, alcohol, sports, spending money, whatever) then maturity allows you to recognize the Red Flags for the danger they are, rather than dismissing them as unimportant. I’ll say right now I know some extraordinarily mature young people whose prospects for a happy marriage are high because they’re smart enough to see what’s in front of their face; and I also know some extraordinarily immature older people who are likely to choose poorly because they wouldn’t know a Red Flag if it bit them on the butt.

But marriage, I explained to Older Daughter during the course of our conversation, is more than just picking the right person and having a pretty wedding. It’s all the years and years and years you’ll have to live with that person afterward.

A great deal of what makes marriage successful is how a woman treats her husband. Since men are simple creatures and women are a whole lot more complicated, much of the nature of a marriage is up to the woman. If she treats her husband with love and respect and refrains from nagging or emasculating him, then the chances for a happy marriage are much higher.

Just some random thoughts on this gray winter day as we still wait for Matilda to have her calf….


  1. I have been married to the same man for 41 years, so perhaps I can consider myself experienced on the subject. My Dearly Beloved and I could be considered to have nothing in common. We like different music, different movies, I love to dance and he'd prefer beheading to dancing.

    But we have a lot in common if you look deeply. We believe all our loved ones, even dogs and children, should be treated with honor and respect.
    We believe that everyone is entitled to bad days and being harried, but that is NEVER taken out on the innocent. That includes those who are too young or too mentally unable to understand, even if they are the cause. (Children and dogs.)
    We believe in not sweating the little stuff. We ARE different people, despite the "joined one flesh, one heart" theory of marriage. He likes it cold while he's sleeping, but I like it warm. I like a bit of cluttered nest about me on a comfortable Sunday afternoon, and he's a neat freak. FINE! Let the other person live their life! Just make sure you compromise somewhere down the line. I clean up my nest as the day goes on, and he closes the bedroom window between October and May.

  2. A great deal of what makes marriage successful is how a woman treats her husband. ~ Soo, soo true! If you want your husband to feel like you are his queen, as he did when you were dating, be determined to win his heart, EACH and EVERY Day! Don't believe me? Try it for 2 weeks, and see if his attitude doesn't improve! Wives are created to be his Helpmeet. Be what you were created to be, unselfishly, and watch your man transform before your eyes!

  3. I was engaged at 22 and went through our church's pre-marital counseling. After spending the day, mentored by long time married couples, discussing, children, housework, money, etc I discovered that the man I wanted to marry didn't want a wife or partner, he wanted a mother. I ended our engagement. Several years later, I went through the same course, with the same people and found out that my husband and I were very compatitble. After 20 years of marriage, some terrible struggles with health issues, conceiving and carrying our children, we are still best friends. My Dad (who was married to my for 50 years before her death) told me on my wedding day, "Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. You must give of yourself 110% everyday and expect nothing in return." I have lived that everyday with my husband and I don't have any regrets.

  4. My husband was engaged to another woman when he met me. They had problems and we became friends and he often confided in me about their problems. I offered advice and we both agreed that relationships are a 'two-way street', in other words, it can't be all take, take, take or give, give, give. I had no interest in him at the time, except I felt bad for him. He seemed to try so hard with her and it all got thrown back in his face. The final straw for him was when he was giving her a ride back to her work after he met her for lunch and she was looking at his photo ID and told him he looked better in the ID than he did now. It took all his effort not to pull over and shove her out of the car. He broke it off with her, asked me out, and in a month, we were engaged and inseparable. I worried about being the "rebound girl", but all those earlier conversations we had about relationships made us realize we felt the same way about many topics. To this day, I think if he had married her, they would have had some serious issues. She really pushed his buttons. 4 kids and 15 years later, we are as happy as ever, and I am so glad he married me!

  5. Not to ignore that wonderful post about marriage (which I wish someone had told me when I was 18!)...
    Matilda STILL hasn't calved?
    Holy cow...uhmmm ..not literally, but...what the heck is she waiting for?
    I change my prediction to:
    Matilda will calve when it is least convenient for you! And I still think it will be a girl!

  6. Some people may think that there's some big secret to lasting love - a magic spell or special potion. What it takes is two people making the choice every day to love and care for each other, no matter what. Living through the good days and the bad days makes you stronger as a couple and makes you appreciate each other all the more. After 25 years, I can attest to that.

  7. I think the best advice I have ever gotten about marriage was when someone told me that having a great marriage is not an emotional decision made with your heart, it is a thinking decision that is made with your brain.

    If all you do is listen to your emotions you will be in for a roller coaster ride of a marriage and more than likely it will end in divorce. Make a quality decision with your brain that you are committed to making this marriage work and it WILL work.

    In addition, all of the answers I have ever needed when things were not going as I had hoped in our marriage I have found in the book of Proverbs. I constantly steer my kids in that direction when life gets difficult and we find the answers together.

    God left us all of His life directions in the Bible, but when things go sour how many of us pull out His instruction manual to see what we are doing wrong?

  8. Save the Canning JarsFebruary 8, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I was a child bride in my teens. I guess he raised me and I raised him. He put me through college, then I worked and put him through...and upon his graduation from engineering school, I came home to stay! We've been together 31 1/2 years and often say we would do it again! Life is good!

  9. Good post, but living where you do does Older Daughter even know what rush hour traffic is?

    Hint, it isn't when Rush is on the radio.

    Please make the kind of person my dog thinks I am.


  10. My daddy told me "you better be able to face the man you marry over the breakfast table forever"...I've been married to the same man for 46 years after following dad's advice.

  11. Hi Patrice. I agree with most of what your post and other readers say. However, I feel there is another important element that surprisingly has been omitted from this discussion. My sweet husband and I married at the "tender" ages of 23 and 22 respectively and this coming August and two children later will celebrate our 28th year as a joyfully and faithfully married couple! As a dual service Navy couple, we have certainly had our share of "ups" and "downs", sadness and joy, separation and joyous homecomings! Yes, marriage is a "give and take" sometimes one person giving a 110 percent. Does age matter, I don't think so! Maturity does not always come with age. Just ask my twice divorced sister-in-law, or once divorced sister, or sister who was humiliated by a husband caught in an affair. They were certainly all much older than I was when they married. What makes my marriage more "successful"...what is our "secret" that one or more partners of an "unsuccessful" marriage may lack? Faith in the LORD! A faith-based marriage is one who accepts and welcomes the Lord into their marriage and allows Him to enter and bring His divine love and grace into the marriage. Am I a sinner? Yes. Is my husband a sinner? Yes. We are far from perfect and have acted at times "imperfect" in our actions to each other. But the third person in our marriage-is God and His Son Jesus Christ. Knowing that Christ with His great love for us-Died for Us--and forgives us for our sins gives me the comfort to know that I and my husband are forgiven for what we may do as well. As believers in Jesus Christ, we who are the bride of Christ wait with great anticipation for the day when we will be united with our Bridegroom. Until then, we remain faithful to Him and say with all the redeemed of the Lord, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). And that is the "secret" that holds all successful marriages together regardless of age! God Bless!

  12. How I wish I had heard this advice when I was a young girl ! So much heartache would have been avoided.

    I think I will share your wisdom with my 11 year old granddaughter.

  13. WOW! Patrice, you know just when to post the right subject! My daughter and her boyfriend have recently been having "issues". I know as a mom giving advice, daughters may not want to hear what you have to say. Thanks for having some very sound advice from an "outsider"

  14. Something I've always heard is to watch how a man treats his mother. That's probably how he'll treat his wife -- with or without respect. With or without teasing or practical jokes. With or without consideration.

    In the same way, women *tend* to look for men like their fathers. Unless there's rebellion going on, they gravitate to men with the same characteristics shown by their father. Even better if they've seen a happy, successful relationships between their parents.

    Joseph and I are one of the happy exceptions. High school sweethearts who started dating at 16, in 10 years we've never really had a fight, never broken up, nor ever even threatened to break up. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We got married at 20 and 21 but had been together for 4.5 years by then and (due to our age and attempting to pacify parents) done just about everything possible to prepare for marriage -- counseling, Financial Peace University, the engaged couples class at church TWICE. In fact, our minister said (somewhat truthfully) that we were the most prepared couple he's ever married. We took that as a compliment.

    Has it always been easy? Not really. But it hasn't really been hard either. We each focus on meeting the other's needs and in the process our own are met and exceeded. And knowing what we know now, would we have gotten married when we did? Probably, though we might had made different choices early on. As someone said above, it's more a matter of maturity than the number of days on this earth. We were mature at 17 and I know people who are 57 who aren't mature.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    City Roots, Country Life

  15. If the opportunity exists, watch how the prospective groom's father treats his mother. While people are certainly not condemned to follow in their parents' footsteps - in any regard - it does happen, and there's no question the parents' relationship served as the first and possibly most significant example of what the husband/wife relationship was supposed to be. Or more to the point, what it was for them. How much he's like his father in general might be important in this regard.

    Listen to his comments about his parents' relationship, especially if it's troubled. Does he recognize that the problems exist? Is his assessment accurate? Fair? How does he describe the issues, and how does he ascribe blame.

    And in general, what observations does he make about couples who have great relationships. And again perhaps more importantly, about those with issues. If he tends not to find fault with men, and/or frequently describes the women's shortcomings as the source of problem, watch out! (All subject to your own assessment of the specific examples of course.)

    * * *

    Some suggest that watching a man's treatment of those he could easily be dismissive of - waitresses, clerks, secretaries, laborers, etc. - can also tell valuable tales.

    Jeff - Tucson

  16. I would say that homeschooled children are going to be much more mature and better equipped to enter courtship/marriage before the general population of their peers.

    Additionally, I would have to disagree about getting to know the person for two years. If we hope for our children to remain pure for marriage, then a two year process can only set them up for temptation and frustration.

    Parents can come along side their adult children in a courtship and help them to know if they have found a godly man/woman and the process can move along smoothly/swiftly.

  17. Good advice; I've just sent your post on to my two kids, 18 and 22. I remember reading something about not picking out your "good china" when you are in your early 20s because your taste would change (mine did) so how much more might that apply to picking out your future mate! ha ha!

  18. My husband and I have been married for almost 18 years. We dated for 1.5 years exactly, then married at age 22(me) and 21(him). My parents were great role models, until my dad left when I was 15. My mom continued to love him unconditionally and treated him with respect and kindness whenever he came to visit me and my 6 younger siblings. Because of her, I saw in real life how to love your husband. She was not a doormat, but chose to love him even when he was unlovable. Several things she always taught us while growing up: "There is no room for sarcasm in any relationship", and "Never go to bed mad". There were also many Proverbs and other scripture verses.
    My husband's family was not a Christian family, but his parents were married 35 years, until the death of his dad. When my husband was 18, he decided he was ready to get married and have a family. We met when he was 19, and the first time he saw me, he told his best friend, "I am going to marry that girl". Now he just had to figure out a way to meet me..
    We have had some late nights due to our wedding night vow of never going to bed mad, but we also have never gone without speaking to each other for days on end like some of our friends. He is my best friend and we spend most of our time together. We have already gone through the husband-being-home-all-day, transition because he was disabled about 10 years ago and had to switch occupations. That was hard on both of us but again, unconditional love sees us through it all.
    I sometimes say we have "only been married 18 years" because it doesn't seem that long to us, we know people who got married the same month as us, who are on their 3rd or more marriage. Sad.
    My husband treats me the same way his dad treated his mom and the same way my dad treated my mom before he left us. We have a daughter and a son who have been praying for their spouses since they were very young. I tell my son he really needs to pray for his spouse because he wants 8 children and also to operate an orphanage in Africa when he grows up. The Africa orphanage has been a dream/calling of his since he was about 4years old. His wife will need a lot of prayer!
    All this to say, we are blessed.

  19. Two years would have driven me crazy.

    I always had a rule when I was single that if it wasn't headed for commitment at 6 months of dating then it was time to break it off. I suppose I just didn't want to let myself get too attached to the wrong person. Plus, commitment phobic disgust me. My husband (of 6 yrs) was really surprised when I told him that I would have broken up with him had things not progressed or been worth pursuing in that time period. It's a good thing we were engaged in three months huh. But we were a lot older, him 35 and me 25 when we married.

    Another thing that I found to be profoundly effective and more than a little exasperating is prayer.

    I would always pray "Lord, please kill it if it isn't of You." Boy, did he ever KILL some relationships. He worked very very fast, instantaneously even. But looking back, I am so thankful He saved me heartbreak.

    When I prayed that prayer over my Husband I squinted my eyes in more than a little fear, cause I really really wanted this one!

    A Floridian

  20. Patrice, this is why I love reading your blog - you have a wonderful family and it proves to me that yes, there are husbands, wives, children who love and care for each other. Not long ago you mentioned that there are "males" and then there are "men". Unfortunately, I married a selfish male who wasn't and isn't much of a father or husband. At this point I don't think I'll ever have a loving companion, but I have two wonderful adult sons and 2 wonderful dogs. Keep up the good postings - your blog is the first thing I read each morning.

  21. I'm just to the right of conservative and tend to adhere to traditional labels and values, but I have to admit I bristle at being called "simple" while women are considered to be "complex." And "simple" usually means "sex, food, and admiration". I'm sure a hundred books have been written on the subject and it's an issue far more "complex" than can be discussed here; however, I think men are a lot more complex than they are given credit for. Indeed the very character or the very nature of a man tends to result in an outward display of "simplicity". There's a lot going on below that surface that women don't know about or choose not to explore because it makes them uncomfortable or because they simply don't want to deal with it. It doesn't help that men are labeled "simple" because it predisposes women and wives to believe there's not complex worth discovering. All I'm saying is that there's probably a vast treasure trove of complex ideas, behaviors, and (dare I say it?) emotions lurking below the surface within your husbands that'll likely remain locked up forever because of current labels and gender expectations in our society.