Monday, June 16, 2014

Domestic envy

Recently we had an overnight guest, a friend of Don's who stops by about twice a year while traveling between Oregon and Wyoming. I'll call him John.

This particular visit wasn't a "travel-through" visit as it normally is. His job sometimes stations him in various places, and for the last two months he's been living out of a motel in Montana. Needing a change of scenery from four motel-room walls, he decided to come stay the night and get a couple of home-cooked meals.

John is a few years younger than us, and single. He had a "relationship" a few years ago that didn't work out. Because he has no domestic ties, he's able to travel for his job. He's a big teddy-bear of a fellow who dwarfs me (I'm short) and his visits are always pleasant. He willingly throws himself into any project we're doing, such as last fall when he helped Don put up the metal roofing on our barn awning.

John has watched our slow-but-steady progress in building up our farm over the last few years, so we toured him around and showed him the things we've done since his last visit. We showed him the half-grown chicks in the coop. We showed him around the garden, where Don's irrigation system is making watering a breeze. We showed him how we're rotating the livestock around the pastures. We showed him the freezer full of beef from our last butchering. Everywhere we went, he expressed admiration for what we've accomplished. We sat down to dinner, then he and Don stayed up late talking.

John is an ideal house guest. He's considerate, grateful for small favors such as a meal or a clean bed, forgiving of dust in the corners, gets along splendidly with the dogs, and doesn't expect to be entertained. If we're busy with something, he'll take a book and read. At one point Don was involved with a neighbor who was bringing in some hay, so John sat quietly reading in the living room. I finished with whatever task I was doing, took a book, and joined him. We sat in companionable silence for about twenty minutes, just reading.

John only stayed overnight and left the next day. But there was something different about this visit. After we wished him well on the road and he drove off, that "something" kept preying on my mind. It finally dawned on me what it was: Domestic envy.

The poor man was envious of what Don and I have built and created out here on the prairie. He's also lonely. It's not that he necessarily longs for a homestead with cattle and a garden. What he longs for is the domestic tranquility we've achieved.

For even the most footloose and fancy-free person, there comes a point when the lure of domestic life creeps in. John has reached that point. He wants a wife and family. He wants the quiet day-to-day sameness that Don and I thrive on. He wants... well, domestic tranquility.

It's not that Don and I have a marriage or family life that are anything special. But neither is food anything special -- until you're hungry. We don't have dazzling important-sounding careers that will impress people at cocktail parties, but we're busy and happy and content. John is hungry for the things we have that he lacks -- a solid marriage and the blessings of a happy home life.

A couple days after John left, an acquaintance stopped by to see the garden. She, too, expressed admiration for what we’ve done in the last few years. But her praise held a note of bitterness because, I found out, she had many similar accomplishments -- large garden, livestock, canning, etc. -- but was in the process of losing it all.

It seems she is involved in an ongoing and nasty divorce. I didn't really want to hear all the details, but sometimes being a listener is necessary, and in this situation it was necessary.

After the woman left, I went inside and thanked Don for being the loyal, loving, faithful man he is. And I realized how much more we can accomplish in life when we're holding hands, facing forward, and working together toward goals, rather than tearing each other down, sniping apart each others' dignity and egos, and fighting against each other so nothing gets done. For this poor woman, she is starting her life over, both emotionally and materially.

So in the space of a few days, I saw both ends of the bell curve. On one side was a gentleman for whom the blessings of domestic tranquility has so far eluded. On the other side was a woman who desperately tried to find that domestic tranquility and instead found bitter feuding.

Don't ever dismiss the deep-seated desire for a stable, happy home life. It's a blessing for those who have it. For those who don't, it leaves a "home-shaped hole" in their heart.

Or, as reader "Montana Guy" remarked on my blog post on nesting bluebirds, "Isn't it refreshing to see two-parent families working together?"

I am grateful to Don for partnering with me to provide us and our girls with domestic tranquility. It's something we take for granted until we come face-to-face with those who don't have it. I dearly hope that these two people -- John and my other acquaintance -- are able to find some of their own.


  1. Maybe you should introduce the two acquaintances. My husband and I are frequently complimented on our marriage. We started with nothing, not even a car when we got married. In fact, we sometimes joke that neither one of us could afford to divorce the other. But actually, I couldn't imagine my life without him. He is away working for a few days and I am so lonely. I keep sending him text messages so that when he gets to cell service range, he will know I miss him and love him. Our kids are 20 and 18 and getting ready to move into the next phase of their lives and so are we. My father left my mom after 17 years of marriage and 7 kids. My husband's dad died 10 years ago and that is the only way his parents would be separated. My mom remarried when my youngest brother was 9 years old and they have been married 18 years now. I am a full believer in domestic bliss but just like your homestead, it takes work and sometimes it might feel like there is no progress. But I guarantee that if you consult your Bible, peace and contentment will be found. Patrice, congratulations on having an enviable life!

  2. I was talking with my son a few weeks ago and commented that my wife and I had been married for over 45 years and how unusual that was. Those of us that have stayed together are truly outliers on the bell curve. I would be the first to admit that it hasn't always been easy but when I said till death do us part I meant it and so did she.

  3. I wouldn't trade my life with my bride of 27 years, 6 kids and a "boring" life for anything. Not to take the Bible out of context but the verse about working out your salvation with fear and trembling seems to also apply to marriage. Marriage is hard but incredible.

  4. Amen times a million, Patrice.

    A. McSp

  5. God bless you on the example of commitment and respect you show to your friends and family through your marriage. I pray for John and your other friend that the root of envy does not take root that could lead to bitterness and destroy beautiful friendships. I also pray that each will see you and Don as positive examples of forward living and thinking, not looking in the past. I have never considered domestic envy as a possibility of strained family relationships with my brother and my husbands brother. Thanks for this post that gave me new insight. May God bless you with many more years of wedded bliss.

  6. At what point does a person go from being the lucky single guy to the one who hears the whispers about being alone? I don't know when it happened, I guess I wasn't paying attention...

  7. Love your blog. I can really relate to this. My husband and I have only been married 7 yrs (we are senior citizens) but, we have a happy and satisfied life that God has given us.

  8. I was noticing many years ago that a number of my friends and acquaintances were spending a lot of time complaining about their spouses and dissing them in front of others.

    I realized that I probably had been doing the same thing. I didn't like it. I decided to change and started telling my hubby every day exactly how much I appreciated all that he does.

    He started telling me, too.

    "You got to accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr. In-Between."


    Before my time, but I love that song.

    Just Me

  9. My wife and I have been married almost 32 years. We had four years of long distance relationship while I was in the Corps, and were high school sweethearts before that. My life is a bit a of a dichotomy: I grew up on a small family beef farm and homestead on two acres of that farm today. We attend the same church I did as a child, our three kids went to the same school we did, and we love our busy but basically plain homesteading lifestyle.

    On the other hand I'm on the tail end of a one of those 'important sounding' careers as a physicist working on rather specialized spacecraft payloads. God has blessed my 'technical' career over 25 plus years but even more He has blessed with a long marriage to a wonderful Godly woman, three grown kids that know the Lord, gardens that need weeding, equipment that needs fixing, fences that need mending, and a hundred other things that keep me grounded. My income comes from 'space', but my personal satisfactions come from church, family, friends, and the stewardship of a couple of acres that were stewarded before me by my father and my grandfather.

    A few years from now I will have left the fancy career behind. I'll have a few mementos, but within 10 years everything I worked on will have either run out of fuel or fallen from the sky. If the Lord wills, the REAL important things of service, family and stewardship will be with me for many years to come.