I’ll never forget that cute gal across the room at Trout Lake Camp in Pine River, Minnesota (June, 1972). She was talking and laughing comfortably with some big burly dude before our first staff meeting and I remember thinking I probably didn’t have a chance. Later that day our paths crossed going into the dining hall and I opened the door for her. Turns out, she said, that was the first time a guy had opened the door for her and it immediately got her attention. We had our picture taken at that door on our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Now we’re celebrating 35 years and it just keeps getting better.
If any of you have been blessed by any of these blogs you have my wife, Mary Sue, to thank.She’s why I’m a marriage therapist.I started working toward my Ph.D. at Iowa State University in 1994 after 19 years of marriage with the express purpose of starting my own marriage therapy practice.I was good at two things:Being married and talking to people about their problems.Put those together and here we are.By then I’d been in various church ministries over the years and seen so many marriages crumble around me for not very good reasons.Dang.
It was the broken hearts of the church kids I was working with at the time that motivated me. Two kids got me thinking about the powerful impact of marriage. One very active lady in our church dumped her husband for no reason other than she said she wasn’t “in love” with her husband any more. She couldn’t be dissuaded. I thought she was just bored. Her 14 year old daughter had been very involved in our youth group and was a dedicated Christian and real sweetheart. When her mom left her dad, she dumped her faith and the church and started sleeping around…just like that. I worked with another young man whose family was attending the church. This junior high kid was wild and ran havoc on our youth group. He and I spent time together and he eventually embraced Christ into his heart and really made an about face. It was pretty amazing, really, and very gratifying to see. I had little to do with that other than showing him were the door of faith was. He came home one day shortly after that and his stepfather confronted him on something innocuous, but in a mean way, and this young man reacted and the stepfather started losing it on the stepson. The boy’s mother freaked and called the police and the police hauled the kid away and sent him to some treatment facility.
It occurred to me that the best way to reach kids was through their parents.And the most fundamental way to help their parents was to figure out how to help them BE married.I figured, if you are going to be married, you may as well enjoy the journey.I sure have.
I mean this in the most fundamental way.One couple came to see me years ago and the presenting issue was their 15-year old daughter was turning to rough kids and they worried they were losing her.She was running around with the wrong crowd and not wanting to come home.They asked me to work with them on parenting issues.I asked them, instead, how the two of them were getting along as husband and wife.The two of them told me that they fought all the time.I suggested we put the parenting things on hold and work on improving their relationship in order to have a solid foundation in the home and then work on parenting after that.They agreed and we started working on improving the way they handled their differences.Within five weeks their relationship had turned a real corner and they told me their daughter had dumped her bad friends and was hanging out at home a lot more.We never got to parenting issues.
We didn’t HAVE to.Mom and dad set the tone.How mom and dad are doing is how the rest of the family is doing.It’s not how mom and dad are loving the kids.No.It’s how mom and dad are loving each other.You CAN’T love your kids if you don’t love your spouse.If you love your kids and not your spouse that’s called creepy.Or dysfunctional.It’s a mess and your kids will turn into your worst nightmare.Meanwhile, you’ll be blaming your spouse.So, while I have great stuff on parenting that I could share in therapy, I rarely get to it.Mom and dad settle down, the kids settle down.
What gave me the foundation for marital work was this wonderful wife the Lord had brought my way.How did I ever deserve someone so bright, so insightful, so dedicated, so talented, so fun, so funny, so delightful, so beautiful?God’s generosity keeps me humble on the one hand and her dignity keeps me motivated on the other.She deserves none other than the best man.Her belief in me helps me rise to the occasion.Her insight protects us both.Her challenges keep me focused.Her humor lightens the load.
She’s never nagged. Ever. The Lord knows I’d shudder under a nag. I don’t know how men handle nags for wives. I’m guessing many of them have trained their wives to be nags, so I’m not just blaming wives here. Here’s a fail-proof way to make a nag: Don’t tell her what you are thinking, doing, spending, planning, contemplating, fearing, worrying about, talking to, sad or happy about. Don’t tell her squat. She’s a nag right? Besides you’re just not the talkative type. That’s just who you are. You’ve never talked much. You can’t learn to, either. You’re proud of the fact that you’ll remain 17 your entire life and never let your wife teach you a thing.
There you go, guys. Just be a guys’ guy. She’ll turn into the bitch of your nightmares. Boom. Just like that. And then you can blame her!!
I’m not sure where we got the idea, but Mary Sue and I have been meeting for breakfast nearly every Saturday for (woo-hoo!) going on 35 years now.We catch up on the week.Talk about the news, cheer or lament the Minnesota Twins, talk about the kids (and now Grandkids!Another one is due tomorrow!), talk about our week, talk about our plans, pay the bills, talk about what’s going on, our fears and hopes and aspirations, what chores need to be done and when.Then we’d go do them.
I look forward to Saturday breakfasts.I look forward to many more Saturday breakfasts in the future and everyday with her quiet laugh, her timely comments, her gentle prodding, her amazing intuition.
He who finds a wife finds a blessing from the Lord. And I, of all men, am most blessed.
Happy Anniversary, Mary Sue.