The Value of a Good Husband
Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread;
remade all of the time, made new.
~Ursula K. LeGuin
I’m one of those old-fashioned women who love the idea of a good, strong marriage. My dream of staying home to take care of the house and put dinner on the table has finally come true. Yikes! How did I get to be such a dinosaur?
My blossoming years coincided with those of the feminist movement in the mid-1960s. I’d seen my parents’ marriage end badly. So by my freshman year in college I was already part of the bra-burning crowd, telling dates not to open the car door for me and vowing to trample all men on my way up. I promised myself not to get married unless I was a total failure at any desirable career by age thirty, which seemed terrifyingly old at that time.
Unfortunately, that promise lasted about two minutes—I met a guy in college and was swept off my feet. We got engaged when I was nineteen and married two years later. We thought our common interests would enhance the pursuit of our goals. Instead, it created immense competition and jealousy between us. By the mid-1970s, in the throes of “me-ism,” we expected way more than any two self-centered people were capable of giving each other. We went our separate ways.
Other guys came along who fit the stereotype of what women were fighting against: irresponsible, wishy-washy, noncommittal and over-the-top macho. They were good for fun and easy to say goodbye to. But casual intimacies left me with an empty yearning. It was like giving a piece of me away that could never be replaced.
I soon began to avoid dating altogether, concentrating on work and taking care of myself. But it eventually began to sink in that I had no one to turn off the lights with at night, or wake up to in the morning, no one with whom to share exciting news and late-night TV. Was I weak? Don’t think so. Lonely? Not in a desperate way. There was just an awareness that there might be more in store for me than my ego allowed. I yearned for a touch, a steadiness, an affection that I thought didn’t exist in relationships anymore.
Just when it seemed there would never be anyone for me, along came Mr. Beige.
We met at a disco on a night when my girlfriend, Ellie, was shopping for a new boyfriend. When we walked in, we immediately noticed two men in gorgeous suits sitting at the bar. Ellie was attracted to the tall one in the black suit. I thought the shorter one in the beige suit was more handsome, but looked sort of somber.
Since Ellie was too shy to approach them and I didn’t care about meeting anyone, I went right up there and asked Mr. Black Suit to dance with her. Their relationship lasted two weeks. I’m still with Mr. Beige after nearly thirty years.
It turned out Mr. Beige—now known as Jerry—had accompanied Mr. Black Suit that night for much the same reason I had accompanied Ellie. But he was determined to counter the culture. He made me enjoy having doors opened. He liked getting dressed up. He was on time, dependable, financially viable, entertaining, resourceful and interested in what I was doing. My growing feelings for him made me want to reciprocate his kindnesses. Besides—he was a great disco dancer.
Both of us were gun-shy from previous marriages, so we initially went the ever-growing route of living together. Six years and one cold feet separation later, he proposed and we walked down the aisle.
Our marriage takes a lot of work, compromise, sacrifice and that new dirty word, “submission” sometimes. Do we butt heads? Sure we do. It’s human nature to want our own way. Sometimes I hate the decisions he makes, other times we make them together, and yet other times it’s a relief to hand off the responsibility. We’ve learned that true love goes deeper than seeing flowers and butterflies every time you look at someone, or making the other person ecstatically happy every day. Sometimes we disappoint each other, because nobody’s perfect. But our determination to serve one another holds our relationship together during tough times.
I’m happy to mention that allowing God to play a role in our marriage has added to its longevity. It’s taken both of us further toward shedding “me”—not losing our identity, but learning to be less self-absorbed and more giving. We have a commitment to be up for the challenge. You have to get brave and take risks to make love last.