EDITOR’S NOTE: Recalling what I am grateful for, I thought of each of you readers. You fill my life with endless intelligence, interest, and feminine liveliness that often turns to sassy I love to see in women. Thank you.
Hank loves to count and recount when his mind is in turmoil; it keeps thoughts in line. First, he decides he will marry Jenny . Second, he plans out his premarital negotiations with her . Third, he plans to tell her of his dedication to marriage, what marriage will be like under his tutelage. Not to match or outdo her ‘champagne eloquence’ , but to reassure her that he is a good catch, that he knows how to be a good husband and possesses the talent, skill, and motivation to brighten their future together.
As last event of the weekend retreat, he prepares to tell her how he will seal their marital deal. He decides to write it out, recite it to her, and then give her a copy to show their grandkids how marriage ought to be approached. He is proud before he starts; his thoughts already aligned with his heart. He begins to write.
Jenny, my darling. About ready to set you down on a honey-coated, platinum ship of marital bliss that borders on paradise, I must confess. Oh, not to anything either of us has done wrong. But to express the pleasure of earning you for my mate. For so long, I didn’t know what you had to witness in my motivation and behavior.
After neutralizing my conqueror’s plan with your titty remark, over champagne you confessed dedication to yourself. I was enlightened. I almost proposed right there and then. Thankfully, my heart was not quite in it.
I say thankfully, because what follows here converts the makings of a temporary into a permanent marriage. An earlier proposal would perhaps have short circuited our relationship before too many years together. Why? If surprised, you would not like my leadership; you need to know what to expect before we wed.
Ross Perot coined this motto. Up front, blunt, and candid when you deal with customers and employees. I remind myself to use it.
You can have the wedding as yours and your mother’s to arrange. However, I will be responsible for our marriage. So, what does that mean?
Marriage is generally called an institution. Actually, it’s a set of necessary functions—the promises, obligations, and vows that couples make. Those functions guide individuals silently, subconsciously, and usually in background mode. If adhered to properly, they can hold a couple together as ‘us’. If not, couples too easily separate emotionally and perhaps physically.
But good intentions—made earlier in the throes of exciting and romance-loaded moments—don’t remain all that stable after months or years of living together. Two individuals with very different personalities, emotional makeup, and personal agendas have to labor hard to remain permanently attached with mutual self-interest.
Antagonist pressures arise far too easily, and love can’t overcome all of it. Actually, love is never enough, and that is why I accept responsibility. If I’m responsible, I can match your determination. I don’t ever accept responsibility with any expectation that I will fail.
More of what I mean is this. Only you, me, or we can work against our marital interests. We need a leader to prevent it. I accept full responsibility to guard, hold together, and ensure that the mass of marriage values, standards, and expectations works to help us find and live by mutual self-interest.
Fulfilling my responsibility, however, may not be to your liking simply because of the impression it gives in the big picture. You and I function as subordinates of our marriage. What does that mean?
We don’t drive our marriage, it drives us. It’s the principle up to which we live rather than trash it in response to emotional upheavals. It pressures us to deal with our mate as respectable; to make our mate deserving of best attentions and considerations; to toe the line of fidelity; and otherwise hold each other up as the epitome of a person, friend, lover, and spouse.
We fall back on the purpose and blessing of marital obligations to calm our emotional disturbances. More important than either of us, in god-like fashion, commitment to marriage first commands us to do much better than we ever thought we could, that we exceed ourselves to do our immediate best to recover from emotional disturbances or financial shortages. As matter of habit, we expect to always yield to the principle of marriage first and me, you, and us second. It’s a rung on the ladder, an interim step of living up to God.
I am responsible to see it happen that way, so I may from time to time have to remind you that your expectations may be contradictory to marital comfort. The same applies to you. I may be responsible, but I can cause marital discomfort perhaps better than you.
When I am responsible for anything, I refuse to fail. As of now, I dedicate that habit to our marriage. It presumes and I prioritize our lives this way. You and I are subordinate to marriage; personal expectations are subordinate to domestic tranquility; child raising is subordinate to our marriage.
Wives often presume to carry the burden of sustaining marriage; they have most to lose. But in today’s marital marketplace they don’t seem to be doing well. It happens because the wrong spouse is in charge. So, from the get-go let me unburden you from being responsible to see that we stay together.
You need only face up to four tasks. Remain my ideal of a great woman, develop yourself into the ideal wife for me, prepare and become the ideal mother for our children, keep me indirectly informed when I add strain to our marriage. I will do my best to be the ideal husband for you and father for kids. If and when I say nothing contrary, you are ideal. You work primarily through relationship management, and I will work primarily to hold our lives together as a one-unit family. (You and I both know that last clause exaggerates; your contributions are vital.)
All of the above brings me to the most important part. We can’t avoid disputes or hold unbecoming opinions of each other. Minor in the overall passage of time, they still should not be verbalized. We can avoid fault finding, criticism, and blaming each other, and we should do it by converting complaints and blame into offenses contrary to the marriage covenant and not us personally.
I will fulfill my responsibility when we both identify our differences as neither personal nor in immediate need of correction, but rather as undesired actions and attitudes contrary to marital harmony. Mostly, you will be responsible in the home and I outside the home and overall.
Does that sound like a doable to you? Offended? Can you subordinate yourself and emotional stability to the supreme role of our marriage? I pledge it as my intent for life, and God-willing, you will also.
And now, my dear Jenny, with true love flooding my heart, I repeat my proposal differently. Will you marry me—but this time for life?
With the sincerity that arises out of great respect,
[FOR BLOG READERS: Anticipating many inquiries, here are a few examples of focusing on the marriage instead of wife’s hurts or husband’s faults. These examples avoid DIRECT accusations and blame. Marital success comes from lack of blame and other and perhaps smaller irritants that offend a man or hurt a woman. The examples may not be the best, but they exemplify the offended party rephrasing conclusions and opinions so as not to emotionally disturb themselves or the offender.
Hank provides these examples. They shift responsibility for corrective action into the hands of he offender without adding offense. Questions, unless too pointed, seldom offend men but women are much more sensitive. Inquire and then move on to something else; leave the thought behind for later consideration.
Hank speaks as if teaching:
- I am repeatedly late for dinner without calling ahead. After a few times, you ask me: Is your consideration of my time and responsibility producing any strains on our marriage? And then, if you please, move on to something else.
- You see me flirting and inquire. She’s a pretty woman and probably deserves a good man; does she fit into your interests for our marriage? And then, if you please, move on to something else.
- After I swill too much beer watching football, you ask: Honey, do you prefer beer over lovemaking? I know you can do both, but do you think lack of intimacy for me adds stress to our marriage? And then, if you please, move on to something else.
- After you refuse me sex three days in a row, I inquire: Are you sick, honey? Should you see a doctor? I can’t afford to lose you, you know. And then, if you please, move on to something else.
Spouses can thus refer offensive behavior toward later resolution and for the sake of marriage. It works better than blaming and expecting the other to change to accommodate expectations or for the sake of changing one’s behavior to please the other.]