Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Long Post Of Random Thoughts About Happy Marriage

Last Tuesday Ginny and I had a long talk trying to get things straight between us.

For the past three weeks we have been at odds and hardly speaking; we circle eachother wary as two strange cats introduced into a new home. To mix the metaphor, when threatened both of us deploy out turtle defense systems and withdraw into separate shells — rock solid but with no tender part showing.

This is not an enjoyable way to live.

Our conversation Tuesday went a long way toward re-establishing contact.

We realized that in the conflict between us, we’d forgotten some of the basic principles which have kept us happy together for so long.

Once last summer we visited a local restaurant usually haunted by tourists. When she brought our check the waitress asked us, “Are y’all here on your honeymoon”?

Naturally I answered, “Yes”.

“How long you been married”?

“Thirty-seven years now,” I said, “But we still like eachother”.

She was amazed. She had really thought we were newlyweds.

By the grace of God we’ve had more ups than downs in our marriage — but when we hit a down, it’s a way down! An estranged Don’t-Speak-To-Me down. A Pass-In-The-Narrow-Hall-Without-Touching down.

Our conversation Tuesday went a long way towards fixing that. As I said, we’d forgotten some basic principles which have helped make us happy in the past.

We have not “solved” the problem.

But we are dealing with it.

The first thing we hashed out is that it is not a Me-Against-Her situation; we must approach things as thought it’s an US-Against-The-Problem situation.

We are both on the same side VS whatever tries to separate us.

That attitude puts the problem in an entirely different perspective.

Years ago when we decided to marry, practically everyone we knew was against our plan. My parents opposed our union. Folks we knew from church opposed it. Mutual friends opposed it.

This opposition caused us to adopt an US-Against-The-World stance which has served us well over the years.

Once our pastor told us, “You two have a siege mentality”.

Ginny replied, “That’s because we’re under siege”.

The first couple of years we were married, we drove an over-the-road tractor-trailer truck. We’d be in Miami one day, New York the next, New Orleans the next, then to Denver, LA, Chicago, wherever… We lived as Gypsies with no permanent home in this world except our truck.

We lived three feet apart, 24 hours a day, every day.

This fostered an enforced togetherness.

We had fun!

We attended art shows in San Francisco, the Field Museum in Chicago, a rodeo in Texas, a street-dance in Little Italy, a Viking museum in Minnesota, Disneyland, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a school carnival in Ohio, an old home tour in Delaware, Civil War battlefields, National Parks, art galleries and museums all over the country.

We loved doing stuff together.

Till it got to be too much.

Three feet apart. 24 hours a day. Everyday.

We learned how to enjoy spaces in our togetherness. We learned that there are times for private space. We each learned to say, “I love you forever, but I can’t stand you right this minute”!

We are two separate individuals joined together by mutual conscious choice.

We discovered that each of us has talents, interests, and inclinations which have nothing to do with the other person. So we learned a bit about how to let our individual strengths compliment the other’s weaknesses.

We also learned that, short of World War III, there are certain things we can not, not ever, not under any circumstances, do together!

I can cook.

Or she can cook.

We dare not work in a kitchen together.

Not and stay married.

We’ve heard it said that communication is the most important thing in marriage.


Ginny says, “If we communicated, we’d have divorced long ago”.

The most important thing in marriage is assuming the good will of your partner!

Even when she can not communicate what’s going on inside her, even when I can’t understand what she may try to communicate, even when there is no communication — the most important thing in marriage is to assume the good will of the other person.

That kind of love covers a multitude of sins.

Another statement bandied about is that the couple who pray together, stay together.

I doubt that.

I’ve seen too many religious couples break up or live in mutual misery for me to give that statement much credence.

Here’s an odd thing, while Ginny and I have been estranged over the past three weeks, we continued to read the Scripture and pray together each night.

But, we cheated.

We worship at a liturgical church which encourages reading written prayers. Thus, each night after supper, we read a Bible passage then read a prayer aloud.

That’s handy when you’re too pissed at eachother to really pray aloud about the one thing bothering you most. By reading a prayer, we can trick God into thinking that we are in love and charity with one another.


You mean that doesn’t work?

Darn! I thought I had Him fooled.

Anyhow, that’s what we did. But I’m not at all sure of the value of it to us these past few weeks.

Maybe so. Maybe no.

Another time of prayer also proved difficult for me.

For years it has been our practice that each morning right after our morning coffee and before life in the outside world barges in, Ginny cuddles in my lap, I enfold her in my arms, and we pray silently for the other’s safety and success in the coming day's activities.

That’s hard to do when you’re pissed at the left-handed, wrong-headed woman cradled in your lap.

But, we have done this for so long that to start a day without it, would be as bad as facing a day without coffee first. (Also, guys, it’s a great way to cop a feel).

I find that the hardest teaching of Jesus to put into practice is the one about how I should act when I have something against someone else or they have something against me. (Want a bunch of references? Try Matthew 5:23, 18:15 and Luke 17:3 — I’ve read them all looking for loopholes).

In essence, Jesus taught that when I’m at odds with someone, yes, even Ginny, I am to be the one who goes to that person and to be reconciled. He says that this action is more important than giving or praying or anything else.

The part of this that sticks in my craw is the part about me being the one to leave my cash beside the altar, stop praying, or whatever and going to the other person first.

Why should I be the one?

She’s the hard-headed one. She’s obviously in the wrong (as any husband on earth would agree). She’s the one offended.

But Jesus said that if I am aware of a problem with any other person, then I am to be the one to go and set things straight.

I am the one.

That galls me.

Maybe in the original Greek that teaching is worded different.

Nope. That’s what He said.

I am to go to whomever offends me, or to whomever I offend, and set things straight.


Why should I be the one to make the first move?

Because, like it of not, I represent the character of God to the party I’m at outs with, whether it be my wife, my boss, my coworker, my neighbor.

The Lord always makes the first move.

He’s the one who came into the world and died for our sin to reconcile us.

He made the first move and He teaches us to do the same.

Yes, you and I alike, represent the character of God Almighty in everyday petty bickering situations.

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven,” Jesus said.

We are His children and He expects us to act like He does.

We stand in His stead.

The world judges what God is like based on what they see in you and me.

“But”, you think, “We’re not worthy”!

No one ever said we were.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:16 PM


At 2:00 PM, Blogger Living Life in South Carolina said...

Scott and I lead a Married Couples group (currently on a break to adjust to the new baby)...and one thing that really stuck out to me on our last study on communication, was the point that there is a time to communicate, and a time to just be quiet! If only we could grasp the right action for the moment! But I am learning! Anyway, good post.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger pai said...

Definitely some good info, as usual. I hope that D and I will be as happy as you and Ginny after 38 years - even with the arguments and disagreements I know we'll have.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Birmingham Girl said...

This may may be my favorite of your posts so far. Having been married 40 years myself, I can relate to most everything you're saying. To say you've been happily married for 40 years doesn't necessarily mean every single second of it was bliss!! Love your honesty and wisdom, and how true that the world does judge what God is like by what they see in you ~ we must really remember that.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger The MacBean Gene said...

It's easy, John and it gets easier when we read, and husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. At least that's what I like to think.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger jellyhead said...

Wow. I go away for a week, and this is the kind of post I miss!

I hope one day to achieve what you and Ginny have - having a long-standing, happy, real marriage, with all its many highs and its low lows as well.

John, I soak up all your wisdom in these posts. I know you don't purport to have all the answers, but you know a lot of them! Thank for sharing your thoughts and feelings about such a private topic.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Eric said...

You continue to inspire me, John.

I love the idea of "going to the original Greek" to try and avoid your responsibilities.

*That* is the level of cleverness which makes our country great. It may not actually.. well... work. But it is still very clever.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger agoodlistener said...

"the most important thing in marriage is to assume the good will of the other person." Yes! This goes a long way toward keeping us together. It says no matter what, we'll be together; no matter what happens, or what we do or don't do, there will still be us. I agree about the communication part: sometimes I don't want to know what Kathy is really thinking (not that she's at all shy about telling me).

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Seeker said...

Thirty-seven years?! Don't worry, kids. You'll work it out somehow.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Sweetie said...

My husband and I deploy the turtle defense system when things get too heated. I love that line.

This is such a great post, John.


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