In 2007, my friend Kevin Harrison was awakened by his only daughter, Beth, who had a piercing headache. After telling Kevin she loved him, she collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm shortly thereafter. No one imagined it could get any worse, but then two years ago, it did.
Last week, I was sitting at the park watching my girls play when I noticed something that piqued my interest: an older woman was affectionately leaning on a man, who I presumed was her husband.
While I vividly remember many moments from my wedding day, there’s one moment that still moves me, and I hope it always does.
When I was single, I wrote a description of the kind of wife I expected to have and the kind of husband I thought I would be. I’m grateful I’ve lost that embarrassing list, but I do recall that many of my expectations centered on three areas: my confidence in instant maturity as a husband, the assumption of a near-perfect sex life and the expectation of non-stop infatuation.
The other day, I was flying out of Memphis when an attractive-looking man and woman behind me struck up a conversation that I couldn’t help but hear. At first, they talked about where they were from, their work, and politics. But then things got more personal.
Eight years ago today, I did something risky: I got married. To most people, it probably seemed particularly risky in light of the fact that, when my wife and I tied the knot, we had only known each other for nine months. It was the best decision of my life.
At some point in my mid-thirties, it started happening to young couples around me. Their relationships began fracturing and falling apart, and it wasn’t always the people you would expect. These were good folks with good intentions who said every word of their marital vows with conviction. But various circumstances and choices began pressing upon them, and eventually, I saw them go through extreme stress, separation, and sometimes, divorce.
Last year, I appeared on the Australian morning show Sunrise to talk about the value of doing a “relationship checkup” with your spouse. After the interview, I felt a little uneasy.
Ten years ago, I had an email exchange with my friend Bethany Greenoe, in which she offered some marital advice to me. I wasn’t even dating anyone seriously at the time, but her words were so meaningful that I saved the message in my “Memorable Emails” folder.
In the first year of my marriage, a friend encouraged me to interview my wife about the effect I had on her each day. Truth be told, I thought it would be an easy interview. After all, we were generally happy — but then shortly into the interview, her tears started flowing.
My wife and I live in Washington, D.C., a city that’s full of single men who aren’t ready to get married. If they’re anything like I was in my single days, their unwillingness to tie the knot has a lot to do with their unrealistic expectations. Now that I’m seven years into a happy marriage, if I could give some tips to all the single men about adjusting their hopes for life after the wedding, here’s what I would say:
When I first started dating my wife, we were eating dinner one night and she asked a question that I didn’t think was very controversial: “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” In my response, I mentioned that I wanted to return to my home state of Mississippi and run for Attorney General, and I also said I wanted four or five children. She looked at me like she was waiting for me to announce that I was joking. I wasn’t.
In my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a disagreement while visiting someone else’s home. We went to the guest room to hash it out privately—but we had no idea how badly we were about to embarrass ourselves.
When I was single, I was terrified I would never marry. But I was equally terrified I might marry the wrong person. If I married the wrong woman, I thought, I might end up with a wife who was subject to hormonal surges, occasional mood swings, weight fluctuations, bad habits, and bouts of irritability. She might not share all my interests or always get my humor. She might not like my music or always want to have sex. She might, you know – like, be human. And quite frankly, I wasn’t looking for a human; because so many of the humans I knew could…
It was my freshman year of college, and I was feeling insecure at my church’s college retreat. I had joined the church about three months before the retreat, and I hadn’t quite found my place. But little did I know that I would have a life-changing conversation that weekend.