It’s two weeks into the national coronavirus meltdown and I’ve got good news: My wife and I still like each other. That’s remarkable, considering the fact that we’re semi-quarantined and living in a world that’s collapsing around us — not to mention being trapped in a house with three kids who think we’re a couple of vending machines. While we’re just as tired of wringing our over-washed hands as anyone else, we’re still managing to stay happily married. I think it has to do with a few things that have kept us in good spirits so far …
It was our first year of marriage and Raquel asked the same question she had posed many times before: “Do you want to pray and read some Scripture together tonight?” I said yes, but she knew I didn’t mean it. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to pray with her. We just had mismatched desires for spiritual intimacy. She wanted extended Bible study and prayer, and she wanted it all of the time. I just wanted to get it over with and go to sleep. She wasn’t having it.
A few years ago, I was on a crowded D.C. Metro car during rush hour when I noticed a young woman do something that caught my attention. She saw a guy at the other end of the car, waved at him and started plowing through the other passengers to get to him.
My wife didn’t know what to expect the first time she met my dad, and I wasn’t sure how to prepare her for it. As I explained to Raquel, “My dad is like — I don’t know — this truck driver preacher who talks to everyone he meets. He’s kind of eccentric.”
This past year was a hard one for my marriage. My wife had to take care of me for a few weeks when I got extremely sick. I completed the final manuscript of the book I’d been working on for over a year (the book, which is about building a happy marriage, required me to rely on her heavily for insights and edits). Then I got a new job, which resulted in us selling one house, buying another, jumping through five temporary living arrangements and restarting our lives.
One day, my wife and I were listening to a playlist of Disney songs with our two little girls when the sentimental love song “I See The Light” from Tangled came on. I walked over to my wife who was in the kitchen, took her in my arms and started dancing with her slowly. I could tell it caught her off-guard and embarrassed her a little — it came out of nowhere. Thank goodness she stayed in my arms and danced with me anyway.
Today, I was in the car with my wife, Raquel, and the kids when she pulled out a package that had just arrived. “Go ahead and open it,” I said, knowing what it was. Raquel tore off the top of the envelope and pulled out the hardbound copy of Confessions of a Happily Married Man: Finding God in the Messiness of Marriage, the book I’ve been working on for over a year and a half. We came to a stoplight and Raquel handed it to me. I took a deep breath and opened the book, flipping the pages and watching the words…
One morning when my youngest daughter was 3, she got out of bed, met me at the stairs, and with quiet sincerity said, “Daddy, I have a husband.” “Oh really? What’s his name?” “Ramón,” she said, pronouncing the name “Wah-mone.”
When I was in my early 20s, I took an etiquette class back home in Mississippi. Although I remember very few of the rules, one has always stuck with me: As a general rule, you should let people embarrass themselves.
This year marked a decade of marriage for my wife and me, and after our handful of years together, we still have a long way to go. Even so, we’ve made progress in some important ways and I would encourage any couple to try growing in these areas:
When I was in college I wrote an op-ed for my local newspaper about the kind of woman I wanted to marry. It embarrasses me to this day. I had three criteria for my future wife: First, she needed to have the body of Nikki Taylor, a “child bearing supermodel.” Second, she had to measure up to the perfection of my mother. And third, she had to be the kind of woman who Mary, the mother of Jesus, would approve of.
When you witness another couple give each other an extended, passionate kiss, you don’t forget it — especially if they’re a married couple. I certainly haven’t forgotten one particular time I got an eyeful on a sweltering afternoon in Mississippi.
I sat on a bench in a beautiful cemetery visiting with the woman who would be my wife and tried to ignore my sad, racing heart. Our relationship was about to end — not because I wanted it to — because she was about to learn the awful truth. “There’s something I need to tell you,” I said.
One night during my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a big argument that I haven’t forgotten. It’s not the argument that was memorable though — it’s the way it ended.
I recently got into a brief argument with my wife over something totally minor. In the moment, however, it felt like it was a huge deal (pride has a way of converting little offenses into major ones).