6. The Two Become One
How we almost ruined a great honeymoon.
September 1953 to June 1954 was the longest ten-month period that either one of us had ever spent. We were only together for the Christmas and Easter holidays during that time, but both were memorable events. My Christmas present from Mary that year was one I would treasure for years to come. It was a reference Bible which I valued, but inside the flyleaf she had inscribed an obscure verse from the Old Testament that had become most meaningful to her: "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3) She was reminding me that we had agreed on our commitment to the Lord and to each other.
She says there was something else in her mind as well when she chose that verse:
"I also thought that once we were married, the disagreements and arguments which we had experienced through our courtship would work themselves out. I felt that marriage would be the panacea for all our problems. We walked the aisle with stars in our eyes on that sunny June day in 1954, knowing that God had brought us together and He would help us have a good marriage. One of the songs sung at the wedding was 'Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.' We chose it because the desire of our hearts was to be led by our Savior."
Several hours after the ceremony we were on our way to Niagara Falls, the honeymooner's paradise, and the first few days were ecstatic. But the habits people cultivate during their courtship do not necessarily change when they say "I do," not even when their heart's desire is to please the Lord. We were only several days into the honeymoon when some of our old habit patterns resumed.
It was a rather cool Canadian summer day as we set out to ride the cable car over the Niagara River rapids. We had only driven a few miles from the motel when Mary began complaining that she was cold. That was nothing new. She had been known to be cold when the temperature is in the nineties. But this time she had forgotten to bring her sweater. After discussing it for a few moments, we agreed to proceed to the falls rather than take the time to return for the sweater.
Then we saw the sign: "See the rapids, only 50 cents." So we paid our fifty cents each, which was a lot of money in those days, took the elevator as we were instructed to do, and were ushered out onto a wooden walkway along the river where we could stand and "see the rapids" (just as the sign had promised). It was a tourist trap. We wondered how many other unsuspecting people had been taken in by the deception.
We returned to our car angry that we had been cheated, and angry that we were not smart enough to notice that this was not the cable car ride we were looking for. We couldn't afford to waste even one dollar. This was to be a low-budget honeymoon. We had very little money, and we needed to preserve what we had for the imminent trip to Dallas and my enrollment into seminary.
A few miles down the road we came upon the attraction we had been looking for all along--a breathtaking cable car ride across the rapids to a cliff high on the opposite side. As we got out of the car, it became increasingly clear to me that it was too cool and windy for my cold-blooded wife. And besides, we could not afford another dollar. I suggested we forego the ride.
And the lid blew off! Mary began angrily accusing me of being inconsiderate and unloving. And the more she fussed and fumed and attacked my fragile self-esteem, the more stubborn I became. There was no way now that I was going to take her on that cable car.
As I look back on it, having learned a little more about acceptable communication, I realize that the argument was anything but inevitable. I was probably feeling irritated that she had forgotten her sweater. But if I had been thinking, I would have realized that keeping her warm on that cable car would have been fun! In addition, I was feeling defensive and sorry for myself when she attacked my character and doubted my love. But if I had been thinking of her rather than myself, I would have picked up the signals she was sending--that she was feeling unloved and of little value, not even worth fifty cents.
Had I been sensitive to her and accepting of her feelings, I would have said something like, "Honey, I think I'm still angry about being cheated out of that dollar, and that's why I'm reluctant to spend another one. I do love you very much, and if this is important to you, I want to do it." After all, this was our honeymoon, a once-in-a-lifetime happening. What is one dollar compared to the good memories of shared experiences?
Mary says, "I know now that asking Richard in a kind way would have been far more satisfactory than the accusations I made. Something like: 'Honey, this is something I really want to do. I realize it's a lot of money, but maybe we can make up for it by not spending as much for dinner tonight. Besides, you can keep me warm on that cable car!'"
It would also have helped if we both could have admitted our anger, then expressed a sense of humor over the tourist trap and the loss of our precious dollar. Something like, "Boy, they got us on that one. But we'll be a little smarter next time." A sense of humor is essential to good communication. Start asking yourself, "What is humorous in this situation? What can we laugh about together?" It will help to defuse the tension and draw you to each other in greater intimacy.
It should be obvious by this time that becoming one flesh does not guarantee harmony and agreement. Marriage is not the magic elixir that remedies all the ailments in a relationship. In fact, it usually intensifies the weaknesses that are already there, which we were just beginning to discover. And this was only round one.
Rehearse one unpleasant incident in your marriage that could have been defused if you had seen the humor in it. Talk about how it could have been handled in a better way.
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