Published February 2, 2006
It’s always a joy to hear about a couple planning to marry but so sad to learn about others getting divorced.
And I sometimes wonder if the divorce rate would decline if couples, contemplating tying the knot, had to pass a marriage examination.
After all, we won’t allow people to get a driver’s license without foreknowledge of the dangers of the road, so why allow them to marry without providing some kind of users’ guide?
Married nearly 24 years, I feel I could contribute a few pointers to the marriage manual, starting with a basic premise that will surely save couples countless emotional collisions:
Men, bless their furry hearts, don’t react to the world the way women do.
A prime example: When my sister was newly married, her husband presented her with a special package for her birthday, but when she opened it, she burst into tears.
You see, her sweetheart had bought her a bathroom scale.
He knew the facts: She was dieting, and their household lacked a scale. Therefore, according to manly logic, the solution was the practical purchase that he so lovingly selected.
My sister saw the gift as a hint that she was too fat.
Here’s a pointer for the marriage manual: Men generally buy presents that solve a particular problem, which means they think in terms of blenders and vacuum cleaners.
Women, however, see gifts from their sweethearts as embodiments of affection, which include silk negligees, fine chocolates and flowers.
Neither gender is right, and the other wrong: They are just both reacting to the same set of circumstances in their own, unique ways.
And it is important to keep in mind that many differences between the genders are God-ordained and cannot be erased.
After all, if the Creator had given men and women identical personality traits, the world would be so very dull.
Imagine if men and women shared common wardrobes, insisted on matching hair-dos, and liked all the same activities, whether that was football, shopping or woodworking.
Wouldn’t you want to run screaming from the universe?
I used to fret because my husband didn’t get me flowers, until one day I realized another truth about men, which also should go into that marriage manual.
Forget the subtle hints. If a woman wants something, she should tell her guy in no uncertain terms.
As in: “Aren’t those roses lovely? Oh, I would love to have some for Valentine’s Day, which, by the way, is coming up in just one week, three days, 17 hours and 29 minutes.”
Men and women also seem to notice very different things.
Generally, when a woman spots a neighbor’s newborn baby, she starts making cooing noises and lining up behind other women to hold the little one. A man generally takes a quick glimpse and starts chatting with other guys about sports or the stock market.
Also, many men will be struck with selective blindness at times, especially when the wife comes home with a new hairdo.
This oblivion can lead to big marital trouble, especially when the wife says, “Notice something different?” and the guy frantically tries to figure out the right answer.
Truth be told, women fall prey to this malady too, and may fail to notice the yard work that hubby spent the day doing.
Differences in the art of listening should comprise an entire chapter in the marriage manual.
Women can converse for hours, and remember every detail, but the male brain generally shuts down after a certain amount of time. Which can lead to another conflict, prefaced by the dreaded words of husband to wife, which go: “I don’t remember your telling me…”
You can fill in the blanks: “about the dinner party tonight” or “about your sister coming to visit for a month.”
No matter what happens, it is crucial for couples to keep a sense of humor.
There will be days when the dog eats the kids’ lunch, not to mention their homework, and when everyone’s clothing emerges from the laundry with intriguing tie-dye patterns.
There will be evenings when guests show up unexpectedly because hubby forgot to give the wife the voice-mail message, and when he runs out of gas because she neglected to fill the tank.
Which leads to the most important piece of advice.
Marriage is about far more than just pleasing each other. It is true that we seek happiness in our relationships with others, but marriage is a sacrament, and so it is about seeking holiness too.
In short, if we really love another person, we are called to do whatever we can to help them get to heaven, and ask their help as well.
Prayer never fails. This doesn’t mean every prayer is answered exactly the way you expect it to be, but God hears every prayer.
And the very act of praying for the person you love keeps you attuned to their needs and desires.
The prayer that goes “Thy will be done” will help you see that the differences between men and women are part of God’s bigger plan. And may give you the ability to chuckle at little things in your marriage that were once vexing.
The spouse who prays is also less likely to take offense when, despite every hint, her beloved buys her something she doesn’t really want for Valentine’s Day.
Like a bathroom scale.
Lorraine Murray is the author of three books, “Grace Notes,” “How Shall We Celebrate?” and “Why Me? Why Now?” They can be ordered at local bookstores, and are available on her Web site: www.lorrainevmurray.com. More of Jef Murray’s artwork can be seen at www.jefmurray.com.