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Thursday, December 01, 2005

How the Bundys Saved Our Marriage

OK, they didn't really. We already had a good marriage, and in fact I'm not terribly fond of "Married with Children." That's where it all began. You see, My Charming and Patient Husband loves the show, whereas I can tolerate it in small doses. His favorite episode is the one he calls his “birthday episode,” because it is his tradition to watch it every year on his birthday, which falls near the beginning of Advent: “It's a Bundyful Life.” He had an old, poorly recorded copy on videotape when we met, but each year the tape has gotten more and more fuzzy. This year, he couldn't even find the tape.

As he was testing the dvd player on my laptop, I pulled out his birthday present: season four. “Could you test this one?” I asked, handing him the box. I have no words to describe the look on his face. “Greater love hath no wife,” said he. He promptly plugged it in, and proceeded to spend much of the rest of the day watching episodes.

Last night I slept the sleep of the exhausted and well-satisfied, aside from one thing. I kept getting snuggled and kissed, and hearing sweet words of praise whispered in my ear. It was clear that what had brought Joel possibly more pleasure than the gift was the fact that I, who did not care for the show, had given it to him.

There is a lesson here. Love isn't about sharing the same tastes, the same interests, and the same personality. It is about valuing one another above self. Love is wanting to see the other person happy, even when it is at an inconvenience to self. Love is giving, not taking. And in return, love appreciates and returns such love.

Which leads me to the second lesson, one about human nature. If you want to be appreciated, if you want your loved one to cherish you, you will do well to make your loved one feel cherished. Nobody has taught me this lesson more clearly than my own husband. He makes me feel like the most important person in the world, and acts as though he didn't see my faults. Oh, if I have a moral fault, he cares enough about my soul to encourage me to overcome it; but if I am sometimes a frustration (as he won't admit it, but I frequently am), he strives to help me feel better, rather than adding to my burden by criticizing me. The way I've learned from this is by my own response. When he treats me this way, I feel a swelling of gratitude, a surge of love that makes me want to do foolish things like buying him a season of Married with Children for his birthday.

I hope for you, gentle reader, that you have someone in your life that inspires you to love more fully by loving you so fully. If you have not, I hope that you can inspire your loved ones in such a way. I hope that your marriages and other significant relationships do not need saved; but if they do, take that first step: put them first. Few people can resist responding to unselfish love. I know I couldn't.