I was so blessed as a kid, I had access to some very old books and no access to TV or movies at all. Other things in my life were far from perfect, but I did manage to get my hands on some really marvelous reading material. So I read some very old manuscripts, Nancy Drew before she became politically correct, the Wizard of Oz, and fairytales, the old-fashioned kind where life is full of struggle and true love’s kiss comes at a great price, entwined with sacrifice, hardship, and hopefully, some dragon slaying….
To this day I grieve the Disney-fication of fairytales, the superficiality of love, and the total blasphemy of my beloved Nancy Drews. Life has been so sanitized we’ve lost the lessons woven in those old tales and with them, the essence of what it means to be human.
I often feel as if I need to clarify this, especially when I speak of marriage being like a fairytale, because it honors all those girlhood dreams of love and romance, dreams that really have come true for me. I got exactly what I asked for, but there’s a caveat there, life is messy, authentic fairytales can be emotionally intense, and we aren’t speaking of the kid-safe Disney version here. All in good humor, but life is more like the original version of the Little Mermaid where the prince runs off with a foreign princess and she just throws herself into the sea. Or perhaps like the Red Shoes where she pays the wood-cutter to chop off her feet so she isn’t forced to dance anymore.
I struggle to write real life marriage tales sometimes, partially because my husband is wonderful and I don’t wish to imply he isn’t and partially for privacy reasons. There are two of us in this relationship and I am not in the habit of sharing stories that belong to him. However, I’ve read a few blogs today and decided there is one tale I should tell having to do with envy, keeping up with the Joneses, and comparing ourself to others.
My husband has a friend, a mentor, what ever you call him, his go to man, someone he admires. They watch baseball together, or chat or do whatever guys do. If there is any tension in our house, if hubby needs some space, that’s where he goes. A few years back I noticed some words (don’t women always notice words?) Words like, “his wife always gets up and makes him lunch. His wife never argues with him. His wife always makes sure the dishes are done. His wife doesn’t complain….
At first it was somewhat amusing but eventually it started to get downright irritating. In between snapping at him, I tried to explain that what works for their family is not what works for our family. That comparing ourselves to others will just make us miserable. That I am simply incapable of cooking a five course meal after work everyday.
To make matters worse, the 3 of them were kind of an exclusive club, so I was not included in any of these social activities with Mr. and Mrs. Perfect. I was definitely outside of the group. It eventually became quite a struggle to communicate gracefully and not simply snap out something sarcastic like, if you think she’s so wonderful, why don’t you just go marry her yourself?
So when all else fails, prayer, submission. That should be our first choice but it seldom is, it’s usually the place of last resort. Being a sweet, gentle spirit, I calmly shrieked, “Lord, I am married to a defective unit and I need you to fix this blasted man before I kill him.” God already knows how I am, so my prayers don’t always begin so Holy, but immediately I felt Him, His presence, His peace, and He began to calm me down and instruct me on how to pray. I was soon letting go completely, trusting that if there was anything wrong in my husband’s heart it wasn’t my problem, it wasn’t my job to fix it. I could completely let it go and trust that the Lord would handle it. Trust that the Lord would handle it and smile. For a while I had stopped smiling and in prayer that is exactly what God told me to do, trust that the Lord would handle it and smile more.
Sure enough, the more I smiled the better I felt.
About a week later hubby went over to his friend’s house for what was supposed to be an afternoon, game day or something. He surprised me by coming home about 45 minutes later, looking very sad. “She left him last night,” he said, “took everything and just disappeared.”
“I thought she was the perfect wife,” he said sadly and without a drop of envy my heart simply broke, sad about that loss of idealism, about broken dreams and broken hearts, about the death of fairytales, about a little boy I married who once thought he had found the Holy Grail of all perfect marriages.
So that is how I came to offer comfort to my husband and to console him when he lost his perfect wife.