I could spend all day praising my wife. So, I admit, this post falls way short of all that I could say in honor of such an astounding woman.

Sally is impressive from many standpoints: she was a concert pianist in her twenties, she has attended eleven colleges, she’s composed and published her own music, directed choirs, and taught honors English with a special accent on Shakespeare.

She now works as an architect, interior designer, and consultant. Her clients consistently praise her, and everyone falls in love with the woman.

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What’s truly amazing is that she’s one of the most humble people I know, and she serves people sacrificially.

The icing on the cake is that she’s a culinary genius. Tonight’s dinner was a typical Sallyism. Earlier in the afternoon, we had asked each other what we were in the mood for, and because I’m such a splendid husband—wanting to spare her time and effort—I offered to grill some hot dogs. She was gracious, and said she had a fun thought, then disappeared to the store.

After 25 minutes of preparation, she assembled a food experience that I’ll remember for years. Plated before me was a stuffed pork chop seasoned with apple spices, Rosemary and Sage, glazed with balsamic vinegar, molasses, and apple juice. The stuffing was half homemade cornbread and half Rosemary olive oil sourdough. The experience was ineffable. It was basically a meal… To-Die-For.

After 36 years of marriage, I’m still constantly blown away, always slack-jawed with amazement at Sal.

But it wasn’t always like this.

So, I thought I’d share, as succinctly as possible, how difficult our relationship was at the beginning, and the most important lesson I’ve ever learned about being married, a lesson that catapulted us out of a very dark place long ago.

For the first five months of our marriage, Sally and I fought like cats and dogs.  We both have strong personalities, we were young, and both of us brought truck loads of baggage into the relationship.

However, on one particular afternoon we experienced a sudden breakthrough that would change our lives and relationship forever.

I still remember how warm the sun was at my back as it rose through the dining room window that Saturday morning.  It was a beautiful cloudless day with a brilliant blue sky, and yet, my wife and I had found one more reason to go at each other’s throats for the eight hundredth time.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I slammed my fist on the dining room table and yelled something that surprised both of us.  The words just came out without any forethought—as if the message came from a more virtuous source than my angry soul.  Sally listened, wide-eyed… and I listened as well, stunned by what was happening.

The redemptive outrage went something like this:

“Okay, that did it!  You and I need to agree RIGHT NOW that we’ll NEVER AGAIN utter a single word with the INTENT of hurting each other’s feelings!   We can vent, we can get angry, we can get frustrated and scream!   But never with the goal of hurting the other person!  We can’t even WHISPER a word with the INTENT of tearing down each other!  Agreed?!”

Sally agreed.  And we prayed right then that God would help us.

Over the ensuing 35 years, I can honestly say, we’ve held to that commitment.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ve each come within inches of crossing the line a few times; but I’m not even sure we ever did.  I don’t remember that ever happening.

This sudden change was like throwing on a light switch—one moment we were a couple constantly fighting with each other, debris strewn across five months of ragged mileage, and the next moment we instantly had 35 years set before us (at least) of never fighting.  Yes, we’ve had many intense conversations—but the intensity is always directed like a laser beam at working out a solution; we never attack each other.   In fact, on many such occasions an observer would be amused because we usually lace into the heated conversations an abundance of affirmations of one another.  It’s just a style that we’ve developed over the years.  Weird as it is, it works!  So, the difference has been night and day, and the turnaround happened within just two minutes… decades ago.

I can’t stress how crucial that moment was—almost as important as our vows at the altar.   Our wedding vows got us married, but our fist-slamming, impromptu oath—swearing to never use hurtful words—has kept us married.

I highly recommend this to every married couple: their very own slam-the-dinning-room-table moment.  Well, followed by a life changing commitment, that is.

This testimony of being a couple who never fight wouldn’t exist without Sally’s heart of gold and sterling character.  I may have been the guy who slammed his fist on the table while making a wild, Ralph-Kramden-like historic proclamation, but she’s the one who daily floods the house with the fragrance of grace… and… incredible culinary aromas.

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