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Gentlemen, Don’t Try This At Home

February 13, 2019

My wife, Debbie, and  I got married the summer before our Sr. year in college.  I was doing Youth Ministry and going to school, and Debbie was trying to keep me out of trouble and was also going to school so we could graduate in May.

We lived about 30 minutes from tiny Midwest Christian College, where we were students.  That 30 minute drive was when the traffic on I 35 was moving smoothly.  And when our car was running.

I had it timed within about 30 seconds of how long I could stay in bed before I had to roll out, run a brush through my hair, get some clothes on, get to the car and get to our first class.  My planning worked pretty well until February 14, 1975, our first married Valentine’s Day.

For the year of our engagement (a length of engagement I would not recommend), I was the personification of romance.  I wrote Debbie letters and poems, bought her little gifts, went out of my way to spend every spare minute with her.  Knowing this, you would think I’d be doing something huge and memorable for our first Valentine’s Day of married life.

On that morning, I stumbled out of bed as I usually did, and headed for the bathroom in our little apartment.  Debbie was already up (as she usually was).  She had made a lovely breakfast, which was now cold on the table, along with a Valentine’s Day card for me, and the cassette tape (remember those?) of our wedding ceremony ready to play in the little cassette player.  She had her romance volume turned up to 10.  My amp wasn’t even turned on.

I had totally forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day.  No card.  No gift.  Hardly even a grunt of acknowledgement for what she’d done as I pulled on my jeans.  (In my defense, I’ve never been a morning person…)

It was a really quiet ride to school that morning.  And a quiet ride home after our classes.

I’ve got no alibi.  It was just pure stupidity.

On top of all this, we were poor as the proverbial church mouse.  I couldn’t make it up to her with a lovely dinner out.  Not even to McDonald’s.  We just barely had money to put gas in the car and a few things in the fridge from week to week.  In other words, we were normal.

Miraculously, we had Rice Krispies and marshmallows in the kitchen cabinet, and the recipe for making Rice Krispie bars was on the box.  I made a gigantic mess in our little kitchen and produced a very lopsided heart made from one big Rice Krispie bar.  It was the first of many peace offerings I was to bring her through the 45 years of our marriage.

Gentlemen, don’t try this at home.

I’m grateful and happy to report that her grace exceeded her disappointment with me, and she forgave me.

It goes without saying that I’ve remembered every Valentine’s Day since then.

Writing this has been mildly cathartic.  Catharsis is often embarrassing.  But going public with my embarrassing past isn’t the point.

I have two points.  First of all, GUYS DON’T FORGET THURSDAY IS VALENTINE’S DAY!  You’ve still got time to get out and buy a nice card and a power tool for your gal.  There’s no reason to let the day sneak up on you.

But second of all, this cautionary tale from my first year of wedlock and marital bliss illustrates the necessity of forgiveness and repair attempts.

I know you’re familiar with the idea of forgiveness, but you may not be familiar with the concept of “repair attempts.”

I first came across the term in a book by John Gottman, probably the leading authority on couples relationships in the world, certainly the leading authority in America.  A repair attempt is actually what it sounds like.  It’s an attempt to repair something you messed up in the relationship.  As in forgetting Valentine’s Day.  It requires admitting you did something wrong and seeking a way to somehow make up for it.

Good repair attempts begin with sincere apology.  The best repair attempts come from actual repentance.  Repentance in the biblical sense.  Feeling sorry, even apologizing, isn’t biblical repentance.  Remorse does not equal repentance.  Repentance is change.  Of course, this often begins in remorse and apology.  It may even include a crude Rice Krispie heart.  But it goes on to actually turn away from the egregious behavior and turning to appropriate behavior.  As in never forgetting Valentine’s Day.  Ever.  Until you die.

When you’re the offender, it takes humility to make an effective repair attempt.  Pride will make you expect the offended to just get over it.

If you’re the offended, it also takes humility to accept a repair attempt.  Pride will make you want to punish the person who hurt you, not forgive them.  And if they’re a repeat offender, and this is the thousandth time you’ve been offended by them, it gets even more difficult to forgive and move beyond the injury.

I won’t go deeply into it here, but the process of forgiving is essential if any relationship is going to survive two flawed human beings.  And for most people, being offered a repair attempt makes entering the forgiveness process a little easier.

The strongest marriages, regardless of the culture or ethnicity of the married individuals, regardless of their income and education, regardless of every other contributing factor are the result of these two things: repair attempts and forgiveness.

Maybe today, with Valentine’s Day casting it’s foreshadow on us, is a good day to make a resolution to lay aside pride and embrace humility so you can make repair attempts and extend forgiveness.  It’ll give you more life and love, and, who knows, maybe even more romance in your relationship.

From → Marriage

  1. I enjoyed this post and will keep the great advice. My wife and I have been married for a year going on two, although at times things are rocky I can see the road smoothing out. God bless and take care!

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