Loving Your OCD Spouse


(Image by Stockphotos, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

My husband is somewhere on the OCD spectrum. His tendencies don’t seem to overwhelm his life and I don’t think he ought necessarily to be on medication or under a doctor’s care (which he isn’t), but the tendencies are definitely a part of his life and, consequently, a part of mine.

His mother tells me that she noticed Brian, at age 12 or so, exhibiting classic “checking” behaviors; namely, going around checking the doors at night to make sure they were all locked. In our years of marriage, a number of patterns have become noticeable.  Luckily he is not burdened with the common hand-washing obsession, nor does he seem to fear that disasters will happen if he doesn’t perform some personal ritual. But he is pretty loquacious (I never relate to those articles women write about their uncommunicative husbands!) so some of his tendencies involve talking. For example, if he has a plan for the future–whether it’s a trip out of state or a trip to buy a newspaper–he will mention it, repeatedly. Often he will ask for reassurance about some extremely minor thing that seems pointless, i.e.:

(HIM) “We’ll stop at Walmart for milk after church–is that OK?”

(ME) “Why on earth would it NOT be OK?” (…especially since I’ve already been notified about it twenty times! I think he is just obsessing about it and looking for a way to say it out loud one more time.)

It can be trying and annoying for a non-OCD partner. There are times when this excessive looking forward to events (especially big ones such as holidays and vacations) makes me wish they would hurry up and be over with, simply so I don’t have to hear about them anymore. There have been times when my own excitement about an upcoming pleasure has been beaten to death by over-discussion.

There are more trivial things. Immediately upon arriving home in the afternoon, he chooses his clothes for the following day and lays them out on a bedroom chair. This happens even if tomorrow is Saturday and he’s only going to wear khaki shorts and a T-shirt. (I think it’s kind of funny…I mean, my mom probably did that for me when I was nine.)

There are more serious things. As the partner who is not so much into planning and scheduling, who wants to wing it, do what I feel like doing and see what the day brings, I am constantly dominated–not by him, but by his tendency to have the days of our lives already filled before I even get a chance to mention my vague notions of what I’d like to do. At times I feel my life is passing by–weekdays structured by work, and weekends structured by Brian’s mental checklist.

It is very easy to make fun of him for the trivial things. It is also sometimes tempting to snarl at him about the more irritating ones, i.e.

(HIM–angrily) “If you don’t make [our son] take off his jeans and give them to me right now, they just won’t get washed tonight!”

(ME) “WHO CARES? They don’t NEED to be washed tonight! He has more than one pair! Nobody is worried about this except you!”

(…followed by a few mutterings about OCD.)

But a year or two ago, I had an epiphany about all this. Number one, I realized how cruel it was to make fun of him and  criticize him for something that he cannot help. It is a deeply ingrained part of his personality and I know sometimes it causes inconvenience and maybe embarrassment even to him, but it’s just the way he is. I’m pretty sure I might have a couple of tendencies and quirks of my own that HE has to live with and yet he never puts me down for them, so he deserves the same acceptance in return. I also remembered that men crave respect above almost anything else, and this type of ridicule and criticism is the epitome of disrespect.

And number two, I thought of all the ways our family benefits from his planning, organizing, and thinking ahead.

  • We never run out of anything. EVER. When you get to the bottom of the shampoo bottle, use the last bit of aluminum foil on the roll, put the last liner in the garbage can–never fear. Replacement items have already been purchased, because he watches the levels of everything and makes a grocery list.
  • We always have reservations. When we go on a trip, we know where we are staying, how to get there, and what restaurants are nearby. He will go online and scope out the menus of places we’ve never tried, to see if we might like to experience them while we’re nearby.
  • Suddenly need something while traveling? Not a problem. Band-Aid, safety pin, whatever it is–he’s packed it.
  • All of our laundry is clean, all the time. If it is not on our backs, it is in our closets. Granted, some of this is done by me, but only due to his influence.
  • We’re never low on gas at inconvenient moments because he makes sure we fill up.
  • I never find myself without pocket money because he puts it in my wallet.
  • The bills are paid, the checkbook is balanced. DAILY.
  • Our son’s lunch account is funded, and any supplies he needs are immediately purchased.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Like all of us, Brian is fearfully and wonderfully made. Like me, he’s imperfect and sometimes annoying. But I am so grateful for all the years I’ve had him beside me, and for all the ways his need for order and stability has brought those things into my life.



You’d never know it to see us  bantering and cracking jokes on Facebook. People are always saying, “You guys are hilarious!” or “You two crack me up!”

You’d never know it if you were my coworker. You’d hear me talking about our lives, how we’re always together no matter what we’re doing, often planning something fun, usually laughing about some line from a movie or some incident from years ago. We’re each other’s best friend. We’ve been together for twenty years, through thick and thin, good times and bad.

Now that we’re older, we sometimes muse about what will happen when one of us passes away. Brian claims he’d never marry again–he says he’s had his wife and he’d never find another one so compatible, so why even bother with a relationship that’s bound to be less satisfying than what he’s known? I just pray I go first, so I’ll never have to face life without him.

And yet there’s something missing; something that’s vitally important–but only, unfortunately, to me.


You’d never notice it to be around us. Like in the photo above, I’d be touching him, or patting his back. I’d give him a kiss on his head when I set his coffee beside him. I’d reach for his hand while walking with him. All of this is accepted. None of it is reciprocated.

There seem to be two conclusion I can draw from that. 1) It’s just his nature. Or, 2) there’s a problem. Well, if it’s  his nature, he sure kept it under wraps nicely when we were engaged. There was no lack of warmth and romance in those days, or even when we were first married. Was that just a special time, and then he cooled back down to what seems, to him, a normal level?

Maybe there’s a problem. I was different when we first married. I was older than him, so I thought I was the leader and the boss. My word was the final word in any situation. I wore the pants–or tried to, anyway. Plus, I wasn’t happy with how he got along with my daughter (who was two years old when we married) so I stood between him and her like a fierce mama bear. I wonder now (and have been wondering for a good fifteen years)  if I killed those tender feelings he used to have for me. He loved me enough to stick around, but maybe not as much as he did in the early days.

Sometimes, I can’t help mentioning it. I try not to. He never takes it well, he always perceives it as complaining and criticism of him, and it never helps or makes a bit of difference anyway. But sometimes, I feel like I’m starving to death, so I ask for a crumb.  I might as well be asking for the moon.

I keep having this delusion that if I can only find the perfect way to explain my perspective to him, somehow the light will break across his face and he will understand. I’ve thought of about a million analogies over the years…like this one:

Suppose our kitchen contained magic cabinets and a magic refrigerator. They were at all times full of delicious and nourishing food, and it was all absolutely free! You could never use it all up, because no matter what you used, it would be replaced by more. The only caveat is, you can’t serve yourself. I have to serve you, and you have to serve me. So every day of the week, I’m going to the magic kitchen to provide three meals a day, and snacks, and whatever else it takes to make sure you are never hungry. For whatever reason, it does not occur to you that I am hungry as well. So very nicely, occasionally, I say, “I’m starving, please look at me; I’m skin and bones, I’m wasting away. The magic kitchen is right over there–completely free and stocked with everything I could ever want. Will you please, please give me something to eat?” And he will inevitably sigh with irritation and say, “You’re starting that again?” or, “I’m tired,” or “I’m busy,” or whatever.

It’s really pretty stunning when you think about it. Why would somebody who loves me find it so incredibly difficult to give me a hug once in a while? Even if he were not especially inclined to be demonstrative, wouldn’t showing a little affection now and then be easier than enduring years and years of discussions about why not?

Another thing. It seems like it would cross his mind that lack of affection leaves me vulnerable. I know that I am responsible for my behavior no matter what, and I have no intentions of straying; it’s not worth it and it causes too much pain all around. But still…seems like a man wouldn’t want his wife wandering through the world with this sort of a need unmet. Suppose the shoe were on the other foot and the problem was sex–him needing it and me being disinterested. Suppose every time he asked for it, I said, “I’m tired. You’re starting that again?” What if I just wasn’t very interested in sex, didn’t particularly feel the need for it, and cared not one whit for his needs and appetites…for the LAST FIFTEEN YEARS. No doubt he would go and find it elsewhere, and then say in all self-righteousness, “What did you expect me to do?”

I did some research to see what the Bible says about affection in marriage, but I didn’t really find anything to fit the bill exactly. There are many references to husbands and wives, but they seem to be more about not depriving each other of sex. That’s not the issue here.

I found this question and answer by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. PhD:


The question and answer are both great. The bad news is that Brian and I read Dr. Harley’s entire BOOK (His Needs, Her Needs) together, about fourteen years ago. It was a good book, generally. Didn’t help, though.

So I don’t know, maybe it’s just time to say God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. 

Maybe it’s time to just be thankful for a husband who’s here right across this table from me, and not out philandering with a girlfriend or drinking in a bar with his buddies. Thankful for a man who goes to work every day and provides for us. For a good father to our son and a constant source of support and encouragement to me, in spite of a lot of dumb schemes I’ve hatched over the years. For an utter lack of criticism about myself. For someone who never, ever puts me down in front of others. Maybe I’ll just be thankful for a guy who insists on giving me more pocket money every week than I think I’ll need. One who encourages me to go ahead and order those shoes in both colors, when left alone I’d deny myself either one. Maybe I’ll stop and be thankful for a husband who planned a vow renewal for us as a surprise to me; and who had our pastor mention, on the 20th anniversary of the day we met, that he (Brian)  felt his life began that day.  Maybe I should just be thankful for lively, plentiful conversation and…if you’ll pardon me…high quality time in the bedroom. Maybe I should remember that I am surely not his idea of a 100% perfect dream woman, and there must be areas where he finds me less than ideal as well. Maybe I should be grateful he never mentions them.

I would love to have him wrap his arms around me, or smile at me and touch my face. I’d love to have him call me “baby.” I will always want that.

But there are other things in life, too.






Her Feet Abide Not in Her House

David Castillo Dominici

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

It has happened again: a young girl, alone and wandering around drunk after a late-night party, has disappeared. We don’t know yet exactly what has happened to her, but we can assume it was something horrible. What a tragic thing for her and her family. I have every sympathy for them.  And yet, more and more when this sort of thing happens, I find myself thinking regretfully, “If only she had stayed at home.”

Let me stop and make a few concessions and/or admissions before I continue:

1) No one deserves to be victimized by anyone simply by being alone or being in a public place, or even being intoxicated. No one deserves it for any reason. No one is “asking for it.”

2) In my young and single days, I partied and drank in bars on a weekly basis. Generally I was with a friend, but there were occasions when I went out alone.

3) It is entirely possible to be victimized anytime, anywhere (including your own home or workplace), and even while engaged in the most innocent of activities.

All that being said, let me admit in addition that I watch an inordinate amount of true crime TV:  “Snapped,” and “Suburban Secrets” and “Deadly Women” and all such as that. I don’t make a particular point to catch these shows; I think I just wind up watching a lot of them because unlike network TV sitcoms or dramas, there is no particular premise I need to understand and no characters I have to be familiar with. I can tune in at any point and pretty much catch on to the action, so I tend to watch bits and pieces of them. As I listen to the descriptions of circumstances that lead to murders and other crimes, I again find myself noticing a pattern. Much of the time, if she hadn’t been out carousing, she’d be alive. If she hadn’t been out cheating on her husband, she’d be alive. If she hadn’t been trying to enrich herself by hurting somebody else, she wouldn’t have gotten into trouble.

We’re all just trying to feel happy, aren’t we? The latest missing girl probably just wanted to have some fun that night. I know that’s what I was doing when I was in my twenties…trying to have fun and looking for a relationship. Thankfully, nobody ever harmed me, but I can easily think of DOZENS, if not hundreds, of times when they could have. How many dark parking lots could I have been snatched from? How many times did I enter a home or a car of someone I didn’t know well enough to trust with my life? One of the main verses of scripture that constantly pops into my mind is I Timothy 5:6: “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”

This can be applied various ways. Obviously, it does not mean “don’t have any fun or you’ll get yourself killed.” I’m not saying that. I am suggesting that if the main thing on a woman’s mind is partying, getting drunk, getting high, finding some sex, getting male attention and acquiring money or possessions, she’s on the wrong path. If you’re single and this is what you live for—you might want to rethink your priorities. If you’re married and you can hardly WAIT for the next girls’ night out, bachelorette party, or whatever social occasion takes you away from your family and out into the street to relive your more hedonistic days, you definitely need to reconsider. She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. Your life should be about more than making yourself feel good.

I’d like to call your attention to the biblical phrase, “keepers at home.” (Titus 2:5.) This phrase is often used in connection with our more modern word, “housekeeping,” and is thought to refer to being a housewife, a stay-at-home mother, or a person who manages her home well and maintains a clean and organized house. Maintaining an orderly home is obviously a good and admirable thing to do (as opposed to, y’know, sitting around watching “Snapped.” :-) ) But I happen to think that the verse is actually stating that a good and chaste woman ought primarily to stay at home, rather than be out at the bar, the restaurant, the friend’s house, the country club, or the shopping mall.

Consider the description of the woman in Proverbs 7. She is not, you”ll note, a professional prostitute. She is a married woman, merely wearing the attire of a harlot in the episode described. (Hmm, what do you wear when you go out with your girlfriends?)  She is further described as “loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house.” (Emphasis mine.) There are several translations of that phrase available in the various versions of the Bible, but they all amount to the same thing: the woman described will not stay home and behave herself; she’s always out running the streets. Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible expands further on this passage with the following statement: “Her feet abide not in her house; to attend to the business of it; but she is gadding abroad to seek her lovers, and bring them in; it is the character of good women that they are keepers at home, but it is the sign of a harlot to gad abroad…”

stockimages (2)

(Image courtesy of Stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Getting pretty radical in here now, isn’t it? I hope no feminists are reading this, or their heads may have just exploded. SURELY I’m not saying you ought to be like a prisoner in your own home, am I? Surely I’m not saying that we shouldn’t venture outside the house unescorted by a male relative. Next thing you know, I’ll be saying it’s a sin to go to the grocery store, or drop your children off at school, or go to work, for that matter, since it involves leaving the house.

Well no, I wouldn’t take it that far. But there is a bit of a difference, wouldn’t you say, in going about your normal life doing good and necessary things, and in “letting your hair down,” escaping the responsibilities of being a wife and mother, and seeking your own pleasure by going places and doing things that a Christian woman simply ought not to do.

Compared with “gadding abroad,” chances are better that you’ll be safe at home. Chances are better that, in your own home, you won’t encounter someone who either wants to harm you or lead you astray. You have liberty; of course you do. But if you search the whole Bible, I am pretty sure you won’t come up with any description of a wise woman that says, “She hangeth out with her girlfriends and drinketh margaritas.” The world thinks it’s perfectly acceptable. But Christian women have a different standard…..don’t we?

Staying Home is Not the Hardest


I would love to stay at home.

Over the course of my years as a mother, I’ve done it all three ways: working full-time, part-time, and staying home. Staying home was by far the happiest, most fulfilling, most enjoyable time I’ve ever spent as a mother. I knew it was temporary, and I continued to pay my share of the household expenses by spending up the entire balance of a 401K account that had taken me twelve years to accumulate.  I have yet to regret it. Sure, I might want to retire some day, but I wanted to stay home right then, and it was a wonderful time.

I was aware, every day that year, of the luxury of time available to me. If I didn’t get to a task today–eh, well, I could do it tomorrow. There was no rush, no need to cram every possible errand into a Saturday morning. I had time to take my children where they needed to go, and time to chitchat with them. Time to sit out on the deck and watch the rain with them–you know, it rained today while I was in the office, but I couldn’t go outside and enjoy the smell of it and the feel of the breeze. My time belongs to my boss, and she doesn’t pay me to sniff raindrops.

I kept on top of the housework while I stayed home, and I was able to circulate around to several different stores to catch the grocery bargains. (That’s unthinkable to me now…my husband usually does the shopping while I stay home Friday nights to clean, but if I DO occasionally get drafted to go, after that one hour of shopping I’m totally beat, because I’m already running on fumes when I get there.) When I stayed home, I cooked for the family every night. My kids would ask me what was for dinner and I would have an answer for them. (Sometimes now my son gets a shrug.) I remember my husband remarking about how nice it was to come home and find there was nothing he needed to do. (Now he does a couple of loads of laundry every night, at least.) I joined a gym while I stayed home! They had free child care available for my little boy. Now, we have a free gym available in our neighborhood.  My son ( now twelve) asked me, this very night, didn’t we say we were going to start going to the gym? I groaned and said, “Let’s not.” Driving home and climbing the stairs is workout enough. Once I get in the door and get out of my work clothes, leaving again is not in the forecast.

I’ve been giving you a picture of my life. Granted, not everyone will experience working or staying home as I do/did. I’m sure lots of women think working full-time is a piece of cake, and they still have plenty of time and energy to do what they want in their off hours.

And I am even MORE sure that a number of SAHMs are chomping at the keyboard to tell me that their lives are not a breeze because they have ten kids, not two, and they homeschool them and live on a farm and churn their own butter and whatnot. Yes…that sounds much harder and more taxing than my stay-at-home time. But there were some choices made there, right? You did choose to have that many children, you certainly chose to homeschool them, and they do sell butter at the grocery store. I am not knocking you! God bless you in the life you chose.

If you would only stop complaining about it. That’s right…complaining. When you say, “It’s the hardest job in the world….oh, um, and the most fulfilling.” Or when you post those memes about “I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” When you commiserate about what a sacrifice it is to stay home. When you gripe about how your baby kept you up all night or your kids have been sick for days. (Try the agony of deciding whether to send a somewhat-sick child to school or face dire consequences at your job. Try being up with that crying baby and still having to put on your dress and heels and makeup, and then sit up straight and look at little numbers on a computer all day.)   What’s worst is when you describe your job as “thankless.”

Wow, I wonder how that makes your husband feel? In my eyes, the fact that you are allowed to stay home is an extreme PRIVILEGE. Have you lost sight of the fact that it is a GIFT made possible by your husband? Thankless? How about you being a little more thankFUL? If my husband came home tomorrow and said, “Hey, guess what–why don’t you quit your job and stay home. I’ll continue to drive in rush hour to work all day every day to satisfy customers and bosses who may or may not be reasonable. I’ll deal with the stress of knowing that at any moment, if I make an error or if I  don’t perform well, they could walk in and tell me I no longer have a job. I’ll pay for the roof over your head and the food in your mouth and every stitch of clothing you wear…and if you decide you need volumizing mascara or new cushions for the sofa because you’re just no longer “feeling” the old ones, well, honey, I’ll pay for that, too. I’ll pay for your mammogram and your prescriptions, and your glasses, oh and of course your car and gas. If you want to buy a birthday gift for a friend, I’ll pick up the tab for that, even though your name will be on the card and I don’t even know her.” Etc., etc., etc.  Are you kidding me—I would fall down dead of surprise.

I realize some of you have red faces and steam coming out of your ears right now, because you are wanting to say “I DO MY SHARE AROUND HERE. I WORK TOO, and my work is just as valuable as his.” All right. No argument. But suppose you (like me) were married to a man who felt that there were two able-bodied adults in the house, so why should he carry the entire financial burden? Just imagine it for one second…a husband who believed  that whatever contributions you might make around the home would be far outweighed by those you could make as an employed financial contributor.

Please understand that I am not bashing my husband. When I think of “do unto others,” then I must consider how I would feel if HE wanted to stay home while I carried the entire load. I tried it once, by the way. We had two kids at home and I had a great, well-paying job, when his company shut down. He drew unemployment for a while, attended school, did the housework and had dinner cooked every night when I got home. My response to this was to have a literal nervous breakdown. The idea that four people were depending on me made every moment I spent at work somehow magnified in importance, leading to terrible stress. And despite the fact that my husband was keeping things up at home, I seethed with resentment over the free time he had and the relaxed pace he was living with. It wasn’t fair.

I am not proud of that, because he certainly did not treat me that way when I spent my year at home, but that’s just the difference in the sexes, I think. While I felt embarrassed to have an unemployed husband, he felt a certain amount of pride at having a wife at home. The thing is, he was not willing to pay, indefinitely, for that feeling. After a while, enough was enough, and he was more than happy to return to pitching in with the laundry and groceries and whatever else needed doing at home, in exchange for the salary I could earn.

If you are a stay-at-home wife and/or mother, then yes–of course what you are doing is valuable. But take a moment today to realize that you, too, could be married to a man who would consider a paycheck more valuable. The fact that you’re home is a gift from him to you. Be thankful.


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Mom's Morning Coffee


Whatever’s going  wrong in your marriage today does not HAVE to be a deal-breaker. That’s the main thing I want to tell you.

When you’re going through something in your marriage that’s very hard, very painful…you can survive it, you can get through it, and you can come out happy and fine in the end.

It makes a big difference when you’re able to take the idea of divorce completely off the table. Yet I hesitate to make a broad statement and say you MUST approach it that way, for a couple of reasons–one being that certain things (such as child molestation) should probably never be gotten over. I haven’t been in that situation, thankfully, but I would think that would be a time to cut your losses and run far, far away. Most things, though, can be overcome if it is your desire to overcome them. If you’ve ever read the “About Me” section, you know that I am both a divorced person and a person who has been married nearly twenty years. I’ll give you some background info so you can know that I’m speaking to you from experience.

I married my first husband in haste, because I thought I was getting older (ha, 25!) so I grabbed the first candidate who came along. I was told later that he cheated on me, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time, so I can’t say we divorced for a biblical reason. We divorced because it soon became apparent that we could not STAND each other. Everything either of us said or did was wrong in the eyes of the other one, and we were miserable. Looking back now, as a Christian, I can see that I myself approached a lot of things wrong in that relationship, and maybe if we had both sincerely wanted to try and had received some strong Christian guidance, we might have eventually found a way to make it work. Maybe we’d be sitting here right now, happy as clams, saying “Remember those early days when we used to fight all the time?” I’ll never know, and like most divorced people I don’t exactly relish that thought, because he lives in my mind as somebody I do not like or wish to be around. But still. We could possibly have worked it out, if we’d wanted to.

When I met my now-husband, from day one it was clear that we were on the same wavelength, we spoke each other’s language, we were just sympatico right off the bat. Made for each other. Meant to be. There has never been an atmosphere in our home of disliking one another; never that feeling that I wasn’t accepted or that everything I did was wrong. But it has been no bed of roses, either. Both of us have done things wrong–and I don’t mean just a little bit wrong–I mean big, bad, Ten Commandment-breaking wrong. Bottom line, though, even though sometimes we screwed up big time, we just loved each other so much. It was always worth it to slog through the pain and get things hashed out and stay together. You have to be the judge of whether what you’ve got is worth saving.



When you’re going through a bad time, support from friends can be great. But friends are often so much “on your side” that they will advise you to do whatever they think will end your pain the fastest. He cheated? He ran up a bunch of debt behind your back? He hit you, God forbid? Get out of there, girl, nobody has a right to do that. You deserve better. That’s what friends will tell you, and they mean it in the best possible way. They are trying to look out for your best interests. But they may not be right. You don’t HAVE to leave, and you don’t have to apologize to anybody for staying. (A good way to avoid this dilemma is to not blab all your marriage troubles to your friends, by the way. Pray about them instead.)

I understand the pain you’re going through. Trust me, I wrote a whole book about the pain.

(You can get if from Amazon if you want to; click the link below.)



Like I said, we’ve BOTH done things wrong, but the first big occasion was my husband’s. Loving him as much as I do only served to make it doubly devastating. I fell to pieces for a while. I was a kaleidoscope of changing emotions for a good TWO YEARS. Did you read that? TWO YEARS, I’m telling you. Two years that it lurked in my mind, that it still caused pain, that I could not stop looking for it happen again, that I could not stop making digs at him about it. And I thought we were ruined, we’d never be the same, I could never trust him or even look at him the way I did before. (Incidentally I am not even talking about a sexual affair, here. It was something different, but that’s not the point.) I am just telling you that there was a HUGE incident that rocked us to the core–and there have been other incidents and rocky places–yet here we are. Happy. No, not just pretending. Really sincerely happy.

I can’t write down the “steps to happiness” for you, not knowing your particular situation. In our case, part of it was just sticking it out long enough that some things resolved themselves. Part of it was turning to God. We learned to apologize to each other sometimes. I learned to submit and he learned to return that gesture with responsible leadership. We learned to sometimes just swallow our pride and let the other person win the argument.

I just want you to know that if there’s love between you, if there’s a desire to work things out, it can happen. New and improved ways of living together can become the norm, and the pain can become a distant memory. I promise you.


Trapped in the Wrong Church



Forgive me for that rather sensational title. It’s a bit harsh, especially when I think of a pastor who has been so very kind to us, and people who became our community when we had not one friend in the entire state of Florida. That’s a lonely feeling, folks, when you know that for hundreds of miles in any direction, there is not one door you could knock on and not one face that’s familiar.

But I’m getting ahead of the story, so let me backtrack.

As I’ve alluded to in so many posts, we left our home in Georgia and moved here several years ago, in about as haphazard and unwise a fashion as you could imagine. Drowning in regret brought about by our own foolishness and so weary we could barely face each new day, we decided to find a church. Here’s where it gets complicated.

I am a Baptist. I was born into a family of Methodists and attended church regularly as a child. My limited exposure to the Baptist church was during vacation Bible school each summer. And yet, even before the age of twelve, I read my Bible, I listened to preachers, and what rang true in my soul was what the Baptists believed and practiced. I was baptized by immersion as an adult and was a member (though not an active one) of a Baptist church until we moved here. At that time, we hadn’t been to church for a long time and were feeling disillusioned in general, but let me just say that if I had my way, when we got ready to find a church in Florida, I’d have chosen a Baptist church.

The hubby had other ideas. He who was born into a Baptist family, joined the Methodist church as an adult! (Though he seldom actually attended it.) I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but if I had to, I would venture to guess that he has an impression of Baptists as country, corn-pone, poorly educated, foot-washing, Amen-hollering, pulpit-pounding fire and brimstone types. All of which he abhors (especially the notion that he could be in any way associated with something country. He’s stuck-up like that. :-) )

He was on board with the idea of our finding a church, as long as it was not a Baptist church. So, after visiting a few local assemblies, we settled on, let’s call it, Denomination X. I am choosing not to name it because I certainly don’t think it is a bad place; most of the members clearly enjoy it and are loyal to it. But me, I find myself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Let’s say I moved to Denmark, for example. No doubt Denmark is a lovely place, well understood and enjoyed by people who’ve been raised there. But no matter how friendly the natives may be, it would never be my home…I would never understand their culture, their music, their ways of doing things. In my heart I would always long for the dear old USA, and that’s exactly how I feel about our church.

But here’s the thing. 1) For the good of our marriage, our family, and our lives in general, I want my husband to stay in church.  And 2) He likes this church. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t twist my arm. I liked it at first, too. But once I got past the getting-to-know-you stage and began to really pay more attention to the service, I realized I did not agree with much of it.

So now, every time I walk in the door of Denomination X, I am practicing submission. (Not always beautifully, I’m afraid…sometimes my boredom is hard to conceal.) I sit through the service, touched by no part of it, wishing for a Sunday when I could come away inspired and uplifted; or instructed at least. But my formerly unbelieving husband is beside me, holding my hand, listening to a pastor he respects, and I know that to do anything other than what I’m doing would be detrimental. It is his place to be the spiritual leader of our family, and for that matter–how am I to know he isn’t right? He says our lives turned around when we joined this church, and I admit there is truth to that statement.  I have considered asking him if he’d mind my seeking out a Baptist church to attend on Wednesday or Sunday nights, but I always decide against bringing it up. I don’t want our family going in two different directions, and I feel that if we don’t stick together, our church attendance might wither and die altogether. Better for me to be bored than for us both to be unchurched again.

But I do look forward to our trips back to Georgia. When we visit, we attend church with his parents, where–admittedly–the congregants might not be the most erudite group you ever met. But the words I hear there ring true in my heart, and at the end of the preaching when the pianist plays “Just As I Am” and the repentant are invited to come forward to the altar…no, it’s not sophisticated. But it’s home.

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When a Tightwad Marries a Spender

cash hand

When I married my husband, I was more than happy to hand over the management of our newly- formed family’s finances to him. We both worked full-time and earned a similar amount, but I was never too terribly concerned about balancing my checkbook. Brian, on the other hand, was well-known for his sharp attention to such matters, so it seemed like a no-brainer that he would handle the bank account.

The results of this plan were unexpected. Although he certainly never tried to restrict my access to the money, his new position as the family comptroller gave me the feeling that I was broke and had to ask for handouts. What was even worse was that on his end, looking at a suddenly-doubled bank balance evidently gave him the feeling that he was rich.

What we learned from this experiment was that although I may handle money casually, I don’t like to spend it. I am a low-maintenance woman who does not need or care anything at all for designer purses, clothes, or shoes. Jewelry is something that others might give me for my birthday. “Impulse buying” is not a concept I’m familiar with, because I keep those impulses very well under control. I know the difference between my wants and my needs, and I can tell myself  “no” to a want quicker than most people can whip out a credit card. Without giving you a rundown of all the ways that I found my new husband to be in direct opposition to this way of thinking, let’s just say that we went back to separate checking accounts very quickly, and that’s the way it stayed for probably fifteen years.

Maybe because we’re both “only” children, this approach wasn’t really too bad for a while. We split up the household bills so that they were relatively equivalent. We wrote two mortgage checks–each for half the mortgage, like roommates. You wanna laugh? We went to the grocery store together, and each threw what we wanted into the cart. When it was time to check out, he placed his chosen items on the belt and swiped his debit card, and I did the same with mine. (Bag boys were invariably confused when we assured them that all of the groceries were actually going to the same house!) We put gas in our own cars and each paid for our own insurance and medical expenses, as well as personal expenses like haircuts. The best benefit, in my opinion, was when Brian wanted to make a major purchase (for example, our first flat screen TV). It was always his option to pay for the whole thing himself. But if he wanted me to chip in, I had to first agree to the expenditure. After that I would have some say-so in how much we spent and when I felt I could afford to let go of the sum we had agreed on.

It wasn’t a bad arrangement in many ways. I had control of my own salary, so if I ran a little short, I’d put the brakes on any unnecessary spending, but if I had a surplus I could do with it whatever I chose. I could even save up for things.

There were a couple of disadvantages, though. One was that whenever we went to a restaurant as a couple or a family, I felt embarrassed and, strangely enough, disrespected at having to dig through my purse to pay my share. Even though I knew what our arrangement was, I imagined that onlookers felt sorry for me. Plus, this took the fun right out of “date night.” Nothing makes a woman feel less special than splitting the check after a romantic dinner. (That may be unfair, but it’s true!)

The other  and more serious disadvantage was that an arrangement like this was detrimental to any feeling of unity in our marriage. We did not operate as a team.  Mine was mine and his was his, and we lived like cordial business partners, cooperative and yet each looking primarily to his own interests.

Now let’s skip to 2011. For various reasons not pertinent to this story about our finances,  we left Georgia and a life where we’d once had good stable jobs, and moved to Florida to start a new chapter of our lives. We did the best we could, but our first year was an unmitigated disaster, and we were poor as church mice. Once a week our big treat was to get a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s for us and our son (then 9) to share.  One pizza was not enough. Our son, not realizing, would eat his fill, while Brian left the table hungry. For the first time ever in our marriage, we were poor and we were humbled. We decided the time was right to join forces again, to live like a family, and to have one (pitifully meager) bank account.

The Lord has blessed us amazingly since that time. (Not necessarily because we put our money back in one pot, I’m just saying that we’ve been blessed.) I’ve had a steady job for over two years, while Brian hit the jackpot with a job that he loves and that is far, I say FAR, more lucrative than mine. We’re extremely thankful that in only three years we’ve returned to approximately the same income level we had back home, but things are interesting now that 2/3 of it is earned by the spender in the family, now once again reinstated as the finance manager.

I feel a bit unsure of things. All the bills get paid and we seem to be able to do or have whatever we want…but how are we doing, really? What about that set of tires we had to finance when times were bad–have we paid off that Firestone card yet? Well, no. There’s just a difference in philosophies going on here. If I were the one running this show, I would have continued living in relative deprivation until every last debt was paid for, and then I would have felt able to enjoy the surplus. Brian prefers to enjoy the fruits of his labors today, and work on outstanding balances as he gets around to it.

It’s not the way I’d do things, but the rewards, I think, are to be found in our relationship. Not everyone will agree with me, but I subscribe to the belief that men and women have certain preordained roles they are hard-wired to fulfill in a marriage. I think my husband is proud to earn the lion’s share (even though our net income is about the same) and I think being in charge of how it gets spent taps into a sense of responsibility that makes him stand a little taller. I can’t help but think that a man who can make purchases at his own discretion is happier than one whose wife is in control of the purse strings. I have chosen to submit to him in this area, because while I care about the actual money, control of the money means so much to him on a deeper level. Being in charge says something to him about who he is.

So now…I’m just like a lily of the field. I worry for nothing, not what I’ll eat or what I’ll wear. In the past, I could not bear to have to get my husband’s approval to buy something, but now when he tells me it’s fine to buy a pair of sandals or when he takes me out to a nice dinner, I just say “Thank you, sweetie.”  He says, “What are you thanking me for? You work, too.” I say, “I know. But you take care of everything.”

It seems to be working.

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My Body, My Husband



I am not usually a person who likes to call attention to anything negative about myself. It’s not that I don’t criticize myself internally for countless things; it’s just that I see no benefit in pointing them out to other people. So this post will be a departure from my usual ways while I try to express something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now.

I am five feet tall. As a teenager and young adult, I had a great figure and wore a size five. But with my first pregnancy, I was so excited about it and so anxious to “show” that I allowed myself to gain without even attempting to keep it under control, and weight has been a struggle for me ever since. I’d say right now I’m about sixty pounds too heavy.

When I met my husband, I had already had two children (one who passed away and another who was a toddler then, a young adult now). So Brian never saw me at my best. He first knew me as an chubby 30-year-old with an especially ugly vertical c-section scar. I was so in dread of him seeing my ruined body for the first time, but he loved me then and he still loves me today. He has never once called me a name (not even passed off as a joke), made a cutting remark, or suggested a diet. He accepts me exactly as I am, even though the aging process is contributing even more unattractive components to my physical self.

But so often, when I’m alone, about to step into the shower, I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror and I want to say to him, “I’m so sorry.” I’m not anything so nice as “curvy;” I’m misshapen with a rear end (formerly my favorite body part) like a wad of chewed bubble gum. Brian’s usually not home at the time of morning when this happens, so I have thoughts of emailing him or calling him to apologize for myself.  I don’t do it only because he’d scoff and tell me I was crazy and point out that he is imperfect as well.  But you who are not involved, I hope you can understand me. This mirror-moment is not a moment of self-pity or of me wanting him to assure me that I look fine. I really don’t look fine, and I know it, and for the man who made a promise to be intimate with nobody else but me, I am sincerely so sorry that this is the body I have to offer him.

Some of you, right now, are yelling at your screen, “Then DO something about it!” I know; it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I feel the exact same way when I look at people who can’t manage their houses—oh my gosh, how simple is it to keep up with laundry, take the trash out and make the bed? It’s easy! Or, hmm, maybe it’s just easy to me because the effort expended leads so quickly to a consequence that gives me great enjoyment. I like to look around and see a tidy house, so I clean up. Maybe some people feel great after eating a salad and climbing the stairmaster, whereas I’d just be irritable and exhausted.

So it seems pretty clear that I am not naturally drawn to being a gym rat, and i’m so far past my prime now that if I were single, I’d probably just buy myself some big ol’ clothes and just say “forget it!” But I care about Brian and what I am to him. I know he loves my heart and soul, but shouldn’t it be worth any amount of sacrifice and effort for me to put them in a prettier package?  I often think about this: if anything (God forbid) were to happen to him, I know my emotional makeup well enough to know that the first thing I would do is lose interest in eating, and all the weight would drop off. If I could do it then, why not do it while he’s alive and with me to enjoy it? I also sometimes think, (not that he would, but) suppose he got himself a girlfriend. The stress, the anxiety, the maddening fear of “what’s she got that I ain’t got” would have me wearing out the treadmills all over town. So why not do it now, before something like that happens? I don’t understand it myself.

I’ll end with an anecdote from a TV show… it may have been Dr. Phil from a while back. There was a husband who was just slightly overweight, but his wife was absolutely livid about it. It was brought to her attention that he had eaten a doughnut at work, and I was shocked at how infuriated she was with the poor, hapless guy. Her face suggested that she hated and was utterly disgusted by him. “How could you do that?” she demanded. When I try to get into that woman’s head and understand what was the huge deal about a doughnut, the only comparison I can come up with is to think how I might react in a financial crisis. If we were flat broke, desperate, counting every nickel, and Brian came home after making some fairly innocent but totally unnecessary purchase, I might feel a bit like the doughnut wife. It’s not the doughnut that counts…it’s the idea that she was trying so hard to move him in one direction and he deliberately went in the other one. It made her crazy.

So I’m wondering if I could refocus my thinking somehow…to get myself to believe that every calorie is important…not in and of itself, so much, but in relation to the direction I want to go. I’d like my husband to be not just content with me, but excited about me. Proud of me, even.

I do have one bit of news to share: this fall, I expect to be a participant in a clinical weight loss study, using an experimental drug. Sounds scary, I know. But maybe it will be a good thing. Comments are welcome, and prayers even more so.



Can There Be Too Much Trust in a Marriage?


Quick simple answer to the above question: YES. But please journey with me through a post rife with personal examples from a long marriage, and let me explain.

I’ll begin with a anecdote that features my mother-in-law. Her only child, my husband, was born in 1971, so she progressed from being a stay-at-home-mother to being a stay-at-home wife, but the point is that she stayed at home. One weekly trip to the grocery store was the only time she was out of the house with any regularity. Meanwhile, she had a neighbor lady who was more of what we’d consider “normal.” This neighbor was a SAHM too, but she came and went as she pleased, running errands, shopping, volunteering, and so forth. One day my mother-in-law happened to tell me that the neighbor had dropped over and mentioned that later that night, she and a bunch of her 50-ish girlfriends were meeting for dinner and a movie.  Although of course he said nothing to the neighbor, my father-in-law had voiced his disapproval after she’d gone. “Granddaddy doesn’t think it looks right,” my mother-in-law confided. “A bunch of women running around without their husbands.”

Wow, right? How old-timey. It’s almost laughable if it weren’t pathetic…or so I thought when it first happened. Now don’t worry…I’m not about to declare it a sin for women-friends to go to the movies unescorted by male chaperones. Of course it’s fine for anyone to go about their day and accomplish whatever they need to do. But bear with me a moment while I talk about how things went in my marriage.

Brian and I got married in 1994, and we were as much in love, as sure of each other, and as bonded as we ever hoped to be. Besides that, I’d never been the jealous type. Near Christmas of our first year, he had a desire to make peace with his ex-girlfriend of several years (the one I stole his heart from). With my full knowledge and approval, he contacted her and they met for lunch. Things seemed to go as he hoped, assuring him that this person who had been important to his life could still be cordial and they could be at peace with one another. I guess she was curious to meet me, so, soon afterward, she came over to our home one evening. We invited a male friend as well. We had some drinks and played Scrabble. We still have a photo that the male friend snapped that night, of Brian on the sofa with me on one side and his ex-girlfriend on the other.  It was no big deal, really. It was fine.

But his family was shocked. His grandmother was scandalized. “You don’t do that,” they said, while we chuckled.

But a precedent had been set, and over the years, this sort of thing (with both of us–I have some ex-boyfriends and male friends myself) occurred with regularity. He went to lunch with female coworkers. He went out to play trivia with them. He texted and emailed and Facebooked with absolute freedom, and so did I. My ex-boyfriend from high school would invite me to lunch whenever he was near my workplace.  I went to a business seminar with some old bandmates of mine. I could give ten thousand examples, but the point here is that we had no boundaries, and we were proud of ourselves for it. We were so very modern and so very trusting that we felt perfectly secure and comfortable with our partner having platonic relationships with people of the opposite sex.

Can you guess how it all turned out? Sure you can…but some of us have to learn the hard way. In 2000, one of us became emotionally entangled with a “friend.”  This incident raised the caution flag for a while (that’s an understatement), but eventually everything died down, the threat passed, and we relaxed back into our old habits. A full decade later, the other one of us was unexpectedly tempted, and got into an even more unfortunate situation with a so-called “friend,” (from childhood!) who didn’t give a moment’s thought to wrecking the lives of others for sheer amusement.

We–Brian and I–take responsibility for our own actions, and since we moved to Florida and began a new page in 2011, we have changed up the game. We have (finally!) learned the lesson of how simple life can be if you keep your partying self at home, and limit your friendships to same-sex ones, or shared friendships with other couples.

The Bible has many wise things to say on the topic of keeping your spouse to yourself and yourself to your spouse, but the one that stands out in my mind the most right now is this:

 Proverbs 5:15 -17: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.”

Can you have too much trust in a marriage? Yes. Just as a teenager will go off the rails if no caring adult is watching over their behavior, so will a spouse. I think it’s better all around to have some parameters. Depending on your personal convictions, they need not be terribly stringent–maybe just an agreement not to be alone with the opposite sex would be enough. Maybe you and your husband should agree that your phones are available for inspection anytime. Do whatever it takes for you both to feel respected and secure. Just remember that too much trust, while it may sound very loving, can actually leave your partner more vulnerable to temptation. It’s healthy for all of us to know that someone who places the utmost value on us is, shall we say, keeping an eye on the valuables.


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