Paul Batura: I overheard my son handicapping my marriage -- His words shocked me

I often go quietly back in my memory to July 28th, 2001 – the day Julie and I were married and a new chapter in our lives officially began.

If I close my eyes, I can see and hear it all over again – there are the long shards of warm Saturday morning sunlight streaming into the stone chapel, the pews full of our families and closest friends, many of whom are now gone. There are the white candles, pink Gerbera daisies and the crisp, clarion sound of a trumpet announcing my wife-to-be’s arrival.

The thought of her stunning, slow march down the aisle, arm and arm with her father, still puts a lump in my throat.

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The author's wife on their wedding day. 

The author's wife on their wedding day.  (Courtesy of the author)

It’s safe to say that almost every marriage starts happily – or at least hopefully. If not, why even bother? We begin with great expectations, believing that our love will grow deeper and only death will tear us apart.

In reality, even the best marriages can be hard work and unions that are full of constant challenge. In fact, according to Dr. Tim Keller, founding pastor of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, we never marry the right person.

Why?

It’s partly because both people in a marriage are constantly changing. My wife isn’t the same person she was back in 2001 – and neither am I. But problems also arise because we’re both imperfect people. As a Christian, I know I’m a sinner and I’m constantly falling short of the goal.

The author's wife on their wedding day.

The author's wife on their wedding day. (Courtesy of the author)

In Dr. Keller’s excellent book, "The Meaning of Marriage," he quotes author Denis de Rougemont who said rhetorically but bluntly, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?”

It’s a good point! We’re far from angelic beings.

Nevertheless, by God’s grace, Julie and I have enjoyed 18 wonderful years together. Of course, we’ve had our share of spats, disagreements that span the spectrum of typical households. My friend and colleague Jim Daly, president and host of Focus on the Family, has reported that the top five issues couples fight about usually revolve around money, sex, household chores, free time and extended family relationships.

Can you relate?

I was thinking about this list of typical disagreements recently after I overheard our oldest son handicapping our marriage with his grandparents.

His observations surprised me – but they also made me smile – and think.

“Mom and Dad only fight about two things,” he told Julie’s parents. My ears perked up, wondering what great family secrets were about to be disclosed.

“They argue about food – and they argue about the thermostat!” he said with great certainty. “That’s about it – but they laugh about it, too.”

Naturally, no 13-year-old is privy to his parent’s most intimate conversations, but the more I thought about his succinct reflection, the more I began to enjoy it.

There’s no question that laughing together has kept us happy together – a gift that keeps on giving, especially when the tough times come, which they always do.

Thankfully, we don’t argue about money or sex. We share chores, like doing many of the same things – and love each other’s extended families.

But where Julie is a gourmet cook, an adventurous eater who loves all kinds of seafood and spice, my palate is flat and my tastes are simple (boring). If I ingest even mild spice, my head begins to sweat. I blame it on my Irish mother. What’s the old joke? Did you hear about the Irish 7-course meal – a 6-pack and a potato?

Indeed, differences in the kitchen have been a source of frustration between us. In response, Julie’s cut me some slack, agreeing to simpler and less exotic meals, though she keeps her own array of spices in easy reach.

Debates over the air-conditioner in the summer and the heater in the winter are ongoing, a fairly typical argument between couples. A southerner, Julie loves air-conditioning. In contrast, I prefer fresh air but especially the sounds of nature and the neighborhood, including the horses and cows on a ranch that borders our street.

In reality, climate and cooking are petty issues in comparison to other factors that ensure domestic tranquility or cause turbulence. But the reason we’ve weathered our disagreements is because though we spar about each of the chronic disagreements – we laugh about both.

In fact, it’s become something of a game. Julie will often try and slyly slip a rogue ingredient into a recipe or crank the thermostat when I’m not looking. She’s sometimes even successful.

There’s no question that laughing together has kept us happy together – a gift that keeps on giving, especially when the tough times come, which they always do.

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Even so, I know I need to laugh even more. Long before the Reader’s Digest declared laughter “good medicine” the writer of Proverbs aptly declared, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

I’m so grateful for Julie, especially that she puts up with me and my quirks. I’m especially grateful for the institution of marriage, a marvelous creation of the Creator. In looking both back and ahead of time with my wife, I echo the words of J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame who once wrote, “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of the world alone.”

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