This year Margo and I will celebrate forty years of marriage. Each year seems sweeter than the year before, and we are grateful for each day that God gives us to spend with each other. We have learned a lot over the years, and because of that I thought I’d put together a blog on the subject of some of the things that seem to work well for us. This effort will mostly be directed at young men. I have a personal opinion that men in their twenties and thirties can be insensitive, selfish, somewhat ignorant when it comes to growing a love-relationship, and nowhere near as aware of what the relationship could be as their female partner is. Don’t agree? Maybe you’re the exception to my generalization here.
It’s interesting that none of us would sign up for a mediocre marriage. We wouldn’t sign up for something where we rarely talked, picked on each other constantly, walked across the street without holding hands, spent our free time with the guys verses our lover, and so on. Yet if we don’t watch it, that’s where we’ll end up. Is it fair to your partner to behave this way, when you pursued her in the first place? Would you have been successful getting hitched if you would have just told her that when in public, she can just walk behind hauling the diaper bag along while you walk with the guys? How would it have gone if you just told her up front that when in public you wouldn’t show her any affection? If she disagrees with you on an issue, or actually has an opinion that differs from your position on any item, would you be offended, insulted, or just bugged? What about recognizing her thoughts and opinions, even when it’s a 180 from your position. To do that, you have to have complete respect and value of her as an equal partner. If you had a business partner that offended you every time you disagreed, you’d be a lousy partner. What would happen if your wife was allowed to rate you on some of these key areas? So for all of these reasons and more, we end up wallowing in mediocrity, or worse.
We have been close enough to a host of young people for years now, via our own kids, as well as some of our friends that have kids that are similar in age to our own kids. It is my nature to observe how people behave relationally, whether it be in an office setting, at church, or as couples. Margo and I will often comment privately on what we see in a relationship, whether good or bad. I feel that some of those observations may in fact be helpful to others who are trying to navigate life as a couple. As I’ve thought about what things I might share, I’ve broken it down to five key areas that seem to stick out over others. These areas are not necessarily in an order of priority, and I find myself writing mostly to young men. I think I could write a ton on each subject, but prefer to keep it simple and brief, appealing to the short attention span I know all of us men struggle with. I’ll circle back and expand if there’s enough response.
Subject #1 – The Effect of Touch
I alluded to this in the introduction above. Margo was just telling me that when we left for our honeymoon, she was totally excited and had no sense of fear about what we had just done. She was happy to be Mrs. Doug Hartzheim, and she idolized me. She had fallen in love, and neither of us have ever fallen out of love over these forty years. When we traveled off in the car that day, she was certain that it would be a life of adventure, and never once questioned the choice she’d made.
That Margo loved me and idolized me amazes me today. I always knew she loved me, but I think I always underestimated how much she idolized me. She adored me and still does, but only in recent years have I really gotten my arms around how much I mean to her. Kind of sad that as a younger man, the depth of her love may have gone under-noticed. Sounds corny perhaps, but my point in sharing this with you is that I’m betting your wife started out idolizing you too. Only you or me could screw that up. Do you know how much she loves you? How much she wants to be your girl? Our wives haven given themselves to us, and believe it or not much of their identity is in us. They want to be proud of their husband – their man. Some of that comes from a career choice, but much of it comes from how they are treated, respected, and publicly honored by us.
I’ll give you an example. Margo and I never get out of a car, the Jeep, the motorhome, or walk out of building and take five steps without our hands being interlocked. Never! Her little pinky even has it’s little place between my fourth and fifth fingers. Even if we were in a fight, we still hold hands. It’s just what we do. It’s the way I tell her that she matters to me. It would be disrespectful for me to just take off without her, or for that matter if she did the same. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity lost. Remember, she tells me that she’s proud to be Mrs. Doug Hartzheim. At least a part of her identity lies with me. Actually, I think a very large part of her identity is tied to our partnership – and my identity is tied to hers. “Doug and Margo” is how we are known, and I want to put her mind at ease so that she knows that I also, want to identify with her.
She left everything for me, and any other opportunity for a life of peace and harmony went out the door when she said “yes” to me. Why would I walk off without her in public? It would be the ultimate slap in the face to someone who’s desire is to love me, be proud of me, and show me this same type of respect. I know I could have done much better at this when I was younger, and wish someone would have shared this with me.
I think this subject of putting your arm around your wife, holding hands, and publicly identifying with each other is huge. We know couples that have been married for years that show little, or no affection towards each other. I doubt it started out that way. When those couples started out, the man had his best foot forward. The woman responded to his touch, and sparks flew. Yet as time passes, they somehow just got lax in this area, not realizing the constant re-kindling of love that comes when we remain close. By the way, if you’re a couple that finds yourselves in this place, just a few minor adjustments will begin to mend these areas for you.
Margo is constantly hugging me, and naturally giving me a kiss in a public place. She did that today. She was oblivious to who was around. It’s one of the things that I don’t want to take for granted. Her childlike affection for me is something I would never want to push away. In fact, it makes me respond with mutuality. I am constantly poking, grabbing, and enjoying my wife with the sense of touch in discreet ways in public places. She’s always telling me, “Doug, those people over there probably saw that” – even when they’re three hundred yards away.
Men, your touch is vital to your love relationship. Did you know this, or have you ever thought about it? Dr. James Dobsen said years ago that men are stimulated by sight, and women are stimulated by touch. Just to hold your wife’s hand would mean so much, if you would make it a priority. Don’t think that by telling her she’s pretty, or that you love her, yet distancing yourself in public is going to work. It doesn’t add up. Women if you’re reading this – you need to open yourself up for your husband’s touch. Why settle for mediocre? Be a good receiver of your husband’s advances. You also didn’t sign up for a marriage of mediocrity, yet when you’re distant – especially to the touch – you are setting yourself up for a sub-standard relationship. Touch is key!
In summary, think about what we’ve talked about here. If your wife adores you – indeed, if she idolizes you, why would you make emotional withdrawals from her by not identifying with her in public? I say this because I’ve seen this over and over again in public. Face it – guys can be stupid. Insensitive. And as I said before – ignorant.
So let’s get it cleaned up. Identify with the one who signed up to be your wife. My guess is that you don’t know how much she loves you, or wants to love you, if you’ll just take on the entire role of lover, provider, and protector.