There were other factors. Attraction, a shared faith and sense of humour, (up to a point).
But underneath it all – the romance and the confetti, the dim lighting and the poetry – a little boy afraid of taking control and a little dictator who would die rather than give it up.
Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? And it was. Neither of us were aware of it. If you’d raised it as an issue, we’d both have laughed. But from the very beginning, I called the shots. He was ‘easy-going.’ I was ‘feisty.’ Nothing wrong with that, right? I liked to be in charge. He wanted to be cool, calm and collected. A perfect marriage. A perfect mess.
The way Glen saw it, as long as I was happy, he was doing his job. Loving me, meant giving me what I wanted.
The way I saw it, Glen wasn’t great with decisions. It was simpler for me to take control. My way was easier; neater; more sensible. It was the way I’d always done things, the way I was born. In fact, I was helping take some burdens off his back.
I complained about being married to a little boy. ‘Glen’ I said, ‘you need to man up.’ By manning up, I meant, ‘do what I tell you’.
I argued that he needed to take responsibility. ‘Glen’ I said, ‘you need to grow up’ – but I refused to let him.
I laughed at my muddle-headed husband. But underneath the jokes, a desperate fear of losing control. Underneath the banter, a cold and implacable fury at being crossed. Underneath the bluster, a refusal to compromise, to negotiate, to ever take second place. Underneath the ‘strength,’ a hatred of weakness.
And for Glen? Fear – of not being enough. Of letting me down. Of stepping up and falling short. A willingness to let things slide. A longing to take the path of least resistance. A desperation: to avoid conflict and the wrath of a terrified woman.
The more control I took, the more I demanded. The more Glen tried to appease me, the less he respected himself and his ability to be a husband.
I’m not saying that wives are – or ever should be – subservient (and neither does the Bible). Of course this is nonsense and if the roles were reversed, the situation would have been just as wrong. But – there’s something in a woman that wants to control; and there’s something in a man that wants to retreat. And when the two things meet, it strikes at the heart of marriage and the heart of relationship.
Maybe I’m imagining this. Maybe it’s just us. Maybe you can agree to have a comfortable marriage where no-one ruffles the surface and that’s fine, that’s what marriage is about. After all, we’re dealing with an addiction that dominated me and almost destroyed us both; but for most people it doesn’t get so far. Our experience has been pretty extreme – and generalising from personal situations is no way to do a theology of marriage. We’re still very much a work in progress, (as anyone who knows us will attest). But the fact remains: Ephesians 5 – eventually – saved our lives.
And maybe – on a smaller scale – it’s something that affects us all. Maybe marriage is about more than comfort; about washing and knowing and interfering in love, even though it hurts. Maybe loving your wife doesn’t always mean giving her what she wants. Maybe loving your husband means allowing him to take a lead. Maybe if I’d had the grace to stand down and Glen the courage to stand up, we wouldn’t have gone down the paths we did. One thing is certain however: God works in the darkest times and the most hopeless situations. He brings life and change, even when all seems lost.