Tag Archives: joy

Marriage That Lasts: The Happy Factor

There have been a couple of blogs recently floating around about marriage. In reading them, I noticed the word “happy” is getting a lot of use.

One blog submits, in part, that marriage it not for you, it is for the other person (which I don’t entirely disagree with)—to make the other person happy. The other post asserts that you should marry a person who makes you happy.

This word “happy” is what gets me.

Personally, I believe the word “happy” is why so many people split up. Some people believe they are entitled to a life filled with happiness. Unicorns and rainbows. And that they should never, ever be unhappy.

I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 24 years. Have we had moments of happy? Yes, we have. Lots of happy. Do I feel like it is my job to make my husband happy? No, I most certainly do not. Do I feel like it is his job to make me happy? Absolutely not.

Happiness is an emotion and you cannot base a relationship solely on emotion. Maybe emotions brought you together initially, but emotions wax and wane. Happy is not 24/7. Happy is temporary. And Happy should not be a pre-requisite to love.

Love is something different.

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People do feel love, but to me, love is not an emotion. Love is a choice. It is a verb, requiring action by both people in the marriage. It is a thing you DO and I am not just talking about what you DO in the bedroom.

If you spend your married life demonstrating love to your spouse, I believe you will find yourself in a long lasting marriage. If you spend your time worrying about your happiness, or the happiness of your spouse, you will be sorely disappointed. I promise you.

What does this mean? This means that you have to ignore toothpaste splatters, toilet seats left in the upright position, how he loads the dishwasher or diapers the kid. It means you will have hardships. It means that sometimes you will feel like you are giving more to the relationship. Other times, you will be the needy one. It means sometimes he will really get on your nerves and hurt your feelings and you will not be happy at all. You will have to do things you do not want to do. So will your spouse. That is just how it is. That is called relationship. You will be happy and you will be unhappy. That is the reality of marriage.

Marriage that lasts is about love, but it is also about forgiveness, which, like love, is not an emotion, but a verb. Oh, and there are those other verbs: commitment and work.

I have heard people say, “I love him/her, but I’m not IN love with him/her anymore”, which is basically code for “he/she doesn’t make me happy anymore.” If I had based my marriage satisfaction only on whether or not I was happy, honey, I’d have been out of here long ago!

Marriage isn’t about the Happy Factor, people!

Marriage is about love, forgiveness, commitment and the work it takes to make a life together and honor each other. It is about wanting the best for your spouse and being the best you can be for your spouse. Marriage isn’t just about you and it isn’t only about him. There will be times of happy and there will be hard times, but you can’t just bail because the thrill is gone.

So, maybe you want to ask me, “Joell, are you happy in your marriage?” My answer would probably depend on the day, because my Happy Factor varies. But if you ask me if I love my husband, my answer is this:

Unequivocally, yes. I love him differently today than I did when I met him 30 years ago. I love him more deeply and more completely than I did on the day we married. I am wholly committed to him—on the days that he annoys me and on the days he seems too needy and on the days he gives me a can-opener for Christmas (yes, that happened). I love him on the days he rubs my feet, just because. And on the days he works extra hard to do a good job at work, because he loves his family and wants to provide for us. And on the days he puts a blanket on me when I fall asleep in the recliner. I choose to love him every day, regardless of how I am feeling at the time. I love him because he loves me, even on the days I am a moody, hormonal, straight up pain in the butt. I will never regret my decision to love and marry such a good man.

I believe we need to take our example from Christ and how He loves us—freely and without condition. Then, work each day to demonstrate that same kind of love to our spouses, which is no easy task. And which is why people get tired and unhappy about having to do that day in and day out. I get it. It is hard work. Guess what? Sometimes you just have to dig down deep and love anyway. Even when you aren’t feeling happy. I am pretty sure there is nowhere in the scriptures that says, “Thou shalt always feel happy.”

So, I encourage you to press on, my married friends. Enjoy those happy moments, and embrace the not-so-happy ones too, for they are what enduring marriages are made of.

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NOTE: Please don’t take this the wrong way, y’all. It is great to be happy, to feel happy, but don’t base everything on that. Also, I am not saying you should stay with your abusive spouse—if you find yourself in that situation, please get help and get to where you are safe, for yourself and for your children. And I am not saying you should tolerate unfaithfulness either. Just want to clear those things up!

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It happened yesterday…

Jacob Trident w watermark

My boy went to college. And the tears came.

Just yesterday, or so it seemed, I took him to kindergarten and I wept openly as I left. Sobbing loudly down the halls of the school. I am sure people were staring, but I didn’t know. And I didn’t care.

There have been more tears over the years. Tears of frustration—on his part and mine. Tears of hurt and pain as we battled through the really hard days. Tears of wondering what are we going to do and how would this all work out. Tears of pride as I have watched him work so hard and grow and learn and become an incredible young man. Tears of relief and gladness as I watched him master one challenge after another. Tears of gratitude to God. Tears so bittersweet as I watched him graduate from high school barely three months ago.

And now, here we are.

College.

As I put him out of the car and watched him walk away, the flood of emotions came. Prayers out loud in the car to Jesus…Be with him Lord, because I can’t. Help him. Protect him. Grow him.

And the tears.

Tears. Oh, the tears of indescribable joy and pride and love and excitement for his future. And gratitude. So much gratitude in my heart to see where he is today, knowing where he has been—where we all have been as a family. My heart is bursting.

No, he hasn’t gone away to school. He is still here with us to support him as he studies at the local community college. There are still many unknowns. But that is okay. He is ready. He is so on his way.

He is my hero.

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Joy and Pain

“Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour.  With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.”  ~Charles Dickens

I had the great joy of attending my niece’s high school graduation in North Carolina this weekend. It was great to see her celebrate her achievements with family and friends. I smiled as I saw the pride on my brother and sister-in-law’s faces while they watched their girl enter the auditorium and later take her walk across the stage. It was bittersweet for me because Jordan is the first grandchild on my side of the family to finish high school and because I began to think about next year, of course, when my Jacob will graduate. I also had the great privilege of spending time with my parents and my two grandmothers, Granny Hobbs and Grandma Nell, ages 93 and 91, respectively. It was a weekend of great joy and sorrow for me.

I realize that there are not many 42 year old women out there who are fortunate enough to still have their grandmas here on earth. Two great ladies. Each awesome in her own way. I was reminded ever too harshly of the reality of their ages this weekend. Grandma Nell had a total knee replacement last May at age 90, and was a total rock star. She lives alone and does remarkably well, considering she is almost totally blind now as a result of macular degeneration. Since December, my Granny Hobbs, who is my Dad’s mom and also lives alone and has done remarkably well, has declined rapidly.

Granny Hobbs was raised, from what I understand, by a harsh father and mother who I know very little about. In fact, she rarely speaks of it. Granny Hobbs was a single mom before it was cool. It was not by her choice—World War II deprived her son of his father, something else she rarely speaks of. When my dad was a small boy, she moved away from the town where her in-laws and family lived, and worked her butt off to keep a roof over their heads. She says moving to the beach is the best thing she ever did. She raised an amazing son and with very little outside help from one of her brothers, saw my dad graduate high school and college. In addition to my dad, she has raised countless numbers of plants and cats.

She gives away nearly everything she buys, because she thought about you when she saw it. She always has lollipops, soda, $5, or some other trinket, for her great-grandkids. Everyone who knows her calls her Granny Hobbs. Up until this summer, for the past umpteen summers, she has worked in a little beach shop down at Carolina Beach, NC, to which, she drove herself, just for some spending money. And if you ever ask her if she needs anything, she just laughs and says, “Oh, I’m alright.” And then gives you the box of muffins she bought the other day that she decided she didn’t like.

She is the one who, when I was a young girl, and her only granddaughter, insisted I say, “yes, ma’am” or else she would not respond to me further. She is the one who would call me by both my names, even if she was not mad. She is the one who would examine my chewed up fingernails and offer me a bribe if, the next time she saw me, my nails were looking, well, less chewed on. She is the one who would buy me pink dresses until I hated the color so much I refused to wear it for years. She is the one who nearly made my mom’s head pop off when she brought my brothers and me a dog…without asking Mom first. She is the one who would say to me, as a teenager (please keep in mind her generation), “You’re not dating any colored boys, are you? You need to make sure you hang on to that Clyn boy. He’s a good one!” To which I would respond (keep in mind my generation and snarky nature), “What color do you mean, Granny Hobbs?”

Suddenly now, the vibrant, fiercely independent, sharp-as-a-tack, lady I’ve known all my life is slipping away. Oh, she is still feisty. But she occasionally looks lost and loses time and place. She may not make sense and she is visibly distressed when she doesn’t recognize where she is. What makes it so hard to watch is that afterwards, when she is lucid, she realizes that she was confused before. And she hates it. She hates not being able to drive anymore. She hates having to rely on others for help. She hates that she just can’t quite reach into her brain and retrieve that word she is trying to say. And though I know aging is part of this life, I hate to see it happening to her. I hate to see how it frustrates her.

It hurts. It hurt when we watched my father-in-law slipping away and the hurt doesn’t seem less even though I’ve experienced it before.

In spite of it all, she is the one who still laughs easily, loves fiercely and gives freely. She is one awesome lady who chooses to live in the now and gives people the benefit of the doubt.Jacob and Emma with Granny Hobbs, Christmas 2010

She is also the one, who, when asked how she is doing, responds in her Southern drawl, “Oh, I’m doin’ alright. I cain’t complain. I woke up this mornin’ and didn’t see my name in the paper, so I reckon I’m purty good.”

I reckon I’ve got nothing to complain about either. Love you, Granny Hobbs.

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