When Reg, my husband, and I were married, the man who performed the ceremony gave us some advice. He was a gray-haired gentleman with an experience-lined face. He had years of living written in the lines of his face. There were lines of laughter and lines of sorrow.

There were lines for the children he had raised and lines for the wife he had loved. Misfortunes and triumphs were there as well. It was all right there for the world to read. My face was smooth and without blemish; though I was 38, I was pretty well-preserved. I had not traveled many roads of sorrow. Reg, on the other hand, had a few lines. His face told of many sorrows and misfortunes. He had recently lost his dear wife, a business and his money. I was on the mend, but I was a meager replacement for all he had lost.

The minister for the marriage ceremony smiled at us and with wrinkled gentleness said, “There are a few things I want you to remember. First, never let the sun go down on your anger. Always work out the difficulties before you go to sleep. Second, I want you, Reg, to take this lovely lady out on a date every week. Keep your courtship alive. Third, pray together.”

I know the years have gone, and I don’t remember exactly, but I remember the essence because we tried to follow the advice. Were we always successful? No, but the times we did, we were blessed.

The honeymoon was a glorious time. We went to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and spent the week watching the tide rise and fall – but the return home was a shock to my system. I stepped into a family of six time-hungry children. The youngest was a baby who would turn 1 year old within the month. The oldest was a 17-year-old senior in high school. There was an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old. They all had their own special needs. At the time, I considered myself ready to take on the responsibilities of a family. After all, I was 38, a schoolteacher and a student of family relations. I knew it all.


They say, “The only people who are prepared to raise children are old maids and bachelors.” I was in that category. You can imagine, I had a rude awakening. There is a vast difference between theory and practice. I quickly found that husbands and kids didn’t read the textbook examples and certainly they were not textbook creatures. They were living, breathing, choice-making individuals who could come up with an infinite number of creative problems that had never seen the pages of a textbook.

The principles of the wise old minister of our marriage were the most useful tools. If we hadn’t had those, we would have lost the battle. When I got married, I was not prone to anger. I knew that we were on safe ground. How was I to know that kids would try my patience beyond my professed limits? How did I know that they would fight, leave their rooms a mess, and go places without permission? How was I to know they would not automatically get good grades?

How was I to know that they would take hours and hours to wash one batch of dishes yet leave half of them undone; not only that, they would leave puddles of water all over the floor? How was I to know that my husband unwittingly would take their side, by saying, “They are just kids”? I wanted some action! How could he take their side against me? Aren’t mothers and fathers supposed to be on the same team?

It wasn’t long until I found my raging temper from my acting days – and I used it. It is not easy to drop anger when you have called upon it. I had to swallow a lot of pride to say, “I’m sorry,” and try to see his point of view before we could kneel together and pray. Sometimes it would be long into the night with me sobbing outside before we could come to an agreement, but we always did. Sometimes he’d go off to think about his position and allow his anger to subside, but we always came back together and ended the night with a kiss.

I won’t kid you, there were times when we thought we would go our separate ways, but we never did because we had made eternal commitments. We didn’t want to leave the tracks of broken dreams in the paths of our children, so we worked it out. We always let it go and made up. Did we always agree? No. Sometimes we had to agree to disagree, and it paid off. Now our life is a bed of roses. We have the bright smelling flowers and we have the thorns; we still have to kiss and make up.

The date night was a lifesaver! We didn’t always go, but the times we did made life bearable. He was at work all day and I was at home with the kids. Before I got married, I had been a social butterfly with the freedom to flit and fly wherever I wanted to go.

That all stopped when I got married. I had given up the exciting theatre life to be a scullery maid. Sometimes I felt like that, but when Reg would take me out, open the door for me and treat me like a queen, I felt that it was all worth it. We had time to talk and sort things out, without the incessant interruptions of the children. It was like being able to see the chair at the end of a tightrope circus act. We were able to set goals, think about the future and dream together. If we had not had those times, I don’t think I could have kept my commitment to the marriage.

Prayer was always my lifeline, but when I got married it seemed that my time to kneel and pray was limited. I would get in the middle of my meditation and someone would scream, “Mom!” at the top of his or her lungs and I would have to rush to the rescue. It was hard to get back to the spiritual feeling after settling the battle, but I tried. Our prayers as a couple were such a blessing. We would kneel and pray together and one of us would say the prayer. Generally, we alternated nights. If we had a fight, I was the one always chosen to give the prayer. I would pray for Reg and thank the Lord for his goodness. I would go into detail about what I loved about him and appreciated about his sacrifice in working and building for us. That helped him to know that I really was not angry with him as much as I was with the situation.

Prayer helped me to keep things in perspective. If I was mad at Reg, I would invariably remember the 38-year quest for Prince Charming. I had looked under every bush and frog pond. Reg was head and shoulders above any other prince out there. Kissing frogs to find a prince had not been easy. I didn’t want to ever go back to the pond, but I didn’t want to make him miserable either. I read books and prayed. I tried new programs and failed. I read the scriptures.

I looked for the good and found it. I learned to be less selfish as I realized that Reg was a man and as such he would never think like a woman. I could not expect him to be like me. It was a wonderful revelation to realize that I didn’t want him to think like me. I married him because he was a man, and I needed to let him play his role the best he could and I would play the woman’s role the best I could. That made such a difference. The Lord led me to those answers as I sought Him in prayer. He did not give me the answers all at once. He led me along, “line up on line, precept by precept.” The Lord never gives us more information than we can process and use.

As I look back on my wedding day, I think of the aging gentleman who gave us the advice that really saved our marriage. I know he is gone now, but some day when I meet him in the great beyond, I will thank him for telling us: “Never let the sun go down on your anger, always keep your courtship alive and pray together.” That advice has made all the difference. PD