When I was a bride more than 35 years ago, I was going to be the best wife ever. I'd put Donna Reed, June Cleaver, and Harriet Nelson to shame. I resolved never to serve frozen packaged food. Every night at 6:15 p.m., I'd serve a four-course dinner prepared from scratch.
I soon gave up the frozen food maxim. Now my idea is that if Sara Lee can do it better, let her! And I have a new resolution: Never serve frozen food—without thawing it first.
Don't get me wrong. I still have ideals. In fact, some of them have been strengthened by doing the things I said I'd never do. I've learned that on the other side of every Never is an Always. And bridging the two is real-life experience.
Following are some of my marriage "nevers"—and how I learned to balance my best intentions with common sense.
I'll never hide credit card bills.
Actually, I'm not sure I actually said this aloud. It seems so obvious, it shouldn't need saying. As a newlywed, the Proverbs 31 woman was my model. I would be a woman whose "husband has full confidence in her." Yessiree, my husband, Bill, would be able to trust me to keep a tight rein on our finances. Never mind the fact that before we married, I enjoyed generous lines of credit using my parents' charge cards. If I needed something, there was only one thing to do: Buy it.
I knew that after we married, things would have to change, especially since Bill was on the starve-as-you-go plan at graduate school. But eternal optimist that I am, I figured saying "I do" would miraculously transform me into the consummate frugal homemaker. It didn't happen. I had the right ideal but the wrong game plan.
True confession: A few months into marriage, I opened an account at a local department store and started charging a few things I needed. Actually, a lot of things I needed—or at least thought I did. When the statement arrived, I felt weak (one might say debilitated ). I didn't have a clue as to how I could pay the department store bill without my own Bill finding out. So I ate my words and did what I said I'd never do. I hid the bill.
Of course, when you hide a bill, it doesn't go away. It still has to be paid. But worse, as I found out, deceitfulness is the enemy of intimacy. Suddenly, I had a hard time looking Bill in the eye. I felt the burden of a secret, and it played out in our marriage in my subtly expressed shame and withdrawal. I felt our communication lines closing down.
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