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Motor Home-wrecker

I surprised Norma with an RV. She surprised me by demanding I return it.

Norma and I love to daydream together. "Wouldn't it be fun to have an RV and buy some land on a lake?" Norma once mused. "We could take the grandkids overnight." We talked about taking off with the family, and letting our kids use it on camping trips. We immersed ourselves in the possibilities.

So last year as I drove several hours from home to lead a seminar, I passed an RV park. I thought, Woohoo! RVs! I'm going to go look. I was intending only to browse. But there it was—a 1991 Holiday super colossal motor home. It looked brand new. The price was dirt cheap, it was remodeled inside, and, the salesman assured me, it had a new engine! I drove it. I loved it.

On the phone that night, I told Norma about the RV and we agreed again it would be great to own one. The next day, pumped after a successful seminar and fueled by our daydreams, I returned to the RV park and bought that 13-year-old RV. Norma's going to be so excited! I thought.

Barely able to contain myself, I called and told her I was coming home with a surprise.

"Gary, I hope you didn't buy that motor home."

Confident that Norma would succumb to the RV's charms once she saw it, I drove home, pulling into our driveway with a flourish. "Surprise!" I called as Norma came outside.

Her reaction wasn't what I'd hoped. Stepping inside, she wrinkled her nose. "It stinks in here! How old is this?"

"It's a 1991. But it's all brand new. Look—oak cabinets!"

"Who's going to take care of it? Where are you going to park it?" And then the killer blow: "Can you take it back?"

Unfortunately, in my rush to seal the deal, I'd missed the big sign pasted on the back: As Is—No Return.

Norma was not happy. But I was sure I'd done the right thing. She'll love it, I told myself. She just has to give it a chance.

Alas, the RV didn't exactly cooperate in my plans to win Norma over. It kept breaking down—bad spark plugs, a loose wire, missing heat shields. Once it dumped hydraulic fluid all over the grassy area by our big oak tree. It got so that every time Norma passed the RV she'd either roll her eyes, make a face, or flat out ask me if I was finally ready to sell it.

Looking back, my autonomous decision to purchase the motor home was a bad idea. Flowers, candy, earrings—all make terrific surprises. An RV requires a lot more deliberation and input—not to mention cash—from both spouses. Good intentions notwithstanding, I failed to treat Norma as an equal partner in our marriage. The money I spent was not mine, but ours. You'd think that after 40 years of marriage, I'd have learned that lesson already!

If I'd been really listening—and thinking!—I'd have realized our shared daydreams of family camping trips didn't mean Norma approved of buying a mobile home. Those dreams were just that—dreams. But I chose to hear what

I wanted to hear. I became so caught up in my plans that in some ways I stopped thinking about Norma altogether.

Fortunately, Norma forgave me. And I did manage eventually to sell the RV—at a significant loss.

I wrote motor home on my hand for some time afterwards to remind me of the foolishness of that impulsive purchase, and we now have a written agreement that I won't spend more than $500 without first talking it over with Norma. I've also renewed my commitment to listen not just to what Norma says, but to what she means.

I haven't stopped bringing home surprises for Norma. But I make sure it's a bouquet of roses or a bottle of perfume.

Gary Smalley, Ph.D, is founder and ceo of the Smalley Relationship Center (www.smalleyonline.com) and author of The DNA of Relationships (Tyndale). Visit him at www.theDNAofRelationships.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Bad Decisions; Communication; Listening; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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