This doesn't get talked about much, but Adam and Eve lived in the world's first small town. I've often thought that if you were driving past Eden, enjoying the weather (which was sunny and warm and early June year round), you'd see a city limits sign announcing: "Eden, population 2. Speed checked by radar." A friendly community with affordable housing, Eden was the type of town where the two charter citizens didn't think twice about being themselves. And nearly as important, they didn't have to rush anywhere. Small towns have a much slower pace of life.
If you think of your marriage as an extremely small town, in point of fact the world's smallest, then you are primed to enjoy all the benefits of small-town living right in the privacy of your home. If you think I'm crazy (and I'm not prepared to prove you wrong), just consider the eight leading benefits of life in a town of two. After reading this you won't want to live anywhere else.
1. The world's smallest town is friendly (and portable).
Think about the last time you moved to a new city. You didn't know anybody on your street, you had to hunt around for a dry cleaners, and you lay awake at night wondering how you'd decide on a podiatrist. Lonely, wasn't it? Good thing you hadn't moved out of the world's smallest town. Marriage is nothing if not portable, so go ahead and move to Pocatello or Bettendorf, or even Duluth. You'll always have your best friend living in the same town.
2. You have a handy excuse to duck out of boring parties.
Let's say a co-worker invites you to a get-together, and you naively assume a number of your colleagues will be there. You show up and take a look around and find that you're surrounded by 15 strangers. You recognize only two people—your spouse and the co-worker/party host—and you realize you've been lured into the Death Grip of Boredom.
Happily, since you live in the world's smallest town, you already have an escape plan worked out. Breaking free from the death grip is as simple as sending out the secret "get me out of here!" signal. You catch your mate's eye from across the room by pretending to choke on a pretzel. For the more discrete, but no less desperate, party hostage, you can simply place your right hand behind your neck as you turn your head to the left. (It's similar to the Little League sign for "bunt.")
Once you've captured your mate's attention, go straight to the secret code word. You ask, firmly and with conviction, "Betty, did you see in the paper that the Ice Capades are coming to town?" The word paper tells her it's time to activate the clandestine exit plan. (And if you're not married to a Betty, feel free to use your wife's actual name.)
At any rate, your spouse gathers her things and heads for the door, and before you know it, you're explaining to your host that you'd love to stay but your wife just remembered she left the dog tethered to a weed whacker.
3. In a small town you get a cool nickname.
My hometown was populated with people named Edna, Cleta, Dirk, Coy, and Loberta. With names that serviceable, who needs a nickname? I can think of one guy, a former county assessor, who went by Slick. Even his campaign posters urged people to re-elect Slick. His given name was Dawson (that was his first name, not his last name). But he didn't go by Dawson, just Slick. Why put on airs?
Nicknames are also pretty cool in the small town that I'm calling, for lack of a better term, "your marriage." A nickname is an endearment. It says you're valued. It's a shorthand way for your spouse to announce to the world, "This is someone I love and cherish, plus she's a cutie. That's why I call her Cuticle."
Even better, when you're married you can give each other nicknames that you probably don't use in polite company. I won't ask you what your secret nickname is, but I'll give you a hint about mine. It sort of rhymes with gherkin.
4. The gossip is better.
The world's smallest town has its own brand of gossip, consisting primarily of bits and pieces of random events that would be completely meaningless to anyone who isn't part of your particular marriage. But the things that happened at work today, or with your kids, or in the neighborhood are headline news at your house.
This type of gossip is essential because it reconnects you after a day apart. You can't talk about this stuff anywhere else as freely as you can in the world's smallest town. And an added benefit is that even boring gossip gets listened to. You don't have to gild the lily to capture your spouse's attention, just talk about your day.
5. Oddities are accepted—and even expected.
Every small town has its characters, usually charming eccentrics who grow on you over time. And this is an excellent reason for moving into the world's smallest town right after you get married. Face it, we're all odd and we need the freedom to be that way without somebody criticizing us or trying to change us. The beauty of being married is that you can be strange and still receive the benefit of the doubt.
A few years ago my wife, Jeanette, was feeling sad about some friends who were about to move away, so she organized a spur-of-the-moment surprise. She and our daughter took the friends (a mom and daughter) to the mall—a perfectly normal activity except that every member of the foursome was required to wear underwear on her head. A number of store clerks were rendered speechless, but one young man was brave enough to ask, "Why do you have panties on your head?"
I'd be the last guy to recommend underpants as appropriate headwear, but it made perfect sense to my wife. She knew that creating a crazy memory would be something that she and my daughter—and the two friends—would take with them to help offset the sadness of parting. You gotta love a woman like that. Being odd is a hidden blessing of marriage.
6. You pretty much know what to expect.
I realize I'm walking a fine line here, because a lot of people think "knowing what to expect" means "predictable," and that of course means boring. But I maintain that knowing what to expect is far from boring. Instead, it's comfortable—the operative word being comfort.
Most days are filled with demands, difficulties, and disappointments. When I leave work in the evening, I'm not hoping for more chaos. I'm ready to relax at home, knowing I won't have to explain myself. The beauty of knowing what to expect is that you don't have to drive home wondering what will be crouching behind door number three.
The same is true for your fellow small-town citizen. Your spouse knows you'll walk in the door, toss your keys on the counter, and say: "Did we get any mail?" You're not Mr. Smooth perhaps, but you're always good for an end-of-the-day hug. There's security and comfort in knowing what's going to happen at the end of the day when you get back to town.
7. In a small town, everybody is somebody.
In order to blend into a crowd, there needs to be a crowd. And in a really small town, crowds are scarce. In marriage, for instance, you constitute fully one-half of the community's combined population. If you think you don't matter, think again.
In the world's smallest town you're somebody. You stick out like a Hummer at a Greenpeace rally, or even like a cruller at a Weight Watchers meeting. At work you might feel beaten down by demands or criticism, but back home there is someone who recognizes your real value. In that town, you're citizen of the year every day.
8. Jokes are a lot funnier.
I really should tell an amusing story here. But the problem with humor in the small town of marriage is that
if you don't live there, it's not funny. So if I were to mention that my wife, on occasion, tugs on her cheeks to distort her face while she says in an energetic New York accent: "I could've had the haaaam saaaalaaad,
but instead I chose a chiiiiickennnn saaaalaaad saaaandwich," I know you would look at me like I'd grown a second head.
So I've decided not to tell that particular story. Instead, I'll mention that having a shared history with your spouse turns out to be one of the funniest, most enjoyable, most blessed things you'll ever experience. If I had to vote for the very best aspect of small-town life, this is it: I have the privilege of sharing a long history with the woman I love.
Spending your life together is a lot like staying up way too late talking with good friends. You're enjoying yourself and you get really tired, so any random comment cracks you up. When my wife does the rubber face routine and goes on and on about opting for chicken salad,
I think it's hilarious. And bear in mind that I've known this story for 25 years. In fact, I was peeking out our apartment window along with Jeanette when our old New York neighbor was outside describing the two sandwiches to a friend. We still don't know why she didn't go for the ham salad.
There you have it, the eight top reasons for loving life in a town of two. I imagine you're wondering why I forgot to count the third and most important resident of the world's smallest town. I didn't forget, it's just that I saved the best for last.
When a couple gets married, God takes up residence in the neighborhood. The writer of Ecclesiastes said it well: "Two are better than one …. If they fall down, they can help each other up." And the passage ends with these words: "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12, TNIV). God is the powerful third strand that holds the community together, and he is the One who makes small-town life the best life going.
Ron R. Lee has been married to his college sweetheart, Jeanette, for 28 years. (They met in a town of 60,000.) He is a senior editor at WaterBrook Press.
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.