I just found the home gym we wanted!" my husband, Scott, yelled from his office. "It's on eBay."
"You mean the one that sells for ten thousand?" I asked, impressed.
"Yep, never used. The guy bought it, then he and his wife moved to a smaller place and don't have the room for it."
"There's only one thing," he said.
I knew this part was coming. It always comes when my husband surfs eBay. "Where is it?" I asked.
Las Vegas. Seventeen hundred miles from our suburban Chicago home.
"Let me guess," I said. "It's local pickup only."
My husband has a "local pickup only" homing device hardwired into his brain. Almost every large item he bids on does not include shipping—and is located across the country. Literally.
We've purchased a motorcycle trailer from an Army sergeant in Richmond, Virginia. Looked at a motor home from a retired couple outside Los Angeles. Purchased a motor home from a race car driver in St. Louis (that was only a five-hour drive). Got a heater from a guy in Chattanooga. And now Las Vegas.
I could have said no every time. Life would have been much easier had I said no. Though we've saved a lot of money—even including travel expenses—we could have found the items closer to home. And it's not as though we have a ton of free time to take marathon drives.
But I discovered it's been about more than saving money. It's been about preserving the joy, fun, and adventure in my marriage.
Say Yes (When You'd Rather Say No)
It all started five years ago when, two weeks before we left for our vacation to Yellowstone National Park, Scott decided to trailer our motorcycle. Since we didn't have a trailer, I suggested he check into renting something. We live just outside Chicago—the third largest city in America. One would think we could find something there to rent or purchase cheaply. In typical Scott fashion, my beloved opted instead to go to eBay.
"Guess what?" he told me when I arrived home from work. "I found a great motorcycle trailer that's going for cheap."
"It's in Richmond," he said. "We have to pick it up."
"That's okay," I replied, thinking Richmond, Illinois, about 45 minutes from home.
When I stepped behind him to look at the photo of the trailer, I noticed a word that should not have been on our computer: Virginia.
He must have felt me stiffen because he said quickly, "How far is Virginia?"
I tried to sound calm as my voice rose. "Virginia is one, two"—I mentally calculated across the U.S. map—"thr—a whole lot of states, Scott! It's all the way across the country. Don't bid on it."
He grimaced. "I already did." Slight pause. "We won."
"We leave for our vacation a week from this Saturday! When are we supposed to pick it up?"
"How about this weekend?"
I considered wrapping my hands around his throat. And squeezing. He was suggesting we drive from Chicago, Illinois, to Richmond, Virginia, in a weekend? The weekend before we leave on vacation? The weekend when we're supposed to run errands and get everything ready?
"It'll give us a chance to be together," he pressed, as though that alone should win the argument.
We'll be together for two weeks on vacation, I thought.
"It'll be fun. An adventure," he continued.
No. No way, my mind screamed. But then I did something insane. I looked into my husband's eyes. So he didn't think through all the logistics; he had tried to do something good, something fun for us as a couple. And I had the power to cut him down, to crush his excitement, to penalize him for the adventure he had tried to bring to our relationship.
And that's when I learned an important marriage lesson. Sometimes it's better to say yes, even when you want—when you're justified!—to say no. Because frankly, it's about the good of the marriage, not only the individuals who make up that marriage.
That dang trailer almost cost us more than a new one! But deep down, I knew this was important to my husband. It wasn't the brightest thing for us to do—but, hey, it wasn't illegal, it wouldn't put us into debt, and we both knew we were going to enjoy riding the motorcycle around Yellowstone.
So I breathed deeply, wondering how I was going to get everything completed now that we'd just lost our last free weekend. But also knowing that somehow, some way, everything would get done. It always does. And what doesn't get done . . . well, I guess it's not the end of the world.
So that Friday afternoon we left at 1:15, drove straight through to Washington, D.C., slept a few hours at a roadside rest stop, woke early, met some friends in that area for breakfast, picked up the trailer from an Army base just south of Richmond, and headed home. We drove more than 850 miles through 10 states (counting Indiana and Illinois twice) in 48 hours.
As tiring as it was, that trip was a whole lot of fun. And it was pretty romantic too. We laughed a lot, took tons of photos, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and started dreaming about how exciting it was going to be motorcycling alongside buffalo and elk. And I had plenty of time to hang out with my husband, without distractions like the tv or the phone.
My first instinct was to say no. And I'd have been justified in doing so. But the grace of God got through my thick skull and reminded me of the importance of saying yes. And because of that, my husband and I are closer. And we have a cool motorcycle trailer—among many other eBay items.
Look at It as an Adventure
A good friend and I were talking about how stale marriage can get when couples stop having fun and hanging out with each other, when marriage becomes work, routine, and parent-centered. As we discussed going outside our comfort zones and saying yes to our spouses, my friend said, "Well, you remember a few years back when I made those reservations at the Sybaris?"
I started to laugh. The Sybaris is a romantic paradise for married couples. You can get a Jacuzzi or pool suite, and all the rooms have mirrors on the ceilings. They charge by the night. Or afternoon.
"That's not something I would ever think to do," she continued. "But it was something I knew my husband had always wanted to do. So I said yes. It was work to get there—we had to find a babysitter for the kids and all that stuff. But I can't even begin to tell you what a huge impact that experience had on our marriage."
Marriage expert and coauthor of The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women, Barbara Rosberg uses the phrase "Why not?" when coming upon an opportunity in marriage. "Instead of thinking, No, we can't do that thing, change your mindset," she says. "Whenever your spouse wants to do something—from sex to dreaming dreams to going to the ballet or a Nascar race, make your first thought, Why not? It's amazing how much closer couples become when they practice Why not? instead of Why? or No."
Pastor and author Mike Breaux agrees. "I love just hanging out with my wife," he told me during an interview several years ago. "We do nothing—and it's great. It's really about saying yes to the marriage connection, to growing in friendship, to simply being there, in the moment, just the two of you."
In my marriage I've discovered the best times have been the ones where there was no agenda, nothing to work on in the relationship; the best times have been the "just because" times. And I regret how many I've missed by saying no because I was too busy, too tired, too bored, too whatever-ed.
Recent studies suggest a common thread among couples who get divorced is that they've stopped having fun. When I first read that I thought, Well, no kidding. They spent money on research to figure that out? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little value we, in the Christian community, actually place on couples unplugging and having fun. Instead, we have stacks of books and devotionals and hours of sermons on the importance of working on our marriages. Everything keeps coming back to work, work, work. And couples are reaping those consequences—Christian couples now divorce at the same rate as their nonChristian counterparts.
I'm not suggesting we should stop working on our marriages. Every good relationship takes some amount of work. But work needs to have its place—just like hanging out and having fun does.
Maybe that's where the work really is—saying yes and following through. As I consider the role model marriages I've known throughout my life, I've realized those researchers are onto something. Good marriages have husbands who have said yes to shopping and the opera and hitting every historical marker along the side of the road during a vacation (if that's their wife's "thing"). Good marriages have wives who have said yes to fishing and drag racing and investment seminars and auto shows and Civil War reenactments and the Sybaris (my friend is considering surprising her husband with another overnighter next year). They aren't perfect marriages. They still have their issues and disappointments and struggles and frustrations. But they are good marriages.
And that's what I want. I want people to look at our marriage and say, "Scott and Ginger put adventure into their marriage. They found the good in all opportunities." Actually, I want Scott to be able to say that. I fail at that all too often. But when I succeed, it's priceless and wonderful.
We made it to Vegas, picked up the coolest home gym in the West (which is now collecting dust in our basement), ate Mexican food, and headed home. The whole trip cost us less than the tax on a new gym set. But more than that, it's one of the best memories Scott and I have. Now if we could just start working out together.
One goal at a time, I figure.
Just yesterday I arrived home to find Scott pulling a weed wacker out of a UPS box. Another eBay item. At least it was shipped to us.
As I watched him put it together, I grew a little sad. "Couldn't you have purchased a weed wacker that was local pickup only?" I asked. "It's been a while since we've taken an eBay trip."
And there it hung in the air, another lesson. Sometimes when you say yes enough, you actually start initiating it—and you truly enjoy the experience of hanging out with your life partner. Just because.
Scott narrowed his eyes at me for a moment. Then he winked and smiled. "Well, I do have a bid on a pickup truck in Kansas."
"Great," I said. "I'm free this weekend."
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.