“Just This Once?”

One of the many ironies of our marriage was that Phyllis thought (at least theoretically!) that the husband should be the head of the house, and I didn’t. As you have seen in the last several posts here and here and here, I thought we should be a team.

One time, however, about ten years into our marriage, some friends of ours were in a crisis. Phyllis was very distressed. Their situation consumed her. So I said, “Go over to their house. Be with them. I’ll watch our kids.” But she thought that might be presumptuous because even though we cared a lot about these people, we weren’t super close at the time.

“No,” I said, “it’s fine. They’ll be delighted to see you.” Yet despite how upset she was about what was going on in their lives, she wouldn’t go.

Back and forth we went. I encouraged her to go, and she refused.

She piled up reasons—she’d be intruding; there were probably many people with them already; it was too late in the evening. Yet I knew exactly what would help her even if she didn’t. Not only would she encourage them if she went, but they would be a comfort to her in a way I wasn’t able to. Their centeredness, faith, and peaceful strength would lift her up.

Finally, in joking desperation, I pleaded, “Phyllis, won’t you please submit—just this once!”

She laughed, brightened up, and then said with stern cheerfulness, “Okay, mister, but you’ve had your once!”

And that was indeed the only time in our years of marriage that I asked. But it was so worthwhile because she came back a few hours later thoroughly refreshed. Her mind and heart were much more at ease. Our friends were also very glad for her visit. And the friendship of the four of us began to grow more deeply after that.

All of that, however, didn’t stop Phyllis from reminding me regularly over the decades, “You’ve had your once, Le Peau!”

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

2 thoughts on ““Just This Once?””

  1. Andy, thank you for sharing an encouraging story of two people seeking to honor each other. My wife and I are currently learning how to balance this “power struggle.” As we were camping this weekend, I said aloud, “I’m going to look for opportunities to agree with you more often.” We both realized how often we try to assert our own opinion/experience on a situation, when what we need more is to assert our agreement. Most of the time these situations are very simple and center around day-to-day tasks. She lets me lead in the big ways, and I’m coming her way in the small ways. 🙂

    1. Joel, I love this. Marriage is such a fascinating dance. I know exactly what you are talking about. On the one hand, each person doesn’t want their identity to get lost in the other person. So we push back at times to confirm our own independence and value. On the other hand, each person does want to merge, to be one, to be fully united with our spouse. It’s a wonderful, lifelong, back-and-forth process of loving, learning, and trusting.

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