Denton Writes 2010 Winner-Adult Non-fiction-Christine Thomas

                  Marriage Fully Decorated

                        By Christine Thomas

            If the décor in a couple’s bedroom is a reflection of their marriage, then we must be headed for divorce court. The summer I noticed our dingy walls and faded bedding was the season I realized my relationship with my husband was bland, boring, and barely alive. David and I needed an extreme room, and marriage, makeover, stat.

            I don’t know when our relationship drifted south. It’s not as if we didn’t love each other. Our division of labor agreements were running smoothly, he the sufficient provider and engaged father, me the house manager and devoted mom. We paid our bills on time, attended church every Sunday, ate dinner as a family most nights. By all appearances, our home was a success. Even though our marriage was not in trouble, it had lost flavor. No more spice. No breathtaking, mind-blowing, knee-buckling excitement. Granted, twenty years is a long time. We’d done a lot of living since the thrill of our wedding day. Four kids, four moves, four jobs—for sure, it was time to make a  change.

            I attacked our bedroom makeover as if it held the key to my happily-ever-after. I just knew that if I picked the right colors it would re-capture the fun and magic. Thankfully, David didn’t indulge my summer project, he participated. Working side-by-side on weekends created a new camaraderie. It began by collecting paint swatches. Our stack of color possibilities was so thick we shuffled through them like blackjack dealers. Our comparisons of fabric swatches and textures made us sound like a TV crew on the set of Martha Stewart. With each new discovery the excitement built. We began to move closer together. This wasn’t just a drab room that needed a makeover. It was about going back to sharing our lives, dreams, and goals with each other.

Sage green was the final choice. Changing from sterile white to a verdant paradise had a powerful effect on more than the surfaces of our walls, it reached into the core of our relationship with its new life. Saturdays were spent in old paint clothes talking, laughing, and remembering. Instead of viewing David as the responsible spouse, I began to see why I chose this funny, interesting, muscular man in the first place. Working together to change the atmosphere in our bedroom brought new intimacy. As Martha would say, it was “a good thing.”

Still, our room makeover did not resemble a movie scene where the hero and heroine flirt, skip, and playfully splash one another with paint. There were times of conflict. For a week, we were stalemated because he didn’t like the toile comforter I kept showing him on the internet. I didn’t know why. I could picture us cozying together under the subdued black and white pattern. The red dishes in the JCPenney web-picture would look just as good on our wall. David said something about our bedroom not being a kitchen, but he didn’t understand the finer points of interior design like I did. 

I fought him on the comforter and dishes with all my persuasive skills. Obviously I still struggled with the “S” word. Books galore filled my shelves on what made a healthy marriage, and submission was a topic that warranted a chapter in each one. But the head knowledge had not traveled to my heart. My repeated attempts to wear him down, even began to grate on my nerves.

If  submitting to my husband was the act of putting him first, as the books said,  and yielding to his needs, priorities, and desires before my own, then I was way off base. At the point David gave in on the toile design and fine china, I gave in to the inner conviction that I needed to let the issue go. I mean, how peaceful would our bedroom sanctuary really be knowing my husband was coerced into the décor.

With the walls alive in muted green. It was time to fill the room with new stuff and that meant engaging in one of my favorite activities, shopping. Pushing the paint clothes aside, we donned cute casual-wear and hit the stores. In my excitement, I didn’t temper my tongue and realized my critical comments were deflating my shopping buddy. “Boring,” I announced when he held up a lamp. “That’s too gaudy,” I declared as he pointed to a large wall hanging.

After one long outing yielded no bedroom booty, we both came home frustrated. The rest of the weekend was heavy with strife. On Monday for school, my 9-year-old copied Proverbs 12:18 in his handwriting book. I planned to quickly scan his words for neatness, but the message stopped me cold.

Reckless words pierce like a sword. But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

I called David at work and apologized for my critical spirit. This room re-do was doing me in. It was like God was calling for a makeover in my heart and everywhere I turned I was getting reprimanded for my recklessness in wifehood. But it was true, if I could resist the urge to spew criticism, I might see more peace and serenity in my relationship.

Controlling my tongue was more demanding than the refurbishing of my room. But more than a stylish sanctuary, I wanted to create an atmosphere of kindness that had been missing in our communication. I wanted to makeover my heart, and reunite with my best friend.

Author Patsy Clairmont gave me encouragement to exercise kindness and self-control in my words and actions toward my husband.

Kindness is closely linked to godliness in that it is the application of godliness to earthly relationships.                                                        I Second That Emotion

I’d been critical with my words. The drip, drip, of my nagging comments had worn my husband down. Now every time I was tempted to give David input on the minutiae of life, I bit my tongue. Did I really need to correct the way he loaded or unloaded the dishwasher? Was it worth an argument to make sure he got the parking space I thought we should have? And what if the couch pillows were tossed in different spots? My harsh words were killing the passion in my marriage. Was it worth it to be right? I didn’t think so. I had a good man and I wanted to keep him happy.

In his book Sacred Sex, author Tim Gardner says to “work hard in the vineyard to keep passion blooming. Create an atmosphere of kindness, care, and mutual interest.” If passion begins with priorities then my priority should be my spouse and not who does things the right way.

While the last of the squalid white walls were covered with signs of green life, so had our relationship undergone a transformation. A pair of plush, red pillows sit as the final touches on our beautiful bed. To me, they serve as reminders of the scarlet passion with which we regard our marriage. We strive to make our union alive, vibrant, growing, and unified. Coloring our communication with peace and kindness and covering our hearts with submission will keep our marriage fully decorated for years to come. Not only did we uncover secrets to a better marriage, but we found the paint and fabric to match.

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