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The Marriage Thermostat

Dr. Litrel photoFor ten years, without fail, Ann and I kept our razors side by side in the shower. Then I switched to the Mach 3 triple blade razor, and suddenly the ever-present disposable pink lady razor disappeared. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. I figured such a sissy razor was an embarrassment beside my macho marvel of modern technology.

The truth was more horrific. One morning I walked into the bathroom while Ann was in the shower, and I discovered that my Mach 3 triple blade marvel was being used to shave her legs. It didn’t take much to surmise that it might be getting some time under her arms, too.

I kept my mouth shut until our morning coffee.

“Doesn’t it repulse you,” I said calmly, “to know that the razor you’re using under your arms is the same one that I’m using on my face?”

Ann laughed, and then quickly reached for my hand. “Sometimes…” she replied with a serious voice. “But love is a strange and wonderful thing.” She gave me an angelic smile.

All was forgiven.

Disagreement between a husband and wife occurs in the best of marriages.  Sometimes this manifests as open argument.  Other times, marital conflict can be more subtle, an unspoken tension permeating the relationship for years, like an uncomfortable humidity.

When I met Ann at that fraternity costume party, she was supposedly dressed as a Greek goddess, in a skimpy toga no father would have permitted his daughter to wear in public.

I fell in love.

After our three years apart, there was nothing I looked forward to more than marriage and spending my life with Ann. My attraction to her was more than just her physical beauty; I admired her talent, kindness, intelligence and discipline.

I still admire her. But after twenty-five years of marriage, the intelligence and discipline thing sometimes gets on my nerves.

Ann has tendencies towards frugality that do honor to her Scottish heritage. She also endeavors to be environmentally aware. These two qualities are evidenced in the temperature settings Ann prefers for the household thermostat. During the hot Georgia summer the air conditioning is set at 80. During the cold of winter the heat is set at 65. In January when I am cold, Ann tells me to put on a sweater. In July when I am hot, Ann tells me to take my sweater off.

thermostatLast year it was another hot, humid summer. So one day when Ann wasn’t looking, I sneaked to the thermostat and deftly dropped the temperature five degrees.

It didn’t take Ann long to notice. “Who turned the air conditioning so low, Michael?”

“Those kids,” I responded, shaking my head disapprovingly. I was not lying. I was simply making a declarative statement designed to misdirect.

“The boys say they didn’t touch the thermostat, Michael.”

“Those kids,” I repeated, shaking my head disapprovingly.

Ann laughed and moved the thermostat back to “where it belongs.” I didn’t argue. I could understand her perspective: why burn fossil fuels to lower the temperature of my house just so I could be a tad bit more comfortable?

But sometimes it was annoying. It was like I was married to Al Gore, and every time I touched the temperature control I was sinking an axe into the trunk of the last giant redwood.

Over the years, Ann had successfully colored our “thermostat decision” in spiritual terms. With artful language she conveyed to me sophisticated thoughts about the needs of the body versus the needs of the soul. Essentially, her argument boiled down to this:
Jesus didn’t have air conditioning, so why don’t you spend more time praying for strength, and less time whining about the heat?

One summer Ann left town to visit her sister for a week. It was like Dorothy’s house had plopped down in Oz, and ding dong, you-know-who was dead!

I ran to the thermostat like an unsupervised teenager and lowered it not five degrees, but ten. I was going to get all the air conditioning that compressor could muster. That night my house was so cold I needed another blanket from the closet. Immobilized by comforters, I slept like it was the dead of winter.

Condensation covered all my windows when I awoke. I shivered when I sat down to my morning coffee. Now this was what July in Georgia should feel like!  I thought about getting out that dang sweater. Maybe I should light a fire too?

But after an hour of reflection, I simply turned the air conditioning off.

I missed Ann. Morning coffee was more fun with her. It’s far better to have a home that is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter than to suffer again through the fires and chills of a long distance relationship.
A prescription for tolerance is an occasional few days apart. In our human struggles, we can sometimes fixate on small problems.

Absence gives God a chance to direct our focus on the big picture –
Love.

Excerpted from Dr. Litrel and his wife Ann’s book of “he-said, she-said” stories about love and family.  A MisMatch Made In Heaven: Surviving True Love, Children, and Other Blessings In Disguise is available in the office, and online at www.createspace.com/4229812

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