Monday, July 18, 2011


Giving credit where credit is due...Mary gave me this illustration of our marriage as we drove home from church yesterday morning. I liked it. It now belongs to me. It will belong to you if you like it as much as I did. It certainly does the job of speaking to the 52 years Mary and I have spent in our marriage. [We knew one another two years before our marriage, thus, fifty-four total years in a relationship.] The illustration is of how a house can be a picture of relationships. Obviously,  it needs a little explanation.

Think of a house with it's rooms and in your thinking include a front porch, a yard and a cyclone fence around it all. Each area is observable and separate, yet each is connected to the whole. You live there. You relate to others from there. It can become an apt illustration of the kind of relationships one may have at different levels.

There are people who may walk by your fence. You see them, you wave to them, you are cordial with them and yet you don't really have a relationship at all other than the one that is shared by being human and a part of whatever culture [neighborhood] you might share.

But there are those who share your yard. This is more personal. They are your neighbors who may stop by and talk a while. You know their names, their work perhaps, and even some of the bare facts about their life. You would even interject yourself into their lives in ways that would be of benefit to both of you__say you saw their papers lying in the driveway collecting and you pick them up to cover the fact that they are away__ and you would do it gladly. You can figure out what is meant here.

But some people come to your door. They are on the porch. They are not going to enter unless invited and would not be invited to enter unless you wish to share something deeper with them than you share with those walking by your fence. When invited in they don't have free run of your house at all. They respect you too much for that. They might even ask permission to use the restroom before assuming they are free to do so.

A marriage relationship is different. It's inviting someone to share a house in ways no one else EVER will. [Children are a category of relationships for another post.] The marriage bed, the breakfast nook, the master bathroom, every nook and cranny becomes a shared experience. That relationship exceeds every other one and is to be characterized by things like respect, trust, honesty, and openness. All others are secondary to that relationship, even the children. That, because one day they will establish another relationship which will be their own house to share.

But problems come in a marriage. A couple can find themselves living in the same house but not be able to share it very well. They may find themselves going to separate rooms because of hurts or harsh words between them. It takes work to face and solve what problems they can in order to REALLY share the whole house.

How all this applies to Mary and me is that we've found ourselves with a SAFE ROOM built. All who live in Oklahoma, tornado country, know what that room represents. It is the place where you go to avoid storms that can do great damage and are a threat to you personally. There you will be truly safe from any danger.

We've spent our lives working on problems that caused us to sometimes choose to go to separate rooms. There has been a time or two where we wondered if one or the other would not walk out the door and end the relationship. But that did not happen. The value of so many years invested in a marriage is having faced so many problems that you find yourselves sharing rooms comfortably. If one happens to need some space occasionally, one may ask for some space and get it.

But the safe room is there so that no problem, storm, or situation will ever keep the two of us from going TOGETHER to that room when threats come. The safe room that has been created gives both in the relationship a sense of safety and freedom. Nothing will destroy it except death.

Permit me a couple of final thoughts.

One is about the matter of love. Love is to be present in all the relationships. But it is expressed within the boundaries that are apparent in the illustration and doesn't look the same in each at all. When Jesus expressed Himself to Jerusalem He did so recognizing "they would not." The Rich Young Ruler said "no thanks" to a relationship. But Jesus loved him. So love is not lost when you recognize where relationships are. [Abusers having to remain on the porch is an example.] It is simply living by what the scripture describes as being "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

This is truly loving people where they are. Some don't know of your love. Some choose to know of your love in a casual way. Some choose to share it deeply. But no one lives with you in a love relationship without some reciprocity as Jerusalem proved. If you love but they don't it may indicate where the relationship is in the house illustration in reality.

A second thought is that people who have suffered sexual abuse in their past or have family members who might be a perpetrator of such abuse might have to choose to keep those family members on the porch [no close relationship] protecting the children inside the house. That's not only legitimate in my opinion, but it may be necessary.

If abuse happens in a marriage, this could be physical, emotional or sexual, it could force the abused one to expel the abuser until a willingness develops for the establishing of the relationship again which includes mutual trust and respect. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a partner can choose to walk out the door of a relationship. It is over.

But after 54 years Mary and I are finally enjoying the whole of the house...together. We have our problems. We sometimes need our space. We even on rare occasion request our privacy. We mutually agree to those when necessary. But the construction of that safe room is what makes our relationship function at a level we never dreamed possible before. It is there. It is for us both. We share it in times of threat. We are committed to that reality.

That's why I've called this post "AN APT ILLUSTRATION OF A FIFTY-FOUR YEAR RELATIONSHIP. You may not like the illustration. You are obviously free to reject or argue as to its' validity. You may wish to expand, or correct it. But somehow it speaks to me. If it says something to you, I'm glad.


Bob Cleveland said...

It does speak, and is well spoken.


Paul Burleson said...


Thanks. Your speaking about it is appreciated.

Aussie John said...


I agree with Bob!

I'm junior to you both, so I better agree:)

Good analogy!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Now that is respecting your elders. I appreciate such. ;)

Johnny D. said...

It is a fine illustration, and made me consider my own "house" which has been around for 28+ years now.

We only knew each other two months before we got married, so we had to do a lot of learning on the run.

We've built that safe room, too. It's filled with light and love and her - and that's all it needs.

Paul Burleson said...

Johnny D,

"We had to do a lot of learning on the run" is exactly what we had to do marrying at 17 [her] and 18. [me]

Still running. LOL

Alan Paul said...

Great post Paul! perhaps the most important lesson I have learned in almost 18 years of relationship with my wife is to forbear and forgive my spouses faults and mistakes. She began doing this with me long before I began doing this with her (she's the better and wiser person!). This is not to say we don't work through them, but first comes the forbear and forgive... then the cleanup (so to speak). Thanks for posting this. It's worth sharing!

Michael said...

You never fail to bless me. Thank you so much! I love and miss you and am grateful for your steadfast example. Blessings...

Paul Burleson said...

Alan, Michael,

Thanks for commenting. Good thoughts.

Anonymous said...

MY MY, 17 and 18??? You guys never knew what being a single adult was all about for very long did you? But then you can't argue with success can you.

We were 24 and 25 and its going on 55 years, but then people thought our kids were grand-kids.

I remember being 18 and had never held a girl's hand. My twin brother (Hez) and I always had 'girl-friends' but they never knew it. (We loved them from 'a-far'. We probably could have won any 'bashful contest'.)

At 15, we moved from the country to the city and played our first and last game of 'post-office'.

In a dark room, I avoided the lips of a pretty girl by wrestling a boy that was going to hold me. Hez never came back from that dark room. I learned later he escaped out the window.

I guess our kissing department got stunted in the first grade when Hez asked me what would it feel like to kiss a girl. I told him I didn't know and he said for me to ask mother. Wow! She lowered the boom on us!

After I started dating when I was 18, Hez said: “Well Rex, how does it feel to kiss a girl?”
I wanted him to mind his own business and told him it was like kissing a dead fish.

The years rolled by and at 23, Hez was madly in love with his wife to be. (They've had 5 kids and pushing 57 years.) He'd never kissed a girl but kept promising himself he was going to do it.

At last, he did and she said: “What was that?” (He'd kissed her hair.) He said, “That was a kiss”, and she said, “I'll show you what a kiss is!”

She planted one on him, and he said his brain was going round and round...Rex lied to me!

Paul Burleson said...


I can't remember ever NOT being married. I have no problem with that lost memory either. LOL

Your story of you and Hez is one of the best I've heard. He's lied. LOL