I’m going to admit to something that I think most men won’t readily admit to . . .
I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice.
I love the book. But more than that, I love the five-hour-long BBC TV miniseries. Part of the reason I love the story is because it has so many amazing one-liners. I grew up in a family that was strong in the ways of tongue-in-cheek humor. A well-timed and well-placed witty quip was the height of humor for us.
My favorite character is Mr. Bennett. I love him because he is a master of the well-timed witty remark, and some of his one-liners are actually quite profound. One in particular has carried me through many difficult times in my marriage.
“For once let me feel just how much I am to blame. I’m not afraid of being overwhelmed by the emotion. It’ll pass soon enough. And likely sooner than it should.”
Let me paint the scene for you: The youngest Bennett girl had just run off with a man who was infamous for seducing women. Mr. Bennett, having just spent a good deal of time in London searching for his daughter to no avail, arrived home and collapsed into a chair. His other daughters tried to console him, reassuring him that the whole situation was not his fault. He responded, “For once let me feel just how much I am to blame. I’m not afraid of being overwhelmed by the emotion. It’ll pass soon enough. And likely sooner than it should.”
There it is! If there was ever a one-liner for dealing with emotions in marriage, that’s the one. This advice has carried me through times of real crisis in my family.
I came home from work one evening a devastated man. My wife and I were living in northern Virginia, nine hours from our closest family. During the previous few years we had dealt with the death of my mother and the death of two of my grandparents. Additionally, we had just had our first child, a girl, who was born with severe mental and physical disabilities. This most recent blow was just the icing on the cake in a series of unfortunate events.
Things had been difficult for me at work for some time. The company I was working for was quickly running out of money. Week after week my boss would tell me that he didn’t know if he was going to be able to pay me at the end of the week. As the sole breadwinner in the family, this situation obviously caused me a great deal of anxiety.
Then it finally happened.
My boss walked up to my work station one evening and handed me a letter severing my employment. My means of supporting my family was gone.
My wife and daughter were away in Michigan visiting family that weekend. I typically like having time alone, but not in this situation. I called my wife and very calmly let her know what had happened. To my surprise, she didn’t seem too worried. She told me to relax and take it easy for the weekend and that we would figure things out when she got back.
I remember hanging up the phone and just crying, even screaming into my pillow. I needed someone there. I wanted my mom to hug me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. I wanted my wife to hug me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. But there was no one there to comfort me. I was going to have to figure this out on my own.
Then, like an old friend offering an encouraging word, I heard Mr. Bennett’s voice in the back of my mind.
“Don’t be afraid of being overwhelmed by the emotion. It’ll pass soon enough. And likely sooner than it should.”
Getting through this rocky time in my life wasn’t easy, but Mr. Bennett’s familiar words were a guiding voice, reminding me to take the long view when emotions ran high.
I cannot tell you how many times these words have steadied me in emotional or turbulent times in our marriage. It's as if Mr. Bennett—or maybe even God through Mr. Bennett—is telling me, “Don’t let emotion overwhelm you and lead you to do or say something that you'll regret later."
I've learned to give both my wife and myself permission to really feel the burden we are carrying and know that every crisis passes. After all, we are in this together.