I will be married 35 years this summer, and have to credit the late Ray Murphy for some of that.
I knew Mr. Murphy in the early years of my marriage, when he led a Bible study for a big group of women. We were all in the thick of crying babies and dirty diapers and endless Groundhog Day days. When our husbands finally came home from working long and hard days, we shoved a baby or two their way, and acted irritated that they'd been gone so long. Or, at least I know I did.
I should speak for myself as far as my selfish behavior went. But I know I can speak for the whole group of us when I say how much Mr. Murphy impacted us. Ray Murphy affected each of our marriages in some way, be it a new way of looking at it, or a new habit of relating to our spouses.
Our little group went on a couples retreat with Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, and together the two of them talked to us. They didn't lecture or preach. They talked candidly, telling us about their ups and downs, and what they'd learned along the way.
We were riveted. They were funny. And real. And open.
One thing I remember is Mr. Murphy painting a realistic scenario of early married life with babies.
“Suppose you're in the trenches all day with screaming babies who refuse to go down for a nap. Throw in foiled attempts of toilet training after a night of interrupted sleep, a few crises between the dog or the plumbing and a stressful trip to the grocery store with uncooperative kids in tow. You somehow manage to make dinner with a baby on one hip and another clinging to your knees, and your husband wolfs it down without complimenting it. Or worse, points out that broccoli isn't his favorite. And, worse than that, leaves his plate on the table as he heads off to read the paper. What do you think the wife would do?”
"Rebel!" I answered loudly, making a little joke.
I remember this next part clearly. Mr. Murphy looked around at all of us and didn't miss a beat.
"You hope she will rebel," he said, staring pointedly at the husbands. "You hope she gives you a chance to talk it through and get it off her chest and compromise. If she doesn't, you're in big trouble."
And, that was a lesson for me in the importance of communication in marriage.
He talked about the importance of besting your spouse. He used best as a verb, and gave each one of us a framed print with a list of how to best each other. I had mine out on the living room chest for a good while, and studied it. But, now, probably 25 or so years later, I can barely remember it.
My husband says BEST was an acronym, but couldn't remember what the letters stood for. He is sure one meant hugging, and I remember that one, as well.
I reached out to some of the other women on that trip, and sure enough they still had the little framed print. I relate it from the wife's point of view, but it works for the husband, too.
B is for BLESSING him in what you say to him or about him, and what you do for him and how you react to him.
E is for EDIFYING him by encouragement, emphasizing his strengths and enjoying his triumphs.
S is for SHARING with him your thoughts, dreams, worries, fears and time.
T is for TOUCHING. That's where the hugging comes in, as well as other forms we won't delve into in this column.
The point is, my husband and I both remember this guide that Mr. Murphy left for us at the very beginning of our marriage. Looking back on it, I realize the importance of every single thing he said, from sharing time, as well as sharing dreams. And the importance of blessing my husband in what I say to him.
I will try my best to best my husband, and pass this advice on to my own sons one day.
So, thank you, Mr. Murphy. You were the best!
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series “If Bugs Are Banished.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.