So we’re sitting at home the other night watching television when Yvonne turns to me and asks, “If you had it all to do over again, would you still marry me?”
My heart sank as I raised my head and looked in her direction, and for good reason. This is a question that wives have been asking husbands since the dawn of time. I’m certain, at some point in their old age, that Eve asked Adam the same question, “Adam, if you had it all to do over again, would you still marry me?” I suspect he was as frozen with fear about how to answer Eve, as I was the other night when Yvonne asked this question of me.
Like every good husband from Adam until now, I know there is only one right answer to this question. It’s a simple answer consisting of just a few short words. But for reasons which no husband can explain, no matter how earnestly we may try to respond, our words will not come out in a way that conveys the depth of our abiding love and affection that our wives are waiting and hoping to hear.
Consequently, we live with a certain sense of fear and trepidation, wondering when this question will be asked, and all the while knowing there is little point in trying to prepare for it. And then it happens, always unexpected and sometimes prefaced with a powerful setup, like, “Honey, I love you so much…if you had it all to do over again, would you still marry me?”
Years of faithfulness in marriage do not prevent that strange sense of guilt that comes over us when we hear this question, even though we have done nothing wrong and know that we have nothing to hide. It’s as though we are being cross examined by Perry Mason – “And where were you on the night this crime was committed?” he asks. “I was home alone and went to bed early.” “Can you prove that?” “Well, no…” But before I can explain he interrupts ands asks, “So, if you had it all to do over again, would you still have committed this crime?”
As I raised my head and looked toward Yvonne, for an instant I thought I saw Perry Mason but shook it off. Then, doing my best to make eye contact, I swallowed hard and with as much sincerity as I could muster I said, “Uh…of course I would?” Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew I had failed. My momentary blank stare had conveyed uncertainty and, worst of all, I had committed the unpardonable sin of responding to an important question like this by beginning with the word “Uh,” followed by a long pause. Instead of declaring my undying love, I somehow sounded guilty, as though, despite nearly 45 years of marriage bliss, there was some doubt as to whether I would still marry her, if I had it all to do over again. She didn’t say anything, she just looked at me. Not with anger or hurt, but with that penetrating expression that says, “Is that all, is that all you can think of to say?”
One does not easily recover from moments like this, but I have experience. In the flash of time that elapsed between my awkward response and her silent penetrating gaze into my soul, I was able to think of a more meaningful answer. With a genuinely warm smile I said, “Honey, have you forgotten that I had to marry you?” Now I really got the look. “You know that’s not true,” she replied. Undaunted I went on, “Yes it is true. I had to marry you because I was so madly in love with you I couldn’t help myself, and if I had it all to do over, I would marry you again.”
I watched as her expression softened turned into a warm smile, just like the one I had given her. Finally, I had done it. I had come up with the right answer to one of the greatest marital questions of all time. Adam would be proud.
And so, I share this little story with you, not for personal acclaim (though I do feel a bit of boyish pride), but for the benefit of all of my fellow husbands out there. May you no longer live in fear. And don’t worry, she won’t mind if you use a line that was already used by someone else. It sure beats “Uh,” followed by a long pause.