Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bride’s guest blog: Why I saved myself for marriage

tash and kory guitar smile

Note from Jodie: Natasha wrote this last week, a few days before marrying her Prince Kory. I was comfortable asking her to consider writing about purity, because I know she has shared her heart about this with other women, and her words about healing and restoration will also be encouraging. Her mom and I are proud of her. Saturday’s wedding was spectacular. I’ll be sure to say more when the photos are available. Meanwhile, Kelly and I spent Sunday and Monday re-charging. I turned 50 a month ago, but I didn’t really feel 50 until now. About all I can recall about Sunday is that I think it rained.

Now … Natasha’s heart.

By NATASHA JACKSON MYRICK

When my dad asked me to write a post on purity, so many ideas went through my mind on how to write this. I feel like it would flow best writing it just as I would talk to ladies at a women’s retreat. But guys, this is for you, too.

I have saved myself for marriage. Purity is not something that religion and church scared into me. It’s not because I’m scared that God would strike me down if I were to have sex before marriage. There are several reasons why purity is something that I have practiced in my life.

First and foremost, I want to live to glorify God. So many times I fall so short of that. But at least I can try my best to serve and honor the Savior who bled and died for all of my sins and saved me from eternal misery and loneliness. God intends sex to be saved for marriage. In fact, God created sex specifically for marriage. Having sex outside of marriage would be a dishonor to God and His creation of sex.

I want to be a living testimony for other people – women, specifically – in the area of purity. Not many 20-something-year-olds can say that they have saved themselves for marriage. I’m not saying that to make anyone feel condemned or to make myself seem self-righteous or spiritually puffed up in any way. I want women to know that it is possible (even easy and carefree!) to live a wonderful, fun, romantic life without adding the drama of sex before marriage into the mix.

Clearly, I haven’t had sex yet. But I do know that when two people engage in sexual intercourse, a bond is made. Because God created sex for marriage and that is part of “becoming one” in a marriage, it’s clear to me that sex is meant to intensely bond two souls. Why would I want to bond with someone in that way other than my husband? Why would I allow my heart to go through an act of becoming one with another person when I’m actually not “one” with that person through marriage?

I want to say it again: My intent is not to come across as judgmental or condemning. These are just my thoughts and convictions. I want to honor my husband. I don’t want to bring anyone else into the marriage bed. That might sound harsh – but I feel like if I had sex with anyone else before my husband, I would be bringing all sorts of baggage into the first night. Maybe I would have unrealistic expectations, fears from experiences with a previous partner, etc. My husband might be thinking, “Do I measure up to what she’s experienced before?,” and be insecure to be completely open.

My body is not just something to be thrown around at any person who says they love me or woos me with their charm. My body is to be saved for a specific person: my husband. In the union of marriage, I know that there is a mutual trust there that isn’t there with just anyone else like in any other relationship. There is commitment there. True, I’m with you for life no matter what until we get old and gray type of commitment.

I have had girls ask me: “Well, if you know you’re going to marry someone, why wait to have sex?” I want my body to be a gift to my husband on our wedding. That will not only honor him, but be the greatest wedding gift and even the greatest gift of his life. I believe that if you have messed up and had sex before marriage that God will heal and restore. However, I want to bypass all of that hurt and drama, and really give my fiancé something to wait for. I want it to be a surprise and an exciting gift. I don’t want my gift to my husband to be something he has opened up before.

Have you seen that cell phone commercial where the dad gets his daughter her same exact phone for her birthday, just covered it up with a “new phone smell”? She wasn’t too excited, was she? It was something she had already received before. I want my marriage to be the first time he opens my gift that I have saved for him and haven’t let anyone else have. I have been asked a myriad of other questions about purity, but I think that my post would probably answer most of them.

Like I said before, God heals and restores. If you aren’t pure for your future husband, start practicing that now and pray for restoration and healing. God will honor your efforts to glorify him with your body.

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Wedding Day arrives

wedding rings

Tomorrow is Wedding Day. At some point around 2:15 p.m., I’ll give the hand of our youngest daughter, Natasha, to her Prince Kory. (Note: I’ve been writing the Wedding Countdown at night, so by the time it’s posted for everyone or by the time most people read it, the calendar has already turned a page, so the tomorrow I’m talking about is Saturday, Sept. 7).

The countdown as featured my advice on “How to Wreck Your Marriage,” rather than giving insight on how to live in bliss happily-ever-after. The 15 wrecking balls that I’ve presented were warnings. And, to some degree, I’ve used all 15 wrecking balls myself during 31 years and counting with my Princess Kelly.

So I speak with authority. That’s a confession, not a boast.

If you’ve ever wrecked a car, you know it’s possible to not only survive the crash, but to also fix the car. Unlike repairing a wrecked car, though, repairing a wrecked marriage can result in an even better marriage. It’s not likely that the car you picked up from the body shop was actually better than it was even before the crash.

Wrecking a marriage can be a solo venture, and it can be done in one fell swoop or, more likely, in several whacks of the wrecking ball. But the repair and restoration is not a solo effort. It requires a team of people who have experienced and can offer grace, while creating an atmosphere of accountability and transparency. You’ll find those people when you seek them, and you’ll be amazed at how available they are when you’re ready stop trying to save face in order to save your marriage.

The truth is, it’s not all that hard to wreck a marriage. The same cannot be said for restoration.

It’s hard work. And you start by owning your part and taking responsibility without blaming your spouse – or your parents for not modeling what it means to love unconditionally and love with grace even when it’s not returned. It’s my guess that no one has shown you how to un-wreck your most precious relationship and most of us have seen in our family of origin or someone close to us that a lot of people simply quit and give up on each other. Or we witnessed one or both parents wailing away with those wrecking balls for years until there was simply nothing left.

We’re overwhelmed, it seems, by examples like that, rather than stories of those who successfully repaired and restored the wreckage.

We use a wrecking ball, whether deliberately or passively, because we want something different: my spouse should change, my circumstances should be difference, my in-laws aren’t what I expected or need, my life should be more interesting or exciting. But when the wreck happens and it looks like you’re reaching the point of no return, start the restoration by considering this reality: Is this what you wanted? If you can say, “I finally got what I wanted,” and that “want” was a mistress, a submissive spouse (he/she is so broken and beaten down that you win) or some twisted sense of respect, is that really what you wanted?

More questions. Are you prepared to do anything to restore the wreck? Are you willing to take your spouse’s hand, open your heart, confess your failures, and get on your knees – with your spouse – and humbly ask your Creator to flood light into the brokenness of your life and marriage? Are you willing – as that first husband wasn’t – to stand and speak against the Enemy, and to fight your own demons to recapture the heart of your Princess?

If you say “no” to any of those questions, ask yourself again. And again. Remember your marriage before the wreck and what it was like to have won your bride’s heart the first time.

Wait a minute. You’re telling me that she’s no longer that fresh-faced, sparkling-eyed girl you married? She’s not the same person?

Really? You don’t think you had something to do with that? And are you the same charming, sweep-her-off-her-feet knight in shining armor?

Restoring the wreck will mean finding and knowing your spouse’s heart – perhaps for the first time. The honesty, time and emotion that it takes is demanding. I know it. It probably also means letting your spouse know – maybe for the first time – how you really feel and what you fear.

What do you want? And how will the rest of your life without him/her look?

Remember my story about looking out over a dark, stagnant lake the night before Kelly and I were married? I realized – just knew it – that life without her would be like that. Empty.

I’ve pushed my marriage to the edge of the cliff a few times. Once it seemed to tumble right over into the abyss, but a circle of grace – friends who were not going to let us crash – intervened and shined light into my heart. Yes, it’s humiliating to allow so many others to “get into your business,” and the road to restoration is a bumpy, uncertain, painful ride. But the heart of your princess awaits.

The alternative? For me it was the stark reality that what I had envisioned on wedding eve, June 4, 1982, could come true if I simply answered, “Yes, this is what I want.”

Instead, what I want is to be married to my best friend, to show her my heart and to experience this adventure of life, faith and love side-by-side. There is no alternative to consider.

THIS is what I want.

Recommended reading

Wild at Hearthttp://books.google.com/books/about/Wild_at_Heart.html?id=sQ4_2x6jhuUC

Playlist

In honor of Groom Kory and Bride Natasha, here’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra with “Come Rain or Come Shine.

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The Wedding Countdown: 2 days away

Line-in-Sand_3

Five, four, three, two …

Tomorrow will be one: One day until our youngest princess marries her prince. Natasha Jackson and Kory Myrick will tie the knot at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Today was a break-neck busy, dizzying sort of day. As Kelly and Natasha carefully applied swirls of icing to 124 cupcakes, I kept watch over three pork butts on the grill. I’m a charcoal-only guy, sworn to uphold the fine art of grilling by controlling the heat of a briquette – and the smoke of damp chunks of hickory. Once upon a time I thought that barbecuing was simply the act of putting a slab of meat on a grill over flames, with an occasional squirt of lighter fluid to keep the fire raging.

That’s what I now call “desecrating,” not barbecuing the meat. In fact, there’s nothing barbecue about my grilling these days. The sauce can go on the side after the morsels are properly grilled. I can’t even tell you how many years I snuffed out flavor with flame or thick sauce. Grilling is an art form that I seek to master.

A little while ago when I let the dog out I checked the grill – 8:30 p.m. – and the temperature gauge still read 175-degrees. That was exactly 12 hours after I put three pork butt roasts on the grill, flanked on both sides by white-hot briquettes, with a 9×12 drip pan under the meat – about 17 pounds worth of hog heaven. I checked periodically to make sure the temperature was between 225 and 275, turned the meat ever so gently when necessary, and kept the oak chips and chunks smoking after the first hour.

The smallest roast registered 170 degrees at the center just three hours later. The others came off the grill and 12:15 and 12:45, respectively. Given a good half hour for the juices to settle in but not too cool off to noticeably, those butts practically fell apart. The meat either pulled or shredded with ease, and I shared some burnt ends with Natasha as she iced cupcakes. Kelly got some samples of the interior goodness. She’s not a burnt ends fan and not a fan of the spices that gave the outer butt a nice kick: chili powder and cayenne pepper. My rub recipe, which was applied the day before, also includes a healthy amount of paprika (sweetness), salt, pepper, oregano and the primary ingredient: brown sugar.

The pulled pork, my grilled-finished mac and cheese (first time I’ve tried that) and other goodies will be the fare for Friday’s rehearsal dinner.

Tonight (I’m writing this Thursday) is my final entry for “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Tomorrow’s, on wedding eve, I’ll give some pointers on what to do when you’ve wrecked your marriage.

Yeah. I have some experience. (Guys, I dare you to tell me you don’t).

And tonight, we’re talking about sex. And I’m talking to the guys.

Wrecking ball No. 15 – Believe that sexual purity and faithfulness to your wife is a line in the sand, and as long you don’t cross it, you’re pure.

See that line? You can get right up to it – inch your way closer, closer and right there, just not OVER the line – and you haven’t strayed from your vows. That’s the wrecking ball that will eventually knock you over the line if you keep standing there, toying with your thoughts, fantasies, the thrill of a pursuit or chase that, hey, is just a friendly sort of thing and, besides, all guys do that.

All guys do that: hardly needing to be lured or enticed to the line because they live right next to it. If you’re rationalizing the fantasies that play out in your head, you’re likely connected to others who also have their toes about a millimeter from that purity line. Just stay right there and I promise – You. Will. Wreck. Your. Marriage.

Here’s the thing about that line: It allows for “look but don’t touch,” to flirt and entice without consequences. But, ultimately, it allows for different options. When you’re comfortable enough toeing the line, any marital crisis, unaffectionate moment or indifference from your wife, or the desire to just be “a really good friend” to another woman in a time of need are life circumstances that lead to easy justification for crossing the line.
Every man needs to read “Every Man’s Battle,” subtitled, “Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time.”

See, here’s the deal: What you think you’ll gain in pleasure, approval, acceptance, confidence – whatever – by testing and eventually crossing that imaginary purity line amounts to a grain of sand compared to the pleasure, affirmation, dignity and strength of being faithful, from seeing the sexual connection of marriage as a body, mind, soul and spirit intimacy that comes from honoring and cherishing your wife.

I’m trying to avoid being preachy, but I need to say that my faith and value system is based on the belief that it’s up to each man to redeem manhood. And every man fights this battle. To the guy who believes that monogamy is old-fashioned and unachievable, my advice is to get far away from the woman who loves you, because you’re setting her up for unspeakable pain. Do her a favor and get out of her life now.

Tough words? No, the tough words come from the empty, tear-drained eyes that accompany the question, “How could you?”

So where is a man supposed to draw the purity line?

Nowhere. There isn’t a line that you can see, that if you simply stay on this side of it, you’re okay. Your wife’s hand, your wife’s heart, your wife’s trust and honor are your anchor. (Spiritually speaking, for us Christians the anchor is Jesus Christ, and the words of Paul the Apostle: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” There’s no line there, no other options. And it means battling to the death for your beloved princess. Not up for that? You’re not ready for marriage).

This sort of faithfulness and purity is possible, especially if you lock arms and hearts with other men who refuse to draw that line. And you’d better find those allies and partners-in-arms in every season of life. Our biological and sexual “wiring” is one thing. Our sexually-charged, anything-goes culture is out to wreck you: your marriage, your dignity, your manhood – your life.

Guys, no one has suggested this is easy. That’s why it’s called a battle. But every warrior headed for or engaged in battle asks himself, “Is this cause worth it?”

Is your wife worth it? Come on, ask yourself that question.

If you can see that line in the sand, you’re not saying, “Maybe not.” You’ve already said, “No.” You’ve answered that question long before you stepped across that line.

Playlist

Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade.” Please take five minutes to see this powerful music video.

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Four days from wedding day: The countdown

Four days away from giving my daughter’s hand to her prince. Natasha and Kory will officially embark on their forever together, but they’d tell you that their hearts are already on that lifelong journey.

Tomorrow (I’m writing Tuesday, post will publish Wednesday) my primary job is to rub the butts. Um, that’s pork butts, of course, getting them ready for a day of smoking over charcoal and hickory on Thursday.

Can’t you already savor the aroma? Tempted by the taste?

flower man

Let’s shift gears and prepare for more of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.” Today and tomorrow’s wrecking balls can be used by either gender, but I’m primarily talking to the guys. You might want to have the kids out of the room for tomorrow’s, unless you’ve got a young man age 12 or so and up.

Wrecking ball No. 13 – Wait for the big moment.

Women are always doing those “little things” to make life work for us, but we need a big moment – a big splash – to show her how much we love her.

She says, “I keep asking you to take out the trash, but it’s as if you don’t hear me.”

You say: “But I bought you flowers that one time. Back then. A few months … or so … ago. Didn’t I?”

She says, “I just need you to tell me sometimes that I’m pretty.”

You say, “But you know I feel that way about you, you know, without saying it. Besides, my love language was mounting that flat screen for you on the wall in the bedroom. Speaking of which, the Cardinals game starts in about 15 minutes. Why don’t you make us some popcorn?”

That’s it. Wait for the big moment. No need to get bogged down in the little things – especially the little things of the heart. There’s really no need to tell her you love her, because you show her all the time.

A cool variation of this wrecking ball is to create chaos – oh, you can do it – and then step in to rescue your damsel. It’s kind of like putting out the fire with a hose in one hand and still clutching the lighter and/or gas can in the other hand.

She’ll appreciate that. And be sure to keep track of your great moments, because you’ll need to remind her
ad nauseum on those occasions that she points out – either indirectly or flat out – that you’re not doing your share of the work around the house.

BONUS WRECKING BALL: If she asks for help with the dishes – because, of course, you would dream of taking that on by yourself – tell her you could help except that it’s “women’s work.”

She’ll love that. Any reference to the 1950s (when women knew their place) or telling her that your mom didn’t expect you to help around the house, so it’s her who has the problem.

Playlist

A couple of great selections. Because I referenced the 50s and Saturday’s wedding has a “vintage” theme, here’s Ronnie Milsap with “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.”

Followed by Nazareth (that hair ROCKS) with “Love Hurts.” It was 1976, I was 13. Kelly and I started “going together” in November that year.

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Five days and counting, we’re full blown ‘Wedding Central’

night-lake-dark-scenery

Wedding countdown

Five days away from Natasha and Kory’s “I do.” We’re now counting down by blocks of time and tasks that are getting checked off Kelly’s master list(s). (Re: see yesterday’s post).

Once upon a time, we could drive to Wal-Mart, I’d drop Kelly off at the front of the store, and she’d begin shopping and after I’d found a parking space, I’d go in and find her. It worked pretty well for a couple of decades. Nowadays I enter the store as I tap Kelly’s number on my cell phone to ask, “Where are you?”

It’s getting more difficult to recall life PD – pre-digital. Technology makes my head spin.

I’m also have trouble remembering when Kelly wasn’t part of my life. We began “going together” – that was the vernacular of the day – on Nov. 22, 1976. That was 37 years ago. We’ve been married 31. The truth is, every pre-Kelly memory seems to be attached to the question, “Where was Kelly?” We’re that connected; seems like we’ve always been.

Life without Kelly? I don’t want to remember that. The night before our wedding, I drove to the Belle City Park, where I’d caught hundreds of fish from the lake and clubbed hundreds of hits (and a few over the fence) on the baseball field. Some of my finest moments of almost 19 years of life had deep connections to the park and lake in my hometown.

But that night, I sat in the car, alone, fairly sure I knew we were way too young to get hitched, yet too much in love to give any credibility to conventional wisdom. As I stared out over the pitch blackness of the small lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting married in less than 24 hours. The thought that hit me was to imagine life without Kelly, and as I continued the ponder the profound question, the answer was right there in my gaze.

Nothing. Empty. Alone.

Meaningless and stagnant, much like that lake.

I married my best friend, and Kelly will say the same. We’re a couple of lucky, blessed married folks.

How to Wreck Your Marriage

Wrecking ball No. 12 – Major on minors. When you disagree or reach an impasse, be sure to pick your battle based on your spouse’s perceived weakness or that hot-button criticism that you know will throw off your spouse emotionally and mentally. Even better, stake your claim to your right to be an incredible gift to humanity by making a big deal out of … Nothing.

It’s not just about arguing over which shade of green is best – olive or evergreen – or what to name the dog. It’s about using that wrecking ball over and over by pounding your spouse with your “victories” in such disagreements. It’s amazing how something so trivial can be used to find and then wear away the chink in his/her armor, eventually exposing his/her heart so you can move in with even more force to prove your superiority.
If you’re puzzled about what qualifies as a major or minor point, just adopt the conclusion that everything is a big deal.

Playlist

Going to my deep well of sacred hymn favorites. These old songs play on a fairly continuous loop in my noggin. Here’s a super not-so-old arrangement of At The Cross, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Two observations: Yes, it is sometimes tortuous to watch Bill Gaither sing. And at around the 1:27 mark it looks like Mark Lowry has fiery horns. Cool. And, oh yeah, Guy Penrod and David Phelps have crazy awesome voices.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion, Wedding countdown

Six days to go, checking off the wedding prep list

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I've failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

My bride shared this on Facebook today. More proof that I’ve failed manhood. It is not an opinion that I share. Epic fail.

Six days until Wedding Day.

I’ve watched now for 30-plus years as Kelly organizes, strategizes and prioritizes many a task – big and small. If Kelly was president, for instance, this nastiness we’re involved in with Syria might not have happened. Same for Iraq, Afghanistan and all the coming domestic and international conflicts. She’d kick everyone who was posturing politically out of the room, find out who needs to communicate here, what the problems are, and who needs to do what.

To wit:

“So, guys, Assad has got to go, right?”

Silence.

“Come on, people, work with me.”

“Right, ma’am.”

And right away she’d have lists, tasks and focus points for everyone, and with military-like precision, she’d accomplish either a peaceful resolution – “let’s find out why he’s such a bully and try some cognitive behavior therapy” – or a swift change in leadership, with all other Arab nations nodding in agreement and getting on with pumping our oil.

My bride is helping keep the Wedding Week schedule on schedule. Like I said, she’s about precision.

I, on the other hand, represent anti-precision. She suggests, “Let’s leave at 10,” and she’s ready to go out the door not later than 9:40. Me? I’m getting into the shower at 9:55.

So, for everyone who wonders who does all that behind-the-scenes stuff? Her name is Kelly Jackson, my princess.

Now back to the business of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 11 – Read between the lines. Fail to communicate. And imagine that every request, suggestion or effort to provide input to your life is a direct, unmistakable assault on your ability to think for yourself – and your very worth as a person.

That’s right. When you hear, “Hey, can you give me a hand with these dishes?”, you should automatically defend yourself with, “So, you think I don’t do enough around here? You think I’m lazy?”

Of course, that’s how we hear things because we’re used to speaking between the lines – you know, not really saying how we feel or what we want, but giving hints and clues, instead of just outright saying, “You know, I’m really not in the mood for Chinese tonight. I vote for pizza.”

Always assume that what your spouse says is only half of what he/she really thinks or wants to say. Yes, practice incomplete communication.

This is a good way to wreck your marriage, but usually before that happens you’ve gone loony, which is precisely what this form of communication causes.

Playlist

Probably one of the greatest performances ever. George Michael and Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

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The calendar speeds up; one week from Wedding Day

crayons

One week from today – seven days – Natasha will have become Mrs. Myrick, saying “I do” to launch forever together with Kory. (Seven days from Saturday, which is when I wrote this, so posting on Sunday means it’s actually only six days away. I’ll double-post at some point this week to get on track).

I’ve done quite a bit of reflection over these past several days, remembering the night before our wedding. I, for one, had no clue about what I was getting into on June 5, 1982. Here we are, 31 years and a couple of months later, and I’m still pretty much clueless – which is why I’m certifiably qualified to present the wrecking balls of “How to Wreck Your Marriage.”

Wrecking ball No. 10 – As promised, this one is the evil twin of “never, ever, ever change or expect change.” This disastrous wrecking ball is called, ”He’ll’/She’ll change once we’re married.”
You just keep telling yourself, because this one extends to family members, friends, associates, etc. Your prince’s friends are particularly boorish and juvenile? Well, that’ll change after you’ve been married. And even if the friends don’t change, YOU will be able to change hubby/wife who will suddenly no longer need to nurture those friendships.

He’ll change. They’ll change. You can change them all. After all, you’re madly in love, which means everyone will change the behaviors and traits that you didn’t like before you were married.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that one.

Her dad won’t be so overbearing and prone to give completely unsolicited advice. His mom has kept the umbilical cord attached up until now, but once you’re married, she’ll automatically let go of baby boy and respect your boundaries. The in-laws will love it that you’ve set boundaries and clearly defined how you expect them to be involved – or not – in your lives.

Before Kelly and I said “I do” lo these many years and months ago, I was an exceptionally picky eater, had poor table manners, and routinely demonstrated a remarkable lack of common sense. Today, things have changed. I have much better table manners, or at least developed those once I’d properly instructed and shown Kishia and Natasha how to belch the A,B,C’s.

Those other things? Nah. Still pretty much the same, although my menu has expanded considerably. Still, given a preference, meals should basically consist of meat and taters, and not taters with little green things thrown in or laying at the side of the plate, or with some odd selection of mustard-raisin dipping sauce, or some such thing.

So think of the things that irritate you most about the other. Now tell yourself that he/she loves you so much that he/she will no longer have a desire or capacity to be irritating. And if future hubby/wifey has a mom/dad that needs to butt out of your business, future hubby/wife will take care of that after you’re married because, after all, you two now wear the grown-up pants and you’re figuring out this marriage thing a step and a day at a time.

Yep, things will change for sure, but probably not the way you want them to change, although you have a distinct new direction in mind for your spouse. When using this wrecking ball, be sure to remind your spouse of all the ways he/she hasn’t yet changed, and that if he/she simply loved you more, she’d change. She’ll appreciate hearing that.

Playlist

I might be the only person on the planet who prefers Gerard Butler’s Phantom, so here, with some of the most powerful lyrics and emotions, is “Music of the Night” from the 2004 film, Phantom of the Opera.

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