56: Giving and Taking

56: Giving and Taking

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Giving and Taking

The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.

~Author Unknown

“Hmm,” said Reverend Stevens, the man who was scheduled to perform the wedding ceremony for my fiancé, Bob, and me. He was reviewing the results from the personality test we took as part of the marriage class offered at our church. Since this was a second marriage for both of us, we wanted to get it right this time.

He placed the two printed pages in front of us so we could see the source of his concern. “This test is scored using four letters, each one representing a different personality trait.”

Bob and I leaned forward to take a peek at what must surely be disastrous news.

“They’re almost exactly alike,” I said, grinning.

“Three of the letters are alike,” Reverend Stevens agreed. “But one is different — very different — as far as you can get different.”

Bob frowned. “Does that mean we shouldn’t get married?”

“No!” replied the reverend. “It means you’ll need to compromise — a lot — more than…” he caught my glare and decided to take a lighter tack. “Just a bit more than the usual give and take,” he said, smiling.

“Hmm,” Bob and I said in unison.

And so it came to pass that we were married and the giving and taking, or in our case, the tug of war began. Actually, it started the first weekend after we returned from our honeymoon.

Our most notable personality conflict turned out to be the fact that I couldn’t stand clutter and frequently threw things out, and Bob felt the need to hang on to everything he’d ever owned.

His justification for hoarding, which he learned from his mother, was that he might need each and every one of those items “some day.” I acquired my clutter-free tendencies from my mother, whose philosophy was, “If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s taking up valuable space. Get rid of it.”

After we married, I moved into Bob’s house. He’d been living there for six years and his double-car garage was packed with stuff, most of which was still in the original moving boxes. Since I wasn’t accustomed to leaving my shiny new car outside under the broiling Texas sun, I laid claim to half the square footage.

Following a lively discussion about the value of things versus space, Bob reluctantly agreed to clean out the garage. He and his hoarding mentor, a.k.a. Mom, set out to complete this monumental, emotionally wrenching task. They both feared my “use-it-or-toss-it” tendencies, so I wasn’t allowed to participate.

I watched from a safe distance as they dragged everything out to the driveway, opened the boxes, and took an extended trip down memory lane, examining each treasure. Then they dusted it all off, sorted it into even more boxes and put them back into Bob’s designated half of the space. Apparently I misunderstood; he meant “clean off,” not “clean out.”

The contents were now stacked side-to-side, front-to-back and floor-to-ceiling in his half of the garage! I was speechless, but he and his mother beamed with pride at their accomplishment.

As promised, however, that evening I managed to pull my car into the garage and had just enough room to squeeze out and slide along the wall of teetering boxes to reach the back door.

But it was progress nonetheless, and the first in a long line of compromises that would test our vows to the limit. Year after year, as each conflict arose, we repeated our mantra, “Give and take, give and take.”

After twenty-three years, it seems that this giving and taking strategy has finally taken hold. I’ve grown comfortable living with more, and Bob is agreeable to living with less.


~Gloria Hander Lyons

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