One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend more time with my wife, and since she didn’t object, this is one resolution that I have kept. My motivation is partly short term — my wife is my best friend, and I enjoy our times together. But I also am motivated by the idea of eternal companionship. Indeed, I like all of the doctrines of unity: marriage, Zion, exaltation. These concepts inspire me.
With regard to marriage, we are told that “man [shall] leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. Also, “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 11:11. I understand these scriptures to mean that I must become one with my wife in the same way as Jesus become one with the Father. I can think of no better way of doing this than reading together.
When we were first married, we did not own a television, and we didn’t have enough money to finance an active social life. As a result, we spent a lot of time reading together. We read widely, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. From Fox’s J. Reuben Clark: The Public Years to Boostin’s The Americans (all three volumes). We did this for years … until our children were old enough to understand real books, and then I started reading to them (Alice in Wonderland, Kon-Tiki, Lord of the Rings).
This year, my wife and I started reading together again. Even though we chose poorly on our first book, it has been great fun. Next up: Richard J. Evans’ new volume on The Coming of the Third Reich.
The experience of reading together has had a transforming effect on our relationship. For example, these shared experiences shape the way we talk to each other. When one of us refers to a character in such-and-such a book, the other understands immediately. To an outsider, these conversations would seem like coded messages — extended inside jokes — but we are not speaking for outsiders. In those moments, we are a closed system.
Marriages like mine are magical. I don’t mean that in a sappy, “my-marriage-is-better-than-your-marriage” sense. Just consider the obstacles facing two people with very different backgrounds who get together after knowing each other only a few months. That we can live together for years (18 so far) in relative harmony strikes me as almost miraculous. Although we still have frequent differences of opinion, consistent effort over time seems to be having the desired effect of creating a coherent unit. As I look back on that process and attempt to plan for the future, I think it is hard to overestimate the effect of seemingly little things, like the shared love of a good book.