September-October 1998

The Wedding Night Promise

by Arn Shein

The blind date Mary Lou and I had on that final day of l949 was one of those things that comes along once in a lifetime.

It was successful!

If it wasn't love at first sight, it was the closest thing to it. When it came time for the traditional New Year's Eve kiss, we were already in love. And why not? We had known each other a full four and a half hours.

By our second date-the following night-we talked about the future. Our future! But because we were so young, we agreed to wait. We set the date for June 9, l95l; two weeks after Mary Lou's 20th birthday. By then, I would be an old man of 22.

In addition to the standard vows, we made one more promise in that wedding ceremony. We promised never to go to bed angry. For that part of our wedding ceremony, we went to Paul's words in the New Testament and to Ephesians 4:26: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (KJV).

Through the years, that promise to solve our conflicts before going to bed has been put to the test often, but never as severely as that memorable night in l975

Mary Lou and I had one of those rare ugly verbal fights in our living room. Just when our words were getting hot and heavy, my wife bolted out of her chair, stormed up the steps to the dining room and headed for

our bedroom. Somehow I guessed this was not the beginning of a rendezvous.

I could hear her pull down the seldom-used folding ladder leading to the half attic, one we used only for storing things. I heard her climb the ladder, followed by the unmistakable sounds of her stomping back and forth.

I couldn't imagine what she was doing up there. Eventually there were a couple of loud thuds in our bedroom, and I heard her descend from the attic. When Mary Lou began to open and slam dresser drawers, it finally dawned on me.

She had gone to the attic to get her suitcases, and now she was packing her things. I didn't know what to do. I sat there, remembering the promise we had made on our wedding day nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

"Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

Oh, sure! We had had our share of spats over the years. But they never lasted long because one of us would eventually apologize, even if we didn't think we were at fault. Then one or the other would give the punch line to any of several favorite jokes. Not the whole joke; just the punch line.

It always worked, and the spat would be over before bedtime.

My first reaction was to run upstairs, take her in my arms and apologize. But this was no ordinary spat. "Not on your life," I told myself as she continued to open and slam dresser drawers. "If she can walk out and leave me, then I'm not going to stop her."

I couldn't tell you how long it took Mary Lou to finish packing. I can tell you it seemed like a lifetime. All during those dreadful minutes, my mind played a ping-pong match. One moment it told me to run upstairs and apologize; then it told me to ignore her and let her goif that's what she wanted to do.

At long last she came stomping out of our bedroom. There was a huge suitcase in each hand and a look of anger I had never before seen on my wife's angelic face. She strode to the top of the staircase and stopped. Swinging her right arm, pendulum style, she tossed one of the heavy suitcases down the steps.

I felt as though I were in a hypnotic trance as I watched that big bag roll noisily across our living room floor and come to rest against the far wall. I half expected a gorilla to appear and begin stomping on my expensive Samsonite.

But this was no television commercial. This was the real thing. A moment later, the second suitcase whizzed by my nose.

I stared at the two bags for an instant, then looked back at my wife, standing at the top of the staircase, hands on hips and fire in her eyes. She took her right hand off her hip and made a sweeping gesture toward the front door.

"Now," she snapped, "get out!"

It took me a long time to clearly see the big picture. She had been packing for me -- not for her!

I sat there in stunned silence for several moments before it struck me. I had 17 cents in my pocket, and I couldn't think of a single hotel that would accept my 17 cents in exchange for a night's lodging.

The absurdity of this whole thing got to me, and I suddenly burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I rolled off my chair and fell onto the floor in a fetal position. I laughed so hard it hurt. When I opened my moist eyes, there was my wife, lying beside me on the floor, laughing uncontrollably. Like me, she also realized how foolish we had been behaving.

* * * * * * * * * *

That was close to a quarter of a century ago. Our three daughters have since presented us with eight grandchildren, and all were with us as we celebrated our 47th anniversary. To this day, though, Mary Lou and I have kept our wedding night promise. To this day we have never gone to bed angry. 


Arn Shein is an inspirational writer who has been published in Reader's Digest, Modern Maturity and Guideposts. This month he celebrates his 70th birthday. Happy Birthday, Arn! And congratulations Arn and Mary Lou on a marriage that has endured.


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