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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

TITLE: Your Turn, Happy Wife
By Lori Othouse
09/18/08


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Lucy blinked in the dim morning light as her alarm clock sounded a shrill awakening. 6:15. Time to play…the game, that is. She had been playing it for so long that it was almost automatic. There was a time in her marriage, she remembered, before the game. Those first few months were actually pretty good.

“Hey, hon, where do you want to eat tonight? We’ll go wherever you want.”

It was difficult to say when it began. It was slow, but steady. She knew he was precise, orderly…borderline perfectionist, but gradually his focus turned more and more toward her.

“This house is a total wreck, I can’t find anything! Don’t you ever clean?"

She didn’t do this right or that right, didn’t look or dress right, and when she gained weight after having a baby, the ugliness escalated.

“Did you exercise today? Come on, don’t you ever want to look good?"

She just couldn't understand...he was so nice to everyone else. And it wasn’t just the complaining, but his lack of involvement in anything that wasn’t self-serving, the increasing 'I want, I want' attitude…what happened to the kind and generous man she thought she married? She tried for a long time to keep up with his demands, but his constant complaints and criticism were like being punched relentlessly in a boxing match. Answering back in self-defense only made it worse.

“Why can’t you dress like you’re not 100 years old?”

“Don’t be so boring.”

“Did your hair look like that all day?!”

Each time it grew harder and harder to get back up. If there had only been a few words of encouragement or support or, dare she dream, an apology…it would have made all the difference. But nothing except jabs and upper cuts. Until the day she went down for the count. Her love and respect for him had been battered to death and she couldn’t resurrect it. Thus began the playing of the game:

“Of course I missed you today, honey.”

Lucy kept a mask under her pillow and grudgingly pulled it on every morning. It was the mask of a happy, content wife. It looked good on the outside, but the inside was suffocating - like a corset on her soul. She hated it, but it was necessary to play the game. And now, although she never seemed to win, she was very good at playing the game. She played it on Monday, taking the kids to school. She played it on Friday, when friends would come over. And she especially played it on Sunday at church. How could she not? What kind of wife felt like she did about her husband? After all, she had made a promise and had to figure out a way to keep it.

“For better or for worse. For better or for worse. For better or…”

A few times, she had taken off the disguise in front of him, praying that, for once, he would look beyond her outward appearance and notice the deep wounds and scars his scathing words had left. But he only got angry and attributed any problems she had to her own weaknesses and shortcomings.

“I’m not yelling! You’re just too sensitive!”

He refused to be accountable for anything and she discovered, sadly, that as long as she played according to his rules, how she felt really didn’t matter to him.

It wasn’t lying, not really. She preferred to think of it as speaking by faith. Hopefully, one day it would be true. Hopefully, one day she would love and respect him again and feel loved and respected herself. And hopefully, he would once again become the friend and lover that she needed and she wouldn’t have to search everywhere else for support to get through another day.

“Thanks, Jim, I really appreciate your encouragement. It means more than you know.”

Her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling, but she prayed anyway. God was the only one who could soften his heart, the only one who could heal her wounds and permanently remove that prison of a mask. He was all she had.

Lucy carefully reached under her pillow and felt for her happy face. Taking one last breath of fresh air, she pulled on the stifling façade.

“Can you get up already? I need breakfast!”

Time to play again. Maybe, just maybe, today she wouldn’t lose.


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This article has been read 723 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kristen Hester09/18/08
Oh, this breaks my heart! This is well written and powerful, but very sad. Good job!
Dee Yoder 09/19/08
This is indeed heartbreaking and the sad thing is, many Christian women can relate to this message. We need transparency and men need to step up to the plate and own this kind of behavior. It is anything but Christ-like.
Amy Stanbury09/19/08
As someone who "played the game" for many years I thought your piece was excellent. You were able to express that relentless, "be-on-your-guard" feeling through expert phrasing and very good character identification. The interspersed dialogue of husband's criticism is like the pick-pick-picking away of Lucy's love for him and at her own self-esteem.The title is good too. It reminds me of the ridiculous, compulsive, repetitive patterns in marriage and relationships. It also speaks of that expectation/demand every woman feels; NOT just in marriage but in every realm, to be HAPPY to be OK to be upbeat, to be nice, to be pretty, to be together,the encourager and so on. This is a very good bit of writing and resonated with me and many others I think.
(By the way,there IS hope for women who really experience this sick satanic game of brokenhearted diappointment with Love. I speak from personal experience, and for me, the very beginning of the beginning of the way "out" is by being REAL. Stop the pretence.Wife is not "happy".Give God the dice and stop rolling them! Be honest and get safe, wise support.)
Joy Faire Stewart09/19/08
The emotions are so raw you can feel the sadness, heartbreaking.
Chely Roach09/19/08
Frightening and very realistic...I pray this is fiction for the author, though I am certain it is the norm for many women. Excellent writing.
Marijo Phelps09/20/08
You have touched an area of great need within the Body. "Share the truth in Love" - Have been there myself in my former life. There is HOPE and Jesus has the perfect answer and it isn't always the one we think it will be.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/22/08
Outstanding writing for a very sad situation. I loved the line "corset on my soul."
Joy Faire Stewart09/25/08
Congratulations on your EC, excellent writing!
Pamela Kliewer09/25/08
Congratulations on your well deserved EC. This piece was well written and I felt every emotion of the MC.
Julie Seeto09/25/08
You captured the painful struggle of the wife very well. Sadly this is so true for many marriages.
There is hope, however - when the wife realizes that God (& not her husband) is her fulfillment, her attitude can change and she can become real. Her husband may love her for it. (Mine does!)
Patricia Turner09/26/08
This indeed is so heartbreaking and very well written. I so agree with Julie that God is our true fullfilment, our true redeemer, our true husband, and when we have times when we don't feel loved, we know Who does love us. Congratulations on your win!
Peter Stone10/02/08
Extremely realistic presentation of what its like to live with someone who is most likely a neurotic introvert, only aware of themselves. I've personally seen such a relationship (not my own, praise God) and you've portrayed it authentically. Can I suggest that you list this as a free-reprint article, I'm sure many will identify with it.