by Patrick o’Neill
The clock radio was playing a gentle tune, and I woke up to another day of infinite wonder and promise. “Morning, sweetie,” I said, my head still snuggled in my pillow. “Who’s Angela?” my wife asked me in the tone Mike Wallace uses when cameras are chasing some poor jerk down a sidewalk in Newark, New Jersey.
Thousands of years of evolving and adapting have given married men a kind of sixth sense that tells them when to be absolutely truthful, answering all questions fully and without reservation.
“I don’t know any Angela,” I said.
“Oh, I know you don’t,” Kathleen said, sitting up and slamming her hand on the alarm button. “This is so ridiculous. It’s just that I had this dream last night, and in it you left me and the kids and ran off with some Angela woman. I’ve been awake for three hours getting madder and madder.”
“Silly girl,” I said, snuggling deeper into the blankets. “I promise I didn’t run off with anybody. Not last night or any other night. And especially not with any Angela.”
Kathleen threw back the blankets with considerably more force than the circumstances required and got out of bed.
“It was just a dream,” I said, wishing desperately for two more minutes of unconsciousness. “I don’t know an Angela. I’m here with you and our children. I’m not leaving. Never, ever.”
The shower door banged shut, and I drifted off. Suddenly a wet towel hit me in the face.
“Sorry, hon, I was aiming for the hamper,” Kathleen said. “Anyway, you and Angela were living together in one of those luxury high‐rise condos downtown.”
“Ha. See how crazy that is? Child support would wipe me out. I couldn’t afford to live under a bridge if I left you. Which I have no plans to do.”
“Angela’s a surgeon,” she said as if she were talking to a complete idiot. “With an international reputation. She’s filthy rich. Or don’t you realize that either? Oh, of course you don’t. Just a dream.”
“Listen, I know dreams can seem pretty realistic sometimes. But you’re the woman of my dreams. Okay? What kind of surgeon?”
From the bathroom came the unmistakable sound of toiletries being destroyed.
“You want to know what really got me?” she said. “The kids. The kids went to visit one weekend, and you know what that—you know— Angela did? She made teddy bear pancakes. With little raisin eyes. The children talked about those for days: ‘How come you never make us teddy bear pancakes, Mom?’”
“Teddy bear pancakes? That sounds kind of cute. They’d probably be pretty easy….”
“Oooooh,” Kathleen said. “This is so dumb. How can anybody get upset over a stupid dream about her husband running off with a world famous surgeon who can sit down at a piano with the kids and play all the television theme songs by ear and knows all the verses and can put your daughter’s hair up in a perfect French braid and show your boy how to play ‘stretch’ with a jackknife and teach aerobics?”
“Kathleen, I couldn’t love a surgeon. Surgeons are notoriously self‐centered and egotistical. But maybe Angela was different.”
“Angela works among the poor,” Kathleen said. “Here’s that tennis shoe you’ve been looking for…. Oops, are you all right? Anyway, the president gave her some kind of plaque. I saw it on TV. In my dream. There she was with those cheekbones and that mane of black hair. ‘Others deserve this far more than I do, Mr. President.’ I just about threw up.”
The tennis shoe bruise probably wouldn’t show unless I went swimming or something.
“What with teddy bear pancakes, humanitarianism, and piano lessons, Angela couldn’t have much time left over for a guy,” I said. “I mean, a guy like me.”
“Oh, no. The kids told me how she spent hours rubbing your shoulders, and sometimes she sat at your feet on that spotless white carpet— ‘It’s like snow, Mom’—and stared up at you, laughing at every stupid little thing you said. Darn! Your watch fell in the sink. Sorry, sweetie.”
“I think you’re being a little hard on Angela,” I said. “She sounds like a pretty nice person who’s only trying to make a life for herself.”
“She’s a vicious little home wrecker, and if you ever so much as look at her again, you’ll need more than a world‐renowned surgeon to put you back together again!”
Later that day, I sent flowers to Kathleen’s office. It’s just a start, of course. When somebody like Angela comes into your life, it takes a while to patch things up.
LOOKING AHEAD …
Most married partners can admit it: At one time or another we have felt some anxiety about our spouse’s commitment, whether because of a serious threat to the relationship or just a dream like Kathleen’s.
Underneath the humor of Kathleen’s “anxiety dream” is a very real issue—to trust or not to trust. The uncertainty many feel about trust is, unfortunately, a sign of the times. Infidelity and straying affections are far too common, and in some circles they are even accepted as inevitable. As Christians, we know that we can place unequivocal confidence in the Lord. But absolute, unquestioned trust in our spouse? That can be harder to bestow. The truth is, it must be earned over time—word by word, deed by deed.
Relationships dominated by fear and insecurity will never reach their potential, but marriages founded on trust and safety will flourish. You can see why it is so important for married couples to commit themselves to build trust together. In the week ahead we’ll help you understand how trust happens and how to make it the bedrock of a secure and growing relationship.
– James C Dobson