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I did the worst thing I’ve ever done as a husband the other day.
Em has been watching The Newsroom recently and got to the end of Season 1 last week. I had bought Season 2 on Quickflix a few years ago and was excited to show it to her. I got it up on my computer, hooked it in with the TV and pressed play.
The episode began and I started thinking back to all the storylines that happens throughout the season. As I watched the episode with Em I was remembering the unconventional way the season is written with a lot of flashbacks and slow-dripped reveals. Quite often a character or incident would be mentioned in the episode and Em would say, “Am I supposed to know what that is?” And I would say “No. It’ll get explained, it’s just setting up the rest of the season.”
This went on throughout the whole episode. As the episode started nearing the end, all these loose ends started getting tied up. I was thinking “This is so odd, we haven’t had one flashback, we’ve had all these unexplained references, and now everything is getting tied up.” Characters were declaring their love for each other, solving problems, and healing differences. I was thinking “If they keep going like this they’re not going to have anything left to show in the rest of the season.” Then about 2 minutes from the end of the episode, as everything is getting wrapped up and the biggest of all the storylines in the show drawing to a close I realised “I haven’t shown her the first episode in the series, I’ve shown the last!”
When I pressed play on the season, it played the last watched episode, not the first in the season. I was so used the the unconventional way that season 2 is structured, and had obviously forgotten many of the episodes, I hadn’t noticed we were in the season finale till the very end! I spoiled the whole season in one go!
Needless to say, I felt terrible. I let down my wife, I let down my country, I let down Aaron Sorkin, I let down humanity. How I can unwittingly spoil an entire season, and not notice I’m doing it, is beyond me.
I have a apologised to my wife, and she has forgiven me because she is wonderful. But she may never allow me to operate VOD streaming services on her behalf ever again. And who could blame her. Our marriage is mostly built on streaming TV shows, I have done a terrible thing.
Trust is built slowly and lost quickly.
I wrote a post in September called “Things I Learnt Through Singleness“. This is the next in what may be a long series. This is what I learnt while dating Em from April 2013 till we got engaged on 1st January 2014. (See if you can guess what the next post in the series will be.)
1. Kissing is fun, sex is avoidable
Before I started dating, I was a bit terrified of kissing. I hadn’t kissed anyone for about 13 years. I had no idea how one went about initiating a kiss, and I was pretty sure if I did manage to end up kissing I’d be terrible at it.
The other thing that worried me is that I would end up having sex. Being the guy who always did the sex talk, telling people the importance of saving sex till marriage, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own ideals. Lot’s of people said avoiding sex is hard, and I knew many couples who hadn’t managed to wait till marriage. Would I be one of those people too? What if I started kissing and suddenly my hormones were off, and the next thing I knew I’d impregnated Emily? It was a worry, because I had no idea.
Once we started dating I discovered that kissing is fun and sex is avoidable. My first kiss was exactly as bad as you’d expect from a man who hasn’t kissed anyone for thirteen years. But I got better, and we had plenty of fun.
What I discovered too, which I knew intellectually, just not through experience, is that the path from kissing to sex is not automatic. We had very clear boundaries, and we had a clear strategy to get from our first steps into physical intimacy to marriage without crossing any of our boundaries and without losing the fun of the physical intimacy. We had to make a few adjustments on the way, but we got there. It wasn’t magic, it was just honest planning and assessment. How dull. It make making-out sound like a business strategy.
What really struck home for me though was that avoiding sex was less about boundaries (though we had them) and more about service. I knew that seeing as both Em and I were committed to not sleeping together till we got married, for me to cross our boundaries, and to push things further physically was not serving her. Whatever we wanted to do physically, I knew I wanted to serve her and respect her more. There was never even a question of whether we’d sleep together. Not having sex wasn’t always enjoyable, but it wasn’t difficult. Neither of us wanted to be the person who pushed the other person further than they wanted to go. So we made it through fine. We enjoyed the kissing and we looked forward obliterating our dating boundaries at the right time.
2. Dating is expensive
I probably already knew this, many people have said it before, but once I started dating I really felt it. Dating is expensive, for many reasons. Obviously there are the dates. You spend more time eating out, going to movies (well I went just as much), and doing romance things (art galleries, picnics, Maccas, etc). You do all these things, and even if you did them alone sometimes, now you’re doing it more often, in fancier ways and paying for two. That being said, Em would often pay for us too because she was loaded and not into gender roles.
However it’s not just the dates, there are the hidden costs which I never thought about, the random gifts, the more expensive birthday and Christmas presents, the things you pay for “just because”, the petrol to drive to her place and home every other day and the extra tolls while driving, because you’re too excited to see her to take the long way. It all costs money.
In my stingier moments I would sometimes get annoyed that dating is so expensive, not annoyed at Em, just that it costs so much to be in a dating relationship. But then I’d remind myself that this isn’t just fancy food and extra driving for no reason. It’s all investment for a better relationship now and a better relationship later. Also apart from the driving and the tolls, it’s generally fun. It’s worth the investment, but if you want to save money, don’t start dating someone.
3. Dating invalidates your singleness
I was “The Single Guy” for a while. I was the go-to guy when you needed a Bible talk on singleness or someone single to be on your “Sex and Dating” panel at church. And then when I started dating a few people said things like “Now how are you going to do the singleness talk?” While they were joking, it did feel a little to me like once I started dating all my experience of figuring out how to be single was invalidated. It may be that no-body actually thought that, but I remember thinking it about other people who were known for being single when they got partners. Then I became that person.
When you’re with a single people who may be struggling with their singleness, once you’re dating, your advice or support seems somehow less valuable because you’re no longer in the trenches with them and you have the very thing they generally want – a relationship. Maybe I was downplaying my own effectiveness, but somehow singleness doesn’t seem to be one of those experiences that retains currency for very long outside its effect in shaping who you have become.
That may be because there is no guarantee that singleness will end. When you talk to someone who is sick with something you had and recovered from, you can say “It gets easier, you’ll get better.” But with other things, where there is no sure outcome, like singleness, you can only really say “This may end, it may not, it ended for me, maybe it will for you.” There is little comfort in that.
All that said, I don’t see my time being single as being something I needed to be cured of, or escape from. I moved from one good state of relationship status to another, but even that isn’t what you want to hear if you hate being single.
I guess someone else can do the “Living in Singleness” talk now. I’ll do the “Married for Three-Months and Got No Idea” talk. There’s quite a market for that kind of talk I’m sure.
4. Friends are Important
When you are dating, if you like the person you’re dating, all you want to do is hang out with them. If you could spend every moment of every day with them, you would.
When I was younger I used to watch my friends start dating and I’d get sad because I’d think to myself “I guess I won’t see much of them anymore.”
When I got a bit older I decided that it was actually a good thing that they started spending a lot more time with their boyfriend or girlfriend rather than me. It’s good for people to find partners, and it’s good to prioritise them over other people in their life. If they’re heading for marriage that person will become their number one human on earth. To inappropriately use a Bible verse out of context, I thought to myself of the new partner, “they must increase, I must decrease”.
So when I started dating, I didn’t stress too much about making sure I saw all my friends the same amount as I used to. That would have been nice, but time is finite, so you have to prioritise.
But what I found was that even though you saw less of your friends, their importance didn’t decrease, but their role changed.
Friends are good while you’re dating because they’re not in-love with you. It’s important to have people around who don’t think you’re the best thing to ever happen to them. It gives you perspective.
Friends are less intense. When you’re in a relationship, everything is bigger. The good things you do are amazing, the bad things are terrible. In a friendship, the good things are good, and the bad things are bad, but no one cares too much because you’re just friends.
Friends remind you that you are more that your relationship. You are a person beyond your relationship. This is always a helpful reminder.
Most importantly, friends are friends, and it’s good to have friends, whether you’re single, dating, engaged, married, married with kids, de-facto, divorced, widowed or a polygamist. Friends are important because they’re your friends. Simple as that.
5. Jesus is enough
Just as I learnt that Jesus is enough while I was single, I got to learn it in a whole new way while dating. When you’re dating you’re tempted to define yourself by your relationship. If it’s going well, you’re going well, if it’s going badly you’re going badly. But if you can hold on to the truth that your value and strength is found in Jesus, then your dating relationship can have an appropriate space in your life.
Sometimes I would worry that I might not be able to be a very good boyfriend. I would need to remember that Jesus is enough. He shows me how to love, I had everything I needed in him to be a good boyfriend. But if I failed, and we broke up, that’s ok, Jesus is enough, I didn’t need a girlfriend to be whole, I needed Jesus. When you’re holding less tightly to your relationship you’re freer to enjoy it and work at doing it well.
Sometimes it was hard to remember that Jesus is enough when Em was a whole lot more tangible than Jesus. But then when we would strive together to honour Jesus, more than we strived to make each other happy, we found that our relationship was a whole lot more satisfying. Having a focus in your relationship other than each other turns out to be better.
Dating is excellent, but Jesus is more than enough.
I finished my last day at my old job today. I’m flying home to Melbourne now after leaving for Sydney this morning at 6am. It’s been the longest work commute of my life.
That picture above, I just took it.
I went back for one day after five weeks of holidays. I suspect that this would be a good time for some kind of moving reflection about employment and jobs and vocation, but the flight attendant just gave me a Lindt ball. So I shall eat that instead.
I hope they’re gluten-free, other wise I just ate some tasty, tasty bowel cancer.
Speaking of bowel cancer, I got given a cake at work today. It was a chocolate cake covered with strawberries. My boss’ wife baked it. It looked delishious. Unfortunately my boss forgot I was a glutard, so I just ate the strawberries while everyone else ate the cake. Perhaps there’s some sort of symbolism in that.
I spent my whole day sitting with my replacement telling him everything he needed to know to do my job. It disappointing that it only takes a day to replace me, but at least I wasn’t replaced by a computer. Although I wouldn’t mind being replaced by Siri. I suspect she’s incredibly good looking.
We just hit turbulence. The seat belt sign went on but the no smoking sign went off. I’m lighting up.
How do you sum up five years in a job?
I spent five years, driving all over Sydney and beyond, doing hundreds of talks about Jesus to thousands of kids. That’s pretty super. Plus I even got to fit in a few naps in my car by the side of the road along the ways. Jesus with occasional naps. That sounds to me like the perfect job.
So Why would I quit? Apart from that personal helicopter I get as a signing bonus from the church, I think I like doing ministry with people instead of to people. A lot of my job was standing in front of a crowd telling them things, I left because I want to spend more time beside people listening to them. My words might have more currency then.
Certainly my time hasn’t been wasted. It’s been very fruitful but it’s time to swap a wide ministry for a deep one.
Also I suspect I’ll be able to sleep in a bit later working for the church, it’s Jesus plus more sleep. Hard to argue with that.
We’ve landed now.
We made it to Melbourne. We came down via the Princes Highway, which was beautiful. We left last Tuesday, spent two nights in Merimbula, and then arrived in our new suburb of Mitcham on Thursday night. I’ve never moved to a new city before, so I’m not entirely sure how to do it, we seem to be succeeding so far though. I was worried we would turn up and be really lonely. Since arriving though, we’ve been having dinner with friends, lunch with cousins, and holidaying on Phillip Island with more friends. It kinda feels like we’ve swapped a life in Sydney with too many people to see and not enough time, for a life in Melbourne with just enough people to see and no pressure feeling like we’re neglecting anyone else. It’s quite nice.
On Saturday we spent most of the day at house inspections, looking for somewhere to live. The very first place we looked at was a brand new, third floor apartment right near the shops and station. We were the only ones at the inspection. The place was great. It’s had a large balcony and views of Mt Dandenong. Considering the majestic peak that Mt Dandenong is, towering over Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, I’m surprised there wasn’t a large crowd of locals just hoping to use the inspection as a chance to view the mountain from such a spectacular vantage point. We would have applied for the apartment just for the view, but happily there were lots of other things we liked about it too. On Monday we got a call from the real estate agent letting us know that we got the apartment. We signed the lease that day. This was good because we didn’t really like the other places we looked at. The only other property we applied for a was a two bedroom house which came with it’s own pet redback spider, so you can guess what the rest were like.
Seeing as, by Monday, we had achieved all that we needed to achieve before all our gear arrives from Sydney in a removals van sometime next week, we headed off to Phillip Island. It turns out Phillip Island is more than just some penguins and a race track. There are also some seals, op shops and a town called Rhyll. I’m not sure how you pronounce that, which I think might be one of the most fascinating things about the town.
We’re here on the island to spend time with our friends the Goughs. Two of our friends in this family are young children, so we spend a lot of time doing puppet shows, watching magic tricks, and wrestling. For the first time since I left work in December, I feel like I’m actually on holidays. It’s great.
Next week I start my new job. I get to start thinking about youth group, and sermon series, and whether it’s acceptable to take home leftover communion supplies for a Sunday snack, but for now, I’m just thinking about sleeping in, reading books, when I next get to eat another meal, because that’s what holidays are really about. Or should I say “That’s what holidays are Rhylly about.” See what I did there?
I got married.
I became a coeliac.
Now I’m leaving Sydney.
In two weeks.
If you’re gonna change one thing, change everything. That’s always been my life motto (it hasn’t).
Ever since Recom folded I’ve been on the lookout for a new job. I have very much enjoyed my current job, travelling around to schools, speaking about Jesus. However what I’ve been really keen to do is to get back to church ministry. So I was looking for jobs and found one that looked perfect. A Youth and Young Adults Pastor role where I look after a youth ministry and oversee and regularly preach at an evening service. It was pretty much exactly what I wanted. I get to do youth ministry, which I love, I get to put all the thinking about church I’ve done for Recom into practice, which is great, and I get to preach regularly in a logical, long-term series structure, which I’ve been hankering for since becoming an itinerant preacher. The only downside to all this was that the job was in Melbourne – Cold, wet, hipster, AFL-loving, 900kms from the greatest city in the world – Melbourne.
Still, what can you do? Jesus travelled from heaven to earth, I can travel from Sydney to Melbourne. I chatted to Em and she thought Melbourne could be alright, so I applied for the job.
A few interviews, visits, prayers and discussions later, the church voted to call me to the role and I accepted (I got the job). This means, we’re moving to Melbourne.
To be honest it’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Exciting to do new things, meet new people, build a life for ourselves, do church ministry again. Terrifying because we don’t know many people in Melbourne so we have a much smaller safety net if things go terribly wrong. We might just be lonely. We’re also sad to leave Sydney. We’ll miss our friends and family. We’ll miss knowing how to get places and just generally feeling comfortable.
But all up it seems like a good challenge. It’ll grow us. And I think we’ll get good stuff done. Em’s got lots of new opportunities there to do artisting. I’ve got lots of opportunities to learn to enjoy AFL. It’s gonna be fun. Plus, it’s not like we’ll be on the other side of the world. Sydney is just up the road.
Here’s to adventure.
The morning I headed off to get married I went to the doctor first. The weeks leading up to the wedding I had been getting regularly sick. I won’t go into detail – I’ll just say it was stomach cramps and spending quality time with the toilet. Somewhere along the way, there was suspicion that I might be coeliac. Coeliac disease, by my technical definition, means your body can’t absorb gluten (a by-product of wheat, barley, rye and many generally enjoyable foods). If you do eat gluten you can get digestive issues, weight loss, cancer, and death. So you know, it’s not great.
Anyway there had been suggestions that I might be coeliac (technically known as being glutarded) because every second person in my extended family is a glutard, even my adopted sister and some of the uncles and aunties who have married in have the disease. I had always maintained that if I was a glutard, I didn’t want to know, because well, it precludes you from eating so many tasty foods. I would have preferred go to an early grave eating a beer-battered, Krispy Kreme donut than have to spend my life eating bread that has the same consistency as the Great Wall of China.
But when it was getting close to wedding and I was getting sick once a week or more, I realised maybe I should get checked. Plus I thought leaving a widow behind because I love the taste of gluten may be a bit selfish.
So I went to the doctor that morning to find out if I was in fact a glutard. She informed me that yes, the test results were positive. I am a glutard and I’ve been one for a while.
This was difficult, just before I got married my life was thrown into chaos. No more cream-buns, ever. I’m surprised Emily even chose to marry such a diseased man.
There are so many things I can’t eat now. I didn’t have a high gluten diet before, but it turns out they sneak gluten into everything, it’s not just in bread and pasta. Potato wedges, pad see ewe, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, everything worth eating at Maccas (if you can call anything there worth eating), beer, soy sauce and most things enjoyable to eat contain gluten.
Plus now I have to ask when I go to food establishments if they have gluten-free food and I feel like an idiot. I assume they’ll think I’ve just chosen the “gluten-intolerant” lifestyle – which apparently may not be a thing anyway – rather than that I have a genuine life threatening and sloppy-poop generating disease. As a result, I often don’t ask, I just try and figure out what is gluten-free on my own, but then Emily pipes up and asks for me because she takes my safety more seriously, so now, not only do I look like a guy riding the GF bandwagon, I look like the guy whose wife has shoved him on the GF bandwagon perhaps without his enthusiastic consent.
I’m not that guy, Emily is not that wife, I just want to live, just not always at the expense of my image. I’m very conscious of how I come across to people in the hospitality industry.
All that said, now three weeks in, my digestion has never been better, I’m putting on weight, I’m discovering new and less interesting foods to eat and I’m learning how to talk to people who work in Thai restaurants about dietary requirements. I’m growing as a person. I’m learning to own my disability. I’m hoping to get a special disabled parking permit soon.
Sometimes, I feel like I’d be happy to risk a bit of diarrhoea and cancer for some hot wedges and a cold beer. But when I do, I just remind myself that one day, I’ll become a motivational speaker and my ability to cope with my terrible illness will be an inspiration to many.
I’m not just a glutard, I’m also a hero. Let my courage inspire you.