Expired Love: The Christmas Gift that Almost Destroyed our Marriage

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They told me when I got married that love lasts forever.

They lied.

*****

My wife and I got married in our early twenties.  We were fresh out of Christian college, just a couple of kids turned loose in the world.  We were also both virgins, so we had a lot of things to get caught up on (←one thing, sex).  To put it in biblical parlance, we had entered into the land of milk and honey, and I was there, and I saw that it was good.

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Christmas was always a special time.  We slept until 9 or 10, awaking peacefully to the sounds of absolutely nothing at all.  Then we stumbled downstairs, sometimes without pants, and opened presents.  Or maybe we ate breakfast first.  No rush.  Whatever, you know?  It was chill.

During one such Christmas I fished around in my stocking and pulled out a series of index cards.  I examined them carefully and discovered that they were coupons that my wife had made.

To be precise, they were personal coupons (←sex coupons).

A scowl of disdain passed over my face as I flipped through the stack.

“Did this one last night,” I muttered, flicking one card with my finger.

The coupons were not all the same; some were for very specific things.

“Did this one last week.”

I shook my head.

“We do this one, like…come on, babe.  We’ll probably do this one TONIGHT.”

I sighed and put the cards away.  Just poor hustle on her part, really.  I was 24; why did I need coupons?

*****

Fast forward several Christmases.   We now have a baby, which is cool, except that we don’t get to sleep or do whatever we want.  I love the baby, but she is kind of a pain:  Her schedule controls everything—when we eat, when we can go out, and it is severely affecting our ability to be chill.

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And about that milk and honey: it is gone.

One day I’m rummaging around in my dresser looking for socks.  I am in a haze: angry, disoriented, and wildly moody.  I haven’t been to the promised land in five weeks, or five months, or WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE I’LL NEVER GO THERE AGAIN AND I HATE EVERYTHING.

I throw open my sock drawer and there are no socks.  OF COURSE NOT.  Guess I should be doing more loads of socks in the laundry, seeing as how I’ve got all this free time from not having sex.  Why not.  Who cares.  Everything in the universe hates me.

Screw it, I’ll put on that one pair of mismatched black/blue dress socks that have been in the back of the drawer since I was in 7th grade.  Serves the universe right, anyway.

My hands uncover something in the back of the drawer.  Slowly I pull some pieces of paper out into the light.

My eyes can scarcely believe what they see: in my hands are the long-lost coupons from that one Christmas!  In His loving providence, my Heavenly Father has sustained me!  My breath begins to race.  This is my manna, my sustenance to survive this desert!

My mouth begins to move, forming sounds that string together but aren’t really words.  I sit down on the bed, hoarding the index cards to my chest like Gollum and his ring.  When I am certain that no one is around who might steal them, I begin to flip through the cards.

Ah!  That! I remember that!

And that!  Oh, how I have missed that!

Meanwhile, my heart is swelling with love for my wife.  Oh, my heart, how it is full! I will write a book of sonnets to her, so future generations will read of her beaut–

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But then I flip one of the cards over.

The love drains right out of me, and you can forget about that sonnet crap.

 

That woman, that cruel, heartless woman, has put an expiration date on each of the coupons.  They have been expired for over two years.

In sheer endorphin-seeking desperation my brain scrambles, trying to bend reality itself: what year is it? I am able to confuse myself into thinking that perhaps they are not expired yet.

THEY’RE STILL GOOD, THEY’RE STILL GOOD REDEEM THEM ALL RIGHT NOW

But it cannot last. The fog lifts and I am left sitting on the bed clutching expired intimacy vouchers, slouched over and without hope.

The baby starts crying in the next room and I stagger towards the sound of the cries, more dead than alive.

*****

In time, our marriage survived.  We learned to love again; we learned to hope again.  Though this story brings no small amount of anguish to revisit, I do so in the hope that other marriages can be spared.

Marriage vows are forever, friends, and sex coupons should be too.