Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

A television station is running a marathon of episodes from a 1960s television program called “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The airings are in honor of the 50th anniversary of the series.

It’s fun to watch old programs that chronicled a simpler time, when valuing faith and family was the norm, and right and wrong were clearly defined – or at least more clearly identified than they are today. I’m not looking at that time as the “good old days.” There was a lot that was wrong about those days, too. Racism and sexism were rampant. Many families worked hard to portray an accepted image, denying problems or sweeping them under the proverbial rug.

We laugh now at the crises dealt with on some of those programs from the 50s and early 60s. “Father Knows Best,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Leave it to Beaver” – simple shows that are the video equivalent of comfort food. Nothing controversial. Bud had a crush on a girl at school. Laura dyed her hair blonde. Beaver feared a visit to the dentist. Not exactly earthshattering topics.

Yet decades after I first saw the program, the best analogy about marriage I ever heard came from an episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” In this particular episode, Rob Petrie is having a conversation with a friend who boasts about his playboy lifestyle. This friend insisted that marriage is nothing more than a relational prison. Rob thinks about it for a moment, and then responds. I don’t have the precise quote, but the following is a paraphrase:

“To some people, the boundaries of marriage are like the fence around a prison. The fence keeps everything that is good and pleasurable outside – out of reach. But to me, the boundaries of marriage are like the fence surrounding Disneyland. That fence holds in everything that is good, fun, enjoyable, and pleasurable.”

This doesn’t mean every marriage or every spouse is perfect. Far from it. At times I share Ruth Bell Graham’s view of marriage and divorce. When asked by a reporter if she had ever considered divorcing Billy Graham, her answer was, “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes.” And I’m sure my husband has felt the same way on occasion!

Perhaps if more of us took Rob Petrie’s view of marriage, we’d be less likely to fall for “the grass is always greener” syndrome. And maybe, just maybe, we’d find ourselves spending less time in prison and more time in Disneyland.

What do you think?



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