My Eight Wives
I confess—I’ve had eight wives in my life so far. I know, it sounds terrible, but I must be quick to point out, I’ve loved them all—and still do! Let me tell you about each:
Wife #1 Satellite Sidekick
wife was a traditional wife—a “help-meet” of sorts. She cooked meals to suit my taste, decorated
a comfortable nest for us to live in, made the bed every day and did all the
dishes after every meal. Sometimes I
even helped and when I did she effusively praised me. My first wife was sort of like a full time
administrative assistant at home—she’d pre-read magazines for me, did all the
shopping, and generally focused her life on making my life more comfortable and
happy. She was a college drop out. In fact she dropped out of college to put me
through college and seminary. Sometimes
we had disagreements but after some arguing she usually admitted she was in the
wrong and I gracefully hugged her and forgave her. My first wife even adopted my own hobbies as
her own. She learned to hike and camp
and went along with me on my childhood dream of hiking a thousand miles on the
Wife #2 Secretary
My second wife was a secretary. She devotedly served a dean of a nearby college so she had more outlets than just serving me like #1 had. However, I still had a great deal—after she came home from work she still did almost all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes and house cleaning. I handled the more weighty matters like mowing the grass (by hiring a neighborhood kid), fixing the roof (mostly by examining it) and worrying about the future of civilization. I felt like I was being quite generous in sharing her with her daytime boss, but it was a fair trade—since she brought home a paycheck to help us buy important things like backpacking equipment, ten speed bicycles and kites. I loved my second wife too—I can remember picking her up from the office in my little VW beetle…watching her come down those steps. She would always smile at me and plant a kiss on my lips as soon as she got in the car. She was busier than my first wife, but I loved her too.
Wife #3 Stay-at-home mom
My third marriage was to a women who did not work outside the home—she stayed home raising our kids and managing our home. She taught our sons Bible stories. Every day or two she assigned me to read the bedtime story. I was often too tired and volunteered to do it the following night, to which she would reply “You’ll do just fine tonight—here’s the book.” In fact, I became a pretty good dad mostly because of my third wife. She assigned me the jobs “good dads” do. This woman was a managing marvel. She made lists for everything, got competitive bids for every house repair, and spent half her time figuring out how to save money on everything from sneakers to groceries. She discovered the local meat packer got rid of all the unclaimed venison once a year, so she bought 20-25 deer each year and our family ate deer meat at every meal for five years. On top of all this home-keeping, my third wife decided to go back to college and got her bachelor’s degree—the degree she had given up to get me. She earned a degree in business management—because she thought she liked managing people (at that time she mostly managed our two sons and several pets). Thus my third wife started out as a stay-at-home mom talking with my kids about Big Bird and the latest drama on Mister Rogers, then wound up talking about personnel policies, strategic planning and accounting procedures. I could see I wasn’t going to be able to keep this wife very long, and I didn’t.
Wife #4 Itinerant Speaker
My fourth wife traveled and spoke a lot. This marriage was a complicated one—since I too traveled and spoke during that period of my life. We had to work out “covering the kids” and competing engagements so we had to do lots of trade-offs. Sometimes her schedule would prevail and I’d stay home. At other times my schedule would win and she’d go back to being a stay-at-home mom for a while. This wife is the one who founded an organization for the wives of ministers called “Yokemates.” She held conferences in a number of denominations and maintained a monthly newsletter and wrote articles for national magazines. Occasionally the two of us would be invited to speak at a conference or retreat together. This seemed nice on the surface. However it actually was more difficult since neither of us were with our kids during the retreat and thus we had to pay a sitter. And, of course the sponsors of such events usually split the normal honorarium between us anyway, so we sometimes wound up subsidizing joint travel. I loved wife #4 but increasingly came to respect her too, probably more than my first three wives. I remember once slipping into the back of a conference where she was speaking and I watched her behind the lectern in front of several hundred people. It was a funny feeling I had that day—something like love but different in some way. I felt proud of her.
Wife #5 Dog Breeder
Through a series of events and experiences I need not mention here, I wound up in a marriage to my fifth wife—a dog breeder. This wife was also a stay-at-home person, but not a stay-at-home mom. Well, she was a mom, but my sons didn’t really need her much except for her to faithfully buy eight bushels of cereal and sixty gallons of milk a week—they were teenagers. But she was needed. My own mother needed here—she had come to live with us and was declining in health. I was traveling often so wife #5 spent lots of time caring for my her ailing mother. Stuck at home, this wife started a business of breeding Golden Retrievers on the side that ultimately turned it into a significant business that became no longer “on the side.” This wife was amazing with money—not only could she save money like my third wife, but this one knew how to “spend money to make money.” Everything she touched prospered. While my fifth marriage was the most stressful I’ve had, I was constantly amazed at this wife’s business acumen. I loved her still, and in a different sort of way—coming to love a person under duress.
Wife #6 Graduate Student
My sixth wife was a grad student. First, she found out she could get a Master’s degree in business in evening classes so I covered the home that evening while she earned her Master’s. But the part of this marriage I remember best is the period while she was earning her PhD and writing her dissertation. What a lady! This gal had a full time job doing academic administration work for a University. Yet after a grueling day she’d go to work on her PhD every evening and all weekends except for a date night we snatched away each Friday. For more than three years she put in an additional 20 hours a week after her day job. This marriage was yet another adjustment for me. Here was a driven lady ten times more focused than any of my first five wives and was even more focused than I had even been—which surprised me. The years during her PhD were one incredible ride! In this marriage we didn’t have much time for each other so we spent it in highly leveraged dates or dinners. She’d leave her office at five and we’d grab a quick bite of fast food for 30 minutes before she went for the rest of the evening to study and write. When she got home I was often already asleep. She worked all day Saturday, and many Sunday afternoons as well. This was a totally different marriage than any I’d had before. In a way it was my turn to become the house-husband, so I offered to do housework and care for household details while she studied. (I did, however insist that if I cleaned the house it would get cleaned only after it degraded down to my standards, not hers—to which she agreed.) This marriage was good for me. Sometimes I would get a glimpse of what my first and second wives did in serving me and I came to love them all the more for it. But I really was wowed by this grad student—she simply swept me off my feet. She seemed younger in a way than any of my former wives. Perhaps it was the learning, or the personal growth, or the determination, or whatever, but as an older man it was exhilarating to have this younger woman grad student as wife #6—what a great marriage, and totally different than my former marriages.
Wife #7 Academic Dean Ph.D.
received her PhD in her 50’s and became academic Dean of the adult program
where she led the academic life of 12,000 adult students and I landed her. This was a high-powered academic
administrator type wife who told a dozen other PhD’s where to go and what to
do. She was a respected leader and
developed the men and women under her leadership. She went to meetings all day
and was responsible for a budget well over ten million dollars. She delivered
scholarly papers at national conferences and was a measured person known for
her wisdom. This lady was one fine
specimen of a leader and I was lucky to have landed her—she was a “good boss” at
work but was never bossy at home. She
answered a hundred emails a day and made scores of decisions. While this wife
was not a backpacker like wife #1 was, she’s was supportive of my own hiking
habit and always sent me brownies to the post offices along the way on the
trails (though she did not discover for several years that I don’t like brownies). She was “not into cooking” like some of my
earlier wives, so we went out to eat a lot. In this marriage I was more of a
“traditional wife” than any of my other marriages. I did about half of the
household chores though it seemed to me it was way more than half ;-). This
wife had her laptop hooked up to the Internet even when we drove to
Wife #8 Doctoral Professor Ph.D.
I just got
my present wife (April 2007). She is a faculty member in my University where
she teaches doctoral students in organizational leadership. She is a nice
change of pace after the high-impact administrator of #7 wife.
We are two empty nest college professors snuggling and chatting together. We have similar work schedules and do similar
things. She teaches half-and-half… about
half online and the other half onsite where the doctoral students fly in for her
all-day or multi-day classes. She is always posting thoughtful things and
helping students with their dissertations. This wife is an avid reader and
researcher—more than any of my other wives. She has an incurable love of
knowledge and has in fact always loved academic life. When this wife was just
ten years old she used to ride a city bus all alone almost every Saturday to
As you can see, when it comes to women I prefer variety. I am so blessed to have had eight great wives. Some of these marriages were stronger than others. In some relationships I was surely more selfish than others. But what a privilege for me—some men are stuck with the same woman their whole life—I’ve had eight since 1967 and loved them all! Watch out Henry VIII, I’m right behind you!
Of course those of you who know me understand that I’m talking about the same woman here. I have never had a divorce and am not guilty of bigamy. These eight wives are all the same woman, the love of my life for the last 40+ years, Sharon Drury.
So when my students come in for advice and actually show me a list of “what I want in my wife” I just laugh. Marriage isn’t about getting a certain kind of person—it is about living the rest of life changing together. Marriage is not a destination but a road trip. The question is who to take the trip with.
Keith Drury. Originally