Michael A. Covington    Michael A. Covington, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Adjunct Professor of Computer Science
Associate Director
Artificial Intelligence Center
The University of Georgia
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Daily Notebook

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To commemorate our 25th wedding anniversary, these three entries are reproduced here on a single page. To see the complete Daily Notebook, click here.


25 years!

Michael and Melody

Today, July 25, 2007, Melody and I celebrate 25 years of happy and successful marriage.

I do mean happy and successful. We haven't had so much as one serious quarrel the whole time.

I've written some things already about why we've done so well. To begin with, I think part of the secret of being happily married is wanting to be, and wanting it wholeheartedly. You have to genuinely love each other — and that is act of the will, a commitment, not just something that passively happens to you.

You also have to want to be the kind of person who can be a good spouse — and I don't mean a homemaking stereotype, female or male. I mean a person who is genuinely dedicated to the other.

People say that to have a happy marriage, "you have to work at it." I won't say that. Being married to Melody is far too much fun to be called work. But we definitely love each other so much that we are on our guard against anything that would come between us.

One of the ground rules I set for myself, long ago, is that I would never keep a list of grudges or grievances against Melody (or, for that matter, anyone else; it's contrary to Christian morality; see I Cor. 13:4-5). Nor would I ever criticize her, to herself or to anyone else, nor allow anyone else to criticize her in my presence.

Deeper than that, both of us believe in no cynicism. We do not engage in the kind of soul-destroying mind games where a person tries both to affirm something and to deny it. We are wholehearted. I don't insult myself by saying that my wife "ties me down" or "won't let me" do some dubious thing. I married Melody voluntarily. I made a commitment and I'm going to follow through with it.

Best of all, Melody and I are best friends. Not all marriages have this characteristic; before the 1950s, probably, few did. A man and a woman can certainly be lovers, and even happy spouses, without being very deep friends, without having many intellectual interests in common. But in fact Melody and I are friends.

I thank God for these 25 years. 2500 more years would not be enough.

Other related entries:
How we met
The secrets of our happy marriage

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Happy anniversary to us!

Melody and I just got back from a weekend in Atlanta celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary (which is July 25). As a present, I gave Melody the trip, and she completely surprised me with a new MonteVerde fountain pen. Surprising me is hard to do because I review all the bank accounts and credit cards almost daily. But Melody did it. She is a woman of great talent.

We stayed at the Sheraton Suites Galleria and apparently made quite an impression on the restaurant manager, who sent an anniversary present to our room - it turned out to be champagne and strawberries.

People often tell us we're an unusually happy married couple, and we've certainly had 23 great years with plenty more to come. Here's my advice to those who want to achieve marital bliss, our way...

(1) Marry someone you like. An amazing number of dating or married couples don't seem to like each other as individuals. They're in love, but they're not best friends, or even particularly fond of each other in a non-sexual way.

In fact, this was a cultural stereotype 50 years ago - "my wife is beautiful but I don't understand her" - the cartoon image of the football ape married to the frilly china doll. But that is not what makes a good marriage.

People who don't like each other end up not treating each other very well. Their "love" is often just égoïsme à deux ("egoism for two"), and it's very fragile, vulnerable to every hazard. Not us.

(2) Be faithful. Complete chastity before marriage; perfect sexual fidelity afterward. We can't imagine doing it any other way. There are those who will say we're naïve, but I'll reply that there are things a person is better off missing.

Our commitment includes mental fidelity - the things Jesus said about "committing adultery in your heart." I don't mean we have to pretend not to be attracted to the opposite sex. What I mean is that we can't cultivate a mental fantasy life contrary to what we stand for in the real world.

If you are a peace activist, you probably don't fantasize about being a general in a cruel dictator's army. If you're an environmentalist, you probably don't daydream about building factories to pollute rivers. Well, marriage is the same way - if you're married, you can't spend your time mentally rehearsing things directly contrary to your commitment.

(3) Make a real commitment. Marriage is not just a temporary project Melody and I are trying out. It's part of what we are. We made a commitment not just to each other, but to society and to God.

It follows that any threat to our marriage is a threat to us, not just an obstacle to one of our projects. That criterion makes a lot of decisions very easy.

(4) Have plenty of fun. Melody is my joy and my delight. There's nothing tentative about our relationship - she's mine and I'm hers. Hooray!

Permanent link to this entry

22nd Anniversary

Twenty-two years ago today, July 25, 1982, Melody and I got married at her church in Winder, Georgia. We have been (and still are) a very happy couple. Actually, neither of us could imagine being married to anyone else.

We have been best friends even longer than we've been married. Here is the history of how we met.

In October 1972, I visited The University of Georgia as a high-school student in line to get a National Merit Scholarship. That day (I think it was the 28th) I decided to come to Georgia rather than some other university (actually, my alternative plans were very vague).

And on November 8, 1975, I attended the same annual event again as a University of Georgia student, to help recruit more National Merit Scholars.

It was early in the morning; we were in the lobby outside the Law School Auditorium, and the visiting students were coming in, most of them accompanied by entourages of parents, kid brothers, etc. Over in the corner was a nice-looking girl who had no entourage. I saw my duty to the University and did it.

She introduced herself as Melody Mauldin, of Winder, Georgia, and I took good care of her all day. Then she went back to Winder and we wrote letters to each other (admittedly a primitive technology, but in those days there was no e-mail, and even a phone call over that short distance cost about 25 cents per minute).

We started dating in May of 1976 after she arranged to meet me on two subsequent visits to the University. Then I looked at a map, found that Winder was much closer than I had thought, and pursued the opportunity.

Here you see Melody's high-school portrait, which I've carried in my wallet since 1976, although I've digitized it a couple of times just in case the original deteriorates or is lost.

Recently, reading one of these Reader's Digest articles on how to have a successful marriage, Melody and I concluded that we had a successful marriage by the end of our first or second date. The immature stages that people talk about just didn't happen; no games, no manipulation, no rivalry. (Maybe we had a good marriage even before we met, and we were each waiting for the other half of it to come along!) We were best friends from the start, as well as lovers, and it gradually became evident that neither of us could ever marry anyone else!

We were at Georgia together for a year (1976-77), and then Melody patiently endured five years of intermittent separation while I was at Cambridge and Yale. By then we were sure we were a permanent couple. We got married in 1982 and spent our honeymoon driving to Los Angeles, where I took up a postdoctoral fellowship at USC. In 1984 we came back to Georgia; Cathy and Sharon were born in 1985 and 1988 respectively. And, as they say, "the rest is history."

I should add that we didn't live together or "fool around" before the wedding. Our wedding night really was our wedding night. We both believe very strongly that if you don't have sexual self-discipline before marriage, you won't have what you need within marriage either. And neither of us can imagine being bonded to anyone else. We're not two people who just happen to be together; we're (as the Bible puts it) one creature.

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