Conversation: Charles Marshall
Marriage in progress
At 45, Charles Marshall describes himself as living in "geezer territory." The in-demand speaker uses comedy to explore an array of topics — with marriage high on the list. Marshall spoke to Scott Harrup, senior associate editor, about his 18-year-and-growing relationship with wife Laura.
tpe: What got you started in comedy?
MARSHALL: I couldn't get a real job. Once you're publicly educated and run out of options, this is the end-of-the-road career for you.
I gave my life to the Lord in 1983 and was a singer/songwriter who would do some funny stuff between songs. In 1996 acid reflux affected my singing voice. I relied more on the comedy. It turned out to be what people wanted to hear. I travel about 100,000 miles a year for weekend concerts.
tpe: How does family fit with your travels?
MARSHALL: Laura and I married in 1989 and began ministering full-time after 1991. Our daughter, Faith, is 5 now and Wesley is 3, so Laura's a stay-at-home mom and does a lot of publicity from my office.
People ask me, "Do your kids get to travel with you?" And I'm thinking, No, I want to wait until they're cutting a couple more teeth so we can raise the decibel level to 110. I can't concentrate on driving without maximum screamage.
tpe: Any advice for keeping family and career in balance?
MARSHALL: Laura and I try to keep a weekly date day. We hang out and talk and reconnect. That's real important when you're apart two or three days a week. You need to re-establish who you are as a couple.
That holds true when you have children. If you let them, kids will become little black holes of need sucking every bit of vitality out of you. You'll look up at the end of the day at your spouse and not realize who you're sitting across the table from.
It really helped to realize our relationship didn't have to be perfect for us to be in ministry. We have to attend to it, but nobody's perfect. This fa�ade some ministry couples have is destructive to the community because it sets a standard that doesn't exist. And it's destructive to the couple because it prohibits being real and growing together.
tpe: Any first-year adjustments stand out in your memory?
MARSHALL: There were minor issues like where we each put our junk. There were bigger issues, like our new identity. I was no longer "Charles the single guy." I became "Charles the married guy." We became "Charles and Laura the married couple." People relate to you differently.
Some of our biggest struggles were in simple personal habits. I'd say, "Honey, I'll be home in a little while." To me two or three hours is "a little while." This was before cell phones, so Laura would sit around wondering if I'd been in a wreck. When I got home she didn't know whether to hug me or strangle me.
tpe: What are some keys to joy in marriage?
MARSHALL: Not that I know anything profound, but if I could give someone a heads-up it would be to focus on flexibility. I try to keep my mouth shut. Garrison Keillor once said one of the main problems with marriage is communication — there's too much of it.
Don't assume that the way things were done when you were growing up is the right way. Learn to prefer each other's needs over your own. And realize you don't live in an automatic "happily ever after" world. In a fairy tale, the story ends when the prince and princess get married. In real life, that's when the challenges and adventure begin.
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