By Norris Burkes Sep 27 2020

I’m lucky that my wife, Becky, still laughs at the preposterous proposal I made to another woman 42 years ago. Today, you’re also lucky because she’s approved my retelling the story to you.

I begin by explaining how, early in our marriage, we routinely substituted the Brand “X” for the real name of any previous relationship.  The nickname came from commercials which promised a certain laundry soap to be new-and-improved and “sparkly clean” – far superior to Brand X.

Today’s story is about my Brand X. The label puts me at odds with my editors who expect real names. There are no anonymous sources here, but between my wife and editors, guess who wins? 

On a beautiful fall day, I proposed to X as my Baylor roommate, Roger Williams chauffeured X and me toward the university on my way back from dental surgery.

Yes, you’ve all seen the hilarious videos portraying someone struggling through the fading effects of anesthesia. Mine was one of those moments.

I’d just had my wisdom teeth removed and believed myself still wise enough for love.

According to Roger, who retells the story with more humiliation every year, I began regaling Brand X with my exciting future. Apparently, I promised X I would graduate with honors, go to seminary, become “America’s Favorite Chaplain.”

But first, I’d need a wife.

So, somewhere on the route between First Baptist Church and Whataburger, I blurted my what-the-heck question.

“X, will you marry me?”

Apparently, again according to Roger, who can’t really be trusted, I gushed while she blushed.

Then, Brand X said “Yes!”

However, I do remember Roger interrupting us several times to say, “We need to get him back to the dorm room.”

The next morning, X awakened me with a phone call. Still groggy, I understood her to say she was shopping for wedding dresses. Worse yet, her mother was plotting how to transfer us both out of “liberal Baylor” and into a local Bible college. 

The call came to a standstill when my “fiancé” told me that her mom had found a dermatologist for me who could provide a blemish free wedding day.

“Let me get back to you,” I told her. 

As I hung up, I noticed Roger tapping an impatient foot to the floor. He’d understood the gist of the conversation.  

“You’ve got to stop this thing, Norris,” he said. “If you marry this girl, her mother will be running your life.”  He encouraged me to reverse this train and tell X that contracts made under the influence are null and void. No, he wasn’t a prelaw major, but it seemed right.

So, that’s what I told X. Remarkedly, she mostly understood and within the month, our yearlong relationship came to an end.

Gratefully, I can fondly retell ours as a fairly typical college romance. Sadly, this quarantine makes me especially aware that not everyone is as fortunate with their past or current relationships.

Perhaps you or someone you know is living in an atypical relationship where your spouse barrages you with daily insults or mind games. Worse yet, maybe you’re being physically abused as well as emotionally.

If that’s true, I hope you’ll seek counsel from friends like Roger who God has placed in your life. If they advise you to get out, it may be time to listen.  

Remember, you are child of God and you deserve a marriage that is safe and thriving. If that doesn’t describe your marriage, then it’s not a marriage. It just might be abuse. 

So maybe, just maybe, today find the courage to seek counsel so that you both become the “new and improved” partner – helping each other sparkle and shine. 

This year Roger and I mark 40+ years of friendship. But better yet, both of us have enjoyed four decades of “sparkling” marriages with our new-and-improved brands.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great resource for victims and survivors of domestic violence. Call 1-800-799-7233.


Visit or me at 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715. Twitter @chaplain.