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Archive for May, 2012

I read this morning that a new dating book will be published next year by the authors of the The Rules, a dating book published in the 90s. The title of the new one is Not Your Mother’s Rules.

One of the authors is interviewed here. She summarizes their advice for women in the world of online dating,

Don’t answer a guy’s ad, and post a light and breezy ad talking about interests, hobbies, favorite foods, books, movies, etc. Don’t mention anything about dreams and regrets and include a couple of sexy photos. If a guy doesn’t ask you out within 4 emails, next! Rules girls are looking for dates, not pen pals.

and

 A woman cannot email, or even wink at a guy’s profile, without becoming the aggressor and possibly getting hurt down the line when the guy dumps her for the woman whose profile he really likes. The only way to be sure that a guy is interested is to let him make the first move.

I’ve only skimmed The Rules once several years ago, but my impression from this distance is that the authors start their rules with good rules of thumb, but goes too far details. We’ll have to see what they do with this new book.

Have you consulted books for dating advice? Have any books been helpful?

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Do you despair in your singleness?

We women handle feelings of despair differently. For many, it’s a reason to be insanely busy–less time to think.  Others let despair preoccupy their thoughts until they wallow in it.  I avoided (mostly!) these extremes in my single years, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel the great weight of it. There were a few nights when despair pressed so heavily on my heart that it was hard to breathe.  One of those nights was after Jones got married, I am sorry to say. I usually didn’t have a hard time with weddings and I was overjoyed for the bride and groom, but that was a long, sleepless night.

It is hard. hard. hard. to walk the thin line of hopefulness when you feel crushed down, but the extreme alternatives are not helpful.  Wallowing is not only unproductive and hopeless, but unattractive.  Busyness for the sake of squelching your desire for marriage and relationship only numbs and dulls a woman’s heart. In contrast, the heart of a woman walking the thin line of hope is tender and brave, open to new people and opportunities, and I believe that some of a woman’s greatest personal and emotional strength lies in how she handles the feelings and her time.

Emily Stimpson is a woman trying to walk the thin line of hope.  She now writes a column and has recently published a book about being single (The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right)  And she has this to say about despair and hope in her recent column.

It’s despair that leads us to date people we shouldn’t and do things we oughtn’t. It’s despair that makes us bitter, hard and cold, the embodiment of everything the culture tells us we’ll be if we’re living a chaste single life. And it’s despair that turns us in on ourselves, preventing us from seeing the needs of others and loving them as they need to be loved.

Despair is not our friend. Hope is our friend. Hope is what gets us through a string of bad dates or a stretch of none at all. Hope is what keeps us going after a breakup or when we feel like the last single person standing. Hope is what allows us to trust that God really does know what he’s doing.

She concludes that “remaining hopeful may be a single person’s greatest task.”  I couldn’t agree more.  We’re going to talk a lot more on this blog about cultivating hope.

As usual, we would love to hear from you. Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to thank a veteran or serviceman or woman for keeping us free.

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My grandparents will celebrate anniversary #70 this week.  That’s seven followed by a zero. Spelled seventy.  Impressive, hmmm?

I was privileged to live near them for several years in my adulthood and got to observe a few things about them that, as a child, I did not notice.  For example, Grandma could be very stubborn and sometimes passive aggressive. Grandpa didn’t cook. I don’t think he even mastered the bowl of oatmeal that he had every single morning until the instant came along.  Grandma told me once that when they had company, she often felt a little resentful that she was in the kitchen cleaning things up while others visited. So, there were things that provoked them both.

That’s the short list; here’s the long. Grandpa is a gentlemen. The old school style. Women are ladies and he treats them like a gentleman treats a lady.  He opens doors and speaks respectfully and carries all of the suitcases and drives across town and always wants to pay for your meal. That’s how he treats all the ladies, so he treats Grandma very well.  I have never heard him speak disrespectfully to her or about her. He loved to talk about how he wanted to marry her the first time he saw her when they were teens, and about how she sometimes rode her bicycle to the construction site where he was working, greatly distracting his attention.  He also loved to tell about their engagement and the circumstances of their wedding  just as the United States got involved in WWII.

Grandma knows all of their stories.  She also knows all of Grandpa’s jokes and military stories because she’s heard them all. Multiple times. And yet every time he tells one, she watches him, listens attentively, and does her best to help with a name or place if he asks.  She is proud of the way he looks, especially his flat stomach and upright carriage, and she will tell you that while she pats his stomach approvingly.  She has trouble walking now, and holds Grandpa’s arm for support wherever they go.

They always give each other cards for their anniversaries. And they would usually show them to me when I stopped by the house.  “Did you see the card that Grandpa gave me?” Grandma asked on one of these occasions. I read it and teased her a little. “I guess everyone knows,” I said. “It’s no secret any more that you love each other.”  “Yes,” said Grandma. “I don’t know why he loves me, but he does.”

Their solid commitment has seen them through parenting four children, multiple military separations, health difficulties, and the hard times everyone experiences.  I would say that their marriage was stabilized by their personal commitment to each other, their marriage and family, and by their Christian faith.

One tangible result of their commitment is family stability for two more generations. The stability of their marriage, and that of my parents and other grandparents, inspires me to do all I can to continue our family’s great marriage heritage.

More about them tomorrow.

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I like the list of ways to “15 Ways to Stay Married for 15 Years” by blogger Lydia Netzer. I don’t know anything else about her, but appreciate her no-nonsense and personalized approach to the advice.

Here are some excerpts from the list:

3. Don’t criticize. Ever.

Assuming you married someone intelligent enough to like you and sane enough to let you put a ring on it, trust that they are self-aware enough to know when they screwed up. It may feel good to you in that moment to say the critical thing, let it go ringing through the air in all its sonorous correctness, but it will feel awful to hear it. The only, only way it’s beneficial to give your wife criticism of any kind is if you’re absolutely positive she is completely unaware. And you better find the nicest, kindest way possible to tell her.

4. Be the mirror.

Your husband is the mirror in which you see yourself. And the things you say to him give him an image of himself too, which he will believe. You want him to believe it, so make it good. Be a mirror that reflects something positive: you’re smart, you’re successful, you’re fantastic in the sack, you’re a great provider, you’re the best. Can you MAKE him any of these things just by telling him he is? I don’t know, but consider this: the alternative really sucks. The things my husband says to me are 1,000 times more convincing than anyone else’s opinion on earth. Don’t think he won’t believe you because you’re married and you’re contractually obligated to say nice things. He’ll believe the shitty, insulting things you say and the gloriously positive things.

10. Stop thinking temporarily.

Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can let go of the idea that marriage is temporary — and will end if certain awful conditions are met — the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress.

And what does this have to do with me, single girl, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I ask about these three because the habits needed for successful marriage are best cultivated before marriage. Also, I find these three to be particularly challenging ideas in our culture.

For example, a lot of people of marrying age are cohabiting instead–many because every married couple they’ve known has divorced–and they don’t want to “ruin” a good relationship with marriage.  But Lydia’s advice, and the advice of every successfully married couple, is to go big or go home. Marriage thrives on the permanent commitment. 

How about her advice to never criticize?  I had some bad experiences with this one in the single years. I wasn’t trying to be critical–in fact, I was once put on the spot by a guy asking me if I could tell that he had gained weight.  Other times, I probably thought I was being helpful or smart when I pointed something out.  It took me awhile to figure out that my words in these scenarios nearly always came across as criticism, and likely discouraged a man who may have been interested in me.  It’s not that a girl has to lie or not give her opinion, but a man who is interested in you cares a lot about your good opinion.  Kind and respectful words go a long way on the occasion that something really needs to be said.

Being the mirror, as she called it, is the flipside of never criticizing.  It’s a proactive, positive action, and also one that you can implement now. I had a bad experience with this, too, but in writing.  Joking, sarcastic insults that I loved to zing when in my early 20soften translated just fine when spoken, did not have the same effect when written in an email. As I matured and learned a little bit more about the root of sarcasm (in Latin it means “to tear flesh”–yikes!), I weeded it out of my language all together.  That was several years before I was married so a lot of my relationships benefited from focusing on positive, building words.

The truth is, a person who speaks positively is a lot more attractive to others, and therefore, to a potential spouse. Personally, I make enough mistakes accidentally, if being positive and purposeful with my words saves me some more misunderstanding, sign me up!

Well, I welcome your thoughts.  How does her advice strike you?  Do you think in terms of permanency when you think about marriage? How do you measure up on the “don’t criticize” and “be the mirror” categories? Is there anything you disagree with? Does it fly in the face of other advice you’ve been given?

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The world is suspended in springtime.  Trees and flowers have been blooming since March and it’s still in the 70s here. I’m loving my morning walks, spotting the new blooms and and the changes people made in their yards and gardens over the weekend.

So, I don’t think this is so weird, but some of my friends have thought so. I associate certain books and music and bedding and movies and colors and foods, etc. with seasons.  Favorite old chick flicks like “Runaway Bride” and “You’ve Got Mail” are autumn movies, “While You Were Sleeping” is now a standard Christmas movie, and Pride and Prejudice is a book to be read in the spring–preferably April.  I Capture the Castle is for summer reading, and many of my favorite Sting songs are for winter–after Christmas.  The crisp, white sheets are for summer, and the cream sheets are to me, the warmth-inducing shade for winter.

It’s not that I enjoy these things only in that one season, but it is when I have the greatest desire to enjoy them.  I admit that with the seasonal position of the movies is influenced–very predictably– by the season it’s set in, or the season in which I saw it. The Harry Potter movies I want to see in the winter time, but that’s when they came out.  I’m conditioned!

Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not alone.  Now where are the framed lilac photos … ?

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So, marriage is really making headlines this week. Voters in North Carolina voted yesterday to define marriage as the union only of a man and a woman, and then President Obama stated that he is in favor of same-sex marriage.

I get the idea that most of the people I know who say that they support same-sex marriage do so because they think it’s fair. It’s fair that same-sex couples who love each other should be able to be together, they say.  Certainly the ads created by supporters of same-sex marriage play on this idea–even though no one is proposing a law that says same-sex couples can’t live together. But the gist of the ads talk largely about fairness, rights, responsibilities, hospital visitation, love, insurance, etc.

But here’s what they don’t talk about: sex and children. What I mean is, you see children in the ads, but you never hear anyone who supports same-sex marriage actually talk about sex and what it does or doesn’t do.  They don’t talk about how children arrive in the world and what children will lose if marriage is changed, and I think that that should be the most important part of the argument.  Is changing marriage going to be fair to children?  Do you think it’s important that our laws try to give them all a mother and a father?

Aren’t you glad you stopped by the blog today?  🙂

BASIC MARRIAGE
So about the sex. The definition of marriage implies sex and that’s mostly because of babies. It takes both a man and a woman to make a baby, and someone wise long ago decided it would be a good idea if the people who make the baby stick together to raise the baby, and they called it marriage. This is the way it has been done all over the world, and it seems like a pretty good idea because children have hard lives when they don’t grow up with both a mom and a dad.

MARRIAGE REDEFINED
Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would be a pretty radical change because it would no longer have much of anything to do with sex and babies. If widely redefined, marriage would become a way that two adults (or more, if marriage is about adults rather than connecting a child and his parents, its definition could naturally expand) tell other people that they are connected to each other based on their feelings for each other. They might choose to bring children into their lives, but the nature of their relationship will not naturally produce children.

GOVERNMENT AND MARRIAGE
The government recognizes marriage only because of children.  For example, the government is not interested in the fact that Jones and I are longtime friends, but they are interested to know who we married and if we will have children.  The government wants to know who is taking care of children, and government leaders have chosen to give tax breaks to married couples with children because they are sacrificing to raise our country’s most valuable resource: the next generation.

YOUR THOUGHTS
So, given these brief ideas, I’m curious about your thoughts. What do you think about the proposed redefinition? Did I give you any new ideas to consider?

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I’ve been thinking about the things people said or did that encouraged me or discouraged me as a single woman who desired marriage.

Things that discouraged or rankled:

  • Assumptions by marrieds that I had a lot of extra time to volunteer or babysit, or no social life because I wasn’t married with a family. In some ways a single is busier because there is no division of duties. I had to clean the house and get the oil changed in the car.  Bottom line:   A single person has to prioritize their time just like everyone else, and the unmarried state doesn’t necessarily equal loads of free time.
  • The spiritualizing of my unmarried state, especially by someone who married in their young 20s: “There’s so much you can do for God because you’re single–just like the apostle Paul!”  No matter how sincerely meant by well-intended people, this never came across well.  For one thing, Paul himself was a biblical exception.  Most people in the Bible were married.
  • You must be picky. There are varying definitions of “picky.” I know that some thought that my moral standards were too high, and others may have thought that marriage itself was the goal rather than being married to the right man. Whatever their definition, this statement made me overanalyze what might be 1) wrong with me, and 2) wrong with my standards, and 3) never helped me make any positive change I needed to make.

Words that encouraged:

  • It gave my confidence a little boost when someone said, “I don’t understand why you’re not married!” Others have found this same statement discouraging because it can also imply, “You look all right and seem normal so what’s wrong with you?” But here’s why I received it as a compliment: I didn’t come across as embittered or jealous or angry or desperate.  Too many men and women who desire to marry become bitter, and it shows.
  • Personal stories of people my age who married encouraged me.  While it was fall-down-on-the-ground discouraging in my 20s to hear the story of a couple finally finding a mate in their 50s (Oh Lord! Preserve me from THAT–the fate worse than death!), it gave me hope when the story was about people were closer to my age or a little older.  I still love hearing about the very unpredictable and improbably ways that people meet and marry, and now I love sharing my own story when it seems appropriate.
  • Reminders of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty and higher ways. Often these reminders came through Scripture.  The God who takes care of sparrows also watched over me and had a plan for me.  I also held onto scripture passages like those in Hebrews that talked about the great faith of men like Abraham and women like Sarah. They trusted God with His promises for a nation of people, surely I could trust Him with my heart and life. It was also helpful to hear stories of God’s faithfulness from my friends, and from church family and other speakers.

I would love to hear from you about this!  What kinds of things discourage and encourage you?  In the spirit of this post please share at least one thing you find encouraging for every discouragement you write about.  You didn’t think I was going to let you register only complaints, did you?!

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