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Archive for the ‘Plan to marry’ Category

I hadn’t heard of it, but there is a play running in Washington D.C. called, “Bachelorette.” Eve Tushnet reviews it briefly here.  In the play, four overprivileged young women, as Tushnet describes them, are together the night before one of them gets married.

Marriage, for these women, is the gold ring (appropriate, hmmm?) they are all trying desperately to grasp.  It has everything to do with their goals for status and nothing to do with relationship. Tushnet describes it like this:

What the girls are really gluttonous for–their idol, what they want to consume, to possess, more than they want loyalty or friendship or happiness–is marriage.

This is marriage conceived purely as a status marker. It’s the final sign that you’ve arrived: a more consoling source of self-worth than your looks, or a good job. Marriage is a scarce good, not a default life path.

Picture the Jersey wives or the Kardashians or even a Bridezilla.  Bottom line: It’s all about them.

So, let’s test ourselves.  When you think about marriage, what do you picture?  There may be an initial mental image of a beautiful wedding, and then where do your thoughts go? How do you see yourself, and your future spouse when you picture marriage?  Take five minutes and just scratch out some of the images you see or ideas that come to mind.

Share with us what you see or imagine if you want to.  We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

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It’s okay to admit to yourself that you want to marry.  It’s even okay to say it. Out loud. To others.

When you say it to people, I encourage you to pause and let the statement just be. Stifle the urge to explain or equivocate.  Let the person react, and know that this could be a little bit uncomfortable for both of you.  There is a myriad of possible responses but if someone responds negatively I would suggest that you deflect their words with a simply-worded response like, “I think marriage is a good thing and it’s been the desire of my heart for awhile now.”  Then, change the subject, or find a reason to leave the conversation.

There are at least two very good reasons to go ahead and say it. First, the good of stating any goal out loud is that it is more likely to become a part of who you are and something you work toward.

Second, it will be helpful for your friends and even acquaintances to know that marriage is a goal for you. Most people still meet their future spouse through friends or family members, so they can be a conduit for meeting husband material.  If your friends are negative about marriage, they should at least respect your hopes. If they don’t, you might consider finding some friends who will encourage you.

A third and fourth reason.  Your statement will encourage any friends who are like-minded but afraid to admit it, to be as strong as you are. And, you will stand out in the crowd to any man among your friends who would also like to marry.  Good men will admire your forthrightness, and the players will know not to mess with you.

Note: And now, as you’re thinking of a player you’re attracted to, and wish that he would change, stop it! Stop thinking about him!  The best way you can encourage a player to change is not to play his game. He is terrible husband material and, as the well-known book (He’s Just Not That Into You) says, think of yourself as the rule and not the exception–you’re not going to change him by dating him.

Back to the subject at hand. It’s a position of strength to know what you want and be able to say it out loud.  And with the long-term goal of marriage in mind, it should help you that your friends and family know that it’s your goal.

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Two of my greatest frustrations while single were things I could not change.

I could not change:

  1. A culture that urged young men to pattern their lives after the beer commercials that told them to live for the game on Saturday, a good buzz to carry them euphorically through the game, and willing women with large breasts to celebrate with them and,
  2. The willing women who traded their self-respect and their bodies for game day popularity. Of course this behavior comes with all sorts of hobbies, not just team sports.

It frustrated me because men who behave like this–indulging self-centeredly in their favorite things and taking advantage of the women who let them–are not ready for marriage. And, the willing women in their lives helped perpetuate the overgrown adolescent behavior of the men. By the time these men would be ready for marriage (a woman like me), they were likely to have regrets, maybe a child or two, and to have been through a divorce.  THEN they would be ready for marriage.

THEN they would be ready for marriage?!  With every passing year I felt the odds of marrying a man without this kind of baggage stacked ever higher against me and the woman like me.

Randall B. Smith writes about this in his article “Courtship, Etiquette, and the Adolescent Male.”

Nothing aggravates the young women I meet more than the fact that the young men in their lives don’t know how to date.  “What do they do?” I ask.  “They play lots of video games,” is a standard answer.  Or they watch a lot of sports.  Or they go to the bar and look for a hook-up if “the mood” strikes.

Smith finds that feminism helped engineer the overgrown adolescent male by demanding change to the “old-fashioned etiquette” that taught young men how to treat women. Smith also recognizes that these changes put women who desire marriage in a tough spot due to the behavior of their peers.

It’s harder now to claim that what young women are looking for is marriage – they’re not really allowed to say that out loud or even admit it to themselves – but what they do tend to be looking for is stability, commitment, and the kind of benefits that come from stability and commitment: a person one can depend on; a person who shows up when he says he will; a person who will be kind and gentle and thoughtful, but not whiny and full of complaints and excuses.  In short, they want a man, not a boy.

and

Unfortunately for such foolish young men, there are still foolish young women around who will indulge them as playmates or surrogate mothers and thereby risk ensnaring both in an unhappy marriage.  Such foolish young women are the second most frequent cause of aggravation among the sensible young women I know – right behind the immaturity of boys.  (“How could he be so stupid as to be attracted to her?”)

The conclusion to which I always had to return was to stay on the same path I had been on. Compromising my own standards to get attention, a date or a boyfriend was not a path toward successful marriage. So, surrounded by friends who shared the same standards–including Jones, I walked down the path determined show respect for myself and others, and trusted that there were more single men than I knew of doing the same thing.

Smith concludes similarly, and encourages parents to teach this kind of respect.

Perhaps, then, it was this potential for foolishness among young women to indulge the silly adolescent fancies of young men that brought about those other “old-fashioned” set of rules of etiquette: the ones that applied not to adolescent boys, but to adolescent girls; the ones that bid them not to allow themselves to be treated as property; the ones that encouraged them, rather, to demand respect for their dignity and worth.  Those were principles of behavior that used to be instilled in young women by their mothers.

My path was rewarded when I met my future husband.  Neither of us was perfect, but we were ready for each other in part because we knew how to be respectful of ourselves and the opposite sex. I will add that this is also true of most of my girl friends who married later in life–the men they married were worth the wait.

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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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Many young adults are putting off marriage and family due to student loan debts, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal.  Former students interviewed for the article took out more burdensome (variable interest rates and without flexible repayment options) private loans in addition to loans offered through federal programs.

Plans to marry or have children are on hold, says Ms. Romine. “I’m just looking for some way to manage my finances.”

She and her fiance are each working more than 60 hours per week to keep their payments on time, and pay for their current expenses.

Another graduate and her husband have other plans on hold.

Ms. Jokela has given up on her hopes of getting an M.B.A., starting her own interior-design firm or having children. “How could I consider having children if I can barely support myself?” she says.

Managing finances and communicating about it is integral to every marriage. In fact, how a couple deals or fails to deal with money is an indicator of marital health, and good marriage counselors cover finances in premarital counseling.

As you think about marrying, does student debt, or any other kind of debt, figure into your thoughts or plans for marriage and family? Because financial management is such a huge part of marriage, it’s a subject that deserves your attention now, and we want to cover it in future posts. In the meantime, we would like to know what are you doing or not doing about any debt that you have, and would debt keep you from marrying?

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My friends, Mary and Matthew, kissed and became engaged amidst falling snow.  I loved it! Perhaps you did, too, because it was part of the final episode of PBS’s “Downton Abbey” which just concluded after two seasons (sad day!).

So, favorite part of the final episode (besides Maggie Smith’s spectacular scene stealers), was the proposal. First of all, Matthew was very gracious about Mary’s past. He acknowledged it, but he was kind when Mary was prepared for his disappointment and disapproval.  The best moment was Mary’s request that Matthew propose “properly.” She could not give him an answer, she said, unless he got down on a knee and asked her properly.

This, dear readers, was a teaching moment for we very modern women.  This was about much more than a perfect proposal. This was about asking something of a man before giving her heart away.  Mary’s small requirement for his proposal speaks to much larger requirements women should have of men they date or marry.  Requirements would most obviously apply to sex, but also to a woman’s emotions, her time and her heart.

A man will work pretty hard to get the attention of a woman he finds appealing, and a woman should have some requirements for a man’s behavior as she considers  1) who she will spend time with, 2) who she will share her deepest thoughts and emotions with, 3) the kind of man she will date, 4) the kind of man she would consider marrying.

Here are examples of good requirements for a man you would consider going on a date with:

  • he treats others with kindness
  • he has a job or is working hard toward employment
  • he speaks and acts respectfully
  • he asks for/requests your time

Here are examples of non-requirements:

  • he drives a new car
  • he’s super hot
  • he wears the right label of clothes
  • he wants to hang out, but never directly asks for your time and attention

Do you have some requirements of the men you date or would consider dating?  What are they?  We’d love to see your list of ten or less, and we’ll plan to share a selection of them here.

More about requirements: The comedian Steve Harvey wrote about requirements in his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. If you’ve read the book, we’d love to know your thoughts about it.

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