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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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Musings on the season

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 … ?

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?

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?!

Debt delayed marriage

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?

New polling research reports that President Obama is the favored candidate of unmarried women. He leads candidate Romney among women overall.

In the Pew Research Center’s most recent national survey, conducted March 7-11, Obama led Mitt Romney by 20 points (58% to 38%) among women voters.

The difference between married and unmarried women voters is a great contrast. An earlier poll (mentioned here) in February demonstrates the disparity.

In February, 64 percent of unmarried women said they would vote for Obama over Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, according to a Democracy Corps survey analyzed by Democratic pollsters. Only 31 percent picked the GOP candidate. The gap — 33 points — was 10 points bigger than in it was in January.

Now look at what married women say: 56 percent said they would vote for Romney, and only 37 percent for Obama, with virtually no change from January to February.

We want to hear from you.  Does the president have your potential vote, or are you one of the smaller percentage that would prefer another candidate? What principles of your chosen candidate attract you to him? Would you expect your vote to change if you were married?

 

This is something close to my heart.   Church life was (and still is) very important to me.  It was my social life during my 14 single years after college.  I read an article once chastising the church for not being “singles friendly”.  It was actually titled, “Making Your Church ‘Singles Friendly’”.   It made me feel like the awkward kid in school that the teacher wanted everyone to be nice to.  It inspired me to write a rebuttal article that went something like this:

The experience of other single Christians, whether they be never married singles, divorced singles, or widowed singles, may be similar to mine.  As a never-married single, I had never felt part of a congregation.  I couldn’t understand it.  I was very active…in the singles group.  I went on ever singles retreat, camp outs, and ski trips.  I even organized singles events.  I was there every Sunday in the singles class and weekly Bible Studies.  We even had a ministry within the single ministry.  We had our own shepherd/elder and even a budget from the church.  Why, then, did I feel I was missing out on something?  Was the Church not being “singles friendly”?

Thankfully, I realized this problem was my problem and not the church’s.  When I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, I found myself in what was really just an older “youth group” with “youth group” expectations and responsibilities.  I took a look around at the ministry leaders, teachers, and other servants filling the needs in the Church.  Many were around my age and some were younger.  The only difference was that they were married.  I have no doubt that the apostle Paul would wonder why that should make any difference at all!  It certainly didn’t for him.  There isn’t any mention of him leading a singles group around by the hand.  Quite the contrary.  Paul says to the Corinthians that unmarried men should be concerned only with how they can please the Lord (1 Corinthians 8:32) and unmarried women should aim at being devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit (1 Corinthians 8:34).  These Scriptures told me that I should be actively involved in the Lord’s affairs (I Corinthians 8:32 and 34) and not my own.  I was supposed to be teaching classes and heading up ministries for the church body, not only for singles.

Now that I had a realization of the incredible responsibility, what was I to do?  Confining myself to the singles group was keeping me from participation with the church body.  I found 5 different ways that helped me to become more involved, and they might help you, too. 

1) I recommend becoming active in a ladies or men’ bible study and/or other activity groups during the week (e.g. secret sisters, sports group, ladies and men’t retreats, volunteer days).  It’s important to attend church pot lucks and other gatherings because attending these is a good start toward getting to know your church family. 

2) Use the gifts God gave you to help or lead ministries within the congregation.  Finding where talents lie can be difficult, but there are always ministries in need of help.  More than likely there are ministries praying for someone to get involved and maybe even take over.  I teamed up with another single and we taught a children’s class every other term.  There is always a need for teachers and this is a great way to get to know the precious children in your congregation and their parents.

3) Stop limiting yourself to attending only singles classes.  Attend a class Sunday morning or Wednesday night with an interesting subject.  Choose the class, don’t let the class choose you! 

Last, and I believe most important, be consistent in attending church assemblies.  Remember the responsibilities as a church member to attend services and classes, to contribute to the collection plate, to teach classes, and to help in the church assemblies in prayer, communion, and song.  By showing that you are true and serious  about your faith, the congregation will see you as an integral part of God’s family and not just a single in the singles’ ministry.

Marriage isn’t the key to being an active member of your church.There is a need for Christian singles to come together for activities outside of church services, but that must not interfere with the worship, study, and fellowship with our church families.  This maybe the time in your life when you have the most time and many times, the most money (husbands and children are time consuming and expensive!).

As a single, you are responsible for only yourself.  Take advantage of this time in life to concentrate on your relationship with God.  It’s the perfect time to grow stronger in faith and learn more of what Gods will is for your life.  A spouse does not complete you.  Someone once told me, “Someone who learns to serve others in singleness, will be better equipped to serve in marriage.”  I agree!