Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

22 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Married (Or At Least Delay Doing So), Part 5

21. You or your beloved have a problem staying in relationships. Perhaps one of you has been engaged or married multiple times and you keep wondering “what went wrong”. A pastor once told me that he would never perform a marriage ceremony for a divorced person if they didn’t know and understand the reason for the break-up. It was sort of a personal relationships version of the saying, “Those who do not learn the lessons of the past, are condemned to repeat them.” I didn’t fully understand what the minister meant until I had friend that exhibited this problem. When I met this lady, she had been married to one guy and engaged, to different men, a few times before that. For both of her engagements, she had called the weddings off because she had gotten “cold feet”. When the third guy proposed, she thought it would be better to get married regardless of the fact he was allegedly violent. Soon after I met her she became engaged and then married to yet another guy. Although she claimed the both divorces were the husbands’ fault, the characteristics that she later deemed unacceptable were there before they married. Another friend was married several times to women who always were the ones to leave him despite the fact that he didn’t abuse or cheat on any of them –they were more often the ones who did. What was it about these two divorced persons that caused them to marry and divorce over and over again? I think it was that they had issues in their own lives that caused them to choose the “wrong” mate –for the lady, it was problems on her part of commitment and understanding what a marriage entails; while for my male friend, he was so obsessed in being in a relationship, that he would pick losers who wanted to be married. Had either taken the time in counseling earlier to find out their “issues”, they would’ve been spared the heartache of a few of these broken marriages. Another truth I learned from the pastor friend, was that there is no such thing as the “truly innocent party”. Even where one spouse was a lying, cheating louse, the other may have contributed a tiny percent of the blame by ignoring the warning signs prior to or during marriage. Perhaps even inattention to the guilty partner, gave them a sense of justification, however wrongly, for their bad deeds. You must learn what part you played in the break-up even if it was relatively minor, otherwise that scenario could be replayed.

22. You can serve or live for Christ better as a single person. This is my own number one reason for not being married.
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7,
“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” (New Living Translation)
Now I do believe that for some folks in ministry, being married has an advantage –I don’t believe that I, as a single woman, would be taken credibly if I were to teach a class on marital life to group of young married couples, for example. I do have flexibility in my schedule that has allowed me to takes weeks off to spend at camp with youth and children; I don’t have a husband to ask if it’s okay if I spend every night out this week at church either. I am also not tempted to trust in a spouse to supply needs that only God should be supplying (on the other hand, my temptation is to rely on me instead). My guess is that I probably wouldn’t be a very faithful and devoted Christian since I tend to be somewhat single-minded in my attention; unless my husband would really hold my feet to the fire spiritually, I would find it easier to rationalize away Christian commitment as taking away from “family time”.

OK, so I’m done for now with my list of reasons not to get married. A friend who reads my blog said this in an email, “That was way too easy … there are as many reasons not to get married as there are dysfunctional people. Can you name as many reasons "to" get married?” I told her that since people seem to be constantly running headlong into marriage, the ones considering it already have theirs –they could probably list dozens of “why to’s.” I have nothing against people getting married if they are healthy, mature, prudent men and women who love God and each other, and have decided to make a lifetime commitment, as best friends, to build and strengthen one another. They are couples who really know what it means to be a family and the Christian community is enriched by their relationship. However with divorce rates in the Church approaching (even sometimes exceeding) those in the secular world, someone needs to ask why are we so quick to get married and see marriage alone as the source of human fulfillment. Hopefully, these postings might cause someone getting married for all the wrong reasons to reconsider and postpone until those “reasons” reflect the deliberations of wise adults. It might also give encouragement to the single who feels the tug of war between the single life and living up to societal expectations to get married.

Now, I’m ready for the comments!

Monday, July 23, 2007

22 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Married (Or At Least Delay Doing So), Part 4

I didn't blog on the weekend because I was at a funeral Saturday and then had to prepare for VBS (it starts today). Here's the fourth installment of my series:

16. You have to give up one of your “non-negotiables” to marry your beloved. By this, I refer to those lists we all make of what sort of person or characteristics of them that we would never accept or those we could not do without. These might be called issues of compatibility. I had a dear friend that told me that she would only marry a Christian guy who was committed to full-time Christian ministry (as either a pastor or missionary). Well, she met this guy who wasn’t even a believer and fell in love because he paid her the proper attention that Christian men didn’t. Day by day, the compromises on her part, naturally became more frequent until finally she abandoned her own faith completely. Although she did not end-up marrying him (he had become physically abusive and she finally decided she could do better), it was a very difficult and painful lesson. Another friend started dating a guy who, although he was a Christian, was less than enthusiastic about following Christ; he was also a smoker (she really disliked smoking) and was not a fan of having children. After a short courtship and against the advice of friends and family, the couple married. Are you surprised to hear that he didn’t quit smoking, was a lousy father and that they eventually divorced? Don’t settle for someone less just because you’re getting older and you’re afraid no one “better” will come along.

17. You haven’t been dating very long and don’t know your spouse-to-be very well. Speaking of short courtship, I’ve heard of people meeting, falling in love “at first sight” and then getting married right away. (This premise, by the way, is the story-line for the old WWII-era movie, “Orchestra Wives”, and it led to some painful moments for the “spontaneous newlyweds” in the drama.) I have not heard what percentage of these quickie relationships ends in divorce, but I suppose that if you start off with a steadfast commitment to stay married no matter what, the success rate might be higher. Still, marrying someone you know little or nothing about seems to me a highly risky endeavor. How would you know what their values, hopes and dreams are? What are their views on the “big ones mentioned in part one? I once heard that friendships take over 100 hours of quality time to develop and that the best friendships need more than 1000 hours. Assuming one spent 4 hours a day in deep conversation (sitting quietly next to someone in a crowded theater or ballpark doesn’t count towards this time), it would take 25 days to become friends and 250 days of this interaction to become best friends, the sort of level of relationship one would need in order to marry. (I am a big believer in that you and your spouse should be best friends!). 250 days is almost nine months of daily interaction prior to getting married. Even more challenging is when you have never dated before. Getting a variety of casual dating experiences can help you figure out what you need in a relationship and how to determine if someone is compatible with you or not – not that going out with bozos in order to be able to compare against the “keepers” is what you want either. My advice is this: learn to develop healthy friendships with members of the opposite sex; from that group, you will eventually find a mate.

18. You are trying to make someone else jealous, get their attention or get revenge on a person for rejecting you. You have got to be kidding! That sounds like something from an early 19th century romance novel (see Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte’ or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). If you’ve heard of either of these two stories, you know that things do not end well for those who marry this way. Oh, grow up and get a life! The person you really wanted didn’t want you so don’t ruin someone else’s life in a futile attempt to get yours.

19. You or your beloved can’t cut the apron strings or give up being Daddy’s girl. If either partner has a problem with the whole “leave and cleave” thing that God says in Genesis 2 needs to happen, get out now! I have known couples where this situation was so severe, that the marriage broke up very quickly. A guy who takes his mother’s side against wife should not be surprised if she leaves him and takes the kids along with her. One fellow’s mother absolutely despised her future daughter-in-law and constantly encouraged her son to break up with the girl. Rather than respectfully telling his mom to knock it off, the young man would then tell his girlfriend what his mother had said about her. When the girl complained about his passive reaction to his mother’s vitriol, he merely shrugged. They married anyway, but things between the two women only got worse while the son felt torn between them. Sadly, they ended up divorcing soon after the wedding. Daddy’s girls can be just as bad potential spouses when they seek the father’s love, attention, respect and help more than their husband’s – no man wants to compete for that against his father-in-law.

20. You don’t have the money to get married. Just as I said that you should not get married to get money, don’t get married if you don’t have the money to pay for a wedding or set up a household. When I say paying for a wedding, what I mean is couples who choose to incur thousands of dollars of personal debt to host the wedding ceremony of a lifetime. Anybody who thinks this way is a dope and is not worthy of getting married. Equally dopey are couples who have no clue how they will support themselves afterward. It is also not a good idea to get married if one partner has lost or about to lose their job if you were counting on that person’s income to make ends meet. A relative of mine married a man who quit/got fired just before the wedding. “No problem, “he claimed, “I’ll just find a new one.” In the meantime his bride was forced to support them while he looked. In the two years time they were married, he didn’t work much at all but continued to spend as if he did. Due to this and his other irresponsible behaviors, she threatened to leave him if he did not change. He told her he had no intention of doing anything differently, so she left. One doesn’t need to be rich in order to get married, but one must have a reasonable plan of earning a wage that is appropriate for one’s standard of living. For years, I have heard people say, “We don’t need money, we’ll just live on love.” (A Christianized-version is “Don’t worry, God will provide.”) Well, love does not pay bills nor do creditors accept it as a form of payment. As for the “God will provide” mentality, the Bible says that the man who does not provide for his family, “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Tomorrow should be the final installment of my series....

Friday, July 20, 2007

22 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Married (Or At Least Delay Doing So), Part 3

Here's the third installment of my advice:

11. You are much younger/older than your intended. Age gaps of ten or more years between partners are sources of additional relationship stress that need to be considered –is he/she searching for a parental figure? Does he/she prefer sweet young things because he/she is too immature (or shallow, only focused on physical appearance) to relate with people their own age? A difference of more than ten years often means that the two lovebirds were born and raised in two different generations with all that it entails culturally and experientially. I have know quite a few couples where this was the case (in truth, my own parents were 25 and 34 when they got married and they were from different generations, for example). Can you imagine sitting around with your friends talking about your favorite “Back to the Future” movie when your beloved comes in and refers to Michael J. Fox as that “old guy with Parkinson’s”? This generation gap is particularly true when one partner in the relationship is very young (i.e. in their teens) or very old (Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole Smith, for example). The teenager is still in adolescence and has the most significant amount of emotional/mental maturation still ahead or him/her. (Were you the same person at 25 that you were at 18 or 19? For the 30 year old marrying a 19 or 20 year old, which one of you is more likely to have outgrown the other?) What about those May/December romances? Well, it might seem cute for a while, perhaps even advantageous for reasons of money or lifestyle –what 25 year old can afford the perks that come with being in an established career or having an investment portfolio for twenty years? – will it remain fun years later when you are middle-aged and caring for your old geezer of a husband’s arthritis or urinary incontinence? Perhaps, you will get dumped when he trades you in for a “newer” model.

12. You are using marriage to rectify a mistake. I once had a guy try to con me into sex by saying that “it would be okay if we did it and then got married later.” No, it doesn’t work that way – compounding the sin of sex outside marriage with the stupidity of thinking that subsequent marriage to your fellow offender somehow negates that sin doesn’t make it better. Yet, I have heard some really dumb girls actually believe that had to marry a guy they did not love because they had fooled around with him. Even more dumb is to marry a guy just because you are pregnant (ever hear of adoption???). Having a shotgun wedding? People will never find out (wink, wink) that’s the reason you’re really getting married. Consider this, how do you think your children will react when the figure out why their parents got married? Do you think that they will have lots of confidence that you are married because you love one another or because you had an obligation to meet? What does that do to their sense of security? I knew a couple who got married because “they had to” –they hastily eloped to “make things right”. However, she later lost the baby and not long after, her jerk of a husband filed for divorce. It didn’t cover up anything and merely demonstrated what a cad he was in the beginning to pressure her into sex. A third really stupid scenario is the man/woman that has an affair that breaks up a marriage and then feels the need to marry their paramour to try to regain some sense of respectability. It’s not happening!

13. You (or your beloved) are recently coming out of a broken relationship. You broke-up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, got divorced, were widowed –you are on the rebound. “Recently” can mean months or years if you are still moping around about the loss. How can you tell? How often do they mention their former love’s name or compare you to them? Rebound relationships never last; when the hurting one has healed, they will move on to someone else and leave you hurting instead. Consider them “transitional relationships” only and be prepared to move on.

14. Your minor children object to you remarrying this person. This might seem extremely harsh but it’s not as strict as radio personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s advice that if you have a child, you don’t even date until they turn 18 whether the child objects to it or not. It is not fair to bring someone into a family as a step-whatever if it will ruin the lives of the children God has entrusted you to care for. I know we have this fantasy from the Brady Bunch television show that the kids will all get along with one another and will call the parents, “Mom” or “Dad”; the reality, based on statistics, is that children in blended families are more likely to have problems and be victims of abuse. You might say, “My children need a new mother or father, it’s not my fault my spouse died or left me.” That may be true, but remember what I said about using marriage to rectify a mistake or right a wrong –it tends to create more problems, than it solves.

15. One of you is severely broken. Remember what I said about “baggage” and expecting personality/behavior changes after the wedding? Try to get healing before pursuing the relationship any further. If you are an addict or an abusive person, get help right away. Do not get married until then if sexual, physical or child abuse has occurred. If you are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed, get that under control first. If you are sick with a life-threatening disease, get treatment for that. This isn’t Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal in “Love Story” for gosh sakes. Marriage isn’t going to make it all better. A knew a guy with only a few months to live that proposed marriage to one of his close female friends (they weren’t a couple at the time). His friend told him that she didn’t see the purpose of getting married just to say that you are married –it’s not like God stands at the pearly gates and asks if you were. He didn’t need her to take care of him either as he was nearly always hospitalized by then, but it was one of those things on his “to do list” before he died. Where was the commitment to her on his part that is necessary for marriage?

Hold on, still at least one more to come...

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

22 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Married (Or At Least Delay Doing So), Part 2

Continued from yesterday

You should not get married if:

6. You are of a different ethnic group or from a different culture than your spouse-to-be. Why that sounds racist!!! Not at all, even in today’s overly PC society, there are still issues to be resolved (more baggage) from marrying outside your clan. I’m not saying never marry someone from a different group, but consider how those differences will play out in the lives of your parents, your extended family and eventually your children. Different cultures have different expectations and traditions. An American man married a woman from a different culture (she was Asian). Her parents felt that he was lazy because he did not work as many hours at his job as men form their culture did. They also viewed him as not being as respectful of his elders as they would like and that he did not teach that respect to the children. Quietly, but persistently her parents urged their daughter to leave him and return to their culture. In another situation, the bride was the outsider to the dominant culture the couple lived in. His mother and aunts were distressed that she did not know how to prepare their ethnic dishes or celebrate their traditions. These women certainly let their son and nephew know that she was not “a proper wife” for him and did not accept their offspring as authentic [their ethnic group]. Even when both families are “Americanized”, issues of race and the problems bi-racial children that are the produced by these marriages face are not trivial - identify, understand and work through each of them.

7. You are getting married to escape something/someone. This is always a very bad reason-not to escape a dysfunctional home, not to get away from an old beau that is stalking you. You are not Rapunzel or Snow White being carried away from the evil witch by the handsome prince. Get a job and move out on your own if you need to get away. Better yet, get therapy and discover why you are so messed up or why you allow yourself to be victimized still as an adult. Do not marry to escape or rescue someone else, you will most likely end up divorced once you are no longer in need/needed.

8. You are getting married to get something you don’t have –self esteem, money, status, sex, children, power, or a green card. Do I really have to explain why these by themselves are bad reasons to get married? They may end up as being fringe benefits of being married, but real good reasons are all about commitment, sharing, love, integrity, friendship. While society has quit equating getting married with having sex, Christians (or at least most of them hopefully) still confine sex to marriage. Yet, even in our sex obsessed culture, pressuring couples into early marriage in order to maintain chastity is nuts, as is the notion that everyone needs to get married and have kids in order to be “normal”. For non-Christians, having children outside of wedlock is no longer taboo anyway. But having or adopting children should not be just the latest fashion trend (despite what Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie think). The last bad reason mentioned above, obtaining a green card, will get you in trouble with the law if they catch you.

9. You are getting married because everybody else is or you feel pressure from society to do so. Didn’t your mother ever say to you, “Would you jump off a cliff just because everyone else did?” I know our society, especially our church culture, puts a premium on being married by a certain age (although in the past twenty years, more and more are delaying marriage past age 30 for men and women). I also know the pressure young women feel when: a) your first group of friends get married post high school and you’ve never even had a boyfriend; b) you’re your second wave of friends are all getting married after college –seems like you are always the bridesmaid, never the bride; c) you are approaching age 30 or 35 or 40 and are worried that time is running out on being both a wife and mother. For the first two groups, I’ve heard girls refer to going to college as obtaining their MRS degree or of Christian colleges that quietly promote, “Ring by Spring or your money back!” It’s too bad that our culture isn’t promoting becoming a mature, responsible individual instead. How about the church focusing on developing godly men and women who love and serve Jesus regardless of their marital status?

10. You are not mature. This is along the lines of what I was getting at in the previous reason. I’ve seen far too many marriages of teenagers lately –people who are still in school, who have no money saved, who often have low –wage jobs, not real careers. They often have no clue about housing costs and paying bills. They have never taken care of themselves, much less a spouse (and Lord help them if a baby were to come along too soon). People who might consider moving in with their parents after they got married just “until we get on our feet” have no business walking down the aisle. Stand on your own two feet first, then make the wedding march.

Still more on tap....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

22 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Married (Or At Least Delay Doing So), Part 1

I’ve had it! I’ve heard the story of yet another Bridezilla (see Emily Yoffe's article in Slate magazine, thanks to Jan for the link. I love the phrase "acquired situational narcissism")emerging as she tries to engineer her perfect wedding day without regard to her friends/family needs or what her marriage to her beloved would really be like after the honeymoon was over. The problem with many of these Bridezillas is that they think they are only preparing for a party (the ceremony and reception) and are not anyways nearly prepared for the lifetime that ensues –major issues that should be discussed and decided upon before the ceremony are set aside while choosing china patterns or wedding color schemes. For this reason, I have decided, from my position as a never-married older single, to give a list of why these ladies should “call the whole thing off” or at least delay getting hitched. I'll give you my first five reasons today.

You should not get married if:

1. You are unequally yoked. What do I mean? The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (New King James Version). People have taken that to mean, “Christians, don’t marry non-Christians.” I could leave it right there as it is, but I also think you’re headed for trouble if you and your beloved are both Christians, but at different places spiritually. I have known many a case where the “Christian husband” has no desire for his own spiritual growth; he may be content with going to church on Sunday and seeing that his children are given spiritual instruction, but don’t expect him to have his own time with God, study the Bible or volunteer in ministry. He may even resent his wife if she does these things. (Note: I have also seen the wife be the Christian dud married to the Christian stud.) If you want to truly share your faith with your spouse, then only marry someone who shares your faith and faith practices before you get engaged.

2. You are expecting a personality or behavior change after the wedding. Someone very dear to me married a scoundrel expecting him to turn into a saint once she had the opportunity as his wife to “change him”. Did it work? NO!!!! He remained a rat through most of their many long years of marriage. This is especially true if your beloved has an addiction or compulsive personality disorder. The drugs, alcohol, gambling, cheating, lying will nearly always win out. “Lazy loafs” do not suddenly become up-and-at-em, go-getters just because they get a marriage license and ring. People who are violent and hit others will probably get violent and hit you. Sex addicts and perverts will be what they are. Yes, Christ can transform the vilest offender but only if they truly desire to be transformed –if you will marry the creep, warts and all, without this transformation, why should they bother to make the change?

3. You haven’t discussed and decided on the “big ones”. These are: handling money (who does what and how), having children (how many/when, family planning, child discipline), power (who makes what decisions). Then there are career choices, living arrangements, dealing with in-laws, sleep schedule to name a few. A woman wanting 10 kids has no business marrying a guy who wants none; it’s unfair to both and manipulative to try to “renegotiate the deal” afterwards. A know a couple like that – the husband lied about wanting to have children to the woman he married. She did manage to con him into having four of them, but he was a lousy and distant father. I know a morning person married to a night owl and it has been hard for them to adapt to each other’s schedule. Get these issues out on the table and don’t think that you can get them to have a change of heart.

4. Your family and friends despise your beloved. How is that everyone but you thinks she/he’s bad news? Why can’t they see what you see? Perhaps they have an objectivity towards this person you don’t. Can so many have it all wrong? Proverbs 15:22 (New Living Translation) says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” I think if your intended’s presence sets off warning bells from the people who know you best, pay attention. Also be wary of your relationship supporters who approve of your relationship because it affirms their own, perhaps poor, choice in a spouse. It is not the best endorsement to have a woman married to an alcoholic encourage you to do the same, for instance.

5. You are unaware of the existence or are unwilling to carry each other’s “baggage”. Baggage is that catch all word for prior relationships, marriages, children from the above said relationships, life traumas, bad childhood, the past, phobias, addictions, illnesses, conditions, compulsions, etc. Every person brings some amount of baggage into any relationship –some bring little overnight bags, perhaps a break-up or two with a high school sweetie. The bags get a bit bigger with the death of a parent when you were young, to a failed “starter marriage” to a point where some bring entire shipping containers into their relationship- three or four failed marriages, yours-mine-and-ours families, stories or repeated sexual or child abuse and histories of alcoholism. We are told in Galatians 6:2 to “share each other’s burdens” but sometimes the enormity and weight of these issues is just too much to bear. Perhaps the one with these grave issues needs to deal with them in counseling BEFORE you try to move them in under one roof. Allow time to heal if wounds are fresh or new.

More to follow....

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nerd Test

So I took this Nerd Test:

I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

It rates me as a Nerd God. Is anyone surprised?