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Christians who don’t promote young marriage don’t actually care about chastity.

29 Jun

Reader Nate Winchester sent me a link to this article from The Catholic World Report: “Should We Bring Back Young Marriage?

It’s a longer article, but it’s a good read.

My take on the issue of young marriage is that if Christians are actually serious about chastity, then they HAVE to support young marriage.  And it seems to me that Christians at large are not serious about chastity.  All of the “True Love Waits”-style campaigns, purity rings, abstinence education – all of that means NOTHING in the face of biology…or at least it ends up meaning nothing if you’re alone with your boyfriend in your apartment at night and you’re in love with each other, or at least happen to think each other is hot.  I mean, what do parents REALLY THINK is going to happen?  Maybe not the first time, but given ENOUGH time.  That they’re just having Bible study at 1:00am?

Are adult Christians just stupid?

Is it not obvious to anyone with half a brain that human beings were not designed to delay sex for two or three decades after coming to sexual maturity?  Yet we have Christians not blinking an eye at full-grown adult singles waiting until age 35 to marry for the first time, because that was just God’s perfect plan or whatever.

Maybe these Christians (because THEY married at age 21 or 22 and never had the delightful experience of having unfulfillable sexual desires for 10 or 20 years) think that anyone can wait because THEY were able to wait for, like, five years.  Maybe the only singles they know at church are low sex-drive 2s, or girls who became chubby single cat ladies by age 26 and are totally content to serve in the nursery at church while patientlyyyy waiting for Mr. Right that everyone knows will never arrive – isn’t it obvious that waiting is a realistic and achievable goal?

Or maybe it’s that as long as the couple weren’t cohabitating before marriage, then we can totally assume that they weren’t having premarital sex, right?  Even though they dated for five years!

I think some of it is that there are a lot of married Christians in the church these days who had premarital sex, and they just don’t want to address it, because then THEY might have to come clean about their own fornication, and nobody wants to go there because (A) no one else’s business, and (B) awkward.  So everyone just turns a blind eye to what they know is going on, and it’ll all work out because we’re all forgiven and everybody makes mistakes and no sin is greater than any other sin.

Until someone gets pregnant.  But even then, everyone rallies around the brave single mother (no abortion = hero for life) and volunteers to babysit.

We hear a lot these days from pearl-clutching Christians about how evil the world is and how depraved the culture, etc.  If Christians are really serious about changing the culture for the better, then they need to get serious about promoting young marriage and stop telling singles (either explicitly or implicitly) that they have a long time to find someone and it’s better to go off and have adventures while they figure out who they are.  And they also need to stop telling people that the 20s are a “season” in which you can work on yourself to become closer to God and therefore marriage-worthy or whatever.  By the time you hit your 20s, you should already be well-formed enough to be a good candidate for being a spouse.  That has not so much to do with how many various experiences you have in life but very much to do with your fundamental character.  Marriage shouldn’t be about bringing two “experts in life experience” together but rather about bringing two young people who may be inexperienced in life but of solid character together.  All the life experience in the world means very little with no character.  Age 22 is not a good age at which to BEGIN to develop character.   Yes, it’s a good thing to have done some introspective thought about who you are and what you want, but this idea that we have to be practically irrevocably formed before even entertaining the thought of marriage is wrong-headed.  If anything, too much formation makes it that much harder for someone to get married and stay married.

 

Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20.

12 Jun

In case this video hasn’t made the rounds to your internet neighborhood yet –

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist whose practice focuses on 20-somethings.  In this TEDtalk she discusses why now is the time to invest in your life, rather than believe your 20s are a ten-year freebie pass to mess/wander around because life and direction are just going to be there for you at 30.  I think she is actually the first person I’ve heard who tells people that the decisions you make today can cut off possibilities for your future (such as the ability to have a family when you want one).  Even church advice is typically of the “get married young, but if God doesn’t bring your mate into your life in college, just keep hoping and praying – God’s timing is perfect!” variety.  Meanwhile, girls are turning 30, dressing frumpy, and waiting for that sacrificial leader to walk in the door on Sunday and choose them.  Good luck with that!

Jay’s talk is important because a generation of young people has been raised to believe that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want – they are just that special, and all they have to do is wish hard and it will happen.  Especially now, with the ubiquity and immediacy of texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, you can get stuck in a bubble where reality doesn’t intrude – where you don’t (and don’t have to) contemplate reality.  This makes getting hit in the face with reality even worse, AND you’re totally psychologically unprepared to deal with it.  While Dr. Jay does not give Christian advice, she does hit a lot of the same areas that the Boundless types are always harping on, except Dr. Jay does it in a way makes a lot more sense and is far less annoying.

Also, although Jay focuses on twentysomethings, her advice is good for any age.  Now is always the right time to take stock of your life, get focused, and do things that will help you get where you need to go.

Rebranding submission.

2 May

Mention “submitting to your husband” to the average woman, and she’ll look at you like you just suggested that the U.S. should bring back slavery.  These days submission has such a negative rep that trying to sell women on submission is like trying to sell paleo dieters some carbs.  In my opinion, given the current cultural climate, trying to pound the submission drum is just going to come up against a lot of resistance.

Last weekend I had lunch with a recently married friend and got onto the subject of submission.  While she had a knee-jerk reaction to the word itself, she actually agreed that deference was a part of her marriage and that it worked for her and her husband.  So maybe submission just needs rebranding.  When a woman hears “submit,” she thinks “become a doormat, throw brains out the window, let husband become a tyrannical dictator.”  Of COURSE women are going to reject submission when it is so closely correlated with those ideas.  But deference – and the connotation of agency involved in the decision – that seems a little more appealing.

So maybe the subject should be approached from that angle – ladies, can you defer to your husbands’ decision-making?

I suppose we can quibble over whether women should just suck it up and ACCEPT that the Bible says submission so therefore they have to SUBMIT whether they like it or not, but there’s also a reason that chewable pills taste like fruit, so………

 

“She was a winning hand.”

27 Mar

Today at work I asked my married coworker who sits in the cube next to mine if he had felt his wife was The One (or could have been The One) early on.

He replied that yes, upon first meeting her (through mutual friends), he felt that she was special.  He said that ultimately, he realized that she was a “winning hand.”***  He put it this way:

Could I have continued looking for a better hand?  Sure.  But she was a winning hand.

Probably the best meditation on settling that I’ve ever heard.

***P.S. totally not endorsing poker of course

Reasons you might still be single despite your plentiful inner beauty.

17 Feb

I was talking with a coworker recently about the single women we know, and we came to the conclusion that it’s not a lack of “good person”‘-ness that’s an impediment to finding a spouse, but rather that “something is missing” that is a necessary component to being good marriage material.  We all know good people with generous, kind, servant hearts and the best of intentions…who, deep down, we know have an uphill battle to find someone who will commit.  There’s just something missing.

I think this is what I find frustrating with Christian and mainstream advice – the focus on “be an amazing person!  you’re amazing!  own your amazingness!”.  As I said in my previous post, there is a practical, mundane component of marriage, and that is having to actually live day-in and day-out with another person.  Being an amazing person doesn’t mean you’re automatically amazing mate material.  Many people with impressive accomplishments and character traits still get passed by for marriage because they’re not so amazing at the relational component of relationships.

Below I have listed ten things that I think can be hold-ups for otherwise functional, intelligent, accomplished adults (which means I have excluded obvious things like “is fatty fat fat,” “is a slutty slut slut,” and “life is a drama-filled wreckage”).  List also applies to men, though I was thinking of women when I compiled it.

1.  You don’t listen.  In conversation, especially when trying to build rapport, people want to feel that the other person is listening to them, not merely waiting their turn to start talking again.  If you’re not giving signals in conversation that you have heard and understood and empathized with the other person, you’re going to have a hard time convincing that other person that they should keep you around.

2.  You talk AT people, not TO them.  This often correlates with point #1.  Good conversation is largely about empathy.  If the other person doesn’t think you’re relating but rather just waiting so you can unleash your (superior) point of view on them, it’s not going to bode well for a relationship.

3.  You’re always trying to get in the last word/one-up other people.  In college, there was always that annoying person in class who always had his hand in the air, DYING to impress the professor with his vast knowledge and proof of having done the reading.  If you made a good point, that person had a BETTER point to follow up with.  It was annoying then, and it’s annoying now.  Let other people be the ones to shine sometimes, even if you have a legitimate claim to the spotlight.

4.  You don’t pull your own weight in conversation.  Relating to others is a give-and-take.  I get that there are a lot of shy and/or introverted people out there, but if you are depending upon the other person to be the entertainment, that’s going to get really old, really fast for that other person.

5.  You lack a sense of humor.  If everything offends you, or you can’t delight in absurdity, it’s going to be hard for you to find someone who wants to be with you for life, because so much of life is offensive and absurd.

6.  You don’t read social signals well (or at all)/you don’t observe social graces/conventions.  If you can’t tell when it’s time for the conversation to move on, or the other person is trying to bow out gracefully, or you’re constantly hijacking someone else’s project or idea, or you’re always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, it’s going to be harder for you to find a romantic partner.  Most people only have so much graciousness for social awkwardness.

7.  You’re a complainer.  I can’t stand to be around complainers.  My free time is precious; why should I spend it with someone who gets off on griping about everything?  How is that beneficial to me?  The occasional venting session is one thing, but people who always have something to complain about are just not worth the time.

8.  You’re too social.  Being social and having your own life going on is good for singles, but not when you’re so social that other people aren’t sure if you have room for them in your life.  If you’re constantly fielding text messages and coordinating activities with friends and ALWAYS have something going on, a new person might decide you’re not going to be able to prioritize a relationship – that getting on your schedule is going to be too much of a hassle.

9.  You haven’t cut the cord with Mommy and/or Daddy.  It’s good to have a relationship with your parents when you’re an adult.  It’s bad to be so close to them that their presence in your life is a disincentive to find a mate.

10.  You don’t dress the part.  Everyone knows at least one single person who wants a top-drawer caliber mate, but the person dresses frumpy/is overweight/is poorly or boringly groomed/doesn’t dress at the level of their target.  Now, how does this person think he or she is going to attract sexy people of the opposite sex?  What are those sexy people going to notice first, the hardware or the software?  See where I’m going with this?  Your appearance brands you.  If you want a certain kind of person to pick you up and take you home (METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, THIS IS A CHRISTIAN BLOG AHEM), then you need to look like the kind of product they’ll be attracted to.  Sure, you can pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to your inner beauty, but in most cases it’s a lot easier to just look better.

Tired of Christian dating advice acting like physical attraction is an either/or proposition.

12 Jan

I can’t remember if I’ve discussed this article from MarryWell before, but even if I have, it’s worth a revisit.  I bookmarked the article a couple of years ago in anticipation of blogging about it, but did I ever get around to the blogging part?  ANYHOW…it’s your basic “how important is physical attraction?” Q&A, wherein a thirtysomething single female MarryWell-er gets an answer from Candice Watters.  (Longtime readers of my blog can probably tell you Candice Watters’ opinion on the topic, and my opinion of Candice Watters’ opinion on the topic.)  Basically, the reader says she forwarded the infamous “Brother, You’re Like a Six” Boundless article to a single male friend whom she felt needed the ~advice, and he wrote her back a lengthy reply that basically reads like typical manospherian reasoning on the subjects of looks, chemistry, and attraction.  Since this reply from the horse’s mouth wasn’t good enough for Reader, who believes men are “swayed heavily by…our culture” and “secular standards about who to pursue,” she went to Candice to get the answer she wanted to hear.

Candice wrote a reply that encapsulates the aspects the I find most infuriating about Christian dating advice:  namely, that physical attraction is this sort of either/or thing that you can only count on for a couple of years, and then you plummet directly into companionate love for the rest of your life, never to feel any heat again, but that’s okay because your companionate love is so rich and deep that you’ll never miss being hot for each other except those six times you have sex per year.  Okay, that’s my paraphrase, but what other conclusion can one draw from a reply that begins thusly:

If only it were that simple! Find a gorgeous woman (or man), marry her (or him), and live happily ever after. Of course that’s how it works in the movies. But movies always end before the fireworks (what your friend calls “zing-pop”) die down. And they do. Always. Every marriage moves beyond the new-love, high-octane phase eventually, according to Psychologist Dorothy Tennov. The longest it can last is three years, and often it’s less. On average the emotional highs last between eighteen months and three years. Then what?

If what he’s looking to hold his marriage together for “many, many, many years” is sexual attraction, he’s setting himself up for disappointment. The only way to keep the high-jinks of new love going is to keep starting over with new lovers.

But it need not end this way. When two believers come together in marriage, they have the potential, when the giddy feelings ebb, to leave what C.S. Lewis calls the “thrill” phase of romance for the “quieter and more lasting kind of interest … and happiness that follows.” He encourages this process, noting it is “one little part of what Christ meant by saying a thing will not really live unless it first dies.”

What I do not understand is this churchian insistence that marrying out of sexual attraction is this zero-sum, either/or proposition, like either you marry because you want to BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG and do pretty much nothing else, or you marry because you’re pure and holy and mainly interested in doing taxes together and making sure your future children are raised in the faith, and the sex appeal is just sort of this little side bonus.  Why can’t people marry because there’s sexual chemistry AND they are well-suited to each other in temperament and other values AND it all comes together in a complete package that includes sex, kids, and life?  Why must one preclude the other?  Why can’t you grow in companionate love and the security of stability, and still find each other sexy and attractive?  How is this “well, don’t think you’re going to find each other sexy forever, ’cause that never lasts” view of marriage going to encourage young men to marry?  I mean, what young guy (or young woman, for that matter) is going to hear this and be like, “OH YEAH, BABY, SIGN ME UP!”??

I agree that singles looking to marry need to be realistic about the mundane aspects of married life (someone who needs constant romantic drama/stimulation is not a wise marriage prospect), but I find the constant downplaying of the importance of sexual attraction really irritating.  Most men aren’t going to marry – or even begin pursuit – for lack of sexual attraction, and most women would be depressed to find out a man would pursue them without having any sexual attraction.  Marrying someone SOLELY due to sexual attraction is obviously unwise, but how many people are really doing that?  Especially in an era where you can have sex and not be judged socially without having to marry the other person – even within the church?  How many singles really get removed from churches these days because of fornication?  If anything, the current sexual and cultural climate in the U.S. is forcing men to consider other reasons for marriage, just to reduce the risk of divorce.

Other reasons this article irritated me:

  • Watters’ assertion that Reader’s male friend has a “consumer mentality” about sexual attraction and the insinuation that making sexual attraction really important is per se BAD.

Your friend’s thinking mirrors our consumer culture far more than it does the Bible. God designed marriage for a purpose, several actually. And all of these purposes: “procreation, remedy against sin, mutual society, help and comfort” are achievable even if physical attraction isn’t the primary driver. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with pursuing a mate you find attractive. But it is to caution against giving looks and “chemistry” pre-eminence in the decision process.

  • Watters’ slamming of Song of Solomon as an example of the importance of sexual attraction.

I suspect your friend would say his desire for a “zing-pop” connection is consistent with Song of Solomon. There certainly was chemistry between Solomon and his bride. But nowhere in Scripture is that given as a condition for a God-glorifying marriage. You can build a strong, godly, world changing marriage on many things. But you can never build that simply on looks. Good looks are a bonus. They’re like icing on a cake. And as the saying goes, if all you eat is icing, you’ll get sick.

  • Her church lady-ing of Reader’s friend for his desire to be sexually attracted to his future spouse.

I worry for men like your friend who may miss out on highly productive marriages and families that are fruitful for the kingdom, simply because the women God brings to them don’t, at first, cause a chemical reaction.

I know I’ve said this before, but…does Watters understand ANYTHING about male attraction?  HER OWN EXPERIENCE trying to win over her now-husband seems to have taught her nothing!  Steve didn’t want to date her at first because he didn’t find her physically attractive!  How much time and heartache would she have saved herself if she had done more to make herself look good from the get-go?  Yet she continues to accuse men of passing over women who would be good wives, except those women are missing a key component of what men think makes a good wife:  physical attractiveness!!!

But sure, let’s keep praying that God will change every man’s mind about attractiveness, or at least the minds of the ones who don’t think the way women do about attractiveness.  (This is the advice she gives to the women:  don’t try to change men’s minds directly; instead, PRAY their minds into a different direction.)

Meanwhile, zero admonitions to the women to get themselves to the gym, stop eating every baked good that passes before their eyes, to dress better, and to be fun to be around.

 

Guy gets strongarmed into proposing to girlfriend of nine years; no one blames the girlfriend for sticking with him so long.

4 Oct

In a current Boundless discussion thread, Amir Larijani talks about how he and a bunch of other guys from his church staged an intervention with a peer, basically forcing him to propose to his girlfriend of nine years after she finally gave him an ultimatum.  I think we’re supposed to cheer that the men strongarmed this guy into fessing up to his commitment fears and volunteering  for lifelong financial servitude becoming the man God wants him to be, but the girlfriend is totally off the hook for sticking with a guy for NINE YEARS when he clearly had no intentions of proposing?  Did she think she had NO OTHER OPTIONS?  Was he THAT much better than everybody else?  (Or were they having sex the entire time and so she had hamstered herself into thinking he was ~the one~?  Because if they weren’t having sex, a nine-year celibate romantic relationship is just weird.)

No dating relationship should last nine years, unless you’re both widowed senior citizens who need someone to go to dinner at 4:30 with.  Especially for Christians, it sounds completely unhealthy.  Either you’re having sex, which is sinning, or you’re having almost-not-quite-sort-of sex, which is also sinning, or you’re not having sex at all, which is highly unnatural in the long term for two people who presumably are looking to have a future together where they WILL be having sex.  I can see a Christian couple putting off sex for a year or two – but nine years?

I think I’m just having a knee-jerk reaction of mortification at the thought of marrying someone who more or less had to be pinned down and forced to say “uncle.”  Sure, the woman in this sort of situation will always get cast as the angel who believed in his true, hidden self and showed biblical perseverance, faith, and loyalty in helping the man get past his fears, but….ugh.

Basically, I’m just here to reiterate my opinion that people should only date when they are prepared to enter into a marriage, and that the dating period and engagement should be short.