Saturday, April 30, 2011

How far is too far in a dating relationship?

This question is one that teens often ask when they hit the dating "age".  I know this is a blog on marriage, but this is a continuation of the last posting and the answer can effect future marriage relationships.  This is not an attempt to condemn anyone who who has dated or who went further than they wanted or anything like that.  This posting is about a speaker that came to a church DNOW weekend for our youth group and her thoughts lend me to think not only about my relationship with my husband but also about how to approach dating with my daughters.

So HOW FAR IS TOO FAR?  is a question that often gets asked when teens hit the dating age (which there is no magical number).  The speaker (Crystal) had a very basic, but well thought out answer.  It also turns the thinking back to the one asking the question.  TOO FAR is anything you wouldn't wanted your future spouse to do once you are married.  Huh?  Think about the last post and how a part of you is left behind in any relationship then reread her answer.  Whatever I do dating is taking away that experience with my future mate.  The reaction to that question is your answer.  I know this hit home with me and my oldest daughter-- in a positive way.  Take this a step further, there is another person involved in a dating relationship so whatever is done is also robbing their future spouse of that experience.  So really, four lives can be totally effected by what someone views as "too far."

Teens often want the answer to the question "How far is too far" because they don't want to feel guilty about what they do.  The real question they need to ask themselves is "Is what I am doing pleasing to God or holy?".  Our goal in life is to live a holy and pleasing life to Christ, so anything we want to do needs to be held to that standard, not by how it makes us feel or what a friend says or what you think.  The Bible is a good place to start your search for answers-- it is our instruction book for life. 

Now, take all this information to the next level.  Your marriage relationship can be effected by all the experiences you had in a dating relationship-- whether it was mental, emotional or physical.  I know I was often thought of as a prude and too goody-goody in high school/college.  I don't really care because I can see how Christ was protecting my future marriage relationship.  That is a prime example of not understanding the WHY of something as it is happening (why don't I ever have a boyfriend) but now many years later I see it as a HUGE blessing from God.  He didn't allow me to have serious boyfriends and I can see how that has been such a positive thing now that I am married and my husband and I entered our marriage relationship as pure/whole individuals.  Now all we know is one another and have no baggage to burden our physical relationship.  That is an amazing gift!!!

More thoughts on marriage and keeping it whole will come later!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is commitment hard for you?

This past March we had a speaker from Indiana come speak about purity and teens.  It was for our DNOW weekend at our church.  We were able to hear her (Crystal) speak several different times.  She had some really good information for the students.  Some of the information made me wonder if adults would have known this would our marriages be any different?  Would the divorce rate be as high? 

I will try my best to articulate her thoughts on teenage dating habits because it really makes sense when you think about it.  The overall thought is that guys/gals shouldn't really DATE until they are ready to get married.  There are several reasons for this:

1.  Before you date you are a "whole" person and nothing of yourself has been given away-- this can mean mentally, emotionally or even physically.  Each time you date someone you are giving a little bit of yourself to them in some way; feelings get hurt, therefore future relationships will be different because of that relationship.  So how much of yourslef will be left for your future spouse?

2.  90% of high school relationships don't last, so why go through all the heartache and hurt if you don't have to?  In the teenage years it practically impossible developmentally to be emotionally commited to one person.

3.  Avoid the exclusive or belonging to someone scenerio.  You cannot belong to someone, so why get exclusive when you pretty much know that the relationship has a 90% chance of ending (usually not on good terms).  In the end someone will get hurt, and that leads back to the first point.

4.  What happens when you date someone and then you get tired of them or they do something that annoys you?  Much of the time you break-up or end the relationship.  This is practicing DIVORCE type behaviors!  If you do this over and over enough that is what gets imprinted in your brain; so what happens when you get married and all of sudden you can't/won't leave your spouse because your bored or annoyed?  Is this why commitment is so hard for some?

There are probably other things I am leaving out from her discussions with the teens and parents.  I am sure I'll refer to her often because she had such good information for teens today.  And if teens today can stay on the right path through high school and college then they are more likely to have a stronger marriage because of it.   Another good topic she spoke on was "How far is too far?".  I'll give her thoughts and my thoughts on that later. 

If you have a hard time with commitment could it be because of one of the above scenerios?  Only you know that.  Recognizing the difficulty is a beginning and talking with your spouse so they understand why is important.  Pray together and if necessary go to a counselor or pastor.  Your marriage can grow and become stronger-- and that honors Christ!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Choices in Marriage

There are days you wish you could hit a rewind button and start the day over; when these days hit you have a choice:  let everything else irriatate me or go where it takes you.  Easier said then done, but the more I practice this the easier it has become.  I used to let things like election results, traffic, rainy days, bad tempered kids, etc effect my attitude towards everything else. . . including my marriage.  But as I've grown older and been married longer I've learned that I can't change the outcome of those things, so I might as well go along with it (and laugh along the way about it).

This can apply to marriage too!  You cannot change your spouse or things they might do, but you can make a choice to let it irritate you or to go with it.  Letting it irritate you only puts you in a bad mood and that can effect everything else going on around you.  Usually your spouse doesn't even know why you are irritated or if they do it doesn't bother them.  So in other words you are upset all on your own, when you could go with it and have an enjoyable time with your spouse.

I would often go "pout" or feel sorry for myself after getting upset with my spouse.  But he wouldn't notice or even understand why I was upset; afterall it was my reaction to something he did.  I can control my reactions, I cannot control my spouse.  If something really bothered me I decided to wait and bring it up when things were good so there weren't skewed emotions already.  So I learned to not let things bother me and life has been much happier and easy.  I got rid of my selfishness of how I felt to focus on what was more important-- our relationship.

This takes practice, BELIEVE me!!  But the outcome is worth it!

p.s. Using "I" statements helps a lot too.  You are telling how it makes you feel-- which isn't right or wrong, it keeps the focus on you not your spouse.  Instead of saying "Why can't you clean up your dishes after dinner?", try "I feel like I get stuck doing all the cleaning after dinner, it would be nice to have help getting the dishes done."  You are still communicating your thoughts and feelings, but in a much more pleasant way.  Many times it is HOW we say something, not the actual message that causes problems.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Are you a box of 94 or 8 crayons?

Have you realized how different men and women are?  If not, you may have been under a rock.  With book titles like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and "Women are like spaghetti and Men are like waffles" it seems like the world is well aware of the differences.

Several years ago my husband, Ronnie, was trying to clue me in how we see things differently.  He said (with good intentions) that I was more like a box of 96 crayons and he was more like a box of 8 crayons.  I need all those colors to live life and I see things in many ways. He sees things in a more basic way, and says he probably doesn't even need all 8.  He was saying in this in a very sweet and positive way, it is a compliment I may only get but he was acknowledging my differences and putting them in a positive light.

I often have to tell myself that he may not see things the same way I do, but that's okay.  If he is happy with a box of 8 crayons then I should be ok with it too.  Just like he knows I need all 96 (or now there's a box of 112)!  He may be good with 3 pairs of shoes, while I have at least 30.  This is just one way we have learned to understand one another in our marriage.  We don't try to change one another, we try to change our own viewpoint.  That is selfless love.  Give it a try, it feels great and gives your spouse a boost of confidence (when you don't try to change them-- you love them like they are).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Being Right or the Relationship?

Several years ago there was conflict between a member of the family and us.  As we went through trying to resolve the issue I had a thought that has stuck with me since then,

What is more important?  The relationship or being right?

This helped me with the perspective I took as I made peace with the family member.  I didn't feel I had done wrong, but thought the relationship was more important so I apologized.  After all, Christ knew my intent and that's all that mattered.  I swallowed my pride and was selfless.  Trust me, I wanted to be prideful.

Many years have passed since that time, but that principle and question has remained with me through marriage and other relationships.  When it comes to my husband I know that I am married to him for better or worse, so the relationship is more important that being right.  I have to be willing to give up some of myself and put him before me.  My relationship with my spouse is far more important to me.  I will live a lifetime with him and want to nurture the relationship.  I also want to reflect Christ's love.

I am not always selfless, but find that the more I put my husband before myself the easier my marriage becomes.  We don't need to prove ourselves because we are in this together and we look out for one another.  Our love is unconditional because d*****e is NOT an option for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What does the Bible say?

Genesis 2: 18-24             Marriage is God's idea
Genesis 24: 58-60          Commitment is essential to a successful marriage
Song of Songs 4: 9,10      Romance is important
Jeremiah 33: 10, 11         Marriage holds times of great joy
Malachi 2:14, 15              Marriage creates the best environment for raising children
Matthew 5:32               Unfaithfulness breaks the bond of trust, the foundation of all relationships
Matthew 19:6                Marriage is permanent
Romans 7:2, 3              Ideally, only death should dissolve marriage
Ephesians 5:21-33         Marriage is based on the principled practice of love, not on feelings
Ephesians 5:23, 32        Marriage is a living symbol of Christ and the church
Hebrews 13:4                 Marriage is good and honorable

I can't say this any better than the footnotes in my Bible, so know the following is from there and not my own words.  The Life Application Bible: NIV commentary says that marriage was instituted by God and has three basic concepts (1) the man leaves his parents and in a public act promises himself to his wife, (2) the man and woman are joined together by taking responsibility for each other and by loving their mate above all others (3) the two become one flesh in the intimacy and commitment of sexual union that is reserved for marriage.

These are important concepts.  Number two mentions loving your mate above all others. . . this includes the children.  This is an issue in many marriages where the wife (or husband) is so busy with the children that they have little left for their spouse.  Knowing how God intended "the pecking order" to be BEFORE I was married enabled me to keep that focus once children arrived.  My children will leave our home eventually, my marriage is for life.  If I don't take care of this relationship through the years (while the kids are in the home) then it won't be strong and healthy once the kids leave.  Some might disagree and that is there right, but I am taking my imformation straight from the source of TRUTH- the Bible.  Who can argue with God?

Fairytale vs. Reality:

As I was drifting off to sleep I began thinking of things I wanted to say on this blog.  One of the biggest and earliest battles in marriage for me was the myth that marriage is a fairytale.  Sorry to burst your bubble if you still think that way, but reality is actually sweeter than fantasy. 

With all the hoopla of the Royal Wedding and all the Disney Princess movies little girls can grow up thinking marriage is indeed a fairytale.  And then when reality settles in they are crushed and often can't handle the "realness" of being married to a real man and not a 24/7 "prince charming". 

I was fortunate in some ways to realize this fairytale vs. reality scenerio before we were married, but it really messed with my mind.  I do mean that literally.  I was also going through a rough time b/c my grandfather had just died and then I kept having thoughts of "will my marriage stack up" next to my parents, my sisters, to other "perfect" marriages?  Well of course not, my marriage will be its own unique and challenging experience that is only mine and my husbands.  No two marriages are alike.  No marriage is a fairytale.  Life does NOT happen in song and dance (much like the fairytale world colliding with reality in the movie Enchanted), it is the nitty-gritty of ups and downs, saying your sorry, forgiving the other, having responsibility and so much more! 

If you are in the midst of a relationship and are dreaming of your "Happily Ever After" then realize it can exist, but with it comes with hard work, a commited spouse, an unconditional love for the other, a marriage that is based on God's love . . . and that is only the beginning.  Thanks for sharing my thoughts and Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Few Thoughts...

Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  Marriage is between a man and a woman.  Marriage is a gift from God. 

Love is a choice.  Love is not a feeling, it is a commitment.  Love is unconditional.  Love is patient and kind.  Love is putting your spouse's needs before your own.

These are a few fundamental beliefs that we hold about marriage and these beliefs are critical for understanding our mindset for this blog.  Thanks for following us on our journey!