Thursday, March 17, 2011

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We love you. Thanks for reading.

- Lauren

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Transitioning from Dating to Marriage Mentality - by Emily

Editor's Note: This needs no intro. Other than for me to tell you that it just called me out. I am a woman who prefers to keep my problems to myself, my fears silent, my bills and paperwork handled on my own, and be fully responsible for everything. I always want to shoulder my own burdens, and fix everything in my daily life before it spills into someone else's; particularly into the life of the man I care about. Maybe it's because I don't ever want to admit I can't do everything on my own, or maybe it's because I feel guilty asking for help. Either way, marriage isn't very conducive to living life on your own in this way. After reading Emily's submission today, I promised myself I would give up the reigns and let someone in. To everything. It's not going to be fun - and quite honestly, fairly terrifying - but it's going to be GOOD. So, thank you Emily for encouraging me to do this, and reminding me that it is worth it. - Lauren

About a month ago, my husband and I found ourselves at our dining room table celebrating the long-awaited engagement of our two best friends. At some point between hearing the re-telling of the engagement story, squealing (that was me, not my husband) over the perfect ring, and dreaming about the beautiful wedding to come, the couple mentioned that they wanted to know how we made the transition from dating to marriage, and what was the secret to our happiness.

(okaaaay... so that *may* not quite be how it went down. In my memory, it went something like this: “You guys are soooooooo wise and happy and pretty much awesome at marriage, teach us your ways!” In reality, it was probably like “So, you guys are married…” and I started talking. But, you know what? It’s my story and I’ll write what I want to!)

At first, I was kind of stumped. My husband and I dated for five years before getting married, so we knew each other really well by the time we walked down the aisle. We never lived together – in fact, we lived in different cities for the last 1.5 years of our courtship – but somehow we seemed to dodge the first-year-of-marriage-is-really-really-tough bullet.

Perhaps this is because our lives were quite smooth that year: we moved to a new city (easing the in-law stress and allowing ourselves to get established as a couple), but we both had transferred our jobs so we were both working and did not had the stress of looking for a job. We both had business backgrounds, and because our attitudes about money lined up really well we planned ahead instead of fighting afterwards. We started out with nothing – literally, nothing – but our really small apartment didn’t take much time or money to fill. Oh, and the apartment? Pretty much brand new. Yup, we didn’t have to do much in terms of maintenance.

Sure, we had our challenges. We didn’t really know anybody in our new city, so we had some misadventures trying to make friends. We only had one car, so driving downtown together as a chatty morning person (him) and a don’t-even-look-at-me-it’s-before-8am silent NOT morning person (me) was maybe not the easiest. But overall, our first year of marriage was spent enjoying one another, exploring our new city, and trying to figure out what adults do with their time. What could I possibly tell this couple to think about as they prepared to transition from dating to marriage?

And then? It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had to tell them about THE REST.

If you’re dating the man that you’re going to marry, your “together” life is probably full of fun. Not that it’s all rainbows and giggles and unicorns, but you have to agree with me: your life is probably divided between “dating things” (going to dinner, going to the movies, playing sports or going for walks or doing active things together, etc.) and THE REST (doing your laundry, paying your bills, cleaning up after yourself, running errands, etc.). Even if you sometimes do more mundane domestic things together, like cooking dinner at home, grocery shopping, or laundry, you have to admit that these things have a dating shine on them.

For example, when we were in college hubs and I went grocery shopping together. We gazed at each other with goo-goo eyes in the produce section, laughed in the baked goods aisle, and decided we were MEANT TO BE when he answered the tough question of pulp or no pulp in the orange juice aisle correctly (answer: pulp, duh! Pretty sure this exchange resulted in a ridiculous jump-in-the-arms-twirl followed by a smooch. They probably had to do a clean-up-on-aisle-6 after everyone in the vicinity threw up because of this saccharine moment. Sorry, Food Lion!).

But when you get married, you not only share your fun times… you share THE REST as well. Note, I’m not talking about the bad or tragic things… you share those too… but I’m talking about the day-in-day-out always-running-in-the-back-of-your-mind stresses that make up life.

Now that you're married, if you feel stressed about money, it’s your shared stress about your shared money. You have to go to the grocery store, because if you don’t, you both won’t eat (and you can’t just stock your freezer with Lean Cuisines… hubs could eat a LC for an appetizer). You need to get that huge pile of shared laundry running or no one will have clean underwear for work.

And the problem with THE REST is it doesn’t matter how much or how little your husband helps out with everything – I know, because I am blessed with a very helpful husband. The real problem is that, subconsciously, when you think about your relationship it’s not just fun anymore. And sadly, I think that’s why so many young women feel this dissatisfaction and say “Well… I just don’t know what to do. We used to have so much fun. Clearly, he’s just not who I thought he was, I made a bad decision, and I will choose better next time!” But friends, I have a secret: THE REST will always be waiting for you.

So, what is a good woman supposed to do with this information?

First, just absorb it. Knowledge is power, ladies, and whether you are dating, engaged, or newly married, knowing that THE REST is there and will affect your feelings about your married life (subconsciously) will help you to deal with those feelings if and when they pop up.

Second, if you do feel overwhelmed, disillusioned, or frustrated with married life because of THE REST, talk to your partner about it. Remember – it’s not you, and it’s not him, it’s just life! Being able to say “Honey, I’m feeling really overwhelmed by our finances, the laundry, and our errands, and it’s starting to affect my overall happiness” is a really powerful thing! Sometimes just calling something out for what it is can help relieve the burden of those emotions.

And third, make a plan to tackle THE REST together.

In our first year or marriage, my husband and I had Saturday morning cleanup – we had a chore chart (seriously, pretty sure there were gold stars involved) and we traded duties each week. We also set up times to review our finances (usually monthly), and made a weekly list of errands that needed to be done.

In a few hours, we had addressed THE REST together and could get back to what we did best: having fun together and loving each other.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rachel's Story: Verbal Abuse & Expecting Your Parents' Marriage

Editor's Note: The relationship we witness between our mother and father define our expectations of marriage from a very early age. Normalcy ranges from the strongest, most loving and affectionate of marriages to homes filled with abuse of all kinds, neglect, anger, violence, tension & abandonment. Unfortunately, we are built to mold ourselves around our definition of normalcy, putting our hearts, bodies and future marriage at risk. Sit down and face your parents' marriage. Write down what you want of it and what you don't want. Don't be afraid to want the best of the best. The good women wait and fight for that. Rachel shares her story of an unhealthy relationship; one that she accepted as normal and acceptable, as defined by watching her parents' marriage. Thankfully, she escaped. She chose to wait, and she fought for better. And now, (I can personally attest to this), she has a man who loves, respects and protects. A marriage & life that she LOVES and thrives in. - Lauren

"I can tell you haven't been to the gym in a few days."

I was setting up our church for a youth event when heard those words and felt two hands pinch both sides of my size 4 waist. Tim, my semi-serious/on again-off again boyfriend, was a real stickler for fitness, style, and pretty much everything about who I was.

"Don't use words like 'gargantuan' and 'superfluous' when you're makes you sound like you are trying too hard."

"I think girls that wear brightly colored nail polish look trashy. You should stick with clear or none at all."

"Don't cut your hair short, you won't be as pretty."

"You look better in flat shoes, don't wear the kind with the heels."

"You should stop dying your hair, I think the natural look is better than your highlights."

"I don't like it when you hang out with Kate, wouldn't you rather spend all your free time with me?"

"I'm older than you, so I obviously know more about this stuff."

The list of manipulative and controlling comments goes on and on. Looking back I can't believe I put up with him for as long as I did, but he had me convinced he was the best I could do. When I first started dating him, all my friends were freaking out because they all had major crushes on him--he knew they thought he was amazing--and he treated me as if I should be honored that he chose me over all the other girls. He was also the first "Christian" guy I had ever dated, so I thought being with him was good for me. I never thought of it as verbal abuse at the time, but I knew his comments didn't make me feel good about myself.

Every time I tried to end the relationship, he would show up at my front door with some dramatic apology, even going as far as shedding some tears, sending me flowers, and offering promises of change if he could just have one more chance. This cycle went on for two whole years before I was able to get out once and for all; when I finally realized I was allowing him to change who I was rather than having someone who simply loved me for me.

If I back track through my early childhood I can connect the dots to why I allowed myself to be treated this way for so long. I watched my parents treat each other terribly during their marriage. I remember hearing them fight, my mom taking off and leaving for several hours or packing my brother and me up and taking us to my grandparents for a few days. I remember my dad admitting to cheating on my mom with over 50 different women, I remember walking in on my mom when she was fooling around with another man as a way to get revenge on my dad...all this by the time I was just six years old. Each time they would separate, my dad would beg and plead to have another chance, my mom would take him back and in a few months the cycle would repeat.

It took 15 years of this before they finally got a divorce, and I'll say that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm not an advocate for divorce by any means, but if any two people should not be together, it was my mom and dad. I know now that their relationship was super jacked up, but as a little girl, my view of my parent's marriage subconsciously shaped what I thought love looked like, and how people should be it's obvious why I allowed myself to be in bad relationships for so long-I thought the drama was normal. After their divorce my mom remarried a man that I believe God brought into our lives to teach me about what marriage and love is really all about.

As an adult I decided I never wanted to settle for being treated the way Tim treated me ever again. I took the lessons I learned from my parents marriage and my own experiences and made a list of what I wanted for my own marriage someday. I committed my list to the Lord and asked him to bring me a man who would match my list. A few years later I was introduced to my husband, and he is the most caring, supportive and kind person I have ever known--and he definitely does not try to control me.

We've been married 5 years and I couldn't be happier. If I could offer one piece of advice to any woman today who finds herself in a bad relationship it would be this: Don't sell yourself short, or allow someone else to chip away at who you are, because eventually you won't even recognize yourself.