Sunday, February 14, 2016

Marriage: Just One Person's Experience Thus Far



It seems like marriage is often talked about at extremes: praised as perfect bliss that every single person should engage in given the opportunity, or complained and joked about like it's the yoke of slavery. I've wanted to write something about it for a while now, and I figured Valentine's Day, with all its warped commercializing of romance and love, is at least as good a time as any.

The former extreme seems especially prevalent in really conservative religious circles, and it's resulted in a fear that if we say anything about our marriage problems, the response will be like, what, your marriage isn't perfect? You must have married the wrong person! Or you must not be a good enough Christian! Or oh no, don't say anything bad about marriage or you'll scare the heathens off from it!

The latter can be found anywhere, like, oh my goodness at the things one has to put up with from their SO! Why couldn't they just! It's like raising a kid! Don't get married, enjoy your freedom!

My personal experience is neither of these, so my only goal here, having been married a scant 3.75 years, is to speak honestly of it. It's not to convince anyone of anything, and it's not a list of positives and negatives. I believe there are few, if any, formulas that can be applied to every relationship, and the best we can do is to share what we learn from our own. You could preface every line of this with, "I think." Who knows what my view will be in another 3.75 years? So without further ado,

1. Marriage is, simply, life. 

Bibbidi, bobbidi, take the trash out.

If someone asked me how married life is, that would be my answer: it's life. Like being single is life, or dating, or whatever. It has its ups and downs, its challenges and rewards, its really hard days and its really fun ones. Getting married doesn't suddenly make everything sparkly and magical and painless. You still have to do the dishes, and pay the bills, and dust your bookshelves, and deal with family drama and personal anxiety and all the life problems you had before. They don't automatically become enjoyable experiences. Maybe you married someone who does make everything more fun, and if so, great! But if not, that's okay. You didn't marry your freaking fairy godmother. There's nothing wrong with that.

2. Your spouse is going to change. 


Probably not into David Tennant, so don't hold your breath.

Couples in dramatic movies are always throwing around, "You aren't the person I married!" like it's inherently a betrayal. Welcome to the real world, dearies! Your SO is going to change, and that's actually a good thing! People aren't meant to be static. The two of you might disagree on whether or not a change is a good change, but that's okay. The traditional vows go, "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part." Not, "Until you change in some way that I don't particularly like." Security doesn't come from knowing they're always going to be exactly who they are when you say 'I do.' It comes from being someone, and being with someone, who is committed to constantly finding new ways to relate to and connect with their partner, no matter how you change (assuming you don't become a serial killer or whatever--I mean, really, we're grownup enough that I don't have to add the disclaimers).

3. Marriage is an opportunity to become something greater than you are apart.


Mghty Morphin Married Couple

One of the things I appreciate most about my relationship with Alex is learning how our strengths and weaknesses complement/balance each other. Running a business together gives us a unique opportunity for that. For example, he encourages me to work hard and aim high so I actually get things done instead of just daydreaming about them, and I keep him from working 16/7 so he doesn't drive himself into the ground all the time. There are countless ways in which you and your partner can do this! And where you share weaknesses, you can work on them together, benefiting from having another perspective going through the same thing you are. (Side note: it is important to find a good balance in being accepting of who each other is without enabling, and encouraging each other's improvement/growth without nagging or hurting. If I really figure that one out, I'll let you know.)

4. At the same time, marriage doesn't--or at least shouldn't--absorb your individuality.


You only wish your partner could read your mind.

Marriage is not your whole identity. Your partner is not your whole identity. You will shape and change and share each other's lives, but you're still you, they're still them, and remembering that is key in living successfully with someone who will probably be very different from you in at least a few ways. Being at peace with your partner's differences, especially the ones you don't like, comes from a healthy amount of identity separation. You'll be much happier with your relationship if you aren't worrying about how your partner's differences reflect on you, or what people will think of you because of them; because you remember that you are your own person, and you give your spouse the freedom to be their own person. Don't try to make who they are all about you, and it will save you a lot of grief. And of course give each other space to maintain your own friendships, pursue your own interests, your own hobbies, take a trip by yourself, whatever.

5. Marriage can be one of the fastest ways to discover your own flaws--and move past them!



Marry someone and believe me, it might not be long before you're discovering exactly how selfish and everything else you can be. It can be pretty difficult when your high opinion of your own emotional maturity gets those first, deep dents. Your partner may be experiencing the same thing, and this may make you feel like you've both made a huge mistake. But if you do have emotional maturity and take an honest look, it's a great opportunity to improve yourself, and things will get easier! Try to give each other extra grace as you learn to live together, and focus more on improving yourself than them. You can develop in ways that might have taken you years longer if left to your own devices. There will always be new things to work through, but the same is true of every part of life!

6. Marriage is a daily choice.


When it comes down to it, for me, marriage is a commitment to choose your spouse again every day, no matter how you feel, no matter what you're going through, no matter how you're changing. It is a choice. The difficulty may vary with the day, but it's always a choice you have in your power to make. It's not dependent on their behavior or your emotional state (which is of course not to say you should remain with an abusive partner--again with the disclaimers). Hopefully you're with someone who will always choose you back.

7. It's the feel-good things, too.


It's always having a friend (even if you sometimes need to take a break from talking to that friend), someone to support and be supported by, to share silly jokes and Netflix and rainy evenings. Someone to get excited about used-book shopping with, to buy you a milkshake when you're crumbling under work stress. It's sharing dreams, long conversations about weird ideas, secret looks when your relative tells that story for the 800th time.

Marriage is hard sometimes, because it's life. But it's good, and it's so worth it.

Like I said, this is just my current perspective on my personal experience (and please, don't say, "I can get this benefit from this other thing too!" I'm talking about what marriage is to me, not what everything else can be to everyone else). My only hope is that it will encourage honest conversation and maybe help someone somewhere as they walk their own path. Thanks to my dear husband who's walking with me! :-)


~ Kate

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Christians and Sex


I'm not entirely comfortable blogging about this, but I've wanted to since before I got married and my hope is that it will help anyone trying to work through similar issues. I'm sorry if my somewhat candid opinion offends you. I don't really have answers, but I feel some of this needs to be said.

Christians in general are a little paranoid about sex. As soon as you become a teenager, you start getting it ground into your head that having sex before marriage is one of the worst things you could do in life. I got married in May, and my husband and I were both virgins. I am 100% for waiting. But the way Christians go about grinding this into people can be harmful. It's said over and over, "Sex before marriage is bad, sex before marriage is bad, sex before marriage is bad." When that's all or most of what you hear about it, it gets into your subconscious and "Sex before marriage is bad," becomes "Sex is bad."And it's not just sex. It's any form of touching that might conceivably lead to sex (ah, you front-hugged, you heathen!), as if having sex isn't a completely conscious choice you have to make before you do it (maybe I'm just naive and more self-controlled than most, but seriously, give people a little credit. We all have the ability to stick to our true convictions!).

As a result, some people have problems with touch when they do get into relationships or marry. We may know in our heads that physical touch (to varying extents of appropriateness at varying points in a relationship) is a form of communication and important, but the damage is done. I've heard of numerous cases, but I'll draw from my own experience.

In my teenage years, I thought any form of desire for the opposite sex was wrong and so I suppressed it. I trained myself to think physical intimacy was undesirable. Because that would magically go away if I ever got married, right? But it doesn't. I've had to work very hard at it. I was surprised by how hard.

Two examples: when Alex and I started dating, I was, on a conscious level, perfectly fine with holding hands. But the first time we did, I felt so afraid I could only stand it for a matter of seconds. Our relationship was long-distance so we only saw each other for a few days every month, which didn't leave that much time to work on it, but it was months before I was comfortable even holding hands in front of my family. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. I'd decided before he came along that, despite the hype some Christians build up about saving your first kiss for your wedding day, I wanted to kiss after I got engaged because I seriously doubted I would be able to in front of a crowd of people if it was the first time (also, you don't have to go further on your wedding night, but first kiss to that in the same day would be a big leap). So we kissed for the first time shortly after we got engaged. And I freaked out and started hyper-ventilating. Yup. (Don't worry, I like it plenty now. ;-))

We're told that sex before marriage leaves you with emotional baggage, but the other side of the coin is completely ignored: being (however unintentionally) taught to associate sex with shame, fear, or negativity in general does the same thing. The baggage is just a different kind. They tell you sex before marriage will hurt your future spouse, but they leave out how much not wanting to touch them will. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think sex out of wedlock is a good idea. But some Christians seem to be so afraid that if they say anything good about sex, we'll all go out and do it with the first person we have a chance with, so they overcompensate and we still end up hurt. There needs to be a much more balanced approach. Someone pointed out that for every book Christians write on the goodness of touch or sex, there are another ten warning us about it. We need to teach about healthy touch in healthy circumstances alongside the reverse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The One, and Signs

I was talking with a friend about romantic relationships the other day and thought, why not post some of this on my blog? So you might be getting a few posts about various aspects of dating/courting/whatever you want to call it. Unfortunatelyish I tend to go down bunny trails and I'm not sure if the way my mind connects things makes sense in writing, so neither am I sure if I'm talking about the same thing at the end of the post as I am at the beginning, but hopefully you can follow okay.

-I have been in a relationship for a whopping total of one year, so I am clearly an expert and qualified to tell you how to do everything. In a few months, I'm getting married to the only man I've ever dated. Multiple views I held have been stretched and turned upside down and sideways during our relationship.They probably will be again. So please don't take this and whatever follows as anything more than my current, personal thoughts and opinions born out of my limited experience and observations. My only hope is you may find it helpful in some way or another.-

I'm starting off with the concept of "the one." You know, the idea that there's one specific person out there written into your destiny for you to marry and you just have to figure out who it is. It's popular among Christians, but it seems kind of messed up to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for seeking and following God's will to the best of our abilities. That's very important to me. But the whole "one" thing puts so much pressure and doubt on singles. "Is he the one? How do I know? What if I marry him and it turns out someone else was the one?"

I've seen couples frozen in place for lack of "confirmation," I've seen people get into relationships that ended badly because they thought they'd been given signs each other was The One, and I know of one couple who dated for three weeks, married, and divorced three months later. The One concept actually seems to encourage irresponsibility and unwise decisions due to over-reliance on "the feeling" or "signs from heaven" which are so easy to read into or misinterpret. No matter who you're with, love is a choice you have to make day after day, and I think some people mistakenly expect that if they follow a magic formula to "the one" it will be easy. God gave us heads as well as hearts for a reason - to like, you know, use them. To quote the movie Ever After,

Henry: "Then let's say God puts two people on Earth and they are lucky enough to find one another. But one of them gets hit by lightning. Well then what? Is that it? Or, perchance, you meet someone new and marry all over again. Is that the lady you're supposed to be with or was it the first? And if so, when the two of them were walking side by side were they both the one for you and you just happened to meet the first one first or, was the second one supposed to be first? And is everything just chance or are some things meant to be?" 

da Vinci: "You cannot leave everything to Fate, boy. She's got a lot to do. Sometimes you must give her a hand."

I'm not comparing God to fate, but He does gives us freedom to choose, and I've never seen Him write something like, "Jane, you should marry Leroy!" on a billboard so you'll finally know (not to say He can't, hasn't, or won't, just that it doesn't always - doesn't usually? - work that way).

I can't tell you how to decide who to date or if you should marry someone. In my case, we built a solid friendship before we started dating, talked about a ridiculous number of subjects early on to find out where we're on the same page, considered our personalities and the way our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other, talked to people with more experience and wisdom, listened out for our family's opinions (how much this plays into decision-making depends on your family - be respectful and consider their words while making your own decisions based on your convictions [assuming you're an adult and not like 16]), considered reasons for marrying and not marrying, blah blah blah. And prayed of course. Usually I thought God said yes, sometimes I didn't know if He was saying anything, and a couple of times I thought He might have said no (I asked Him a lot, okay). In the end I just have to trust Him. Sometimes trusting Him means taking a leap of faith when common sense and all that mess lines up but a lightning bolt hasn't written your significant other's name in the sky, because when you've been surrounded by The One business, yes, that can be a leap (with maybe a teensy bit of exaggeration). There were plenty of "coincidences" along the paths that brought my fiancé and I together, plenty of things that may have been signs, that were at the very least fun to consider and made us think, but that's not what he founded his decision to say, "Will you marry me?" and mine to say yes on.

I believe God has plans, destinies, for every life, and I'm not sure how our responsibility to take initiative and make decisions factors into it all. So perhaps the idea behind The One is true, but the application is flawed.

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Proposal Story

I'm writing this post because several people have asked and it might cut the number of times I have to tell it down to 50 from 100. ;-)

I know I haven't blogged in a while, so here's a very abbreviated version of the backstory: Last year I started getting to know a young man named Alex over the internet, starting on a Christian filmmakers' forum. We got to know each other very well, in March he drove from his house in North Carolina to where I live in Georgia to meet, and we decided to date/court/whatever you want to call it. After hours and hours and hours of phone calls, hundreds of e-mails, many instant-messages, and half a dozen visits, he asked me to marry him last Sunday and I said yes. Here's that story.

My older sister and I went to visit Alex on Thursday. The day after that his water heater stopped working. So after two failed attempts to fix it when he got back from work Sunday (said failure was not his fault, by the way - he did everything right, but the plumber discovered another issue he couldn't have known about), we felt like getting out of the house for a while. We decided to go for a walk on the beach. It was overcast, but it cleared up some while we were there so we put a blanket on the sand and stargazed. I played with long shutter speeds on my camera for a while.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Then we just stargazed and talked. At some point Alex asked me what my biggest regret would be if I died that night. I told him, and he said his would be me not knowing how much he loves me. I was like, aw, that's nice. I'm cold; can we go soon?

 A couple of minutes later I got up to leave. Alex only got up partway; he stayed on one knee and took my hand. Then he said something along the lines of, "The best way I know to express it to you is this," and here a thought flashed through my mind: He's going to ask, isn't he? "Will you marry me?"

He caught me completely off guard. I really didn't expect him to ask anytime soon, despite being pretty sure he wanted to marry me. So I think I said, "I don't know" about half a dozen times while I thought about it (hey, I wanted to be sure). I also said, "I'm cold and I have to go to the bathroom." Romantic, right? But I'd known for sure for a time that I didn't want to ever leave him, so I finally said yes.

He slipped a replica of Nenya (Galadriel's ring from The Lord of the Rings) on my left ring finger. He asked how it fit and I said it was a little loose. Then I decided to experiment to see if it would come off (I didn't think it actually would, but I wanted to know. I didn't think this through near as thoroughly as accepting his offer of marriage) and shook my hand around. Surprise, surprise, it fell off and landed in the sand somewhere. We hunted around for a bit using his phone screen as a light and I was just about to put my camera flash to use again when he found it. Phew.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 

So, we're both very excited and happy and planning our nerd-themed wedding. :-D

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Things To Do When You Go To A Con

Long time no blog. I've just returned from DragonCon (well, two days ago) (it was lots of fun, by the way), and in light of it I thought I'd share a few tips for the new or inexperienced or stupid con-goer. So here you are, a few things to do at a con:

1. If you wear a costume, take safety pins. You'd much rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them if you have a costume mishap. Safety pins can make pretty much anything wearable enough that you don't have to go home for fear of being arrested.

2. Drink water and eat food. You need to stay hydrated and keep your energy up for the best experience. You don't want to pass out when standing in line to hear Mercedes Lackey read or ask William Shatner questions (or pay $70 for his autograph), or in a crowded room looking at wonderfully nerdy goods you can buy online at half the cost. There are multiple reasons for this. If they take you to the hospital, you will miss a good bit of the con. And there is the possibility they will cut your costume off, especially if it may be restricting your breathing. If you are a lady wearing a corset or a bodice, you will probably lose it (if you're a man wearing one, you should probably change). The chances of being kissed out of unconsciousness like Snow White by a strapping man in a Han Solo costume are slim. Plus passing out is not as romantic as it may seem (or so I've heard, as I've never passed out myself).

3. Get to panels as early as you can without missing other important stuff, especially if there are famous people involved. They can only let so many people in a room at a time, and lines form fast and early when TV and movie stars will be there.

4. Respect people, their costumes, and their personal space. They may look like your favorite character, but that doesn't mean you should tackle, hug, or kiss them without their permission. Their costume may be the best thing since Serenity, but that doesn't mean you should touch it. You don't know how sturdy it is, you don't want to ruin their day and their opinion of you by knocking the gears off their top hat, and they may feel about it the same way you feel about your kid brother handling the model you built of the Enterprise - before the paint dries.

That's all I have off the top of my head. Feel free to add to the list with a comment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Long Time No...Blogeth

Yes, it's been a while, and this is going to be short. The last several months have brought about things I never thought would happen. Mostly through a particular relationship with someone, I've grown and learned so much - about loving, feeling, relating, about myself and others. It's been mentally and emotionally exhausting but it's been worth it. Maybe someday I will be able to articulate it in a way that will help others.

In one way I feel my life is at a standstill - like I've been treading water, wasting time. I don't know what I want to do with my life. It's frustrating. But on the other hand, God has definitely been using this period to teach me a lot. So if you're in the same place, be encouraged - it's often these waiting times that bring about strengthened character and invaluable lessons that will help prepare for the future, not to mention it's a great time to work on your patience. ;-)

Have a random, cool song:



A book I recommend: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I mentioned it in my last post. It was so good I pre-ordered the sequel months before its release (and it was released today! *squee* Now to wait for it to arrive). It's an excellently-crafted fantasy novel. It's been a long time since a story so pulled me in. Note: contains brief thematic elements, language, and violence.

A movie I recommend: Tangled. I saw it in theaters last year, and it's a really good story. I pre-ordered that, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn

Since the end of August life has been a little crazy. I got my bottom wisdom teeth taken out and a few days later went to Virginia where I worked for almost two months. During that time my mother was diagnosed with leukemia and spent a month in the hospital. But God proved His trustworthiness over and over, giving me His strength when I had none of my own. I literally had nothing else to rely on, and God came through every time. It sounds cliche until you experience it.

I have new questions floating around in my head. How to live in this world without pounding one's feelings into a rock to avoid emotional breakdowns when you're surrounded by difficult situations. How to survive as an introvert when you retreat into that cave in your mind to get by and it turns into pride. How to reconnect with a part of yourself locked behind a wall without letting out a victim, if it should be done at all. How many second and third and fourth chances to give people who make no effort to keep in touch or know you and then act like they have any business pretending to care about your life when you see them. And my view of God is being challenged as I read and compare the old testament and the new.

The rest of this post is about books and movies.

I read Tolkien's The Children of Húrin over the past month. It's definitely not for everyone. It's the tale of a family who fails to escape the tragedy that follows them everywhere under the curse of Morgoth. But it's a beautiful and delicate piece of fiction that I want to read again in the future. The only thing I dislike is an act that seemed out-of-character for the protagonist.

I'm now reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Oh, the prose in this book! It does drag sometimes but there are absolutely delicious sections. One of my favorites I read yesterday is this:

"And then there was Abenthy, my first real teacher. He taught me more than all the others set end to end. If not for him, I would never have become the man I am today.
I ask that you not hold it against him. He meant well."

Granted, I am a rather peculiar person, compared to most of the other people I've met, so it's quite possible no one outside of my writers' group would like it. But it does for me what cups of tea or high-quality chocolates or Beethoven or sports cars do for other people. Same goes for parts of The Children of Húrin (like, most of the first half or so).

I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the first time the other day. When I started it, the dialogue was all in English, which confused me a bit because I thought it was in Mandarin. It matched up well with their mouth movements. But the voices and the body language were like cats and dogs. So I went to the menu and, thank goodness, there was an option to switch to Mandarin. Asian movies with English dubbing don't work for me at all (unless they're cheesy Jackie Chan movies, and then it adds to the effect they have in the first place). It throws off the...mood, artistic value, whatever you want to call it, so I watched it in Mandarin with English subtitles. That was more like it! There are a few iffy scenes but it was a good movie overall. To me it was an example of how pride can ruin your life and those around you. I find it so odd how America, a nation founded on Christianity, has fewer morals in the majority of their modern films than China. Anyway, I liked it enough to buy it so I bought a gently used copy off Amazon for $3.

I got another book today - 'Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I might read it after The Name of the Wind, or I might read Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker, or try to finish Green.

I discovered a band last week the sound of which I really like. This is my favorite song of theirs so far.