Happy 20th Anniversary to me and my favorite person*!
It feels both bizarre, and the exact opposite of bizarre, to have reached this milestone. Being married to one another is just what we do, is all. There are all kinds of books and articles about how to have a happy marriage—I’m not inclined to add to their number, even if I felt I had some wisdom to offer, which I don’t. Because I’ve got to be honest. Marriage is a crap shoot. You hope you have some enduring compatibility and you work at it and you let a lot of stuff go, and still there’s all this stuff that acts upon you that you don’t have a lot of control over. Financial hardship can be a huge stressor. Health crises can put couples to the test. Family support is invaluable.
The presence or absence of those things does not mean a marriage’s success or demise. But we don’t do this work in a vacuum. And Robert and I have been very lucky.
Check out this interesting post that correlates divorce rates to a whole host of factors. Did you know that the more people spend on their weddings, the more likely they are to divorce? And the more people who attended your wedding, the more stable your marriage is likely to be?
I am a fan of John Gottman’s work about making marriages work, and give his books to couples I’m counseling before marriage. Aside from that, anything I could say about marriage would be A Guide To Being Married to Robert Dana, and that’s just not going to be very useful to you.
Instead, if you’ll indulge me, I wrote this a long time ago, and I post it in honor of the day.
i don’t believe in
you complete me,
i’ve been waiting for a girl like you,
a feeling deep in your soul says you were half now you’re whole.
but i did have a dream once:
i stood outside my childhood home
and a party buzzed and clattered within.
and my guide (faceless person)
said my soul mate was inside.
i wandered slowly,
scrutinizing each face: is it you?
let’s see. no.
oh, no! no!
at first, i was unhurried;
later, i grew troubled:
the crowd had thinned,
maybe he’d left,
while i was wasting my time
with my who’s who
in the last room
plaid shirt and jeans.
(where are your glasses?)
and the great thing about dreams is,
you get to be surprised
by the predictable.
i woke up, and the dream,
vaporized; i was bereft,
but a miracle happened–
you didn’t disappear.
i don’t believe in soul mates.
i believe in
quiet over breakfast,
a hello at the end of the day,
the heaven in ordinary things,
and this dream.
*That’s a reference to Jake Armerding‘s song, “Favorite Person,” which I’ve been humming all day. “When we all stand as one, when they’re playing Mendelssohn, when we’re rich, when we’re poor, when we are forevermore… you’re my favorite person in this world.”
It feels strange to post LL on this, the darkest day of the year for Christians. But
a) maybe it’s helpful to get a picture of this wild, crazy, illogical, beautiful world that God so loved,
b) not all of you are Christian, and
c) many of you are pastors and might need a little light. And in that vein, how about a screen cleaning?
As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, the economists find, that’s created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this “trickle-down consumption.” The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt.
The people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
In a series of controlled experiments, lower-income people and people who identified themselves as being on a relatively low social rung were consistently more generous with limited goods than upper-class participants were. Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical.
One hears from fiscal conservatives that if we get rid of “big government” safety nets, that individuals, charities and churches will pick up the slack. I don’t see how, but I’d like to engage with a fiscal conservative on this topic, especially the results of the study.
H/t to Katherine Willis Pershey for this article. I agree that it shouldn’t be proscriptive, but is a good counterpoint to a lot of current conventional wisdom about waiting to marry until you’re “established”:
Interestingly, in a 2009 report, sociologist Mark Regnerus found that much of the pressure to delay marriage comes from parents who encourage their children to finish their education before marrying. One student told him that her parents “want my full attention on grades and school.” But such advice reflects an outdated reality, one in which a college degree was almost a guarantee of a good job that would be held for a lifetime. This is no longer the case. Furthermore, with so many students graduating from college with knee-buckling debt, they have worse than nothing to bring into a marriage. Indeed, prolonged singledom has become a rolling stone, gathering up debt and offspring that, we can be imagine, will manifest themselves in years to come in more broken, or never-realized, marriages.
Looking back over a marriage of nearly three decades, I am thankful that I married before going down that road. Now as a college-educated, doctorate-holding woman, I can attest that marrying young (at age 19) was most beneficial: to me, to my husband, and to the longevity of our marriage. Our achievements have come, I am convinced, not despite our young marriage, but because of it.
Our marriage was, to use Knot Yet’s terminology, a “cornerstone” not a “capstone.” …
It was not the days of ease that made our marriage stronger and happier: it was working through the difficult parts. We learned to luxuriate in the quotidian, to take wonder in the mundane, skills that have become even more valuable in our prosperous years. We invested the vigor of our youth not in things to bring into the marriage, but in each other and our marriage.
As one sociologist put it:
Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you’re fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life.
Robert and I married young (22), and next year will be our 20th anniversary. Blessed be.
How daily photos of a couple’s dog helped them get through a long-distance relationship. I’m starting work on a second book, thinking about technology and digital culture from a spiritual perspective, so this is of interest:
Did the pictures somehow substitute for or distract from our relationship? And the answer is yes. And I think that’s why we’re still together when so many people think long-distance relationships are impossible. Instead of focusing on us – which in the context of distance so often means strain, effort, and unhappiness – we dote on our dog and his boundless photogenicity.
I’m not suggesting that pictures can make a relationship work. And I’m not exactly sure why dog pictures are more effective for me than Skype or the telephone or texts.
…At the same time, though, this dog — something very much a product of our ability to raise it but at the same time independent, separate, us mediated into dog-life — has made a huge difference.
Loving the contrast between labyrinth and cone of shame here:
Let’s call this the latest installment in our ponderingsabout the Lean In movement:
When people are about to enter a negotiation, they see it as either a threat or a challenge. Studies show that people who see negotiation as a threat experience greater stress and make less advantageous deals. They behave more passively, and are less likely to use tough tactics aimed at gaining leverage, compared to the hard-ballers who feel negotiation to be more of a challenge than a threat.
This makes so much sense to me. My husband absolutely sees negotiating as a challenge. He looks forward to a good haggle. I do not. Reading about these studies, I realized that I have always seen negotiations as threatening, and just wanted them over with as quickly as possible, no matter what it cost me. Why prolong a stressful, threatening situation when you can throw in the towel and move on?
But why do I see negotiations as threats, and not challenges? To answer that, I needed…
Epiphany #2: There is more than one way to look at any goal.
This is a wonderful site, full of good practical ideas for incorporating faith and Christian practice into everyday life as a family.
When my kids were small, aged 6 and 3, getting out of the house in the morning was the worst part of the day….
I decided to write a litany for our mornings, and say it with them every school day morning for the year. These were the words that I hoped would help them in the most difficult parts of their day.
Parent: When I’m scared,
Kids: God is with me.
Parent: When I’m happy,
Kids: God is with me.
Parent: When I’m having a hard day,
Kids: God is with me.
Parent: When I’m having a super day,
Kids: God is with me.
Parent: All day long, every day,
Kids: God is with me.
All: Thank you God for being with me.
You could get playful with this: When my mommy forgets to pack a dessert in my lunch… When I forget to ask ‘mother may I’ at recess…
On the darkest day of the Christian year… God is with me. And you.
This is the best piece I’ve read on that appalling murder-suicide:
Costas’s critics… responded by counting out the ways in which Belcher could have killed both Perkins and himself without a gun—a morbid, reality-denying game. …[One] suggested that Belcher could have driven his car into a wall. There are men who do that. But guns make everything faster and deadlier—they remove the space for doubt and regret, reaction and rescue. Recognizing this does nothing to exculpate Belcher; ignoring it is beyond obstinate.
Costas and Whitlock were not addressing gun legality, but gun culture. Not hunting rifle culture or antique collector culture—handgun as weapon and “protection” culture.
Anyone read Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6 yet? I haven’t, though it looks good:
The principle [of Sabbath] is at least as valid today as it was in ancient times when it was incorporated in the Ten Commandments, says Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore, Ky., a former emergency-room doctor who launched a Christian ministry to promote environmental care.
“Now we’re consuming seven days a week,” said Sleeth, author of the new book “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life.”
“The problem with that is it’s not very fulfilling spiritually, and I don’t actually think it’s sustainable economically,” he said. “… And it’s bad for the planet.”
Many years ago, during a meeting with the ministry preparation committee of my presbytery, I made what I thought was an uncontroversial statement: that while Jesus’ life was a model for Christian living in a general sense, he was not my model for ministry in a specific sense. As a married woman who held down a job and paid rent and expected to live longer than 33 years and needed to plan for it, I didn’t see Jesus’ ministry as a paint-by-numbers enterprise so much as an overarching ethos.
This really bothered one member of the committee, by the way. Everyone else got what I was saying. Anyway, this article reminded me of that encounter. The question isn’t WWJD so much as WWJHUD (What Would Jesus Have Us Do). Christian anarchism isn’t a term I’m familiar with, but we do have our Christian purists out there whom Stackhouse could be addressing as well:
Jesus, I clearly saw [in my youth] (and clear-sightedness is one of the benefits of this point of view), collaborated with no institution and endorsed no regime. His gospel was a message of creative freedom, individual dignity and mutual responsibility and care. He and his disciples enjoyed tramping about the countryside, living on the margins, engaging people as they found them, giving to each according to his or her need. Small was, indeed, beautiful.
So why in the world wouldn’t we do the same?
Two reasons: We aren’t Jesus. And living just like Jesus doesn’t get done what Jesus wants done.
…For Jesus wants what God wants, and God’s first commandment in the Bible is to make shalom – to take the good world that God has made and to cultivate it, to make something of it, to encounter every situation and try to make it better. Note: God’s commandment is not to “stay pure,” a kind of double negative that is typical of a lot of Christian ethics: “Don’t sin!” “Don’t get implicated in anything compromising!” “Don’t commit violence!” God’s commandment, then and now, is a positive one: cultivate. Make things better. It’s not enough to say, “See, Lord? I kept the talent you gave me and didn’t lose a penny of it. My record is unbesmirched by moral compromise. I didn’t get much done, sure, but I didn’t come even close to risking my purity.”
I originally saw this on Upworthy, which provides the description:
You can learn a lot from a kid, especially from a super-insightful kid like Joshua Littman, who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that makes social interactions difficult. Don’t miss his question for his mom at 2:43… and his mom’s response at 2:50.
Long but worth-it article in which a photographer tracks down some of the couples whose weddings he photographed. Here’s the money quote for clergy, who have a front-row seat for these sometimes bizarre festivities:
Jesus, as wedding photographers are reminded each week, performed his first miracle at a wedding in Cana. Of course, there’s no photographic evidence. Probably for the best. Had there been a photographer that day in Galilee, the world might today be looking at a picture of a bride and groom posed sexily in some ox cart, lit from behind by a strobe hidden in the hay, holding balloons while drinking wine out of Mason jars and gazing adoringly at each other.
That’s the current state of the art.
It’s no longer enough to take wedding pictures that show a bride and groom in love—dancing, whispering during dinner, playing with a nephew or niece. These days, wedding pictures are elaborate, photographer-contrived setups that show the newlyweds kissing in a wheat field (as if it were a natural act to go wheat-harvesting on one’s wedding day) or aboard an old-time fire engine.
Eighteen years in, we look at our photos so rarely. Of course we got married before the wheat-field trend started. But I doubt we’d look at them any more frequently if it had, except to chuckle at how clueless we were on our wedding day. Everyone is, of course. Maybe wheat-harvesting photos somehow highlight that fact.
It’s a very interesting story because it blends the personal with the corporate and the political:
“I understand that your company donated $250,000 or so to the effort to ban the marriage amendment,” read one [critical e-mail]. “I am very concerned that with an increased visibility and acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, one of my children, who would have grown up and been happily married to a husband, could be tempted to the lesbian lifestyle.”
I support people putting their money where their mouth is. I’ve bought from Replacements Limited several times over the years. I wish I hadn’t already completed the set of china we got for our wedding.
You can look forward to a host of new titles by writers who’ll keep you riveted without insulting your intelligence, whether you prefer thrillers, literary fiction, biographies or page turners in just about any genre. Books are among the joys that make summers memorable, and this year we’re spoiled for choice.
Every summer I make an informal pact with myself not to read any church administration, organizational leadership or theology books for the summer. Maybe I’ll check some of these out.
We reject the premise that all babies are cute and worthy of being surrounded by fluffy, pastel, scented debris. We reject the serving up of people in the early stages of cognitive development in giant teacups, unable to comprehend the tropes they are helping to propagate, specifically regarding colonialism and unsupervised use of diuretics. We reject the reverse anthropomorphism of humans into bumble bees, especially in so anatomically simplistic a manner, without so much as a solid thorax to recommend the likeness.
We’re going on 18 years and yes, I’d agree with every one of these on one level or another.
Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can let go of the idea that marriage is temporary — and will end if certain awful conditions are met — the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress. Yes, you may find yourself in a horrible situation where it’s absolutely necessary to get a divorce. But going into it with divorce in the back of your mind, even in the way way way back of your mind, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary angst. Accept that you’re going to stay with him. He’s going to stay with you. Inhabit that and figure out how to make THAT work, instead of living with the “what if”s and “in case of’s.”
Loved this article. The Freakonomics podcast had a feature several months ago exploring whether hitchhiking is as dangerous as we think. Conclusion: probably not. Stil, I will live vicariously through John Waters, methinks.
May the highways of your life be full of joy and surprise this weekend.