Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Do You Know You're Ready For Marriage?

One of our blog readers sent in the following question:

How do you know when you're ready to get married to the person you're dating? When is the "right" time?

There are simple answers for this question and also complicated ones. Bear with me.

Simple answers:
1. You're ready if both you and your significant other both want to get married. This seems silly but many times couples tie the knot when one or the other isn't quite sure if they're ready to take this step, but feel pressured by the other person, by their age, or by a fear that they might not find anyone else to marry.

2. You're ready as long as both of you have a realistic understanding that marriage really is "for better or worse." This commitment means that you'll feel great when things are better....but you'll definitely feel like escaping when things are worse. Most people within their first year of marriage find themselves thinking, "Oh holy crap, what did I get myself into?" If you understand that this feeling is normal and that marriage means sticking it out through the "worse" times when it would be easier and less painful to leave, I'd say you're ready.

3. Having a good relationship with God really helps. Jake and I feel that it's a pre-requisite. You'd have to make up your own mind, but since you asked, we'll tell ya what we think! Marriage takes extreme acts of unselfishness on a nearly constant basis. Having a divine source of strength, love, and unselfishness from which to draw is something we feel necessary to keep marriages together.

Many times Christians (and non-Christians) agonize over finding the right time to marry or if they're ready for marriage. We feel this agonizing is unnecessary. The more complicated answer to your question...is another question.

When is it the wrong time or when are you not ready for marriage?

1. Many people want God to give them a clear, resounding, and specific "yes" about marriage or about a potential spouse. This doesn't happen a lot. If you're walking in relationship with God, you have the freedom and God-given wisdom to choose your spouse. More often, people hear a "no" from God and don't like it. You're not ready for marriage if you're feeling like God's told you no to marriage, no to a specific person, or that He wants you to wait. A wise couple trusts the no's from God because while it's painful to turn away from a relationship, it might be more painful to push onwards with something that He knows isn't best for you. And believe me, you will know when God says "no"....He's usually pretty darn loud and persistant about it!

2. You're probably not ready if trusted family members and friends are cautioning you that marriage to this person is not a good idea. The chances of people in love listening to this advice are slim, but really they should! Your close friends and family have your best interests at heart. If they express concern about marriage for you right now or marriage to your current boyfriend/girlfriend....you might want to pay attention. Listen to their concerns and ask yourself if maybe they have some valid and realistic points.

3. If your life goals are incompatible, it's not wise to marry. I'm talking about really obvious things like one of you wants an open marriage, while the other expects fidelity. One of you feels called to be a missionary in Africa, while the other strongly wants to live in a suburb in Idaho. One of you wants children and the other firmly does not want children. These things are deal-breakers.

4. If the relationship is at all abusive, you're not ready to marry. This includes sexual, physical, verbal, and mental abuse. God does not want you to be treated less than the wonderful person He made you. If you experience any type of abuse, do not marry or continue in a relationship unless the person struggling with abusive behavior has gotten significant professional help and has demonstrated healing and changed behavior for a good amount of time. Even then, exert caution.

5. You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs. This really offends many people. It's not PC. But I really believe it's wise. It's not about being intolerant. It's about realizing that one's religious beliefs seriously contribute to how one thinks about morality, lifestyle, money, child-rearing, and so forth. Opposing beliefs on any of those things can really tear apart a marriage. I'm not saying you should not date people with different faiths or no faith at all....but really think long and hard about what it would look like to marry someone with another faith. Faith should be your first love and your shared foundation for marriage.

Hope this helps! - Melissa

P.S. For more on these questions, check out our recent blog at RelevantMagazine.com - How to Find the One

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We Need Your Help

Hey everyone,

We have been discussing some additions we want to make to our blog, but in order to do so we need your help. We would like to add two pages to our site one listing creative date ideas and the other listing good counselors as a resource to those looking. We only have a limited number of ideas to add to the pages ourselves so we really need your help. All ideas will be listed without names connected to them.

Creative Date Ideas:

Dates are so important in a marriage but sometimes, the busyness of life - work, kids, school, etc. just kills some of the creative juices.

If you could help by sending creative ideas that you have done or plan to do to jakeandmelissakircher@gmail.com. Just indicate what the idea was, the time involved for prep and execution and how much it cost.

Counseling

We'll have an article coming out soon about counseling at RelevantMagizine.com and can not express the importance that counseling has played in our lives and in our marriage. The hardest part though tends to be picking up the phone and finding someone. We have found that the best way has been word of mouth so we'd like to build a list to help make that process easier for others.

If you have had a healthy experience with a counselor, please just send us an e-mail at jakeandmelissakircher@gmail.com with the following information:

1) Name of counselor
2) City and State they are located
3) Contact Info: website, phone number, email, etc.
4) Did they accept insurance? Work on a pay scale? Etc?
5) Describe the counselors personality and/or the counseling style.

Thanks so much for your help! We really think and hope that these two pages will help many other people.

Jake and Melissa

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fighting on Facebook?

I came across this really intriguing article in the New York Times recently that I thought I would share:

When Couples Fight on Facebook

If you don't have time to read the whole article, the gist of it is the growing population of couples who have taken their fights to Facebook in the form of status updates and wall posts. The article highlights one couple who got so direct and blunt in their Facebook argument that a friend had to double check that they knew they were posting things that everybody could read. Another friend expressed concern about their relationship and felt that all they did was fight, based on their Facebook activity.

It's a really interesting article that asks the question if this is healthy activity or not. Never before have marriages been able to air disagreements as quickly and as publicly as they can on Facebook. What do you think? Healthy or not?

Here are some thoughts:

First, what would be the motives of posting an argument on Facebook? For many, as expressed in the article, I think the motive would be to make a case for your argument and gathering support to help you win the argument. This is really not a healthy way too fight. One of the best pieces of advice we have ever gotten about fighting was that too many couples put an issue in between them and both try to win the other person over to their side. But what is better, is to take an issue and put it in front of both of you as you then sit side-by-side to work through an issue together. The previous makes the issue about being right and winning. The later makes the issue about, well...the issue and working through it together.

Second, knowing what it is like to try and work something out over e-mail or text, I would assume that Facebook would be just as difficult, if not worse. You can't read body language and tones; nor can you facial expressions or see emotion in the other person's eyes.

On top of those things being missed, you will also have multiple other voices speaking into your argument. Which, on the one hand can sometimes be helpful but on the other hand we're not talking about a good friend sitting down for an hour or two to give you some honest advice. We're talking about Bill from work whose been divorced twice and is currently dating two girls without their knowing. Do we really want to give him space to respond to our arguments with advice?

I think I would lean towards fighting on Facebook not being a healthy thing.

What do you think?

Jake

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Discussing Pornography

So an issue that we feel strongly about is the detrimental affects that pornography has on marriages. I think that it's helpful to understand that pornography is often a curiosity, that turns into a liking, that turns into a habit, that turns into an addiction. And it can become a very destructive addiction. I would wager that most men and many women have looked at porn, whether on the internet or in print and so we all need some practical, Biblical advice on how to treat porn, what to do with it, and if it's a problem, how to stop. We dealt with this issue when dating and know countless friends and family who have also painfully struggled with this particular problem.

I am reading a book by Beth Moore called, "So Long Insecurity." And while I don't endorse everything within the book, I have to say her chapters that deal with pornography are great. I would like to simply share an excerpt from her book as she puts things better than I think I could. One very important thing to keep in mind is that men and women who struggle with porn are God's children just like the rest of us. We all need to be treated with love, respect, and compassion, as we all have our own different struggles. And now Mrs. Moore:

(Paraphrased) "Anything that keeps our relational lives in a whimsical world and requires absolutely nothing from us but further self-absorption is a severe detriment to our security. The human psyche was designed for real relationships and cannot flourish amid nothing but fantasy. The plan to keep pornography at bay and not allow it to affect relationships is a bigger fantasy than the one on the screen or page. Countless pornography addicts reach a point where they can no longer have sexual intimacy with a spouse.

A pornography addiction...cannot get enough. It constantly demands something more. Something deeper....[It] also turns the lock ever so quietly on the cell of solitary confinement. The irony is that it promises company but ultimately leaves its victim with all the psychological fulfillment of caressing a ghost. Contrary to the claims of our sensual culture, we were not created merely for sexual gratification. We were created for affection, and that requires another person.

If you are in this position, the first thing I want to tell you is this: there really is life after pornography for many couples. I am pro-marriage, pro-forgiveness, and pro-doing what it takes to work things out.....I believe that with God's help and centrality a couple can move through almost anything and flourish once again. To state the obvious, however, doing nothing will never accomplish anything.

The second thing I want to tell you is to seek face-to-face counsel from someone you know to be wise and discreet. No book can ever take the place of good, solid, sound-minded counseling, because it lacks the framework of individuality and accountability. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you need to find a safe place to tell the secret, or you'll never get your ankle out of the trap. If the two of you could fix it by yourselves, you probably already would have. Get help for yourself whether or not your spose or fiance accompanies you. The third thing I beg you to hear is that you are not doing your man [or woman struggling with pornography] any favors by letting [them] continue to get away with something so destructive to [them] and your relationship.

Here's some advice from Rob Jackson, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in intimacy disorders like these: 'You confront because you care. Armed with knowledge that your spouse is acting out sexually, you have no other responsible option. Your information may be incomplete, but any verifiable evidence of illicit sex is enough. This could include but is not limited to viewing pornographic materials, visiting sexually explicit chat rooms, browsing adult bookstores or going to strip clubs, frequenting prostitues, engaging in voyeurism, exhibitionism, or sexual behavior with others. Indecisiveness won't do - not if you hope to save your marriage. When done correctly and motivated by love, confrontation becomes an act of profound compassion. Frankly, it's easier in the short run to look the other way. If you intend, however, for your marriage to overcome adultery of any type, you must confront if your spouse fails to confess. To quote Dr. Dobson, "love must be tough" - and consistant. In addition to love, confrontation must be centered on principle. The dialogue should never degenerate into who is right, but what is right.'

To stand back and watch a spouse spin further and further out of control without ever attempting to confront, set a boundary, or permit consequences is not in [their] or your best interests." - .pgs 250-255 "So Long Insecurity"

Food for thought from Beth Moore. I hope her words are as challenging, compassionate, and practical to you all as I have found them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sometimes you just need a little break

Yes, it's Melissa again. I promise Jake is still alive. Summers tend to be busy for youth pastors and Jake is no exception. This week he is in Philadelphia, PA with a group of middle schoolers. I'm sure he would appreciate prayers that the trip goes well. Jake will be blogging more once the summers settles down. For now, I'm just writing down the conversations we've been having.

It's funny when Jake leaves for his trips. Everyone is so kind and offers their help and asks if I'm going to be ok. I think it's super sweet for people to care and it's much appreciated, but I always laugh a bit on the inside. Because I LOVE it when he goes away!

Elizabeth Gilbert (she of the "Eat, Pray, Love" rage going on now) puts this humorously in her new book "Committed." I feel like she understands my soul. "Because here was something I already knew about myself; Just as some wives occasionally need a break from their husbands in order to visit a spa for the weekend with their girlfriends, I will always be the sort of wife who occasionally needs a break from her husband in order to visit Cambodia." pg. 227

Ha! Love it. I know just how Elizabeth Gilbert feels. No matter how much I love my husband and enjoy spending time with him...it is heaven to have the house all to myself for a week. I love being alone, cooking what I want, watching as many girl movies as I want without groaning and suggestions of sports alternatives, having extra time to work and sketch. I love reading without having to answer questions. I just love not having to answer questions period...like "What are you thinking?" Two weeks out of the year, I don't have to tell Jake what I'm thinking. It's fantastic.

So I'm sittin' just fine ya'll. And I think it's taken a couple years of marriage to feel ok about needing a break from each other. My idealistic picture of domestic bliss did not really include checking out every once in a while. I used to freak when Jake wanted to get away with the guys. "Did he not love me anymore?" "Why didn't he want to spend time with me?" If you think those thoughts too much, spending any kind of time apart can easily turn into, "Something must be wrong with our marriage!"

But as time has mellowed me out a bit, I can see how much spouses are still individuals despite an intense level of intimacy with each other. Your marriage could be great....but you still might need to get away to Cambodia for a couple of days. Jake and I have really been trying to give each other space lately. Space to have time with our separate friends. Space to play video games or space to read. Space to have our own ways of doing things. We're trying to put less expectations on making the other person live like we live, spend time like we spend time. To let each other be different. It's a constant process of evaluating needs vs. wants. But I feel like it's chilling us out a bit. We seem to be settling down more into the comfortable-ness of marriage and I rather like it.

Which is why I am proud to say that I am going to miss Jake this week. But I am going to enjoy the heck out of being alone while he's gone!
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.