Friday, February 25, 2011

Reader Question: Make It or Break It?

All the comments about birth control were great! Thanks so much everyone for sharing your opinions. It's always really good to hear different view points when trying to make a decision. Jake and I had a question to pose though....if you believe that the Pill messes up God's design for a woman's body, what about condoms? Condoms don't change how the body functions. Would those who argued for NAF (Natural Family Planning) be ok with condoms? What would the difference be between the two from your moral belief standpoint?

Ok so a reader sent in a question about how to know what kinds of things are "make it or break it" when it comes to making the leap from dating to marriage.

Which we could really write a book about. Personally we have the belief that you can take any two people on the face of the earth, stick em' in a marriage, and they can make it work. Marriage is all about how much effort you put into the relationship. Some people are very different and will have to work harder than those that have similar personalities or are both laid back people. But you can still stay married.

However, there are a couple of red flags to look out for.

1) If there is any sort of abuse going on either mental, emotional, or physical. You should never, never stay with or commit to a person that is abusive in any way.

2) If your boyfriend/girlfriend has cheated. You can work through this together, but I would be very cautious and go through a lot of counseling before marrying someone who has cheated on you.

3) If one or both of you struggle with addictions. Unchecked and untreated addictions can utterly ruin a marriage. These can be alcohol, illegal substances, prescription drugs, pornography, and shopping (yes, this is serious and can land a couple in huge debt).

4) Debt. Again this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but a significant amount of "bad" debt such as credit card debt can be very bad for a marriage. Jake had a very small amount of credit card debt when we were engaged and I told him, "That has to be gone before we get married." He worked his butt off and paid it all. Good debt are things like car payments, mortgages, and so forth. Being aware of debt and how you both handle money before marriage is really, really, really important!

5) Totally opposite life goals. You want to be a stay at home mom with five children and he wants to be a constant traveling photographer for National Geographic with no kids. You might love each other, but if you're going in totally opposite directions, you're going to have major problems.

6) Different religious beliefs. I know this offends people, but having different morals and beliefs can really tear two people apart. It does work sometimes, but more often than not it causes tons of problems and may lead to divorce.

Other than those things, you can really get married to whomever you want! There is a great quote from a book written by a sweet old English gentleman that goes to our church and it says,

"To be told [by God], 'Jim you are to marry Nancy,' will be very unusual. I won't say that it will never happen, but it is highly unlikely. Why? Because, compared with whether Jim trusts and loves God moment by moment and trusts and loves Nancy moment by moment, the choice of Nancy or someone else is virtually inconsequential. The will of God has primarily to do with who Jim is every second -what his thoughts, actions, attitudes, and words are."

I think it really sums up the issue nicely. We can choose. Once we've chosen, we need to commit and be partners in being who God has called us to be and finding ways to make that work in the context of a life-long commitment.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reader Question: Birth Control

Here is a question from a blog reader:

"As a soon-to-be married Christian woman, I was wondering if you have any advice or recommended resources regarding the use of birth control. The internet has tons of scientific info, but I'd love to get my hands on a few quality books by other thoughtful Christians about how they came to a decision on this life-shaping topic."

You know, that's a great topic and one I haven't thought to address so far. First, let me say that we've read a lot of marriage books. Both secular and spiritual. I really haven't seen any Christian books address birth control...and not many other ones as well. One book called, "Guide to Getting It On" by Paul Joannides, has a chapter about birth control that's ok. *Note- This book is in our top three books on sex, but it addresses many things that Christians might find offensive. We love the detailed information it gives and ignore the sections we don't agree with morally. I wish I had more resources to cite. If anyone knows of a good book on the topic of birth control...please post it in the comments section below.

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to birth control. What method, if you believe in birth control, how long till you want to have kids, and so forth.

I would advise you to talk to your gynecologist about all the different options. Most gynecologists will advocate for the pill or an inserted device, but I know many people who decided they were more comfortable with condoms. Condoms have a higher risk for pregnancy...but if you use them correctly, they work very well. Lambskin condoms are great if your husband doesn't like normal ones. They're more expensive but feel much more "normal" if you catch my drift. Don't let your gyno try to scare you, as they sometimes do. Mine literally told me I was crazy for going off the pill. Ask them for the facts and then base your decision off what makes the most sense for you. They have to accept whatever you decide.

Some people also don't believe in birth control. They feel that God made our bodies to procreate and we should just let nature take it's course. If that's something you believe in, we can respect that. However, God did also give us brains and the wisdom to use them. If you feel uncomfortable with birth control it's wise to talk through with your spouse how you and he/she plan on supporting a number of children. It's irresponsible to just keep on having children when you can't support them and science allows us to have a choice in the matter.

I think the key is to know the facts, pray, and be in agreement with your spouse. Jake and I don't make big life decisions without both of us being on the same page. So my advice is to do whatever you both feel most comfortable with and agree upon.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Facebook Leads to Divorce?

This past week, we received our quarterly edition of Leadership Journal and found a really amusing blurb four pages in. The title read: Pastor Blames Facebook for Divorces. I immediately let out a laugh and called Melissa over to read the article.

It talked about a pastor in New Jersey who has banned (yes, banned!) Facebook in his church. He has ordered 50 of the church's leaders (who are married) to delete their Facebook accounts or resign. He has also challenged church members to delete their accounts as well. The article goes on to explain that this pastor's issue wasn't Farmville or wasted time, but instead adultery. The pastor defended his stance by saying that he has counseled 20 couples from his church who have all had marital problems surface because one spouse reconnected with an old flame via Facebook.

On top of that, the Journal adds that "according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have either used or been faced with evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years."

So, should all married couples refrain from using Facebook? Here are a few thoughts on the subject:

1) First, it is clear that Facebook and other social networking sites have become a means of communication and connection for affairs to blossem. It creates opportunities to re-connect with old flames and new people to flirt with.

However, to make a blanket statement that all married couples should delete their Facebook accounts is really ridiculous. It's important to note that the 20 couples the New Jersey pastor has counseled make up about 3-4% of his entire congregation. Thus, this is another case of an extreme decision based on a vast minority. This would be like saying that 50 years ago, any married man in the business world shouldn't have a secretary or a stay-at-home mom shouldn't hire a pool boy. Just because Facebook can be used for evil by some people doesn't mean that everyone will use it the same the other  96% of this pastor's church.

2) This all being said, we do have to ask the question of "Does Facebook cause affairs in some cases?" There is that 4% and the glaring statistic from divorce lawyers. So, does it?

In my opinion, I would say no. In His Need, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard Harley talks about the 10 greatest needs of men and women and gives advice on how each spouse can meet them. He also bluntly explains that when these needs begin to be unmeet, that is when the door of an affair begins to be opened. Naturally, a person will begin to seek elsewhere to be listened to, affirmed, romanced, embraced or more. What might start as something innocent, eventually grows as this new person begins to fill more and more of the needs that should be being filled by their spouse.

When this is the case, what is the cause of an affair? Is it the other person, the fact that you work with someone of the opposite gender or because you found one another on Facebook? None of the above. Those things all are simply a vehicle for something bigger going on. The cause is in fact a lack of needs being met accompanied by a lack of communication, understanding and clear expectations. Facebook or not, when this is the case for someone in a marriage, they are going to try to find a way to have their needs met. Canceling your Facebook isn't going to prevent this.

3) So, where do we go with this?

Here are a couple of final thoughts to think about and talk with your significant other about:
  • Think through the "friends" you have on Facebook. Is there anyone that you have as a friend that provides a temptation for you? Maybe this is emotional fulfillment in chatting or exchanging messages or maybe this is someone you find attractive as you regularly scan their photos. Consider de-friending them or blocking them. It simply isn't worth it...
  • Are you friends with past flames on Facebook? Is your spouse ok with that? As you ask this question, try to really listen to your spouse's feelings and don't just be defensive. Be honest with yourself about why you may not want to de-friend that person.
  • If you find yourself reaching out to someone other than your spouse to fill a certain need in your relationship, I want to challenge you to take immediate action and cease the communication. Then, take the time to try and communicate to your spouse what you are feeling and thinking. It's important that this is done in a non-threatening and accusatory way. If you feel like you have tried that before, I would strongly encourage you to seek out a pastor or counselor to see as a couple, or if your spouse is unwilling, on your own. 
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.