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I’m probably the LAST person who should be giving marriage advice.

March 22, 2010

But here goes.

A while back, on my old blog, a (not-really) anonymous blog that caused lots and lots of problems in my life and in the lives of others, I asked my readers to ask me any question, and I’d answer them all as honestly as I could. I ended up answering most of them before shutting that blog down, but there was one that, for one reason or another, I was never able to bring myself to answer.

A good friend of mine (who doesn’t appear to be blogging anymore) asked “What advice about marriage would you give a young woman who just got engaged?”

The other day when I was cleaning my apartment, I was thinking about this question, and I began to have an imaginary conversation with a faceless, nameless young woman who just got engaged. These are the things I told her.

1. Don’t settle. Don’t settle don’t settle don’t settle. I’ve come to believe that the reason the divorce rate is so high is because most people view marriage as something they’re entitled to; however, not everyone finds the kind of love that a happy marriage requires (and I specify “a happy marriage,” because some people are perfectly okay with being in a humdrum or even unhappy marriage). But most people make do with the person they’re with when they decide they’re at the age society tells them they should be married by, and sooner or later, they realize they’ve married the wrong person for the wrong reasons. The old adage, “don’t marry the person you can live with; marry the person you cannot live without” is so, so true. Although it’s easy to talk yourself into not being able to live without someone if you’ve never actually found someone you cannot live without.

2. Have sex before your wedding night. To some of you, this might be the biggest no-brainer you’ve ever heard, and to others, this might be the most controversial thing you’ve ever heard. I was raised in a conservative Christian church that made sex both too important and not important enough: too important in the sense that, outside of marriage, it is one of the most destructive sins (it’s not), and not important enough in the sense that, inside of marriage, its main purpose is procreation (it’s not).  Anthropologists say that humans are not created to be sexually monogamous–it takes work to commit yourself sexually to one person for the rest of your life. And you need to know before you make that commitment exactly what you’re committing to.

On a business trip when I was engaged, the topic of sex came up, and I told a coworker that I was saving myself for my wedding night, as had been my plan since I was 13 (and was told at church that I should do such or else I would surely get knocked up or die of an STD or disgust the man who wanted to make me his wife or just plain earn God’s eternal scorn). The coworker asked me, “Well, how do you know you’re sexually compatible?” I answered that I knew we were by the way we kiss and touch, but I knew in my heart that the reason it had been so easy to wait until marriage was that we truly weren’t sexually compatible.  Of course, it would take me years to be able to admit this to myself. I spent these years blaming myself and thinking I’m simply not a sexual person (I am).

3. Know your needs. Our needs drive our compulsions and our actions. When our needs are fulfilled, we are happy and content, but when they are unfulfilled, we can grow depressed and withdrawn, which could cause us eventually to act out in ways we never imagined possible.

My main need is to be understood and accepted, but I wasn’t being understood or accepted inside my marriage. I began to starve to have these needs met, and then, when I was very nearly dead, I found a way to meet this need outside of my marriage. Of course, I had no idea that this is what was going on. Getting my needs met outside of my marriage saved me in a way, but it was unfortunate that it had to get to that point. If I had known my needs, perhaps I would have been able to get them met by my husband before I caused such irreparable damage to our marriage, to others, and to myself.

4. Know how to communicate your needs. Of course, just knowing your needs is not good enough. You also need to be able to communicate them to your partner in a way that is honest, heartfelt, and productive for both of you.

5. Make sure you are accepted. It’s better to be alone than to be married to someone who doesn’t accept you and love you for everything you are, vices and virtues, flaws and qualities. Don’t marry someone hoping to change for them, even if you think it would make you a better person. You are fine just the way you are, and you should be loved completely just the way you are. The inverse of this is also true: don’t marry someone hoping they’ll change, but, at the same time, you’ll need to love the essential being of someone enough to be flexible when and if they do change. It’s a tricky balance, to be sure, which is why everlasting love is something to be celebrated. It truly is a miracle.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tressa permalink
    March 22, 2010 7:06 pm

    I completely understand each and every point you just made.
    Because it sounds like I was reading my life right there!

  2. March 22, 2010 8:53 pm

    It’s wonderful to see how much you have learned about yourself and grown. I agree with so much of what you said. In fact, was going to say which point I especially agreed with, but then I realized I couldn’t just pick one.

  3. March 22, 2010 9:01 pm

    I just was thinking, “Oh, I hope she updated!” and you did. How fantastic.

    And, naturally, I had a massive comment that I deleted. I will just say I’m glad you are doing well!! And please keep the updates coming.

  4. TheodoreClancy permalink
    March 23, 2010 9:48 am

    Good thoughts
    Well written
    Genius coworker!

    I’ve got a feeling you’ve had a lot more “Yes” day in the past month then the last year combined. It sounds like you’re on a roll, go with it. It’s working!

  5. chelsie permalink
    April 1, 2010 4:51 pm

    such good, sound advice. I too learned much of this the hard way.

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