The Marriage Dilemma

Laura at Mommy-Miracles has been running a summer time #WrittingVows marriage series and asked me to contribute. My thinking about marriage lead me in two directions. I sent Laura the one that fit her blog better. But I am not ready to part with my other line of thinking. Here are some of my other thoughts about marriage.

Wedding Photo

In Christian circles a bible passage that comes up often when talking about how marriages ought to work is Ephesians 5:21-25. It reads like this;

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

Paul, the writer of Ephesians is actually giving some useful advice here. Advice that is lost on us because this passage has so often been misused to assert patriarchal authority over women who are struggling in difficult, damaging, and sometimes all out abusive relationships.

We have used this passage in such a way when people now read it they see something like this, ‘Woman your husband is your boss and you have to listen to him and do everything he says. If you do that he’ll love you. If he isn’t being very loving to you, well you must be doing something wrong,’

But that is not what Paul says at all. That first sentence is what he is telling both husbands and wives to do. He is saying that we have to mutually, out of love, submit to one another. Submit is a hard word to interact with. Submitting feels like we being defeated. It feels like we have lost something. In a battle submitting is likely a defeat. But maybe, just maybe in marriage submission can bring victory.

Let’s lift this discussion out of the bible for a moment and move it into social science. I think Paul has described the ultimate objective in the famous thought experiment, ‘The Prisoners Dilemma’. If you are not familiar with the prisoners dilemma basically it is a scenario the pits self interest against shared interest. And that is not a bad way to imagine a marriage.

In my marriage I am constantly trying to balance the things that are best for me against the things that are best for my marriage. On any given day I can choose to be selfish and aim to simply please myself. Or on any given day I can choose to be self-sacrificing, and choose to please my wife and family. The same is true for my wife. On any given day she can choose to be selfish or self-sacrificing.

Think of it like this table here;

Your Marriage- Prisoners Dilemma

Paul is telling us to aim for the upper left corner. That if we both choose to put the other person first, if we both decided to give the other person everything in the end both of us will end up with everything. By submitting we don’t lose we win. In fact it is only by both people submitting to each other that both people win. Otherwise someone, or possibly everyone suffers.

This is the marriage dilemma. To be selfish, or to be self-sacrificing. By choosing to put your spouse first you risk being swallowed up in their selfishness. But what is the real alternative? Two selfish people cannot co-exist happily together. Their selfishness will eat away until there is nothing but bitterness and resentment left.

Even though Paul’s advice has been misappropriated and misrepresented he is right. To make a marriage work both people need to consider their spouse ahead of themselves. This advice isn’t easy, and it is definitely risky. But I think it is worth the risk.

I am with Paul on this one all the way, if you want the best out of your marriage “Submit to one another…”

Parenting Five Years In

Holy snap crackle and pop I have a five year old now! I mean look at him he is all five and stuff.

Simeon 5

Pokemon ears at his pokemon birthday party.

I am not sure where the time has gone but as of Sunday February 23rd I have been a parent for five years. The past five years have been a whirlwind of changes, adjustments and lessons learned. There are times when I am not sure how we made it this far. And there are times that I can’t imagine any other outcome.

I have grown a lot in the last five years. I have had to. It would have been catastrophic had I refused to change or acknowledge the changes around me. If I could go back in time I would give myself some advice. I would tell myself;

It Gets Better‘Listen I know you were not expecting to be a dad this quickly. I know all you can think about right now is how difficult it will be to finish school, and that you never really got a chance to just learn to be a married couple. Those feelings are fair, and real and true, but there is nothing you can do about them other than talk them through with people. Talk them through with people. Don’t just hold on to them because you feel like they make you a bad person, tell someone. Let yourself get past this so you can enjoy what is coming up. It is going to get so much better.’

It Gets Worse- ‘I am not going to lie to you this is going to be hard. You will feel a sense of tiredness and stress like you have never known. Coffee won’t cut it, and naps will just put you behind causing more stress. The times where you really just need him to sleep he won’t. Hiding at your office or at school might make you feel better for a bit, but it will drain Meghan more and you will pay for that when you get home. You won’t believe me now but eventually you will adjust and things will go much smoother. It will just take some time, and some tears to get there.’ 

He Will Become Like You‘You know that feeling you had when you first held him. A surreal feeling of holding yourself. It was more right than you realize. This little boy is some strange combination of sponge and mirror. He is listening to you and watching you. He hears the things you say, and the things you don’t say. He hears the tone you use. He sees what you do, and what you do not do. He’ll notice the shows you like, and the things that make you laugh. He will discover your buttons in a way that you didn’t even know. And one day he will start to say the things he heard you say. He will use the tones that you spoke in. He will start to act the way you do. He will pick up hobbies and interests that mirror your own. For better or worse you are his model of adulthood. And he will follow you.’

Simeon and me 1

Here we are trying to figure each other out

Actually You’re Cranky ‘I know you honestly believe that the whole world is currently conspiring against you. No one can drive right. No drive through moves fast enough. That everyone has become demanding. That everyone has become loud. That everyone has become has decided to laugh as annoyingly as possible. That everyone has become has suddenly decided to constantly say stupid things. On and on I could go. The truth is the world has not gotten slower, dumber, or more annoying. You are just really cranky. Find a few minutes, centre yourself, have a coffee, and calm the frick down.’

You’re Going To Be Good At This- ‘You’re not going to win any awards. No one is going to give you a standing ovation. But you are going to get the hang of being around babies and toddlers. You are going to help this little boy become a smart, funny, and happy kid. I mean let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 5 is not the end of the journey. You’ve barely scratched school. In the near future we will have to deal with bullies, broken hearts, sex, the internet, and a whole list of other things. But you will manage to put down a good framework to work from. You feel like you are going to drowned but you won’t, you are going to learn to swim.’

February 23rd was my oldest son’s fifth birthday and my fifth anniversary of becoming a dad. I couldn’t be happier.

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

We ran out of cling wrap the other day which struck me as significant. That cling wrap had been part of our family for a little over 5 years and now it is gone. When Meghan and I first got married we took a trip to Costco to set up our first home together. Among other things we bought was cling wrap. Here we are five and a half years later and I am throwing out the empty container.

Meghan and I do not have a perfect marriage, if even such a thing exists. I wouldn’t hold ourselves up as THE example to follow if you want to have a happy, healthy and lasting marriage. But five and a half years later I do think I know more about marriage then I did before.

Here are 4 things I wish I knew before I got married;

1. Disney Lied

Like most of us I grew up in a Disney influenced world. I believed that one day I would find ‘the one’ we would have a whirlwind adventure and then we would live happily ever after. I have to say happily ever after sounds really easy. But marriage is not easy. I no longer believe that there is such as person as ‘the one’. Also I can tell you happiness doesn’t come to our house without both of us putting in the effort. I have had to learn to deliberately set aside some of my own wants and desires to make my wife happy. And she has learned to do the same.

2. Movies Are Terrible Sex Educators 

Movies as far as I can tell only describe sex within marriage in two ways. It is either A) Infinitely passionate, remarkably aerobic, and available at a moments notice because your desires burned so bright. OR B) Comically non-existent. Meghan and I were expecting our first child within a month of being married. I really felt robbed. We moved quickly from being newlyweds to expectant parents. Just when I thought we were getting warmed up to option A I felt like I was suddenly thrust into option B. As it turns out neither are really true. While burning desires tends not to pop up at a moments notice, the desire to be intimate sexually and non-sexually continues to develop and take shape. Your love life will likely be different than ours but I think it is fair to say whatever you saw in whatever type of movies you watch has lied to you.

3. The Things You Do During The First Few Weeks Of Marriage Become Your Job For Life

 No seriously I think this is true. There were a handful of chores that I did when we first got married and they have become ‘my chores’. For example I took out the trash, washed the dishes and did the laundry. Those by in large are still my jobs. Meghan cleaned the floors, and washed the bathroom. Those still are by in large her jobs. Since we have gotten married we’ve experienced lots of change in employment and family size but still those first few jobs I did are still mine and the first few Meghan did are still hers.

4. Love Is Not A Feeling

I have been crazy head over heels in love a few times in my life. One of those times was when Meghan and I started dating, and again when we got married. I won’t lie some of the stress of wedding planning made me wonder if I even liked her! Still when I said my ‘I Do’ I was sure I was ‘in love.’ And then before I even realized it, I wasn’t anymore. Suddenly it didn’t matter if we spent every waking moment together. Suddenly I didn’t need to text Meghan all day just because. Suddenly I wasn’t leaving love notes in the apartment but reminders to pick up milk. Suddenly I wasn’t ‘in love’ we were ‘in life.’ As time has marched on I have come to love being ‘in life’ far more than being ‘in love.’ Where before I couldn’t imagine not having Meghan in my life because of the way she made me feel. Now I can’t imagine not having her in my life because she is my partner, my friend, and the person who knows my secrets and my hurts. What began 7.5 years ago as a burning passion has become a warm desire. Love is not a feeling, but a decision to be in life with each other everyday, especially on the days you don’t really feel like it.