Category Archives: Dating & Relationships

What Nobody Tells You About Getting Married

You’ve probably heard that marriage can be difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard that at times your spouse will drive you crazy, that eventually the “honeymoon” will be over, and that’s when the real work involved in love will begin.

Love, after all, is an action, and not merely a feeling.

Well, if you’ve heard all of that, then maybe you also need to hear this:

Marriage is actually supposed to be awesome. Like, really, really wonderful.

I realize that it’s frustrating when it seems like the world doesn’t take marriage or love seriously enough. Marriage is supposed to be this sacred, lifelong union of two people, each no longer living for themselves, but living for one another. And yet it seems like so many people just cut and run when the going gets a little rough.

(It seems that way. But the truth is that this is probably rarely, if ever, truly the case with failed marriages.)

Do we really think that anyone gets married these days unaware of the fact that marriage will be hard at times? We may not get much right about marriage as a society, but the fact of it being difficult is something we’ve had pretty well beaten into our collective subconscious. Honestly, it is a wonder that people still get married at all with all of our talk about the difficulties of marriage!

The fact is that people know that marriage is going to be difficult. Yet people choose to get married anyway. It seems to me that the problem is not so much that we aren’t preparing people for how *difficult* marriage is going to be. I think the problem is that, with all of this talk and all of the emphasis put on the difficulties and the *work* involved to make a marriage work, we don’t give people enough of a reason to hold out for a relationship that is actually worth building a marriage on.

What nobody tells you about marriage is that it is supposed to be awesome. Building a life together with someone you love and who loves you…Growing up and growing old together with someone who gets to know you better than anyone else in the world…Having someone to talk to when you need a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who encourages you to keep growing, keep trying, and for whom you get to do the same.

Marriage is amazing! Or at least, it is supposed to be.

It is also true that all marriages will take work. All of us are imperfect and will inevitably fall short of what I just described above. But it is possible to choose someone with whom you will maybe have to work just a bit harder at marriage (or even considerably harder), than another couple who are perhaps better suited for one another. Marriage takes work, but I hate to say that it is possible to make a poor decision to marry someone with whom the work might be unnecessarily grueling.

That’s ok. It’s not the end of the world. It is, in my mind, not a reason for divorce. I believe that your spouse is, for better or for worse, absolutely and unquestionably “the one,” because your spouse is “the one” you promised to love, honor, and be faithful to for as long as you both shall live. Difficult marriages can still be totally happy and totally loving; they just may take a little bit (or a lot) more heavy lifting to get there.

I think we put emphasis on the work of marriage because we assume we’re talking to an audience of only-married people.  Maybe we’re subconsciously talking to our own parents who called it quits when we wish they had stuck it out. Or maybe we’re talking to ourselves after going through an infamous “rough patch” in marriage.

But we need to be careful with putting too much emphasis on the work and the hardships. Because listening too are those who are trying to figure out whether or not they should marry a specific person. They hear us and all of our talk about the work marriage takes, and they wonder,

If love is all choice and not about feelings, then maybe I should just ignore this anxiety I feel about this person with whom I’m discerning marriage. After all, I liked them when we started dating, and feelings fade, right? 

The truth is that while it is important to be willing to put in the work involved in marriage, the person with whom you choose to do the work is even more important. Maybe that seems like an obvious point to make, but I think it’s worth emphasizing. Marriage is a vocation in which you are called to devote yourself to a specific person, not simply to an abstract state.

So, to the young couple who is not yet married, please know: Your relationship shouldn’t be full of hard work, not yet.

Will you have rough patches, even when dating? 

Yes. It’s not that you won’t have to “work” at your relationship prior to marriage. You’re both human, which means that even when dating you’ll have to learn how to handle one another’s shortcomings. But how you handle those rough patches is telling. Does your handling it make you love (and even, like) the other person more? Or is it just another chance to say, “Oh well, all relationships take work!”

Does the thought of marrying this person fill you with overwhelming excitement?

It should! I think sometimes it’s possible to fall for someone initially, and want it to work out so badly that you can ignore that your feelings for them have changed as you’ve gotten to know them better. Well look, you’re not married. If you don’t actually like this person as much as you thought you would, you’re under no obligation to “stick it out.” In fact if you already feel this way, you’ll be doing this person a favor by breaking it off so you can each find people you’re actually over the moon excited to spend your life with.

Will you get to the stage where your spouse annoys you?

They tell me yes, but I’m honestly not there yet with Tyler (we’re just shy of five years married though, so I guess we’ve got time 😉 ). But, if you’re only dating someone and you already find them annoying in all sorts of little ways, it is not going to get easier when you get married.

Marriage won’t fix your problems. It will just mean you’re stuck with them, which is both exciting and scary. So choose someone with whom you work well, and even though marriage will still take work, it’ll also be awesome. I promise. 🙂

In Defense Of “Soul Mates”

It has been said that:

Real love is not all feelings.

Real love takes work.

Real love requires choosing your beloved on a daily basis. 

These are all statements that I believe to be true.  But, can I let you in on a little secret?

I believe in soul mates. And [thankfully], I believe that I married mine.

“I have found Him whom my soul loves.”
(Song of Songs 3:4)

It is certainly understandable why so many people want to do away with the notion that those of us called to marriage are predestined to a specific “soul mate.” After all, what if you marry someone who is not your soul mate, and then end up meeting your “true” soul mate five years after the wedding?

For this reason, I did not always believe in soul mates. After all, real love requires work. You are not always going to have that warm and fuzzy feeling about your beloved. I used to reason that as long as I married someone that I was attracted to, and who understood these things, we would likely have had a pretty good marriage and probably live a happy life together.  And that would be just fine.

Then I met Tyler.

To be clear: I do not agree with every part of the common definition of a soul mate. When I say my husband is my soul mate, I do not mean that he is the one who satisfies my heart’s deepest longings or who fulfills my every need. If this is what a soul mate is, then none of us have one, and none of us can be one. As far as that kind of a soul mate is concerned, I agree with Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

On the other hand, I also do not mean that my husband is my soul mate only because we felt some level of attraction for one another, got married, and now we put a lot of work into our relationship. (Even though all of these are of course true statements.)

When I say my husband is my soul mate, I mean that there is a kind of perfection and a peace to our being together that I cannot fully explain— nor take credit for. I think it can only be explained by the grace of God.

When I say my husband is my soul mate, I mean that I believe that I was meant to marry Tyler Pearson, and not just any guy who happened to share my most deeply held beliefs, had similar interests as me, and was easy on the eyes. I believe that God led us to one another, and even though we could have chosen not to, I believe that it was God’s plan for us to get married.

I believe that when I prayed for my future husband while I was growing up, I was praying for Tyler. God knew the name of the man who He would call to lovingly lead me to Heaven through the Sacrament of Marriage. God knew, and it was my job to listen to Him and to discern my relationships to find my soul mate: Tyler Pearson.

If I could tell the younger version of myself one thing about finding my husband it would be this:

Yes, true love will require work and it will not always be easy. But your soul mate will be more than just the result of hard work and similar interests. Believing in soul mates does not mean acting contrary to reason; it just means that you leave some room for grace to lead your heart. Listen to what the desires of your heart are telling you. They are going to lead you to a relationship more wonderful than you can imagine.

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Some Thoughts on the “Blank Space” Dating Mentality (A Song Review…Kind Of)

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I am not at all ashamed to admit that there is a soft spot in my heart for Taylor Swift. Many a drive has been spent rocking out to her albums, and more than one of my teenage heartaches once found a balm in her lyrics.

These days, my appreciation for Miss Swift has less to do with my personally being able to relate to her lyrics about heartache, and more to do with the joyful confidence that exudes from my nieces when I get to see them rocking out to Shake It Off.

However, every time I hear the song Blank Space on the radio, my heart breaks a little. The lyrics are so relatable for so many in that stage in life when they are searching for “the one,” so in a sense I get it. In fact maybe my heart breaks partially because I’ve been there. I know that longing, I know that heartache. I know it can feel like a never-ending cycle.

But I also know now that it doesn’t have to.

The song is all about that willingness to put yourself out there despite past heartache. Swift sings in the song’s refrain:

“I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/
But I’ve got a blank space, Baby, and I’ll write your name.”

Apart from the rest of the lyrics and outside of the melancholic melody of the song, these words almost sound like a dare coming from someone who treats love and dating as if it were just a game. In fact, at another point early in the song she actually says, “Love’s a game, wanna play?” However, anyone who has actually listened to the whole song can tell you, Blank Space isn’t meant to be the happy refrain of someone who is content playing the field. Rather, it’s the jaded defense mechanism of all of us who have ever bought into the false promises associated with chasing “the one.”

“You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain”

I’m not picking on Taylor Swift. I actually like the song and am glad she wrote it. And its popularity attests to the fact that so many of us can relate—and so many of us are sick of it.

The problem with the Blank Space mindset is that it has a false premise. It assumes that your only two options in soul mate-searching are “forever” or “down in flames.” When faced with the latter, we are presented with the choice to become closed off and bitter, or to continue to be open in the hopes that the next one who comes along may actually be “the one.”  We justify putting ourselves on this merry-go-round by hoping desperately that any and all heartache or pain will be worth it once we finally find our happily ever after.

For what it’s worth, to anyone still caught on the merry-go-round, I’d like to offer another way. “Putting yourself out there” does not have to be synonymous with “giving yourself away.”  And not giving yourself away to everyone you date doesn’t have to mean becoming closed off and bitter.

I’m not promising that you’ll escape all heartbreak, nor that you won’t encounter pain.  But there is a way to avoid those feelings of emptiness, being utterly lost, or broken.  It’s called chastity, and it’s more than just not having sex.

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Chastity means admitting that love isn’t a game and dating isn’t merely for fun.  (Dating can and should be fun, but “fun” isn’t the end goal.)  The chaste person agrees with the Blank Space mentality insofar as admitting that real love must involve an utterly terrifying, and completely vulnerable, total gift of self.  The difference is that the chaste person waits to do so until forever is promised— not with empty words, but with a lifelong commitment.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote explains the way that I wish I had approached dating in my Blank Space days.  It’s still among my most visited posts on this site, so check it out if you’re looking for tips on how to get off that merry-go-round.  😉

I’ll be praying for you!

6 Things_Pinterest

 

 

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Book Review – Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin

Ave Maria Press recently gave me the opportunity to read and review Arleen Spenceley’s  Chastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin.  I was given the book free of charge, but the opinions in my review are 100% my own:

 

Arleen Spenceley was a journalist for the Tampa Bay Times when, in 2012, she “outed” herself as a 26-year-old virgin in an op-ed that went viral.  Chastity Is For Lovers tells that story (and so many others), while inviting young people to discover the meaning of chastity in our universal call to love.

I was intrigued to read Spenceley’s book not only because I am a sucker for chastity books but also because it sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy (another thing I can’t resist).  Young spunky journalist writes op-ed about being a virgin and is caught in the midst of a media frenzy—hilarity ensues.

Chastity Is For Lovers did not disappoint, and Spenceley’s unique voice and style of storytelling was a refreshing change of pace on a topic that can often feel over-saturated with voices merely repeating one another.

The risk of a chastity book written by a self-professed “happy virgin” is of course that it has the potential to come off as prideful or judgmental to those who have walked a different path.  Or, to compensate for this fear, often those who preach chastity are so afraid of coming off as judgmental that they end up all but apologizing for their virginity. But Chastity Is For Lovers succumbs to neither of these pitfalls.  Spenceley is bold enough to be authentically herself—neither apologizing for her virginity nor boasting of it.  And it pays off.

All in all, Chastity Is For Lovers is a solid book on the Christian virtue of chastity that I would definitely recommend for young Catholics of dating age, or anyone looking for encouragement in navigating the world of dating.

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Why You Should Pray For Your Family

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(cary pennington photography)

“Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others.  For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted.  Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy”

-Saint Josemaria Escriva

This weekend, my family and I are attending our fourth wedding of the year!   Seems like every time I turn around I’m at a bridal shower, wedding, or a baby shower!  It’s that time of life, I am told 🙂

The super-cool thing?  This makes the fourth wedding this year of awesome Catholic couples we know beginning their journey towards Heaven together! (In fact, this weekend’s groom-to-be actually used the line, ‘”seek heaven with me’” in his proposal.  Seriously.  Awesome Catholic couple land is where I live.)

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So Tyler and I began a little tradition this year of praying a novena for each of the couples’ weddings we’re attending beginning nine days before their big day.

We’ve been using Saint Josemaria Escriva’s “Novena for the Family” (and we’ve about memorized it by now!)

What I love about this novena is that it has short reflections for each day on the vocation of marriage and the family.  In typical Saint Josemaria fashion, the reflections are succinct, but oh-so practical and rich.

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I’ve said it before, but our culture is getting further and further away from understanding what marriage actually is supposed to be.  It’s a party.  It’s a way to celebrate your love.  A way to make it “official” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).  If the part of the vows that promises a lifelong union are even recited, they’re not taken seriously a few years down the road when things get tough.

But I truly believe that a Christian marriage—a truly Christian marriage at which Christ is the center, Heaven is the goal, and both spouses know and live this out—is one of the most powerful witnesses to the love of God that our culture is so thirsting for.

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That’s why I’m excited about these new families, and it’s why I pray so earnestly for them.  As Pope Francis says:

No matter what our vocation is, we all belong to a family.  So pray for families!  Pray specifically for YOUR family!  Know that I am praying for you, too.

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