August 22, 2017

5 Things to Watch Out For When You Start Dating

...or courting. Or seeing someone. Or 'we're just friend-ing' with someone. Please don't use that term though. Please.

Regardless, here I am, well versed in the marriage/dating/relationship scene (almost 3 years of marriage counts for something right?). In fact, I like to think I'm in the perfect position to say what I'm going to say!

I've been married long enough to know what's up. I've also NOT being married long enough to know what's up. How's that for logic? And know what's up about what, you say?



...what to watch out for when you start dating someone.

Roll credits!

Just kidding. This is an important topic to me, because many of the relationship issues couples run into once they are married could have been avoided during the dating process.

This is not to say you can avoid ALL dangers pre-marriage! However, many of the signs/problems in dating can be excellent and telling signals of what is to come if you continue down the path without paying attention.

Let me give an example using my two favorite examples! Jacob and Beth, a couple months into dating:

Jacob: Hey, what do you think about spending money?

Beth: Um, you don't spend money. You save it. In fact, I eat nothing but rice every day to save money in case of emergencies. Why, what do you think about it?

Jacob: I like to make it rain.

Beth: Hm, this might not bode well.

Conversations like this might very well save someone from a weak or frustrating marriage. Let's get talking about the red flags to watch out for when dating someone.


1. Disagreements on Children

Nobody wants to talk about kids after having just met someone. At least I didn't. It's weird. And you've only known this person for a short time... say, maybe a month or two. And now you have to go up and be all like, 'hey, would we have 3 kids or 5 kids? Or no kids?'.

Don't worry! The conversation doesn't need to go like that! However, once you are comfortable and it's been a respectable amount of time (this really depends on you... but if you've been dating a YEAR and are quite serious and haven't brought this up, it might be a problem!), bring up the subject.

Not as in how many kids would WE have, but just ask them what they think about kids.

Do they want any? Do they even like kids? Would they homeschool them? Would they be free spirited parents? In might seem weird and uncomfortable, but you know what is really uncomfortable? Parenting with someone who is on a completely different page and/or begrudging because they didn't even want kids. Or, YOU didn't want kids, and now you have 20 of them. Could be a small problem!

2. Total Differences in Finances

...or minor differences in finances, depending on how picky you are! When I say differences, I mean really two separate things: differences in financial status and differences in financial spending.

Financial status change can be devastating to some people. To go from living in a well to do, upperclass family to suddenly being married and eating black beans for 3 square meals a day in a 2 room apartment can make someone go mental. Or, it could mean absolutely nothing, as long as said person is married and with their spouse, they won't care. It's all different for everyone.

However, it's important to bring up or at least observe in the person you are dating.

Secondly, pay attention to the way you and the person you are dating spend money (see my example with Jacob and Beth above ;)). If one of you spends a paycheck the second it come in, while the other waits, hordes, and saves everything ALL THE TIME, you might run into some spats down the road.

Money isn't everything, but you do need it, and everyone has a different opinion. Make sure the person you are dating doesn't have a completely different outlook as that could spell trouble for the future!

3. Lifestyles and Beliefs

You're an atheist. You decide to fall in love with a Catholic. Hm.

This is an extreme example, but the point stands- check out what lifestyle/beliefs the other person has going on. Don't be weird about it, but figure it out now rather than later.

If you're a strict vegan, can you handle living with someone who likes eating burgers every other day? If you're a peace loving, nature advocate who loves quiet serenity, how will you handle your spouse wanting to go shooting every weekend or playing loud, violent video games every night? Big government vs. small government? Messy vs. clean? Stays home all the time vs. has to constantly be on adventures? You get the idea!

Of course, the most important belief to touch base on would be, in my opinion, religious beliefs. Even if you are both 'Christian', dive into that. Modesty, church going, Bible translations, traditions, etc, all fall into this category and can be a HUGE method of bonding or breaking a relationship down the road.

4. Patience and a Spirit of Serving

Remember, the ultimate goal of dating someone is to find not simply someone you like, but someone who will make you stronger, better, and better able to glorify God each and every day. In addition, you are looking for someone that YOU can make stronger, better, and better able to glorify God each and every day. Two characteristics to look for, regardless of personality, are patience and a willingness to serve.

We all mess up. A lot. You want someone who is willing to be patient when you have those slip ups. Be patient with them too, as they will also mess up!

Marriages are built on patience. I've not been married that long, but I know well enough that patience in one of those things that when you don't deserve it is when your partner really needs to show it.

Ask yourself if the person you are dating is willing to be patient with you (you might already know based on experience!). Ask yourself if you can be patient with them!

Note: Patience does not translate to 'tolerance of everything'. Patience is the 'capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset'. It does not mean 'accept all wrong doing from your partner as the law'.

Patience should be a part of continuing to better each other- not to stay stagnant in the issues you both are working through!

As for a spirit of serving, I have seen first hand how marvelous it is to be married to someone who shows their love through their actions- not just to me personally, but in everything they do.

Jacob is constantly thinking of others first at work, he does so many things to make my life easier/happier, often with no reward in it for himself other than he knows it is right, he knows is makes me happy, and he knows it is helpful to others. This does not mean Jacob does nothing but help people! He does plenty of things just for him! However, beneath it all, I know he would drop everything to help and serve if/when needed.

Not only is a spirit of serving a marvelous quality to have in your partner, when they emulate service, it is super inspiring for you to be better, too!

5. There is No 'I' in Team

But there is ME. Hardy har. I know. The point is, make sure your special someone will be a team player. Getting married means you guys are in it together. Everything. All the things I've already mentioned and more.

But sometimes, people have completely different ideas of what 'being in it together' means. Some people think that means waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time every day, with every free moment spent together, doing everything together, ALWAYS.

Others might think it means eating dinner together, spending time on the weekends doing things together, and the rest of the time is spend on individual pursuits.

Neither one is wrong necessarily, but if you go into a relationship expecting someday to get married and live a very specific way only to find out things won't be that way at all, it can be a real downer for your marriage.

Get a good idea of what your teamwork would look like if you were married. Envision it. Again, it's not weird- because if you really like this person and are potentially going to marry them, better to find out what the deal is ahead of time!

Conclusion

You'll never be able to foresee everything. Hey, you could think you have everything figured out, you get married, and them BAM. Something happens that you could never have predicted.

Remind yourself of this: marriage is a proving ground for character, it is a cleanse that exposes sides of you (and the other person!) you never expected sometimes (for better or worse!), and it is an adventure that you will both want and NEED someone to be on the same page as you when it comes to the big stuff... not simply because it will makes your life a fairy tale, but because, again, marriage is about making you and your spouse better and better able to glorify God.

I can hear the cries of 'I knew they were the one for me, but then we got married and things fell apart! I made absolutely sure and things didn't work out!'. Or even, 'dating is supposed to be fun! Why would I ruin it with all this talk about commitment and marriage stuff?'.

You know what's really fun? A fulfilling marriage. An insightful dating process = a fulfilling marriage. It can also be way more fun, exciting, and meaningful when you take the time to make sure your marriage is built solidly!

I'm not God. Neither are you. We can't predict the future and we can't ensure a perfect, blissful marriage.

However, we owe it to God and to our future spouse (if you do get married!) to ask the hard questions early and set yourself up for success as best you can, while the consequences are still small.

You'll thank yourself, too!

January 2, 2017

5 Weird Habits of Happily Married Hooligans

Well guess who it is.

I have a staggering amount of regret that I only write up posts every few months. But, I am grateful for what time I am granted for all the different hobbies and jobs I get to do- so let's move on ;)

"Hey Jacob," I mentioned the other day, "isn't it weird that 80% of the people who gave us strange looks and told us that we were getting married young and getting married too fast are either now no longer in a relationship, on their 3rd relationship, or still not happy in their relationship?"

It got me to thinking: why are we still happy and jiving in our marriage?

Is it because 2 years is still 'newlywed phase'?

Is it because we have a lot of money? No kids? Is it because we shut up and put up with stuff?

Have no fear. I'm hear to answer the 5 habits that make for happy marriage.



#1: Sacrifice for each other.

Nope. Not in the Old Testament meaning of the word 'sacrifice'. I mean think about the other person first. You both got invited to a party. Your spouse is sick. Stay home and take care of them, hang out with them, and make then feel better! Or maybe, it's simply always washing the dishes, even though they never wash the dishes. Or vacuum. Or do the laundry. WHATEVER. This is not a business agreement. This is teamwork.

NOW YES I KNOW. Someone is out there harping on the fact that well, if you do everything, they'll do nothing and that's not fair.

I say either 1)You should have paid a little better attention during the dating/courting process if this was going to be such a clincher, or 2)If you really love them, you won't mind doing these things AND you will stop whining about what you have to do and look around to see what things your spouse is doing for you! Sometimes we get so caught up in the Entitlement Game that we miss all the things someone else does for us.

#2: Don't Make Happiness Reliant on Income

If this was the case, our marriage would have been preeeetty miserable for the first year and a half. For some people, our marriage would still be considered misery worthy! Money is helpful, but if you make your happiness rely on how fancy your dates are, how nice your home is, or how cool your cable package is, you will not be as happy as you think.

Hint: You'll be less happy.

Be grateful for what you have, make plans together to save for what you need and want accordingly, and make your happiness reliant on the person you are with, not the things you can buy. This one can be hard to do!

#3: Spend Time Together. 

WHAT?! How is this on the list??? Crazy, but sometimes being married means you don't spend much time together. Be it work, kids, or even simply developing different hobbies that send you off in different directions, save time to be together. You married this person and they are now part of your essence (sorry if that sounds dramatic but!).

Find a hobby you both enjoy together. Save specific times of the week to be with each other. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but longer bouts of absence can sometimes make the heart forget.

#4: Don't Be Friends.

Wha. Yep, you heard me. I tire so very much of people that tell me after 5-10 years of marriage, you become 'friends'. You have kids, life is busy, and your combined life is more of a business partnership than the giddy and exciting romance you had when you were dating or first got married.

I'm not saying let everything go to you-know-where in a you-know-what (rhymes with 'tasket'), but for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD, please be wild and romance crazy, kiss each other in the grocery store, write each other stupid notes, smack each other on the butt, I don't care.

Please don't become 'friends'. Don't friend zone your marriage. It saddens me so much to see people who were wild about each other now treat every day like a 9-5 shift with co-worker Bart (if you are married to a Bart, please don't treat him like a coworker, despite this example).

#5: Make Room for Jesus.

...and not the way you had to before you were married.

Please note: I didn't say make room for church. I said make room for JESUS. Pray together, for each other, and pray for your relationship. Did you think you were doing so well because you are just that awesome? Well, you might be awesome, but God does play a big role in a lot of stuff, so. Ahem.

Keep your marriage and happiness in line with glorifying God. Times can get very hard. However! Remember why you both are here: to enjoy God and glorify him forever. Make your marriage a big part of how you glorify God by being content, happy, and productive!


So there you have it.

Marriage isn't complicated. People are complicated. And selfish. And stubborn. And sinners. That's what makes marriage seem like a challenge.

Would you add anything to this list?