Thursday, October 30, 2008

Common sense, a lost trait?

After a long time, I finally made it to visit Generation Cedar, and have read some of the recent posts about the dangers of modern dating, and the alternatives. I encourage everyone to take a look.

Only a couple of generations ago, there was virtually no such thing as dating in the modern sense of the word. If a decent man pursued a woman, it was obvious to everyone that he intends to win her hand in marriage. He had to win the trust and blessing of the young lady's parents; and if they weren't fully convinced of the seriousness of his intentions, further contact between the young people was prevented.

Today, objection to dating seems so counter-cultural that it makes me wonder whether everyone suddenly woke up one day with their common sense completely and totally gone. It's clear that modern dating practices, with their casual approach ("we'll see how it goes"), instant gratification ("hanging out together just stopped being fun, so we broke up"), physical and emotional impurity ("we must try it out before we decide"), and drag of time ("we've only known each other for three years, there's no hurry"), have done nothing to prepare us for marriage. Actually, when I look at the divorce rates, it really makes me wonder whether we aren't missing out on something important here.

This, in my eyes, is just one of the symptoms of family breakdown. When parents aren't involved in their children's lives, when they don't put the time and effort necessary into protecting them, guiding them, and preparing them for mature and responsible adulthood, can we really wonder why young people make bad choices? There are many jokes about the Jewish mother who is worried because her son is 30 and still not married - parental involvement is seen as intrusive, excessively noisy, and even laughable. Big mistake!

I'm often accused of a dry, unemotional approach towards marriage. This is because I believe that people who are serious about marriage should know the basics of what they expect from marriage and from a potential husband or wife, and that they should keep that in mind when they meet someone who seems suitable - in order to prevent entering a relationship that will lead nowhere. He might be irresistibly cute, funny, intelligent, and like the same foods as you - but if he doesn't see marriage as his goal, or he doesn't want children while you do, or you have irreconciliable religious differences, you might be headed for a disastrous heartbreak a few months (or worse, years) down the road.

There's nothing wrong with having butterflies in your stomach when you see him, but beware of letting it overcome the consideration of basic compatibility. The romantic "love conquers all" myth might look awfully pretty in novels or movies, but marriage is about real, day to day life. A slight pang of disappointment now is much, much better than divorce a few years later, or a marriage where you constantly struggle because you can never agree on crucial matters.

Of course, I realize that problems may arise in already existing marriages, and when this happens, both spouses should be committed to resolve them. However, the argument of "people might change after marriage" doesn't hold water when it comes to initially choosing a spouse. Like one of my blog commenters wisely said, "you won't always be on the same page, but at least make sure you are in the same book!"

We have been told that traditional marriages were too suffocating, too pragmatic, too down-to-earth; traditional families were labeled as hypocritical and narrow-minded, when they looked for someone who was actually willing and ready to provide for their daughters and any children they might have. Yet life itself is down-to-earth, and so is marriage, for the most part. Ignoring this will only lead to inflated expectations, and thus disappointment.

Young people are told they shouldn't get married until they are madly "in love", and should get divorced when they are no longer "in love". It is also assumed that "being in love" is a random emotion we have absolutely no control of, yet our lives and the lives of our children should be dictated by it. With such a whimsical approach so widely spread, I can only marvel at how some married couples actually stick together.

It is claimed women in traditional societies were doomed for a life of misery in a loveless marriage, because matches weren't made according to the supposedly overriding argument of being "in love". Yet more experienced people knew that when both husband and wife are willing to contribute to a family in their unique roles, when there's respect, committment, basic compatibility of character and a reasonable degree of physical attraction (meaning that there shouldn't, at least, be any repulsion), a profound love and attachment is likely to blossom in the long run. Matchmaking is still a very common approach in certain Orthodox Jewish circles, and I don't believe it makes for bad marriages.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think any man or woman should be forced to marry someone they don't want to marry, nor is it even possible in Jewish Law. I'm talking about a rational, realistic, balanced, pure, committed and serious approach to marriage, which should be cultivated from an early age.

If you don't live in a traditional community, or don't have the blessing of wise parental guidance, or are an older single, it's never too late to become serious about marriage. It can save so much time, energy, emotional involvement, and pointless frustration.

24 comments:

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Wonderful post, Anna. You have the gift of eloquence, grace, and truth all wrapped up in one when you write.

As for common sense, it is not so common anymore. Maybe we should call it something else: Wisdom?

Anonymous said...

It's true that relationships are taken very lightly these days, and it's resulted in a generation of singles, many of whom want to get married but just can't find anyone willing to commit. The whole cultural mindset encourages the single path at the expense of the married lifestyle, and many suffer because of it.

However, I wouldn't quite say there was no such thing as dating a few generations ago....it just took a different form. There were a lot of romances then, as now, that went on without parental approval, including much flirting and clandestine meetings. Many marriages took place without parental approval, as the number of elopements will attest. Today hardly anyone elopes; there is no need anymore to hide even if your parents don't approve.

Anyway, I don't think the 'old days' should be romanticized. People approached marriage then more as a social/business contract, a way of survival for both spouses (ESPECIALLY the wife). They stuck together because they had no choice (financially and socially, a divorce often spelled disaster). These days, I think it's not enough for a couple to be compatible when they marry (same culture, values, etc). There do need to be butterflies in the stomach in the beginning. These days, it is too easy to get divorced when the going gets tough, if there is no initial love to fall back on.
It's true that couples grow more attached to one another as the years go by, but the attachment is far deeper when it blooms from love and not habit.
Tammy

Miss S. said...

You know, strange as it may sound coming from a rather passionate young lady, I've always rather liked the idea matchmaking. I could think of no better person to be in charge of my heart than my father...

True love isn't just emotion. True love is so much more than just emotion. So many couples break up or divorce because their relationship was based on emotion. Emotion may come and go, but if true love is there,(except in cases of immorality) separating would never be an option.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

-Miss S.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the folly of this approach over and over in my own family. One of my sisters, and two of my husband's sisters, have made poor choices in boyfriends lately. All three of them chose to proceed with the relationship(s) against the wishes of their parents. In all cases, this resulted in pain and heartbreak for both the girls and their parents. I praise God that so far only one of those poor choices resulted in marriage - and thus far that marriage seems to be working out, though I still think she could have made a better choice. For the other two, I pray that they learn to listen to their parents before they get hurt anymore than they already have.

Because of the idealized image of "true love" that has become so popular in modern society, and also an arrogant "I know what is best for me" attitude, young people today don't want to accept that their parents might be right about a certain guy or girl they are interested in. Unfortunately, the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling often blinds people to the true character of the person they are interested in. Parents can offer an objective opinion since they aren't subject to that emotion.

My sister-in-law recently was dating a guy she met online. She thought he was the one. They got engaged before they even met in person. They almost got married the weekend they met, but her pastor persuaded her to wait a month or two. The rest of the family noticed many warning signs that this guy was perhaps not being sincere with her. It turned out he had been lying to her about all sorts of things. He didn't have the job he claimed he had, he was very seriously in debt, and probably was only interested in her because she was in a better financial position and has a steady job. Since she was hoping to become a stay-at-home mom, this marriage would have been a disaster. Praise God that her father was able to find enough hard evidence of the man's deceit to convince her before it was too late.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add....I don't think 'love' is all it takes. I just think some 'love' needs to be there from the beginning for the relationship to succeed long term. It wasn't necessary in the past because people would not divorce regardless of how lukewarm their relations were. But in these days of easy divorce, love is necessary to glue a couple together . Dare I say, in many cases it's more important than a shared background.

Although I agree in principle that parents can offer valuable advice, I would never put my father 'in charge of my heart'. He and I have very, very different ideas of what the ideal man is. I would have been miserable had I married the type of man he admires.

I have witnessed much matchmaking over the years (having a huge ultra-Orthodox family). I cannot say the results are any better there than in the secular world. The couples just stick it out whether the match is a success or not, as the stigma is too great if they separate.
The good thing is it gives the average couple a chance for love to blossom. The disadvantage is that many such couples just live together like business partners.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with much of what you've said, but like Tammy, I am concerned about statements that sort of make the past sound more simple and attractive than it actually was.
-Lisa

USAincognito said...

I think that too often we idolize how things used to be when we need to realize that those were difference times. In today's society, people are allowed to choose their marriage partners without having to be forced into a contract marriage by their parents. I still believe in true love and finding that one person who you will feel passionate about. I also believe that marriage is something not to be taken lightly, either. But one must not enter marriage just because. You should be marrying somebody because you love them. Having the same goals is good but you do not always have to agree on every issue. My parents are still passionately in love but they do not agree on every issue. My mother is more a democrat and my father is more a republican on some issues. And it does not affect their marriage in the least bit. You are not going to find one person who will agree with you on every single issue....it is okay to "discuss" issues and not always agree. Just agree to disagree.

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

This post is one of the BEST I've read anywhere! I'm 46, and I've LIVED through the change in dating practices; I've SEEN it! I like this post so much that I think I'm going to use it on my blog in the near future; of course, I'll reference your post and furnish a link to it. Of course, I'll insert my unique commentary too...

Have a good night, and let us know how your washer situation works out, will you? Thank you, and have a good night...

MarkyMark

Anonymous said...

My husband and I were talking about this when he came home this afternoon. We married mainly because we had a lot in common, thought the same way, had the same values and were both looking to get married. I love my husband dearly but when we first started going together I can't say I was "madly in love" with him or he with me, and you know what? that's ok! I am so happy to be with him, he's mature and responsible, doesn't have his head in the clouds and I can count on him.
This kind of marriage used to be the norm. I work as a nurse in long-term care and most of my ladies met their husbands when they were young, 16-18 yrs old, often it was the brother of the man courting their older sister. These marriages were long and fairly happy ones.
Whenever I read your blog I feel better. I thought I was the only one who felt like the older generation of the 30's/40's had the right idea-get married young, have a family and stick together no matter what. Thats how my husband and I feel too. It's nice to know we aren't alone:)

Buffy said...

An interesting and thought-provoking article.

I agree with some commentators above that we shouldn't idealise the past too much. I know from my grandmother's stories that there were some bitterly unhappy marriages and pregnancy before wedlock was not that uncommon.

However, today's society, as you say, is far from an improvement. I do feel young women are being let down by society in all the ways you state in your post. We need some radical changes in our attitudes.

Linda said...

What a terrific post! :)

I agree with you wholeheartedly! Note, that (ok, you got me, I forgot who it was exactly) when either Isaac or Jacob was married, it was written about his wife:

"they got married and she learned to love him dearly" (obviously freely translated, as I don't own any english bible)

I've always loved that approach, instead of our modern 'the other way around'

greetings from the netherlands!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tammy. There are any number of things one can, and should, do to proceed sensibly if one wishes to marry (remember that not every woman does--I would have been much happier unmarried). Many women today do have untenable and unfortunate ideas and expectations about long-term relationships of any sort, and that is too bad. But people who are brought together in more businesslike ways, while they may well have a better _attitude_ toward the realities of marriage (many, of course, will not), may or may not end up any more contented than people, secular or otherwise, who come together via different means. They simply tend to stay together because the options are fewer and unattractive.

Marriage is a hard business. Some people get lucky and truly enjoy it over the long term. Most, on the whole, will become neutral over the years. Many people who will enter into it are simply unsuited, and should avoid it, instead either dating serially or simply staying alone. That's the reality of humanity, in my opinion, and always has been. So if you want to make a good, long go of it, keep this in mind, and view it as a job. That's all that will keep you in there on the hard days.

Kelly said...

Well said Anna.
Falling madly in love isn't really love it's usually lust, and fades quickly in light of everyday life.
Real love is a commitment, a choice to live everyday life loving and supporting the other person. The latter type of love, real love, doesn't fade over time it usually grows stronger.
As soon as we get our definitions straight maybe we'll drop this crazy notion of dating and get back to an older style of finding mates.

Ace said...

Hi Anna, hope you are your family are well (rub that belly, soon, believe it or not, you will miss it :)

I have never, for the life of me, understood the whole dating for years thing. I had a girlfriend who dated her boyfriend for SIX years. They went to different colleges and started careers across the country from each other. Last time I talked to her she was still thinking it over.

I mean, if it is easy for you to live wihtout the person, YOU ARE NOT A MATCH! Sorry, I could never be away from The General for months on end, and wait years to "see" if we should get married.

I also never understood dating, sleeping and even living with someone you wouldn't consider marrying. What are you doing, killing time? You have no idea how long you have on this earth, how disappointing to have spent it wasting time.

I think many girls don't have fathers and mothers who protect them and don't have any self-respect.

I am not sleeping with nor cleaning up after someone unless they pay me the respect of marrying me.

Sorry if this comment comes out weird, my keyboard is acting crazy today.

Many Blessings ;)
Ace

Bailey said...

Regardless of what has happened with matchmaking/betrothal or even dating, we must look at the truth, not the failures. Couples should not live together as "business partners" or "just because," as Tammy said. But I admire a woman or a man who hangs in there even when the butterflies disappear. True love is not self-seeking--it does not look for the feeling. It is a resolution. I love many people whom I do not agree with, whom I do not "love" in the emotional sense, but I continue loving them in spite of it.

Bailey said...

I forgot to add. :)

Ms. Tammy, giving your heart to your father in this matter doesn't mean the man he picks out for you is the right one, or that you have to marry a man your father likes. Giving your heart to him means honoring his judgment, respecting his opinion. If he has honest reasons for rejecting a suit, a wise daughter submits to that wisdom and authority. If he is incapable of making good judgments, or is uninterested in your life, a submissive daughter takes what is true and declines the rest. In that case, it would be dangerous and unwise to completely obey (not that she cannot submit or honor). In giving my heart to my father I keep my own opinions whether we disagree or agree. But I deeply respect his opinions, convictions and judgment and would not act without consulting him.

This may be "weak," but I have seen the greatest failure when I have "stuck to my guns" in a matter--even when my father was wrong--and the greatest triumph when I have submitted. God honors a true submissive heart. I can assure you and other single ladies, you would not be miserable if you submit your will to your father in this matter or others, as long as you have a loving, meek heart.

p.s. Mrs. T, I forgot to say how much I loved your post!! Keep writing and living for God.

Teri said...

It is definitely sad that society has gotten so off track from biblical standards and it seems to be getting worse. Unfortunantly, more and more are forsaking the covenant of marriage altogher in exchange for meaningless hit or miss relationships in which two people cohabitate together and even have children until they get tired of one another and proceed to do it with another and another another, etc. The sadest part of all this is the children that get caught up in this endless dating web.

I think that it is due to the fact that we have fallen so far away from the faith that the "dating" culture is just another symptom of how far our worldview is separated from the bible. I too had the misfortune of being reared in this dating culture and even though both my parents were present my dad did not provide the protection and guidance in such matters so I was basically left to fend for myself. And, of course, after a lot of scars, bruises, and heartbreak, God finally brought me and my wonderful husband together (but not unscathed). So many times I wish that I could turn back the hand of time, but I know that it is impossible. Therefore, my husband and I are determined to rear our children God's way and that includes a biblical model of courtship.

We both knew that dating was not for our children before they even came into this world, but we didn't have a good reference point from which to start (in mordern society). We knew that the bible clearly outlines the best model of courtship and lays forth God's rules for marriage, but we didn't know if we were living in a dream world to expect such for a children. Sure, we knew that there must be some people somewhere who felt the same as we do, but we had no idea that there was such a growing moment of reformation in biblical parenting, marriage, courtship, education, etc. After watching the movie "Return of the Daughthers", we were of course delighted. We both cried because we then knew that what we wanted for our children is now a closer possibility than we originally thought. I also read the book "So Much More", which was a complete eye openner for me.

Thus far, we have choosen many a narrow route (homeschooling, limited and montiored television viewing and social events, etc.) for ourselves and our children that we are by no means foreign to being social outcasts or wierdos (even to our family). But, we don't care about what the world thinks, we are much more concerned about what God thinks. The courthship model actually has to start with taking the narrow road altogher, otherwise parental efforts in this area will most likely be futile. It is important for parents to understand that we must take our children back from Ceasar and render them unto God if we expect His blessings for their lives.

Mia said...

Dear Anna,
Thank you for putting into words these thoughts I've been having lately! My family is totally on board with the courtship approach rather than dating..however, it still amazes me how our friends (who go to church) completely oppose the idea! As an aspiring homemaker, I look forward to a relationship one day that is God glorifying and purposeful. Thank you for posting!

--Mia, age17

messy bessy said...

I've thought a lot about this post, from the perspective of a person who did the whole "recreational dating" thing for many years (before I got serious about serving God honestly).

I think dating is dangerously flawed in that it appears to be a way to get to know people, to find someone compatible, to enjoy others' company; yet so often it is aimless. Many women seem to know that they want to be married, and are dating with a seriousness absolutely absent from the men they go out with. This was true in my case, anyway.

I would love to see our culture get more "traditional," but in order to do that we need to be raising our children to be more mature by the time they are ready for dating/courtship. How can you know yourself if you have never been asked to be truly grown up? And if you don't know yourself, how can you know who you ought to marry?

Kids shouldn't date, but then, people shouldn't stay kids for as long as they do. Sexual maturity should not precede emotional and intellectual maturity by decades.

H and S said...

Anna, everything you say makes sense to me, from my experience being married for 10 years - except for your comment on physical attraction. I just can't figure out how a wife could cope with a wedding and wedding night, and the early years, having sex with a man to whom she is only slightly attracted. I might be missing something here - I do believe we can choose to love, rather than be tossed about by random emotions, but this particular aspect is a bit hard for me to grasp.

Cindi said...

I smiled as I read your post. When I was young my only criteria was that I wasn't going to marry some one without a job. I met my husband and we fell in lust. I think that head over feeling people describe as love is more attraction. We eloped after three dates. My parents were totally against him. Both my parents had been divorced in the 1950's. I have brothers and sisters who had been divorced. I had seen the other side and I felt that I knew what I was in for. We have been married now 22 years. It hasn't been a bed of roses. I didn't expect it to be. We have often discussed why our marriage has lasted and is stronger today than when we actually married and we both feel that the key is expectation and compromise. We have always worked as a team and we have never expected perfection out of each other. We know that it takes two to make a marriage work and that no one can be singly wrong in any arguement. We have both often compromised on things for the sake of the other. My husband is not really interested in my sewing fascination, but he tells me when sewing shows are on, he buys me sewing magazines when he's out, he has patiently went to a few quilt shows! I myself do not really care about custom autos or bees, but these are some of his interests and I have went to many a car show, read a few books on bee raising, etc.

I guess we found this out before match.com or eharmony!

As a woman I see a lot of young women looking for prince charming...the perfect man. They want some one with hollywood's looks, rich, and will make them the center of their world.

Just remember when you are looking if that's your expectations take a look in the mirror-you may not see a sexy super model.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting, the older I get the more I see dating and the dating culture as just a foolish enterprise. I often look back on my own dating life and then eventual marriage to my now husband and honestly I am very lucky and I know God was definitely looking out for me. All the things they told you that you should not do before marriage, yep I did them all.

Funny thing is, I knew I was going to marry my husband after about a month of knowing him. I've told him this before and he just looks at me and says "How could you possibly have known?" I just knew that he had all the qualities I wanted in a man. He was honest, caring, a good worker, forthright with his intentions for me, and I knew he wanted to have a family someday. I was attracted physically to him, but it was these characteristics that made me love him, ya know?

We dated for 4 years, lived together for three of those years and then got married, but honestly I should have just married him after the first year. It would have been more meaningful and we would not have had nearly as much baggage as we did when we got married. Of course we weren't beleivers back in those days, so God's timing is perfect, but I still have regrets in how I handled our relationship in those early days.

-Jen K.

Anonymous said...

Physical attraction is not only important for the wedding night and early years, as one poster discussed above. It's often the beating pulse throughout a marriage, sometimes even into the senior years.

God created this pull to hold a couple together, and it's not something that can be delegated to the back burner.
I agree with several posters above who stated that the 'love' that a young couple initially feels is often lust. But this lust is important, too. Almost every couple will fight at some point, and have better seasons and worse ones. Even couples with the same religion and background and morals, who vote for the same candidate, will find something to fight about. If there is passion in the marriage that can be reignited, there's a better chance they will get through the rough patches. If they can just tolerate each other physically, the marriage is in danger of either disintegrating or reaching a depressing business-like compromise.

Of course, I realize life is not a bed of roses and some of us will marry without any passion, just because we want to be wives or mothers, and suitors are scarce. But that is not an easy path to take.

Bailey, I agree a good daughter should listen to her father (AND to her mother), as usually they have her best interests at heart. However, I think an adult daughter is still the best source for her own decisions. (BTW, I am not single, but a married mother of five).
Tammy

Mrs. Anna T said...

About physical attraction: I never said it was unimportant! It is VERY important. I'm simply saying that INITIAL feeling of overwhelming physical passion is not necessary for a good marriage. With mutual affection, love, devotion and respct and SOME initial attraction, physical attraction may quite easily develop. I can attest to that myself. As months go by, I find myself more and more attracted to my husband - though I definitely wouldn't have been so certain about marrying him if there wasn't SOME attraction from the beginning.