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On Wearing A Ring

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Wearing a RingEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from one of my favorite online writers, Ali Hale.  And no, the words “jewellry” and “realised” are not misspelled.  Ali is in England, and apparently this is how these words are spelled in “real” English. 🙂

I’m not really a jewellery person. I’m never sure what to buy, and I always convince myself I don’t need it.

My fiancé, though, has great taste in jewellery. He’s given me various pieces over the five years since we met. My favourites are a beautiful necklace with delicate butterflies on it, which was a 21st birthday gift… and my engagement ring.

We got engaged last November. For the first month or two, it felt weird to wear a ring. I hardly ever put on jewellery unless I’m going out in the evenings, and I’ve never had any rings. Every so often – perhaps putting on gloves, or preparing to do the dishes – I’d notice the ring.

And every time, I’d smile. Whenever I was feeling down or upset or gloomy about things, just looking at that ring was a pick-me-up.

Much More Than Just a Ring

Back in those early days of dating, the summer of 2005, I would walk around with a goofy grin of my face. Every time I thought of my boyfriend, the guy I’d admired from afar for months, who I’d thought would never notice me … I just couldn’t help grinning.

When I was a teen, I thought I’d never get married. For one thing, I’d never had a boyfriend. For another, I knew I liked my own company. I’m a bit of an introvert, and I like to do my own thing and be my own person.

I was worried that marriage would mean letting someone get too close. I thought that if I wore a ring, it’d mean I belonged to someone.

It’s not like that, though. When I look at that ring, I don’t feel pressured or somehow subject. I feel loved. I think of my fiancé, and I think of how miraculous it is that I’ve found someone who I trust so deeply and care about so much, and that he wants to spend his entire life with me. Me!

The Ring Belongs

After a few weeks of wearing my ring, I realised that it felt odd whenever it was off my hand. If I woke up and forgot to put it on straight away, my hand felt strange, empty, bereft. If I took the ring off, I didn’t feel quite right until I put it on again.

We’ve been having an up and down few months. He’s had exams; I’ve been trying to grow my business. We’re in the middle of moving house. We’re planning a wedding – we never realised quite how many decisions there’d be to make!

It’s easy to get caught up in the frustrations of the moment. But that ring keeps me grounded. It helps me focus on what’s important – our commitment to one another, our lifetime together.

Question from Dustin for the readers: Do you wear a wedding/engagement ring?  Is it important to you that your spouse wears their ring?

(photo source)

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Ali Hale blogs about getting more from life over on Aliventures, and has a new ebook out, Regain Your Balance. She’s getting married in September.

First Comes Love, Then Marriage, Then the Mother In Law!

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Mother In Law Friend or Foe?

Ah, to be newlywed. It’s fun and exciting, and even if the two of you have known each other for years, there seems to be a certain freshness in your relationship.

Because now it’s official. Now it’s just the two of you, from here to eternity.

Right?

Enter: your new mother-in-law.

If you just cringed, you are definitely not alone. It’s the Pavlovian Response felt the world over: mother-in-law equals absolutely no fun.

Think about it: characters like Jane Fonda’s in Monster in Law and Endora from Bewitched exploit the image of MiLs as overbearing saboteurs who will do anything to make you run crying back to where you belong (the arms of your own mommy).

And it goes further. When you type “mother in law” into Amazon’s book search, how many of the first 12 books are self-help guides to avoid strangling your mother-in-law? 11.

And further still: the Old Testament quotes “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…” (Micah 7:6).

The battle between newlyweds and mothers is a tale as old as time – how does anyone not dread Thanksgiving with the in-laws?

The Friendly Monster

But, for those of you sans-MiL who are nodding as you read this, thinking, “Yup. That’s exactly how I imagine having a mother-in-law must be,” I am here to tell you you’re wrong. Not to rub it in, but, in a lot of ways, you’re really missing out.

Full disclosure: I have a fantastic mother-in-law. She’s great. She’s nice, and she is considerate, and she helps with the dishes when we have big family dinners, but she has never once tried to vacuum my living room carpet or taken it upon herself to clean my guest bathroom (a common stereotype of “evil mothers-in-law,” or so I have discovered).

A lot of my friends have great mothers-in-law too. Is it a generational thing?

I hear my boss at work grumble about his MiL flying in from Connecticut. I remember my own mother gritting her teeth when Grandma came to town and brought her own towel because “she just didn’t like” the ones we had.

But all my newly-married friends love having their mothers-in-law visit: they go out to lunch, go shopping, talk about books and movies. It’s like getting a new friend who just happens to be older, wiser, and a much better cook.

Is it just me, or are mothers-in-law actually…kind of cool?

8 Great Things Come Along with a Mother in Law

  1. Your spouse. I’m serious. She was 50% responsible for producing the love of your life.
  2. The inside scoop on all your spouse’s high school boyfriends and girlfriends – along with the affirmation that you are way better.
  3. The source of all your spouse’s favorite dishes and comfort foods. And she’ll teach you, too!
  4. Another point of view from someone who is older, wiser, and has already dealt with any hitches and roadblocks you are facing as a married couple.
  5. A perma-babysitter if and when you have kids.
  6. An excuse to get your partner to finally clean the kitchen floor: “But honey, your mother is coming!”
  7. Insight into why your spouse is the way he or she is. Face it: she’s known that person longer than you.
  8. Someone who is constantly concerned if you’ve had enough to eat, are warm enough, and if you had a good night’s sleep. It sounds overwhelming – but it’s actually really nice.

Let’s Hear it for the Moms

The awesome trend of mothers-in-law who are friends and not foes is the best thing that ever happened to the newlyweds of the world. Pro-MiL campaigns, like Mother in Law of the Month, are increasingly popular and I hope finally breaking that monstrous stereotype.

Can you imagine a Hollywood with no more mom-in-law drama to draw from? It sounds nearly too good to be true.

Do you have any good mother-in-law experiences to share in the comments?

(photo source)

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About the author: Rachel Smith is young and freshly married. She writes for Storkie Express, the online stationery store with some of the coolest wedding invitations, graduation invitations, and baby shower invitations she’s ever seen.

The Five Relationships You Have With Your Husband

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Roles in Marriage

Whether we admit it or not, we all wear several hats in our lives.

It doesn’t mean we’re fake or a “poser,” it’s just that different situations call for different versions of us.

There’s the hat we wear at work when we’re taking care to contribute our ideas and relay our professionalism and the hat that we put on when we are spending time with friends and letting loose.

There are also the times when we are empathetic and vulnerable.

The reason we wear these different hats is so we can adjust to our environment and the people that we surround ourselves with.

Human beings innately want to have relationships and get along with and be accepted by other human beings.

Think about it.  What’s the worst punishment for prisoners?  What can be even worse then being in prison? Solitary confinement!

Being alone is the punishment for people who are already being punished…and it sucks!  Be sure not to be alone in your marriage by identifying and getting comfortable with the different roles you play in your husband’s life.

The Top Five “Roles” in Marriage

Below are the top five roles that are predominant in every marriage.  As you read them, think about what beliefs and behaviors could win you an Oscar in the “Movie of your Marriage.”

1. The Business Partner- I’m sure you’ve heard that a Marriage is like a business. This idea is notorious for creeping into some married couples bedrooms because it can sometimes bring monotony or a planned or scheduled feeling to the marriage.

The good news is that you can choose to be a Fortune 500 wife and use creativity and enthusiasm to get the job done, as opposed to being a hobby business that eventually gets boring and redundant.

2. The Muse- This is the role where you get to be the inspiration that drives your husband to be all that he can be.

Some important things you can do as a good Muse are accentuate his positive attributes by complimenting him frequently, be his cheerleader even he gets thrown off his game and, most importantly, get into his world by showing interest in his passions.

3. The Lover- I LOVE the lover! After being married for 2 or 20 years, the role of the lover takes a choice to make it great!

For this role, it’s worth investing in books, classes, games, teleseminars or anything else that teaches you new skills and tricks to keep your partner on his toes.

4. The Mother of His Children– Being the mother of a man’s child is one of the best gifts you can give your husband. Now he has two reasons to look out for you and protect you.

One because he loves you so much his head is in the clouds around you and two you need to be there for his children to be the best mom they could ever have.

5. The Voyeur– Sometimes you will need to sit back and watch what happens in your husband’s life and not say a word. The beauty of being in a healthy relationship is giving one another the space to be your own individual and make your own mistakes.

It can be difficult because sometimes we think we know better and can save them from their not-so-great choices, but just being there when things don’t turn out the way he thought can bring you closer than if you start to take on the part of mommy… which is a role you NEVER want to play in the adventure of marriage.

Remember, you can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be the best you to your honey!

What different “roles” do you play in your marriage?  Are there roles that you wish your spouse (or fiance) would play a bit better? 🙂

Photo by smoorenburg

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Cory Honickman is Los Angeles’s top Marriage Educator and the creative visionary behind “Reinventing Marriage, Commitment For Modern Emotionally Intelligent Couples”. Cory has coached and consulted to countless singles and couples that now declare that they’ll never have an unsupervised relationship again!

Through interactive multi media programs and systems, private intensives and platinum membership communities, couples can customize their marriage in a way that brings out the best in both of them and empowers them to make smart decisions. When couples want their personalized happily ever after, they call Cory Honickman, whose mission is to decrease the staggering divorce rates that exist worldwide. For more information, go to www.reinventingmarriage.com or call 888-378-5675.

Marriage Preparation: Get Sold on Awesome Intimacy…Not an Expensive Wedding

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

Marriage Preparation for IntimacyEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jessica MH Smith.  Jessica is a former Family Planning Coordinator for the Catholic Diocese of Madison in Southwest Wisconsin.  She is passionate about Natural Family Planning, and it shows in this post and on her great blog NFP Works.  Whether you embrace NFP or not, I think you’ll find value in her message about focusing on a healthy marriage rather our culture’s focus on a single (wedding) day!

The selling of the American wedding is a symptom of a culture that’s lost its moral compass in a morass of  marketing.  The glossy facade of wedding sales people would crumble in a minute if it didn’t have the infrastructure of a 161 billion dollar industry holding it up.

I don’t mean to suggest that everyone in the wedding industry is out to get you. There are some really lovely people who do genuinely good work in preparing couples for their wedding day. However, there are a lot more people less concerned about your sacramental marriage and eternal happiness than they are concerned about the number of zeroes in your wedding budget.

The Marital Marketing Machine

Rebecca Mead, in her 2007 investigative commentary on the wedding industry, “One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding,” details how the purveyors of wedding day perfection in many cases set out to deliberately extort brides and bridegrooms, making them think it’s positively pedestrian to drop forty grand on one’s nuptial bash.

I didn’t buy it when I got married, and I still don’t buy it. The marital marketing machine does a great disservice to society by encouraging couples to spend countless hours over many months planning a day that passes like the rest, but forgetting to encourage fanciful fiancés to nurture the aspects that will endure, to foster authentic intimacy.

Have You Prepared for Healthy Intimacy?

How often have you and your fiancé talked about intimacy? How will you as a married couple engage your spouse’s entire person—body, mind heart and soul? Have you discussed your family planning intentions? Do you know what the Catholic Church teaches about family planning and why?

These are all vital questions, and must not go unasked. Marital unity on these matters is essential, and without it, authenticity in your marriage will be lacking. Seek the truth, pray for guidance and find out the answers to these questions.

Fight the Culture!

We are living a long winter of family planning frigidity. Pregnancy is seen as “accidental,” a side effect of our sexuality and something to medicate rather than celebrate. Children are no longer seen as the ultimate gift of the Creator, but a burden, an expense to calculate in the credit debit register of rationalized life choices—as if you can measure the gift of an immortal soul!

Are you ready to participate in God’s creating power by welcoming a new soul into the world?

Consider Natural Family Planning

If, after discussion, you decide you have a just and serious reason (see Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae section 16) to postpone pregnancy when you get married, I encourage you to learn Natural Family Planning, or NFP.

Modern NFP is not the Rhythm Method, and it’s not a certain type of Natural birth control called Fertility Awareness Method, which relies on barrier contraception during the fertile times in a woman’s cycle.

NFP allows couples pinpoint the woman’s time of ovulation by recording daily changes in one or more of the following biological markers: her resting body temperature, cervical mucus, cervix shape or hormone levels.  All the methods are tried and tested, and some of them even allow a couple to see potential fertility-related wellness issues just by charting for a short time, thus allowing a woman to resolve potential health problems.

In fact, according to the Paul VI Institute of Reproductive Medicine, 80% of couples who experience compromised fertility can achieve pregnancy with one year of charting combined with medical treatment.

Are We On the Cusp of  A Springtime of Intimacy?

Who knew there was such a springtime in the midst of a cultural winter? Every winter has it’s end, and the forty years of winter desert walking since Humanae Vitae’s countercultural appearance in 1968 is bearing fruit.

Scores of families are discovering the Church’s wise teachings on marriage and sexuality and the gift of life giving love in their marriages. They’re eyes are opening and they’re returning to the sacrament of Reconciliation for mercy and healing. Many reverse their sterilizations and often times they’re blessed with more children.

The grown members of generations X and Y are learning John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in droves, and could not be more jubilant about the beautiful and challenging Church teachings. For these generations, including myself, we’re open to life in radical ways.

NFP is Becoming “Cool”

Natural Family Planning, if we discern a need to postpone pregnancy, is as commonplace and hip as the Apple iPhone and hybrid cars. It’s not just accepted begrudgingly and followed with resentment—young people love NFP!

There’s a growing movement of NFPers, believe it or not. And watch out when these organic Jesus freaks find each other!

There’s an instant bond among people of faith who’ve learned about the importance of cervical mucus viscosity. I’m serious.  If you can talk about cervical mucus (this is especially true in marriage), then you can talk about anything.

Contrary to popular belief and contemporary despair, true and lasting love is possible. You are not alone when you hope for it. It is absolutely possible and Natural Family Planning, when practiced with an open mind and heart, is a means for spacing children that respects your morals, your body and your marriage.

I’m not peddling false hopes for happiness or superficial substitutes for communication. NFP is the real deal.

It encourages communication because it is a shared method (meaning it’s not just women bearing the family planning burden) and requires mutual discussion and participation. She observes; he charts. Both use NFP.

Are you sold?

I invite you to a journey of radical intimacy and reckless hope. It will cost you not less than everything, but in shedding light on those dark corners of fear in your soul, you will find God’s dazzling purpose for you.  Give your fertility and everything else to God, and He will bring you into a gorgeous garden of ordinary miracles.

Photo by alancleaver_2000

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For more on the “real deal” about Natural Family Planning, please visit Jessica MH Smith’s blog on the topic at NFP Works.  You can also find her on Twitter where she espouses advice as @NFPWorks.

Prenuptial Agreements: Good, Bad or Just Plain Ugly?

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

“Sweetie, you mean everything to me, and I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you in wedded bliss.  Will you take my hand in marriage?”

“I’d love to, dear.  I’ll just need you to sign right here.  And initial here next to the alimony section.  That part’s really important.”Prenuptial Agreements: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Prenuptial agreements strike me as a bit of an oddity.  I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t actually know anyone personally who has entered into a pre-marriage contract.

Of course, I’ve heard of the wide array of celebrity prenups, which usually get dissected in the media when the couple splits.  But no one I know has admitted to signing any agreements for how things will shake down when their marriage goes down the tubes.

Are we Mid-westerners just naive and simple folk?

Marriage is Grand.  Divorce is Fifty Grand.

Well, I recently came across an article on USA Today’s site entitled Prenuptial Agreements: Unromantic, but Important that had 340 comments.  As the title may infer, it’s pretty much a prenuptial agreement love fest.

I learned a few new things from this article, but I mostly confirmed my own closed-minded, backwoods beliefs about the idea of pre-arranging your divorce (works for funerals, right?).  Here are a few of my favorite tidbits and quotes from the USA Today/Bar Association article followed by a bit of my own (very sarcastic) commentary:

LeAnna Kruckeberg, 24, of Iowa City, says that she has already told her boyfriend of about one year that she would like him to sign a prenup if they get married.

“Family money stays in the family and should be passed down from generation to generation,” she says. “Why should those businesses that my grandparents and my parents built on good old-fashioned hard work be given to someone who marries into a family?

“Any inheritance or trust funds should go to my kids and completely bypass my husband.”

Her boyfriend knows the stories of her relatives’ struggles as they built businesses, so “he understands and respects” her prenup thinking, she says.

Dustin’s Thoughts: This poor guy doesn’t stand a chance with his little lady and in-laws if he doesn’t grow some bigger…fortitude.  And I would have to ask LeAnna, “Why should those businesses be given to YOU, princess?”

Personal-finance expert Suze Orman encourages every engaged couple to get prenuptial agreements to protect their current and future assets as well as to shield themselves in case a mate secretly runs up massive credit card debt (which could damage both partners’ credit scores).

Dustin’s Thoughts: I haven’t had the occasion here to give my thoughts on Ms. Orman.  While she is certainly a bright and successful woman, I feel like her advice is usually divisive and centered primarily on her propensity for man-hate.  She also worships at the feet of FICO (credit score company) and clearly has no appreciation for traditional marriage.

And I’m not saying that because she happens to be a lesbian.  Her advice to couples seems to always hinge on the presumption that divorce is imminent and the man-beast will be leaving his little lady barefoot and pregnant…I find this kind of paradigm repulsive.

Prenups can even outline what is expected of a spouse’s behavior.

“I had a client who was willing to pay his wife a special amount each year provided she didn’t do cocaine,” says prenup guide author Nachshin. “The agreement was to pay her $25,000 a year. He had the right to drug test her, and if she was clean, she was able to get $25,000.”

The wife stayed off the drugs, and over the last 10 years she received $250,000.

Dustin’s Thoughts: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner in the contest for the couple best exhibiting the loving benefits of prenuptial agreements.  If you can’t closely monitor your spouse’s abuse of narcotics and reward her with large sums of money for passing annual drug tests, then why get married?

I think this is precisely what St. Paul was referring to when he said the two shall become one flesh.  Beautiful.

But Wait, There’s More!

I obviously chose some pretty ridiculous examples of situations where prenuptial agreements were deemed necessary.  The problem is the article is full of them, and I didn’t even have to exaggerate the stories or take them out of context.

These are the actual examples that USA Today chose to make their point.  It was these folks that they interviewed to demonstrate why we all need to draft a specific contract before our wedding day that will ease things when our divorce rolls around.

Seriously.

If you think you and your fiance have things covered, perhaps you haven’t considered the amount of weight he could gain or her eventual loss in interest of sexual intimacy with you.  I’m not sure how the blame gets assigned appropriately when several issues get mixed in.

I mean, who should get the bonus check if his beer belly is the reason she is sexually repulsed?  But maybe her loss of interest in him drove him to the brown bottle?

How can we decide?  Ah yes, we are blessed with the optimistic opinions of lawyers specializing in the field of divorce-before-marriage.  From the article:

Some prenups address issues such as adultery, frequency of intimacy, limitations of weight gain, the scheduling of housekeeping and provisions for pets, says attorney Eskind Moses.

Those clauses may seem unnecessary to some folks, but nailing down what is important to each individual — be it the ownership of a ski house, retaining the rights to an antique tea set or determining who keeps Fido — is vital to do before the marriage laws kick in, say pro-prenup lawyers and financial advisers.

Thank you, Moses.  Eskind Moses, that is.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Always Bad?

Since I’ve held back throughout this post, I really need to get my true feelings off my chest. 🙂

Personally, I am a big fan of being proactive, but I cannot imagine requiring or being required to sign a prenuptial agreement.

It seems like a very poor way to prepare for marriage, and it feels an awful lot like pre-planning your divorce to me.  I firmly believe that marriage is for life, and the premise of prenuptial agreements just does not jive with my own values.

That said, I do think there are several special circumstances where a prenup can make reasonable sense.  If those getting married have previous marriages and a complicated mix of blended families, I can see the value in clarifying up-front how the various estates are intertwined.

After all, just because a man and woman think that this is “the one” doesn’t mean that their adult children from three different marriages agree.  That’s a wicked web that probably should be worked out up-front.

Likewise, I can see the value of prenuptial agreements whenever a major imbalance in wealth exists.  The main reason I feel this way is that large sums of money just make people act a bit crazy.

When millions of dollars are on the line, a legal agreement may be needed to keep both families sane and ensure that intentions are true.  I still don’t believe this is a good thing from a spiritual perspective, but it may be an unfortunate necessity under those circumstances.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you have a prenuptial agreement?

Do you think they are a good idea, always bad or sometimes okay?

What if your daughter got engaged but her fiance required a prenup?  What would you say under that scenario? No foul language, please 😉

Photo by allyaubry