Sunday, June 30, 2013

Letters to my daughters: on marriage

My dearest daughters,

I want to write you about marriage, but I honestly don't know where to start. I don't know what the world will be like when you are grown, but right now traditional marriage is a rather unpopular and emotionally-charged topic. There are so many things I want to write to you on this subject, but each time I try, I find that I would have to write so much more than one letter to explain it all.

Here is what I hope and pray for each of you:
-That you will come to have an understanding of God's love and care for you, so that you will understand WHY He says what He says in the Bible regarding marriage. He's not trying to kill your fun, He created you and knows how you work. You can trust His advice on this subject.

-That you will pursue God with your whole heart, and meet your husband as he travels that same path. This is how your dad and I met, and I really know of few marriages that are as easy and fun as ours is. We honestly just enjoy being together. Now, we still have our share of struggles and things to work through, but we have chosen to be each other's best friend. (And really, it's not a hard choice to make - I kinda like that guy!) If you are both pursuing God when you meet and you're moving the same direction, then if you continue to pursue God throughout your life you're likely to KEEP going the same direction, together!

-Marry your best friend. Take enough time to become best friends before getting married. Life gets hard sometimes. Having babies is life-changing. Sometimes money seems impossible. You really never know what life will bring your way. But the thing that carries you through when things aren't really very fun is friendship, not passion. Passion goes out the window when you are up at 2am with a baby that won't. stop. crying. But if you're best friends you can still, even with that crying baby, somehow (sometimes) give each other a look and laugh together. And if you are one day married and realize you aren't best friends, work on it. Spend time together. Be interested in what he's interested in (Nebraska football is...not even ON my priority list, but I will listen to stories he wants to tell me about it for a little while). Look for his good traits (often the things you fell in love with before start driving you nuts once you're married, but you can learn to appreciate them all over again.) ONLY SPEAK OF HIM POSITIVELY, except in rare circumstances and only with a person you trust who can help you learn how to love him better. Budget money for date nights, even if you go sit at a fast food place because you have no money to spend. Be his friend.

-Work out the important stuff before you get married. How many kids do you each want? Where will you go to church? What kind of a relationship do you each want with your families? Will you stay home with kids or work? How will you discipline your kids? Who will handle the money (preferably both of you, together)? Can you deal with any situations you're marrying into that may not change (health issues, in-laws, etc.)? Where will you live? How do you see God and what do you want to teach your children about Him? Obviously your answers to some of these questions may change as you grow, but they are so important to answer. Before we were married, we dated for about 2 years, 4 months of that we were 10 hours apart. We did premarital counseling with a couple from our church where we talked through a lot of this. We had enough time and encouragement to tackle these big conversations and there weren't many surprises after we were married. Your dad and I usually have similar thoughts on all of these subjects, and because we are friends, if our minds change or we feel God changing our hearts it's possible to talk it through and come to an agreement.

-Put your marriage even before your kids. Society right now is, oddly, simultaneously hyperactive about the welfare of children, AND disrespectful of them, I think. When you create a family culture where the kids are the center of the world, they grow up believing they are. Someone who thinks the world revolves around them is...not a pleasant person to be around. Don't be mean to your kids. Make sure their true needs are met. But you can enforce things like time to talk after your husband comes home from work, while the kids play. Leave them with a trusted babysitter for a date night once a week. Expect them to help care for your home so it's a pleasant place to live. Don't let them run the show. The stability of your marriage is everything to your family. If your marriage is stable and loving, your kids will probably come out alright. If you neglect your marriage, you might lose it AND the kids.

-Just be nice to each other. I think this goes an amazingly long way. Pay attention to the tone of your voice. Choose your words wisely. In Proverbs it says, "A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands a foolish one tears hers down." You have the power to choose which you will do. Choose to build, even when it's hard. As a side-note here, some people find sarcasm to be funny. Nick and I have very little tolerance for it, and almost never are sarcastic. We protect each other's hearts by saying what we mean, in love. Sarcasm can really hurt, but in a way that is not usually acceptable to bring up because the person who hurt you will say they were only kidding. Usually there is an element of truth to it. Don't be sarcastic. Just say what you mean.

This is a long letter and I could easily write more, but I will stop here for now. Maybe I'll write another part later. I love you, and want you to have all of God's best in your life. Some of this is wisdom I learned from other women whose marriages I admire. Always stay open to input from people who have thriving marriages! I'm praying for your husbands even now, when you are still young.

I love you.

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