Monday, June 30, 2014

Technology Timeout

People are glued to their phones and technology. One poll shows that 47% of Americans believe that they could not go one day without their smartphone. With a lot of business and communication occurring through our smartphones and computers, technology is certainly critical to modern life. However, one question I think everyone needs to ask is how much should technology and social media play a role in your relationship with your spouse or significant other? 

Marisa knows my biggest pet peeve: using her phone to text other people or check Facebook when we are on a date. Since we do not live together and are not married, our official dates together are very special and important to both of us. While I do not mind if she checks her phone if someone texts her once and I am not bothered if she checks social media during a transition in the date (e.g. me driving us somewhere), I get very irritated when she (or anyone else in a relationship, for that matter) checks their technology during a date. 

I definitely check my technology during dates too, but I try to keep it to a bare minimum. My personal belief is when you are on a date with someone, they deserve your undivided attention. You should not be talking to anyone else through texting or social media unless it is an absolute emergency. Whenever I go out and observe couples, it never fails that I often see two people glued to their technology while out on a date and, thus, they not glued to each other! 

My Aunt Lyda who is a psychologist in California has something she calls "techno-ten" during dinner time. Whenever I and my family are on vacation at Lyda's home, she always declares a techno-ten before dinner time and takes all of our technology and places it into a bowl where we cannot access it for any reason. After dinner, which usually lasts a little more than ten minutes (hence techno-ten), everyone is able to get their technology back. However, we often find ourselves really engaged with one another and instead of going back to our technology we want to spend more time together after dinner by playing a board game or simply chatting. 

When you put your technology down for just a short period of time during a date, you may be surprised to find out how much you and your spouse or significant other have to talk about! We live in a world where everything has to be interconnected. We want to use social media and our phones to be with multiple people at once. How about embracing the good old fashioned tradition of being solely with the person you are spending time with at that very moment? 

I encourage you to embrace the idea of a "Technology Timeout." Like Marisa and me, you and your spouse or significant other can make this a daily commitment where you can spend time together free from other social connections, or you can embrace this as a policy for dates. For me, I personally find that whenever I am with Marisa I do not want to check Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and texts at all. Marisa is a gem to me, so why would I compromise the time I have with her to spend time in a virtual relationship with other friends at that moment? 

You can't be in two places at once. You can either be glued to your spouse or glued to your technology. Do you want to be with your spouse and spend time devoted to them, or are your commitments to your social media network and contacts more important to you? 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Compromise Resolves Controversy

"Compromise works well in this world when you have shared goals."
--.Jim DeMint--

Although Senator Jim DeMint is a American politician, which we all know are bad at compromising, Senator DeMint's statement on compromise should be the mission statement of every marriage. You and your spouse are a team: you need to compromise! When you get married to someone, you are joined in the common cause of you both having a rich and blessed life together. If you get married under the impression that the other person will make all of your dreams possible and will live to make each and every single one of your desires come true, well... you are setting yourself up for a gigantic failure and disappointment. You can, however, know that you and your spouse are committed to solving problems and working through life's issues together for the benefit of the both of you. 

Conflict is human nature. It's how a married couple resolves conflict that is divine. If done correctly, solving conflict in marriage is something that can bring you and your spouse great satisfaction and intense feelings of love. What can possibly be more exciting than solving a daunting challenge with the love of your life? Absolutely nothing!

The issue with conflict resolution in marriage is that people are often too set in their ways. and opinions "It's my way or the highway," as the old saying goes. You may have your perfect image of what your spouse should be like, where you should live, what you are going to do with your life, what your house will be like, who you are going to visit during the holidays, and who is going to do the dirty laundry. Throw out your preconceived notions of what your life and your marriage will be like right now and know that only two things in your relationship are certain: God's love for you and your commitment as a couple. 

Dr. Gary Chapman's book on conflict resolution, Everybody Wins, is one of my favorite books to read and one of the books I recommend every couple reads. The knowledge in this tiny book is immense and easy to understand. If you can apply the information in this book like Marisa and I strive to do every day, you can find that your conflicts bring as much joy as your agreements because you know that you can conquer the conflict with your partner. 

Dr. Chapman's book talks about one couple who had a serious conflict in their marriage over what color to paint the bathroom of their new home, a conflict that brought the couple to Dr. Chapman because they were both angered by the disagreement and considering ending their marriage. Through Dr. Chapman's strategies on listening and compromise, the pair agreed to a unique compromise: they would paint one wall of the bathroom the color the wife wanted and the other wall the color the husband wanted. The couple was ecstatic about their solution and was thrilled to tell friends and visitors the story of their great compromise when asked about their unique bathroom design. 

Conflicts can be major, like choosing what city to live in after getting married, or minor, like where to east out for a date. It's important to treat each conflict seriously though because you never know how much blowing off a minor conflict or belittling your spouse in a minor argument can hurt your relationship. Marisa and I had a minor conflict today when we were choosing where to eat out, but we solved it because we didn't want our food choices to impact our love and commitment to each other. By working together, we actually strengthened our relationship and love for one another.  

Compromise can lead to what you want and happiness!
After an day in Houston filled with visiting a Hindu temple, learning about world cultures, and swimming, we were both pretty hungry. Since I am from Arizona originally, I cannot get enough of Whataburger! That restaurant is so amazing. I really was wanting to get a burger, fries, and Strawberry Fanta soda as I always do. So, for the umpteenth time, I told Marisa we should go to Whataburger. She was not very keen on that suggestion because of how unhealthy it is and how many times she has eaten there as a native Houstonian. She suggested a kind of pricy-ish Mediterranean buffet. I was not really going to argue with her on this issue anyways, but while I went to get a glass of water, she was searching on yelp and found a place called M&M grill that was close to where I live. The Ms stand for "Mexican and Mediterranean." We looked at their menu and saw that I could get a hamburger and Marisa could get the shawarma she wanted. We agreed to go to M&M which made us both very happy and more in love with each other because we both got what we wanted, more or less, and we solved another conflict together! This conflict could have easily gotten out of hand if either of us felt like our suggestions about where we wanted to eat devalued the other person's opinion and desires. Thankfully, Marisa and I make compromise a key ingredient of our successful relationships. 

While conflicts are not always this simple, it's important to always be ready to resolve conflicts by compromising. You are not always going to get your way, and often you'll find it's more rewarding to compromise a little bit and make your spouse happy. Whenever you and your spouse enter a conflict, always embrace the attitude of Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. You'll find that your harsh words and stubbornness is never the answer, but compromise is!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Accepting One Another

     You want to know one of the things I love most about Josh?  The fact that he ACCEPTS me.  He has always accepted me just as I am, quirks and all.  But he doesn't accept me in spite of of my quirks.  He accepts and loves me because of them, because they are as much a part of me as my hands and feet.

     In so many relationships, couples simply learn to put up with each other's quirks and habits.  This is fine for short term relationships, but in the long term, it becomes problematic.  You see, when we merely put up with our significant other's habits, we aren't loving them as are.  We aren't valuing their unique personality.  Thus, our love is somewhat conditional.  It's like saying, "Honey, I love you except for the fact that you (insert habit here)."  This is fine and dandy if you're not looking for any kind of serious commitment, but in long term relationships, it simply won't work.

     I'm not saying that you have to love your partner's habit of leaving trails of socks or speaking with his or her mouth full of food.  What I am saying is that it is vital to love your partner for who they are.  Their unusual or quirky habits are what make them who they are just as your habits make you who you are.  My mom used to quote, "Watch your habits, for they become character."  How right she was!  Our habits are what reveal our character.  The boyfriend or husband that leaves his socks everywhere has probably always been more of a laid-back kind of guy, and there's nothing wrong with that!  It's simply who he is.

     Sure, you may wish he didn't leave his socks everywhere, but it's important to remember that he's still the same laid-back guy you fell in love with, perhaps just a bit more laid-back than before.  Of course, if his sock habit bugs you, there's also nothing wrong with calmly confronting him about it and constantly reminding him to put his socks where they belong.  Obviously, it's easier said than done, but it's something that we should all strive for in our relationships.  After all, clear, calm communication exists in every healthy, thriving relationship.  

     Like all couples, Josh and I can get pretty impatient with each other at times.  Yet, we are always pushing forward and strengthening our lines of communication.  We are always striving to unconditionally accept and love each other.  Every now and then, I'll ask Josh something like "What if I got this pierced?" or "What if I dyed my hair this color?"  Most guys would probably flip out or criticize me.  Not Josh.  He has always responded in love.  He'll tell me his thoughts first and then make it clear that my decisions are my own and he'll support and love me no matter what.  If that's not unconditional love, I don't know what is.

     Once, when I "dyed" my hair with blue hair chalk, I actually shocked Josh.  At first, he didn't know what to say about my blue streaked hair.  Finally, he told me that he had loved my natural hair color as it was, but said that my new blue streaks would probably grow on him and that I had beautiful hair no matter what color it was.  Another time, I got another piercing on one of my ears, which also surprised Josh, but he told me that the more he looked at me and my new piercing, the more he actually like it.  He's even told me that it looks cute on me because it's become a part of me.

     I used these examples to give you a clear idea of what I mean when I say that it is important for couples to accept and love each other's uniqueness.  Though Josh may not always agree with what I say and do, he always makes it perfectly clear that he loves me for ME.  He doesn't just love me when I agree with him nor does he just love me and put up with my quirks.  He loves me completely and unconditionally, just as I love him.

Ephesians 4:2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Monday, June 23, 2014

When the Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary

For those of you in love with the person you believe God has placed in your life, I am sure you feel the same sort of happiness and completeness that Marisa and I feel. Love according to God's plan is something extraordinary and something that He has promised us in his word.

Some people are able and practicing living and loving according to God's plan and have a blessed and fulfilled life. However, many more people have relationships where the extraordinary becomes ordinary. Marisa wrote in this post about how we and everyone have points in their relationships where they take their significant other for granted. It's easy to forget that our spouse is a blessing and was constructed in God's perfect image. When we forget how truly special our significant other is, the extraordinary that God has blessed us with in our lives becomes ordinary.

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Marisa and I were blessed yesterday to hear a sermon taught by by a pastor at Ecclesia in Houston. The pastor spoke about how God uses the ordinary in our lives sometimes to be the way we hear him. Christ chose 12 ordinary men to be his disciples. God used ordinary loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes. What we think may be ordinary in our lives is always a blessing that God has given us.

Considering your spouse "ordinary" is not a good thing and not something I would encourage to make you feel better connected to them. My point in writing this post is to show you that if your spouse is now just a part of your routine or if you have become to take them for granted, God can use your routine and "ordinaryness" to transform your relationship. Sometimes it takes thinking someone or something is ordinary to realize how truly powerful and amazing it is when we finally reach the realization that what we once took for granted is awesome, a blessing, and cannot be taken for granted.

Taking each other for granted and considering each other "ordinary" and "part of a routine" is what nearly destroyed Marisa's and my relationship. However, through the tough circumstances that we have recently endured forever, we both realize now that what we once held as "ordinary" in our lives--each other--is actually the most extraordinary, fantastic, and wholesome blessing God has given both of us in our lives.

The reason I titled this post "When the Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary" is because that's how many relationships end. People often take God's blessings in our lives as granted. Our spouses are not "ordinary," but whenever we fall into a routine of ordinary things God uses the ordinary as his Holy ground for showing you the beauty of his presence and image. Are you listening and looking around in your life for how the "ordinary" is actually "extraordinary?"

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Family Feud--Biblical Advice for Solving Marital Problems

Unlike the popular gameshow "Family Feud" where families vie for a cash prize of up to $20,000 each show, most (if not all) married couples have family feuds of their own with their spouse. Financial, spiritual, emotional, and sexual problems can all result in a failed or miserable marriage if they are not properly dealt with and if the couple does not communicate well.

I was reading some passages in the Bible today on humility, grace, forgiveness and love and I came to realize that problems in marriage, or the "family feuds," stem from 3 main sources: his past & her past, his concerns & her concerns, and mutual problems from relationship. Understanding that there are 3 main sources of conflict within marriages and relationships can help us break down the method to resolving conflict according to God's plan and commandment for us.

Before I analyze how to deal with the individual sources of conflict, I want to say that I am a firm believer that marital or relationship problems can be solved if each spouse is willing to diligently follow God's word for how we are supposed to deal with trials and problems. Some people believe that the concept of marriage is flawed. God's perfect plan is not flawed. People are flawed, but reading and applying God's scripture to your life and your marriage can dramatically impact your happiness and the happiness of those around you.

So, onto dealing with the sources of conflict...

1. His past & her past:

I praise God everyday that Marisa still wants to be with me. I have an interesting past filled with things that I regret doing (but appreciate the lessons I learned), as well as a handful of baggage from my parents' divorce. I also suffer significantly from feelings of disrespect that stem from the way my Mom has treated me like a child for years into my adolescence and early adulthood. I often mistake things Marisa or anyone else does careless or rudely as direct signs that they disrespect me, which is obviously not true.

I also suffer with some feelings of worthlessness and feeling bad about my body. I matured early, was tall at a young age, and had (and have) far more body hair than most of my peers. This has caused me to believe at times that I am unworthy of the truly beautiful woman Marisa is (inside and out) and has caused intense feelings of jealousy whenever she gets too close in my opinion to other guys.

I am quite the case and it is truly a blessing that God has given me to have Marisa in my life. She has taught me so much about sacrificial love and persevering through trials and I am so grateful for the maturity in Christ and in general that this relationship has allowed me to acquire. All that being said, I still have the various issues from the past that cause conflict, and the way Marisa and I resolve conflict depends on the way we are able to address and resolve issues in the past. 

Ephesians 4:32 commands us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." It is key to your spouse's happiness to always be gentle and always forgive. Love covers a multitude of sins, including sins that have roots in the past. You must love and bear with your partner through their issues and the emotional baggage of their past. I am blessed that Marisa follows this commandment from God and that I do the same for her life. 

I think this is the most important thing you can practice to resolve conflicts that are rooted in the past. There is a saying that says "everyone comes with baggage... find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack." You need to be committed to helping your spouse or partner sort through the past and you need to be gentle, understanding, caring, and loving as they deal with any unresolved conflict. God tells us to be understanding, supportive, and caring towards our spouse because it is way easier to deal with the past and help people understand their personal problems than trying to retroactively deal with problems caused by the past. 

2. His concerns and her concerns: 

It's natural to be worried and wonder about your future, but too much worry, fear, and doubt can destroy a marriage. If there is one thing I have learned throughout my life, there are only one thing certain in life and those are God and His Word. Obviously money is important to paying bills and having a sense of financial security, but God is the ultimate provider and the world is an ever-changing place. However, money is a false sense of complete security. In October of 1929, millions of people woke up around the world to find their vast fortunes or entire life savings blown away by the wave of run off spending due to fear and speculation. 

People tend to use fear and speculation to drive their life, especially their financial choices. People save money for the future, believing that some greenbacks (since nothing is really "gold backed" anymore) equate to security. It's crazy to me that we invest so much into believing that something that is completely worthless is (in some peoples' opinions) more powerful and secure than God. We speculate about our retirement and our lives with our families and become concerned that we do not have enough money.

The same basic principles of fear and speculation oftentimes cause conflict over concerns pertaining to the future. God has given us his Word about the fleeting nature and uncertainty of the future and advice for how to deal with a spouse that is overly concerned. 

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Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. --Matthew 6: 31-33
God knows and can meet our needs if we trust in him. Whenever your family falls into a place of economic uncertainty, dwell on God's promise to us and you will find that your heart will be put at ease and you will be inspired to put God's plan for your life and success into action. Encourage your spouse to place their trust in God and believe in his blessings if they are struggling. The future may look bleak, but God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 that he knows the "plans he has for you...plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I think most concerns people have about the future pertain to potential financial problems. However, for other areas of concern, bear with your spouse knowing that the two of you are a team and that you have made a committment in front of God and the community to tackle the problems of life together. Embrace the concept James speaks of by "counting all trials as joy" because trials develop you into better people and can draw you closer in love through their overcoming. Work with your spouse diligently and persist in love. If a third party is needed to help you communicate your concerns about your future, seek out counsel from your pastor or from a licensed Christian Marriage and Family counselor.

3. Mutual problems from the relationship:

A lot of people enter relationships and marriages with the expectations are going to be a certain way. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, expectations are oftentimes not reality and this leads people to communicate poorly because they intentionally believe their spouse is doing something wrong.

Whenever you get into a heated argument because of failed expectations (or any other reason), follow the advice of Proverbs 15:1 by using a "soft answer" to "turn away wrath" instead of harsh or abusive words that create more problems. There are times where you will be wrong, there will be times where you spouse will be wrong, and there are times where you will both be loved. The important thing is preservers and your actions play a big role in whether or not your relationship stays together and his happy. This website gives readers 3 key phrases that they should always practice using with their spouse during and after arguments. They are the following:  
  • I love you.
  • I forgive you.
  • I'm sorry.
Just saying these phrases will advance you so far in your relationship and your ability to truly understand and meet the needs of your spouse.

A final note: One thing I struggled with at the beginning of my relationship with Marisa was pride and a belief that there was nothing wrong with me and all of our problems stemmed from her past and her wrongdoings. This is a bologna way to think about things! You as much a part of the problem and you can be an equal or greater amount of the solution. We're all imperfect and sinners. We must recognize this and not act haughty around our loved ones. Praying the following prayer Psalm 15: 1-13 daily can help you approach "problems" you think your spouse is solely responsible for with the attitude of grace, humility and love: 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lessons from "The Vow"

     If you were to ask me what one of my favorite chick flicks is, I'd have to say "The Vow", a movie inspired by a true story.  The story centers around Leo and Paige, a married couple who get in a serious car accident that leaves Paige with no memory of the last five years of her life, including all memory of her husband.  Throughout the remainder of the movie, Leo not only attempts to help his wife recover her memory, but also tries to win her heart for the second time. *SPOILER ALERT* Paige never does recover her memory of Leo, but she does gradually falls in love with him again, after which the couple is reunited for good.

     When I first saw this movie several months ago, I was touched.  Not often do you see Hollywood producing chick flicks of such quality.  Most usually revolve around sex, alcohol, drugs, or money (or all of the above).  Yet, "The Vow" is a movie that reminds you that true love is powerful.  It reminds you that marriage isn't just a wedding and eloquent vows.  Marriage is commitment, perseverance, and forgiveness.  In the movie, Leo remains committed to Paige no matter how many times she spurns him and his attempts to remind her of her vows.  He continually perseveres, doing whatever it takes to win her heart again.  Most beautiful of all, Leo never lets his wife's coldness make him forget his own vows to her.  On several occasions, Paige makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him.  Nevertheless, Leo forgives her behavior time and time again, always remembering the woman she was and the woman he knows she can be.

     While Leo and Paige's story is certainly unique, it reminds me of my own relationship with Josh.  We've gone through our ups and downs just like any couple, but we've always managed to find our way back to each other.  In rough times, we've chosen to dwell on the happy memories we've shared over these last nine months.  In the past, Josh, like Leo, has often had to fight to keep our relationship alive.  He's had to persevere and fight for my heart.  While I'd like to say that I've been the model girlfriend and stood by Josh's side through the thick and thin, I'd be lying.  At one point, I'd sunk so deep into my apathy that I cared little for our relationship and little for myself.  I believed every lie I was fed by the world and allowed myself to temporarily forget who I was.

     Yet, even when I'd given up on myself, Josh never gave up on me.  I'd pull away, and he would pull me back.  At my lowest point, he picked me up, dusted me off, and helped me get moving in the right direction.  Though I'd hurt Josh with my behavior more than once, he never failed to forgive me and continually reminded me not of my many faults, but of who I am and what I have the potential to be.

     So, as you can see, our story is a bit like Leo and Paige's.  Our story hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows, and it has NEVER been without its fair share of trials.  Contrary to what outsiders might perceive, our relationship  has been marked by pitfalls, pain, and apathy.  At times, it's nearly been stretched to its limit.  Even so, something always brings us back.  Something always reminds us of why we fell in love in the first place, and that something has always been God.  When Josh or I have fallen short, He's given us strength to persevere and the strength to love each other through it all.  There have been times when I've felt unlovable and acted in a manner that wouldn't encourage anyone to love me, but Josh has always managed to somehow see past the facades I've thrown up.  He's ripped down these facades and loved me despite my faults.  And that's really the message of "The Vow" isn't it?  Unconditional love, commitment, perseverance, and forgiveness.

7 Courtship Date Ideas

It's the weekend! After a long week at my internship, I am very blessed to be able to have this weekend to recuperate from the stress. Unfortunately for Marisa and I, I have to go to San Antonio, TX for a bonding road trip this weekend with another group of friends from a freshman orientation that we all participate in as counselors. We have so many happy memories from our dates together that we've had and I know we are going to make many more in the future.

In lieu of me posting something about the ideology of young courtship and marriage, I am going to give y'all 7 courtship date ideas for you and your significant other (or even spouse) to do! I use the word "courtship" in the sense that your date's objective is more to get to know the other person, rather than the "modern" dating talked about in many Christian books where intimacy and romance goes ahead of committing and knowing your partner. It's my hope that these date ideas genuinely bless you and help you get to know your date or spouse better!

1. Go to the Beach!

Relaxing at the beach in Galveston!
Like I talked about in this post, going to the beach in Galveston, TX with Marisa was amongst the happiest experiences of my life because I truly felt relaxed and connected with her. What I recommend you do is if you live near a beach (or even a lake), leave your house early on Saturday or Sunday morning and plan to spend the whole day with your date or spouse at the beach or in the beach town. In addition to going to the beach, Marisa and I ate at "The Place," a famous restaurant on the island, we went to the boardwalk and rode rides and played some games, we went shopping at "The Strand" stores for fun souvenirs, and we got our fortunes read by one of the robotic fortunes machines. This date was a little pricy overall, but there are ways you can reduce the cost of the trip if you don't do everything we do and just relax.

What you'll need:
  • Money (I'd say about $20-$60 depending on what you plan on doing and for parking)
  • Food (if you want to pack your own lunch and snacks instead of eating out)
  • A swimsuit and a change of clothes
  • Lots of sunscreen, sunglasses, and perhaps even an umbrella
  • A towel
  • A lawn chair to sit on
  • A happy, relaxed attitude
2. Go to a Museum!

If you love art, history, or science, a trip to a local museum is the thing for you and your partner! Reach a mutual agreement on one or two museums to attend during the day or let each person pick one to go to together. You can learn a lot about the person you are dating or married to by their choice of museum. For instance, I know if I asked Marisa what museum she would want to go to in Houston, she would say in a heartbeat that she wants to go to the Museum of Fine Arts. She loves art and can spend hours in the museum closely observing the detailed brush strokes of the art on display. This didn't just teach me that Marisa loves art, but she also pays fine attention to detail. I am a big picture type of guy, so I like looking at a painting for about a minute or so and move on. She encourages me to slow down and actually look at all the precise details and helps me slow down and "smell the roses." I love her and am so grateful to her for helping me appreciate the details in life!

What you'll need:
  • Money for entry to the museums and parking (check ahead of time to see what the cost is and if there are any discounts or free days)
  • Food or money for food at the museums or at a restaurant
  • Patience... you may not be as fascinated by every piece of art or display as your partner is, so it's important to show him or her that you care enough to stay with them and continue observing whatever they find fascinating
3. DIY Dinner at Home!

Going out can be really expensive. That's why Marisa and I cook a lot for ourselves whenever she comes over to my apartment for an evening date. (Actually, she cooks and I do the dishes because my cooking skills include pouring cereal and not setting hot pockets on fire.) Cooking dinner with your partner can be a perfect way to get to know your partner over a home-cooked meal, as well as learn what roles you and your partner naturally fall into in the kitchen if you are still dating. For instance, I know Marisa will basically always cook and that I'll basically always help and do the dishes. DIY meals are the best, too, because there is nothing more satisfying than sharing the food that you cooked with the person that you love.

What you'll need:
  • Ingredients for your recipe
  • Candles for a romantic dinner
  • Music for cooking and dinner
  • A smoke detector in case things go awry
4. Go on a 'Selfie'  Adventure
Example of a random selfie!

You can do this however you want. You can drive around town to a bunch of different locations, but I actually highly encourage that you and your partner walk around downtown or another fun area to do this. You can eat out if you wish, but basically the idea behind a selfie adventure is that you and your partner can be together, learn a lot about each other and the community, and take funny photos of yourself. It's the perfect date idea to have a lot of fun and make great memories together (in the form of hilarious selfless). Lord only knows how many selfies Marisa and I have on our phones as a couple. Maybe over 500, and we've only been dating for a little over 9 months!

What you'll need:

  • A camera or camera phone
  • Money if you plan to buy anything while out on your adventure
  • A good sense of humor and your beautiful smile
5. Babysit for a Couple with Kids

You're probably thinking that this date doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but personally I think it'll teach you invaluable lessons about your significant other that you need to learn, especially if you are still dating. This idea is adapted with inspiration from a courtship date idea Joshua Harris wrote about in Boy Meets Girl. Marisa and I haven't done this yet, but we want to at some point. It's easy for people to say how they want to raise their kids and it's easy to think someone is going to be a good parent, but until you or your significant other is responsible for kids, it's hard really to say how someone is around children. By babysitting kids, you'll learn how you and your partner share responsibility with children, how you and your partner treat children, and how you and your partner discipline children (to an extent). If you find that during the course of the evening you and your partner are having conflicts with how to take care of the children, you may want to talk to them more extensively some point about the evening and their goals of how they want to raise a family (if you both want a family, of course). Personally, I think if everything goes well, it could be a really fun evening, too! I love kids. They are full of energy and an inspiration for what God wants us to be like... more mature, but have the heart and love of a child. 

What you'll need: 
  • A couple that needs a babysitter for an evening--please bless them and babysit free of charge
  • Patience... kids can be a little hard to deal with sometimes
  • Observation--be sure to watch how your partner handles kids
  • Responsibility--if you don't know how to change a diaper or handle children, perhaps try learning these skills before you get put into a situation where you have to do this
6. Work on a Mutual Project

Marriage is basically a team sport that lasts for a life time. When you get married (or if you already are), in order to accomplish anything effectively you and your spouse need to work together. This date idea is inspired by one of the dates on this blog which recommends couples work on a mutual project together. If one of you have some house-keeping project at your house or need to do yard work, you should do it together and make a date of it, keeping each other company while doing a seemingly meaningless task. You could also do something more creative, like write a story, write a song, work on a scrapbook, or something else that would require you both to creatively contribute. It's good, in my opinion, to develop a healthy teamwork dynamic as a couple early in the relationship.

What you'll need: 

  • A task to do
  • Commitment to the task
  • Other supplies per task needs
7. Go to a Local Church or Study the Bible or a Christian Book Together

This is something that's REALLY important in my mind that all Christian couples do together during courtship and while married. We all need fellowship. If you aren't plugged into a local church or you are but want to try something new, perhaps you and your partner can attend a different church and see what it's like. Talk about the experience over lunch after the service. Coming in at number 5, this blog recommends that couples attend a Bible study together. That's a good option too! Part of our job in marriage is grow deeper individually and as a couple in our love and service to Christ. Encourage your partner or spouse to go with you on this journey. Marisa and I have been blessed to attend Ecclesia in Houston these past few weeks. Ecclesia is a new church for both of us and I am truly blessed with what I am learning there with her.

In closing I want to clarify why going to church came in as #7 on my list and not #1. First of all, I wrote down 7 courtship date ideas because 7 is God's perfect number. Secondly, I put going to church at #7 on the list to reemphasize that point. In my mind, going to church really shouldn't be a date, but a habit, and unfortunately I know it's not a habit for everyone. Marisa and I did not attend church regularly at the begging part of our relationship, and that's something I personally regret. I've grown more with her in the months we've attended church and made God a priority in our lives. God's perfect number is 7, and his perfect plan for us and for all is marriage. Marriage is not a broken institution... people are broken. God has a plan and instructions on how to grow to love and how to mature spiritually. Making courtship a top priority in your dating life will please God and will give you more of an opportunity to serve him and serve your partner. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Lesson from The Princess Bride on Marriage

"Mawwiage. Mawwiage is bwings us togevah today!"

When it comes to the best movie marriage scenes of all time, this one from The Princess Bride (based off of William Goldman's book) takes the cake. It's hilarious, but more importantly the movie has an overall message about "mawwiage" that I think is really important: your fiancĂ©e does not need to be perfect or wealthy, but a person of character.
If you haven't seen this great movie, I would highly recommend you watch it at some point. I'll give you a brief summary of the movie so you get my point in case you haven't seen it. The story of the movie, read from a book by a grandfather to his grandson, tells the tale of Wesley and Buttercup, a young farm couple that is madly in love. Buttercup is stunningly gorgeous and Wesley decides he must go to America to find his fortune so he can provide for Buttercup and their future family. After years of separation while Wesley is trying to earn his fortune, Buttercup eventually comes to believe that Wesley is dead and she is coerced into marrying the evil Prince Humperdinck so he can ascend the throne. Wesley returns from abroad to rescue the princess from the prince, but in the process she is kidnapped by another group of men who Wesley, under the alias of the "Dread Pirate Roberts," follows until he can save her.

After Wesley's true identity is revealed to Buttercup, the prince and his assistant, the "six-fingered man," are able to capture the pair. The prince plans to marry Buttercup and she makes him agree to release Wesley, but the prince and his assistant keep Wesley hostage and torture him to death. Wesley is eventually revived and with the help of two of the outlaws who kidnapped Buttercup the trio is able storm the castle and interrupt the wedding. Wesley saves Buttercup from nearly committing suicide because of the marriage to the prince and the two ride off into the sunset.

Ok... so marriage isn't exactly "riding off into the sunset," but I think some of the messages in this movie are interesting and warrant some attention. Parts of the plot reflect society's expectations and qualifications for marriage, while other parts contradict these qualifications and say that true love, character, and commitment trumps all.

Wesley's sacrifice at the beginning of the story to leave Buttercup behind to make a fortune is admirable and an enormous sacrifice. Sacrifice is key to any marriage's success. This is part of the message that Wesley gives viewers, but I think his choice also reflects societal expectations. Instead of being with the love of his life and making a mediocre living as a farmhand, Wesley wants to pursue and amass a fortune before he can be with Buttercup. This is a BIG problem society has regarding the "qualifications" for a married couple. Married couples should be able to be financially independent of their parents, as commanded in the Bible when it says men and women become one after "cleaving" ties to their parents. That does not mean the couple has to be rich or "well-establihsed" in their career. The biggest objection many parents and many other people have with young marriage is that the couple isn't financially prepared because they don't have the wealth to marry. Buttercup sends a huge message by rejecting the wealth of Prince Humperdinck in favor of pursuing her true love. She is engaged to marry the prince, but knows that despite the fact that she and Wesley are poor, the love that they have is real and not something that she needs to fake. Society, unfortunately, places too much emphasis on the financial ability of potential couples and not their character.

The character of a couple is not assessed as a qualification for marriage by many members of society. Like we discussed, many people think that finances are critical to having a happy marriage. I, however, think character is far more important of a qualification. If a couple has the right character, the finances are unimportant because they will work hard to make ends meat and they will not forsake each other in financial hardship. Whenever I talk with people about the idea of getting married young (for me or for them), they often tell me that they are not ready and not sure when they will be. I am not saying that Wesley and Buttercup are 'great' example of character, but I would still say Wesley's dedication to return and rescue Buttercup after nearly 5 years and Buttercup's dedication to still love Wesley say something for the power of character and commitment. However, true character and commitment is a lot more than what Hollywood portrays.

Ted Cunningham discusses the importance of character in his book, Young and In Love (which I highly recommend you read). Cunningham says that character is the most important trait anyone should consider in their potential mate or in the validity of their child or friend's desire to get married at a young age. Character assessment in pre-marriage reflections should consider these characteristics: the person's relationship with God, the person's maturity, the person's selflessness, and the person's commitment. 

  1. Relationship with God: Is God a priority in the person's life? How long have they been a Christian? Do they have a story of how they came to God? Do they have a testimony? Do they pray? Do they want to raise kids with God's word? Do they attend church regularly and good to additional fellowship groups? These are all important questions you should consider before marrying anyone, young or old. A person's relationship with God can determine how they will act in all aspects of marriage.
  2. Maturity: Is the person working or willing to get a job soon? Do they act responsibly? Do they manage money responsibly and budget? Do they live within their means? Is partying or having fun more important than commitments to God, the church, school, or their family? These are just a few questions you can ask of your potential mate to gage their maturity. Your heart will lead you on what is and is not an appropriate level of maturity. 
  3. Selflessness: Is the person willing to sacrifice for you and your future family? Are they willing to give up some "dreams" to be with you? Do they get angry at you easily or frustrated easily? Are they more concerned with having fun and doing things their way than meeting your needs or doing things that are important to you? Again, these need to be thought about seriously because if your mate is not selfless I do not care how old they are, they ARE NOT ready to marry. 
  4. Commitment: Have they had the opportunity to prove their commitment to you by working through tough circumstances with you? Do they want to get married? Do they think divorce is a valid choice if things "aren't working out?" Will they get help for your marriage if there are issues? Have they been reading and preparing themselves for marriage by reading books on marriage and focusing their life on God? It may sound simple, but commitment is make or break for relationships. If your mate's personal interests trump their commitment to you, you best rethink your choice in marrying this person. 
Summary: The Princess Bride's message to society is clear. Do not let financial circumstances--something society says must be "stable" before marrying--deter you from getting married. Be financially stable, and make a plan to earn money, save, and spend responsibly as needed, but do not let a societal qualification determine when you can and cannot marry. A person's character is more important than their checkbook, and if their character is in the right place and your's is too, odds are you have a lot better of a chance of success in marriage than someone who chooses to marry someone of poor character because the person is "financially stable." 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" -- Why Goofiness is Important to Marriage and Relationships

Marisa's commentary on the last post she wrote about how serious and deep my thoughts and posts are got me thinking that I need to write some more uplifting and "light" posts. Marriage (and commitment to marriage) are two subjects that are difficult to think about in a "light" way. Both require work, planning, and the execution of steps on the path to becoming selfless. Being truly selfless is one of the most difficult things a person can ever do, but something God has called us all to do.

Today's post from me on my lunch break will be about why goofiness is important to marriage and relationships. This is a radical departure from my posts about dying to self or defending the principle of young marriage, and it is a much needed one. The seriousness of marriage (or even a commitment of wanting to get married) can be so serious at times that it can leave us frustrated, confused, or concerned. We can worry about the past and the future all we want, and there is definitely a benefit to "worrying" in a positive way by sorting out the past with your spouse and planning the future. However, too much worry can kill an otherwise healthy and beautiful relationship. We see it all the time. The Huffington Post comments on how too much worry in the form of repeated arguments about finances can lead to divorce. A score of other things can cause marriages to fall apart when there is too much "worry" in the relationship and not enough joy.

It's healthy to revisit the past and learn the lessons you need to learn from your mistakes. It's also important to plan with your spouse for the future. However, the only moment you have for certain with your spouse or significant other is the present. Stop worrying all the time and be happy. Let goofiness be a routine in your marriage or relationship and you'll find that you not only worry less, but that you are happier and more fulfilled with your spouse or significant other.

You might not be goofy or may have a dry sense of humor, I get that. Despite that, you really need to let happiness be a habit in your life and in your marriage. Even eHarmony notes that happiness and a playful nature in a couple can something that makes or breaks relationships:

Having a lighthearted approach to life and love makes for happy individuals—and of course happy individuals make happy romantic couples. It’s no wonder the Old Testament book of Proverbs includes this wisdom: “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

So make happiness and playfulness a priority in your relationship! You might be thinking "How on earth do I do that, Josh?" Well, I am a pretty goofy person, and my laugh has been described by Marisa and many others as being "contagious." I have a few tips on how to be goofy and how to let you and your spouse or significant others be light-hearted instead of constantly worrying by fretting about the past or future.

Me being goofy in Galveston!
  1. Don't be afraid to be weird. I know a lot of people are afraid they will come off as "weird" to their significant other, especially on the first date or important occasions. There's nothing worse than acting goofy and being your playful self only to be duped and realize that the person you are with really does not like your goofiness. Take it as a blessing though if you are dating someone and you realize you cannot be yourself around them. You aren't meant to be if you feel that you have to hide your humor or change the way you act around your significant other. However, if you are already married, I suggest you talk about your humor if it really is a divisive issue between the two of you. Something that is meant to be uplifting shouldn't tear you apart. You should definitely change bad habits like cursing, being vulgar, etc., but good things like your sense of humor and personality need not change. They are an integral part of you and will not change. I'm not suggesting you do something really weird on the first date with your potential spouse, but after getting to know him or her, start letting your goofiness take control sometimes and don't always be so up-tight. Goofiness can diffuse arguments. I know that one time I diffused an argument with Marisa by telling her I was hungry and saying in the most God-awful, strange, high-pitched, squeaky voice, "I want to eat Whataburger. Whataburger, Whataburger, Whataburger." You probably have no idea what I am talking about without an audio recording or something like that, but I know Marisa does and it will make her smile and laugh when she reads this. You need to have these sorts of inside jokes with your spouse. I can just say "Whataburger" in my voice now and Marisa will instantly smile. *I also posted the picture of me trying to balance the giant chess piece on my head to show you that you can be goofy with your spouse in public, too. Marisa took that photo when we were in Galveston, TX, shortly after we had a pretty large trial hit our lives and shake our relationship. Our goofiness and happiness made that day the happiest day of both of our lives in a time when things were still settling down from the storm that blew through in our lives.
  2. Learn your spouse's since of humor, and tailor your jokes to them. Yes, I know I just said that you shouldn't change your since of humor for your significant other. What I meant by that was more don't change your personality. If you are funny and your significant other is uptight, you can't really change to be more like the other. However, usually the biggest issue between spouses regarding humor is the type of humor they enjoy. For instance, I grew up with the very bad habit of sarcasm being one of my main humor tools. Some people think it's funny, others do not. Marisa really, really, really does not like sarcasm, especially sarcasm directed at her. I've grown to change and make my humor not directed at her whatsoever. Instead I focus my humor at other funny things, including funny things I do. She likes mocking me when I say "Oh" abruptly whenever I drop something. She also likes poking fun at how I've had a really bad track record with dropping food on myself while eating out. The average person would get irritated at humor being directed at them, but I've learned to tailor my humor to make her happy and make her laugh. Seeing her laugh makes me laugh and puts me on top of the world. I don't really even care if the humor is directed at me or not. If you can laugh at yourself, you're doing good!
  3. Be spontaneous! Don't plan a joke waiting for the right time to use it. See an opportunity arise and use it. The best humor is the jokes and things that are spur-of-the-moment. After all, you won't tell a joke and forget a punch line if you are making it up on the spot. I think the best jokes I have ever told Marisa were based off of things that happened in the moment I told them. Take a random and funny selfie with your phone. Speak randomly in a foreign accent. Give your significant other a random peck. If variety is the spice of life, spontaneity is the seasoning.
  4. BE YOURSELF! I capitalized this because I think it is the most important advice I could give anyone in general with relationships. If you are not genuine, sincere, and yourself, you are doing your significant other a disservice. Use your personality, humor, and style to win someone's affection and not a pseudo-persona. You'll be surprised to find that someone in the world enjoys your humor and style just as much as you do.
I hope these tips help! Happiness is key to the success of any marriage, and I believe goofiness is a principle ingredient in the recipe for happiness and a fulfilled life with your spouse.

I'll close with a final thought. Goofiness and humor IS NOT the key to a successful, happy marriage. Proverbs 14:13 speaks to this common misconception: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief." Humor can never be used as an alternative to addressing issues within the marriage. It must only be used to diffuse tough and serious situations, but not forget them entirely. Success in marriage is determined by a variety of things, such as maturity and selflessness. Humor, however, can help grown and deepen the love and the bond between you and your spouse and I encourage you to embrace laughter, joy, and goofiness as a daily habit in your life!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Little Things

     I'd love to offer you some great piece of financial wisdom or some secret to a lasting relationship, but I can't.  I can't not because I am incapable of doing so, but because I seem to excel more at sharing my raw, unfiltered experiences and feelings.  If you haven't already noticed, Josh is the more practical one in the relationship, and I absolutely love him for it.  One of us has to keep the other grounded and that person tends to be Josh.
     Before I go any further, I must say that this post will probably be considerately shorter than the others that Josh and I have written.  In a way, the smallness of this post ties in perfectly with what I'm about to say.  I could always say so much more, but there are some things words cannot express.
     For as long as I can remember, I've had this one quote stuck to several of my Pinterest boards.  It's always been one of my favorite quotes.  It says, "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were big things."  It's simple enough and easy to grasp.  But how many of us can truly say that we live by this quote?  I know I don't, though I certainly try.  We can speed through our lives, never remembering to stop and enjoy every moment.  It's only after those precious moments have long passed that we realize just how precious they are to us.
     I had one of those precious moments just yesterday.  After Josh and I went to church, we took time to read various relationship books as well as quote some of our favorite Bible verses.  A while later, when we were working on our join blog post, John Legend's "All of Me" started playing in the background.  At that point, Josh stopped typing, and we both looked at each other.  No words were needed.  We didn't need to tell each other what we were feeling.  We already knew.  I'll never forget that moment.  It was so perfect and inexplicably beautiful.  As Josh began to softly sing the lyrics to me, I practically melted into his embrace, tears rolling down both of our faces.  And even through the tears, he kept softly singing into my ear.
     I don't say all of this to make you think that we're the most amazing couple ever and that it's all sunshine and rainbows for us because it's not.  In fact, we've often had to sing through the tears in our relationship (metaphorically speaking) just to make it through.  I've shared this story to remind you that little moments like this are what we should live for.  They're what we should remember and hold onto in even the darkest of times.  That moment that Josh and I shared will be one that I'll take with me to the grave.  It may seem inconsequential to some, but I was fortunate enough to recognize it's beauty as it happened.  I was able to cherish it and truly savor it before it became a part of the past.
     If there's one thing I want you to take away from this post, it's that time is fleeting.  We don't even know if we'll be here tomorrow.  Thus, it's all the more important to make the most of the time we have left and recognize the inherent value of the little things in life.

Living 1 Corinthians 13 in Our Lives--God's Command to Love

On my lunch break again. Praise God for having something to do productive during my break instead of sitting around and just eating! And thanks be to God for me being able to post twice at work because my boss showed up late!

One thing I've noticed recently is that people are more in a habit of believing the idea of marriage is what causes marriages to fail, not that people are the problem. Ever since Adam and Eve indulged in the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, people are naturally inclined to selfish, flesh-pleasing desires. People want riches, fame, and attractive sexual partners, yet in the pursuit of these desires they wind up more empty. A life not pursuing God's plan and living according to his word is a life wasted.

So how can we refocus on God's plan and not be concerned with the distractions of man? How are we able to live God's plan through us and not want to have the desire to do foolish or harmful things?

Simply put, live a 1 Corinthians 13 life and marriage. You need to die to yourself, love those around you, and do everything out of love without any expectation of returns before you can truly live a happy, fulfilled life. 1 Corinthians 13 (1-3) is profound in saying that you can have the talent, the resources, and do amazing things, but if you DO NOT do it out of love it means nothing:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

This scripture highlights the issue many people face today. People do things for at least partially selfish reasons. For example, people volunteer or give to charity with the expectation they will be praised since many charities tell donors that they have shout-outs or have special receptions for big donors. In reality, people who donate their time and money should be doing so out of love and with no expectation of something in return. I AM NOT saying that everyone who donates time or money and gets recognized is doing it wrong, rather that if they are donating partially because of the recognition then they are wrong.

This principle applies to love in marriage. People have false expectations for what they will get from marriage and are not focused on loving selflessly according to God's plan. From the books that I've read on marriage, many women proclaim that their biggest issue with their husbands is that they want sex all the time and the biggest issues husbands have is that they do not get enough sex. Are men and women biologically different and because of this they want different amounts of sex? Perhaps. A better answer, however, is that men have a false expectation (NOT out of love) that getting married to their wife will equate to sex all the time and women believe that men will always meet their emotions needs and, in turn, deserve sex. Instead of loving their wife or husband and sacrificing to meet their spouses emotional, spiritual, and physical needs first, men and women can get irritated at times when their spouse does not want to have sex or meet their emotional need because of these (apparently very common) misconceptions.

It's only when you put the needs of your spouse and the community before your needs that you can have a truly blessed and fulfilling life. Here's how I think we should apply 1 Corinthians 13 4-7 in our marriages and relationships.
  • Verse 4: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." Take the time to make sure your spouse knows how much they mean to you. Be gentle in times of hardship or disagreement, and be patient in resolving conflicts. Speak to your spouse and genuinely listen. Understand them first and then ask them if they are willing and ready to listen to your opinion. Also, ask your spouse how they are doing and compliment them for everything that's going right in their life while encouraging them during trials. Do not boast beyond your spouse's praise towards you... do not bring attention to yourself around your spouse's friends and family, and be humble if you are praised.
  • Verse 5: "It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." It's easy to fail others, but do not seek to intentionally dishonor your spouse. Do not participate in actions that you know are wrong and are going to hurt your spouse. Do not seek to enhance your own pleasure and life before making sure your spouse's needs are met. Do not get angry, especially about trivial offenses. In fact, minimize anger, even about bigger things and transgressions. Do not lose the lessons you have learned from the past, but forget past transgressions or mistakes your spouse has made, as it does not help you in your love to harbor feelings of animosity and hate for the past, and it does not help them by reliving the past through your anger and frustration. Similarly, if you have failed your spouse, do not remain angry at yourself and do not forget the lessons you have learned, but unchain yourself from the power of the guilt from your past by proceeding in love.
  • Verse 6: "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." The truth may hurt sometimes, but the beautiful thing about the love God commands us to follow in Corinthians is that love rejoices in the truth and does not delight in evil. If the truth involves evil, love does not admire it but rather is joyed in the wrongdoing being brought to light. Light shines out darkness. Always have a policy of complete honesty and transparency with your spouse and keep your end of the agreement. Your spouse doesn't need to know every tiny detail of your life, but anything you would consider moderate to major details (e.g. family information, the past, where you are going, what you are doing, how much you are spending) are things you need to tell your spouse.
  • Verse 7: "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." This is pretty straight forward. Always protect your spouse, even if they have hurt you. Always trust them in everything they do. Always hope and persevere, even in tribulations. This is the hardest verse to live by because when we are hurt, we naturally go on defense and hurt our spouse. Focus on making verse 7 a regular habit in your marital and societal conflicts.
If you can apply 1 Corinthians 13 to your life, you will have a happy marriage, a successful career, great friendships, and an amazing family. It's one thing to preach applying it and another to live it. I encourage and challenge you, my friends, to take God's challenge to us to live a life based on his Love and not our selfish ways. I have struggled with this in the past, and will continue to struggle, but through the trials, always know this:

"Love never fails."
--1 Corinthians 13 (Verse 8)--

Why Marrying Young can be Good Financially

Ok, so this post's title is a little bit of a misnomer. I am not trying to say that marrying young has untold benefits of increasing your financial wealth. There are some financial benefits, such as having a combined residence and combined utilities. However, these financial benefits are relatively minor and are not going to make you and your spouse wealthy.

My point with this post is that marrying young can make you wise financially, earning and spending money according to God's plan and allowing you to develop a deep trust for your spouse through joint, transparent finances. When you marry young, you are able to get rooted as a couple in finances instead of falling trap to the rigidity of your spending habits if you marry later in life. As Marisa and I pointed out in this post, living independently for a long time can result in people acquiring habits that are selfish and will not work in marriage. One such habit is selfish finances.

Marriage, in essence, is about maturing as a person spiritually. It is God's way of allowing us to learn at our roots how to be selfless and how to let our selflessness radiate and not affect merely our families, but the community too. When a person is solely concerned about their financial well-being when they live on their own and make their own choices with their personal money, selfishness is likely to following. 1 Timothy 6:10 warns Christians of the pitfall the love and pursuit of money can be in our lives:

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money,    have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows."
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I am not saying that people who marry later in life after being financially established will have marriages doomed to failure. What I am saying is that people who learn to be financially independent may have a more difficult time combining finances in marriage and being financially transparent with their spouse.
In marriage, God calls two to become one, which (in my opinion) includes every aspect of their being, including their finances.

One author blogs about her and her husband's experience growing financially together through marriage. She got married to her husband when she was 19 and he was 21 and admits that things were never a walk in the park financially, especially since they were both not out of college. However, she writes that the rewards of growing financially together, learning to earn, spend, and save transparently with the other, have given them both the benefits of being financially smart and saved them from the enslavement to the pursuit of money. This young wife writes about how being married young and being accountable financially has allowed her and her husband to be tremendously blessed by forming wise financial habits and by placing their trust in God, and not themselves, to get through tough financial times:

I think the difference is that, since we both made minimum wage at our first job {where we met}, we have looked at money as both of ours. We never had money of our own to spend. We didn’t live for 5 years by ourselves making all of the decisions on our own about money. I wasn’t used to taking my own money and going clothing shopping whenever I wanted to with no one to answer to.

The beauty of marrying early is providing young couples with accountability to each other about joint financial resources and realizing that money does not belong to one person or the other, but the family and, ultimately, God. God has called us to love one another and to love our spouses with the sacrificial love of Christ. The Book of Hebrews warns against misplaced love and encourages us to be happy with what we posses: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).

Like Marisa, I, and anyone who believes that young marriage should be a thing society, the church, and families not just approve of, but encourage, we understand that young marriage is not for everyone. If you are not at a place where you honestly can sacrifice your personal spending and financial habits for the betterment of your spouse and family, you probably aren't ready for marriage (young or old). As the blog author I quoted earlier puts it, "If we are to be one within marriage, why doesn’t that extend to money?" I don't believe in separate marital accounts or pre-nuptials. Lying and deceit are the products of serving money instead of God's plan, and having separate accounts is an easy way to let lying and deceitful purchases seep into your marriage and possibly destroy your relationship with your spouse.

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Summary: I believe that if you are mature enough to make sacrifices and are wanting to get married young, you should be willing to start off your journey financially together. Young married couples need not be rich or even "well" established financially... they simply need to be at a place where they are selfless and ready to serve God and their spouse. I plan on getting a part-time job next year in college to get my footing now in preparing for financial independence, and Marisa has told me that she considers doing the same. Marriage is about maturing in Christ spiritually and emotionally. I know marriage (especially young marriage) will not be easy, but I believe the benefits that starting off in life with the woman I know God wants me to marry and love will prove to be awesome in all aspects of my life, but especially in encouraging me to change from being a boy to being a man. It's time more young men and women step up to the plate and marry Godly spouses instead of becoming selfish, lazy, or idle. I want to heed God's call in my life by marrying Marisa and in turn learn to not rely on money, but trust in Him. Marriages are destroyed because of the love of money, which stems from the love of self. Learning to be selfless with money through frugality, sharing, and agreed spending with your spouse early in life before you are "financially rooted" and "independent" will have untold benefits for the success of your marriage.