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Hey guys,

you may have noticed a new page on my site: Guest Posting.

After the great success that was Dustin’s guest post about natural family planning, I decided that it would be awesome if I got more people to write guest posts for Project M. I bet some of you have some terrific material that would totally rock my blog. Wanna share it? I can also swap with you, writing a post for your blog at the same time, if you would like  (and if you have a blog).  I welcome suggestions for topics that I could write on. Just figured I’d make that option available to you, my dearest readers. As I say on my Guest Posting page, with guest posts, everyone wins! Click on the page above to learn more!

Come back Monday (um . . . or Tuesday, depending on how fast I write) to read part 3 of my “What’s the Point of Marriage?” series: To Teach Us About God.

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As I mentioned in my last post, Corey Allan of Simple Marriage argues that the purpose of marriage is to make us more grown up. It is not a tool designed to make us happy, but rather to make us more refined, more emotionally mature.

I couldn’t agree more.

But what exactly does maturity look like?

Corey paints a pretty clear picture of maturity, explaining that growing up “involves balancing two fundamental life forces: the drive for separateness and the drive for togetherness.” You should read his article on the subject to learn more.

Here are some additional things that I think characterize maturity:

  • A capacity for bigger-picture thinking. Before sleeping with someone, a mature person thinks, “Will this be good for my future and overall well-being?” Before totally giving up on school, a mature person asks, “Will it be worth it for me to quit now or will it pay off in the long run?” A mature person can postpone gratification for the sake of the bigger picture.
  • The ability to look past other people’s short-comings because you recognize your own. This might mean saying, “Man, my husband is an insensitive jerk when it comes to my fear of childlessness, but then again, I’m kind of a knob when it comes to his fear of job failure. I guess I should give him a break.”
  • A less demanding mind-set, because you know you can take care of yourself. This might mean saying, “I don’t need my wife to fill my every emotional need because I’m a self-sufficient and resilient individual.”
  • The ability to admit that you need other people in your life, even though you’re a self-sufficient and resilient individual. This might mean saying, “I could totally walk out of this relationship right now. But in the end, I still need to be loved, and I may never find love anywhere else. Plus, I totally can’t cook. I would starve if I left him.”
  • The ability to eventually shrug off the stupid things that other people do and say. This might mean saying, “Yeah, he totally shouldn’t have said that. That was unbelievably heartless. But . . . Meh. I’m over it. I have better things to do than cry about his emotional constipation.” (Of course, you want to help your spouse become less emotionally-constipated and less heartless, but sometimes you will also just have to get over the stupid things he says. He’s never going to be perfect.)
  • A willingness to make sacrifices for someone else. This might mean saying, “She totally doesn’t deserve this. I don’t have the time or resources to do this for her. . . . I’ll do it for her anyway.”

But how, exactly, does marriage make us more like this?

Basically, I think marriage forces us to foster the characteristics I’ve listed above. You have to start thinking bigger-picture, and to start sacrificing of yourself, or your marriage is never going to work. Your spouse is going to drive you crazy unless you start embracing these characteristics. You’re going to kill one another if you don’t start growing up.

Marriage throws challenges your way every day, and you have to learn to deal with them. Your spouse will be lazy, unkind, manic-depressive, forgetful, unsupportive and annoying. And you will be too. And you both have to learn to deal with that or go nuts. You both have to become bigger, better people.

Marriage teaches you that you’re not the center of the universe. It teaches you that you are a flawed human being, just like your spouse, but you are willing to live together anyway because you know you need each other.

You also learn that the choices you make affect other people, and they in turn affect you, so you better make good choices.

If you live on your own, you don’t have to face these challenges as much. You might become tempted to think you’re the most important person in the world. You might forget that you need other people.

Of course, all relationships allow for the developments I’ve talked about here – relationships with parents, siblings, girlfriends, roommates, coworkers, classmates. But I think marriage does this to a greater degree because it’s lifelong and daily.

With other relationships, you get to go your separate ways at the end of the day or at the end of the semester or whatever. When your lab partner or your cubicle buddy challenges your life by being unreasonable, irritating, or downright evil, you have plenty of opportunities to become more mature. But you can also get out of it by saying, “At least I’ll be graduating soon and then I never have to see him again!” or “At least she’ll be on mat leave soon and then I’ll get a break!”

Not so with marriage. When you’re married you have to learn to overcome emotional obstacles because you are stuck together for life. There’s no getting around it. You have to deal with your conflicts.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyways. Many people don’t let their marriages shape them into bigger people, and in those cases the marriage fails. Many people duck out of marriage through divorce, too, but then marriage isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, either.

The other major difference with marriage is that you love each deeply other and have invested a lot of time and emotion into your relationship, so you’re more willing to make it work. Out of love. With your coworkers or roommates, you have less motivation to work on becoming a better person because you don’t have that profound emotional bond that you have with your spouse. With your wife or husband, it’s a different story.

In this way, love motivates maturity. Because you love each other so much, you learn to grow up, for the sake of your spouse.

So that’s how and why I think marriage helps us to grow up. I know I’m not a psychologist or anything, these are just opinions from experience. What do you think? What other things characterize maturity? How else might marriage foster this?

Next: What is the Point of Marriage? Part 3: To teach us about God.

So what is the point of marriage, anyway?

I decided this was an important question to answer if I’m going to devote a lot of my time to thinking about marriage and why people should give marriage a try.

I want to begin by saying what is NOT the point of marriage. I actually only met with this idea quite recently myself, and I think it is one of the most important ideas I have ever come across in regards to marriage. And it comes from a doctorate-holding family therapist, so it has more weight behind it than the mere musings of some married girl from Canada. So here goes: according to Dr. Corey Allan of Simple Marriage,

Marriage is not designed to make us happy.

In other words, the purpose or aim of marriage isn’t to achieve happiness. In fact, marriage serves another purpose entirely. This goes against everything our culture teaches us, of course, but the more I ponder this claim the more I think it is true and profoundly significant.

But why shouldn’t happiness be the goal of marriage? Again, Corey explains:

What makes you happy is way too vague and elusive. What makes you happy changes with the seasons and the stages in life. And often, once you obtain whatever it is that would make you happy, it’s short-lived and fleeting.

(Read the rest of his article here).

The problem, in short, is not with marriage but with happiness. Happiness is an emotion, and a fickle one at that. Its sources are always changing and its effects are usually ambiguous. When I first read Corey’s post, it made me think of something my friend Jen once said, which struck me as counterintuitive but profoundly wise: “Happiness is overrated.” How true, man. Happiness tends to last for such short periods of time, and then we have to go looking for the next source of happiness. And often, what we think will make us happy ends up disappointing us. It usually sneaks up on us unexpectedly. It is not a very reliable thing to stake our lives on. Marriage is unable to provide us with eternal satisfaction and contentment.

If all this is true, you ask, then what is the purpose of marriage? Corey makes one suggestion, which I completely agree with; I also have a couple of other thoughts, too.

Instead of bombarding you with my theories all at once, I decided to make it a short series which I will post over the series of a couple of days.  To get you ready for it, here is a brief overview:

The purpose of marriage is:

  • To grow us up (Corey’s idea – but I will expand with my own thoughts)

Before I sign off, though, I still have something more to say about happiness. It is this: even though the purpose of marriage isn’t happiness, I still think it is still one of its results, and we should strive for it.

What I mean by this is that we don’t (or shouldn’t) get married in order to gain happiness (because we won’t find it); but one of the natural outcomes of marriage is happiness. I can attest from personal experience that my marriage brings me unspeakable joy and satisfaction. Many others can attest the same thing. But even if a marriage isn’t bringing happiness to both partners at any given moment, that doesn’t mean the marriage is failing in its function. Far from it. Marriage has different purposes.

Here’s another example for comparison: the point of sex is not pleasure, yet one of the results, or fortunate “side effects,” if you will, is pleasure.  The true purpose of sex is to produce children. If you are producing children but not getting pleasure out of sex, that doesn’t mean sex isn’t serving its function. It’s still doing its job. Your reproductive organs are still doing what they were made to do. Of course, though, it is still a good thing for sex to produce pleasure, and we should strive for it, but that’s not its purpose.

So it is with marriage, I believe. Even if there was no happiness to be obtained, I would still believe that marriage has meaning and purpose and would be worth all the pain and heartache. The reasons for this, I will explore in my following posts.

What do you think? Am I missing the mark? Does marriage have other purposes that I’m missing?

Next: What is the Point of Marriage? Part 2: To Grow us Up

You absolutely need to begin learning about and then charting your menstrual cycles.

Let me back-track a little, and maybe I will start sounding a little less insane.

As most of you know, I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about natural family planning. It started off as a mere curiosity about something I thought was neat. But I have become increasingly serious about it. As you also know, I am currently trying to get pregnant, so at first I didn’t think NFP was entirely relevant to me. At the same time, though, I have been rethinking the whole issue of birth control since I just recently came off it. And I’m starting to have serious doubts about the necessity, validity and safety of contraceptives in general, and I am starting to seriously consider the value of natural family planning – alternatively (and more appealingly) known as fertility awareness.

Well, to start off my more serious studies into the subject, I took some of my readers’ advice yesterday and took out the book Taking Control of Your Fertility (by Toni Weschel) out of the local library. I flew through the first quarter in the first night. I was just floored by all the information I gleaned from it. I’m not done yet, but I plan to be soon, and then I hope to share with you some of the stuff I have learned. But one thing I have already concluded is this:

All women deserve to know this stuff about their bodies, and it is a shame that most of us live our entire lives in relative ignorance about it.

More than anything else, knowledge is power. And I believe women deserve to have power over their own fertility. As it stands, with most of us knowing nothing about our fertility, we have to be at the mercy of our doctors and gynecologists to tell us where we stand. We have to rely on invasive, expensive, uncomfortable and often painful medical procedures to give us answers about our fertility, when most of the information we will ever need is in plain sight at all times. I am learning that even the dullest of women (i.e. women like me) can learn to recognize the signs of their fertility with relative ease. It just takes some time and attention. And a chart and a thermometer.

If you learn about your menstrual cycle, and learn to detect the various changes in your fertility, I am now absolutely certain you will gain confidence and power.

Did you know that you can easily tell for yourself whether or not you are pregnant without taking a test? With time, you can also tell for yourself whether or not you have a fertility problem, and you can help your doctors immensely in diagnosing the problem.

I had no idea about any of this stuff until now. And I feel totally ripped off that I have never been properly educated about something as fundamental, basic, and important as my fertility.

I now believe that every sexually active woman, whether she is trying to avoid or achieve pregnancy, ought to be tracking her fertility. Just think: no more worrying about whether or not you’re pregnant! No more frantic trips to the drug store during your lunch break to buy a $15 test, just to get a negative result! No more worrying that your bodily fluids are freaky and diseased! By practicing fertility awareness you can know the answer to these questions for yourselves.

Of course, fertility awareness doesn’t work if you’re on the Pill, because if you’re on it you’re not fertile (or at least you shouldn’t be). So I’m starting to think no woman should be on the Pill, either – for their own good. But now I’m venturing into “You’re insane, Kathy” territory again, so I will leave it at that.

I do plan to write an article soon about how the Pill, which was meant to liberate women, may have actually unnecessarily burdened us all. But for now, I’m leaving off with, “Ladies, I think you would do yourselves a huge favour by becoming educated about your own fertility.” I know I am so happy and relieved to have come across this information, and I think you would be, too.

I welcome your thoughts and reactions!

I think I’m going to take just a teensy-weensy break from blogging. Just, like, a week or two. Two reasons:

First the obvious one. It’s Christmastime. I don’t think people are reading blogs that much right now. They’re too busy banqueting and cleaning their houses and stuff. So I’m gonna wait to post any of my really serious stuff until after Christmas, I think. If I had a Christmas-themed series going on or something it would be a different story but I don’t. I’m just not that into this pseudo-Christian pagan holiday this year for some reason. Bah humbug.

The second reason is that I want to focus a little of my time on my other writing project. I’m working on a collection of creative non-fiction pieces about Mennonite culture for publication. Wooo! I’m working with a real publisher, even. I want to focus my creative energies on that for a couple of weeks. But my heart will remain with Project M.

I might throw in a story or two while I’m away, especially if my holidaying gets particularly nutso, but those posts will be lighter and shorter than some of my recent stuff.

But before I sign off for the holidays, I want to say a couple of things about this last year and the year to come.

First of all, thanks a ton, guys and gals. Thanks to my faithful friends who have been reading my blog for the last five months, and thanks to my fabulous new readers who have encouraged me so much in the last couple of weeks. A HUGE thanks to the NFP-loving community that has deluged me with encouragement, prayer, advice, and useful information.  My brain has expanded significantly and my heart has been warmed thoroughly.  I told my sister yesterday that I don’t think a Mennonite girl has ever had so many Catholics praying for her (and for her fertility, no less!) in the history of Christianity. It means a lot to me, folks.

Second, I want to outline some of the subjects I plan to tackle in the New Year. Most of them spiral out from stuff I’ve come across in the last few months. And I’m doing some research. I’ve taken out books from the library (including Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which several commenters suggested) and I’ve downloaded documentaries and I can’t wait to learn more.

I will warn you that the list looks really . . . um . . . Christian. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I am a Christian and everything that happens in my brain is influenced by that fact.

In all of these subjects, keep in mind that I will need help from you, my dear readers.

A Couple of Questions I Want to Consider in 2010

  • Why haven’t most Evangelicals in the last few generations thought much about contraception and its implications? Why did I get fifty comments from Catholics on my articles on NFP but only three from Protestants, even though 99% of my friends are Protestants? What are we missing?
  • Why do/should we Christians make such a big deal out of sex?
  • What is the point of marriage, anyway?
  • What are we to make of the Bible’s talk of male headship and female submission (ack!)?
  • What role does gender play in marriage, and in the universe? Is it important? What is gender, anyway?
  • What should Christians think about marriage laws (including gay marriage), and how should we respond to them?

I am even toying with starting a series on domestic stuff (like, where readers can contribute tips on frugality, efficiency, green living, and how to hard-boil the perfect egg — stuff like that). But I’m not sure if that would fit right with the rest of Project M. Maybe you can tell me.

Well, what am I missing? What other subjects do you think need to be covered in regards to marriage? What do you want to see more of? Do the above subjects sound boring? Do you think I should NOT take a break from blogging?

Have a happy, happy Christmas, and don’t try to drown your family frustration with food and drink. It will only make you feel bloated and disgusting on top of frustrated. Trust me — I know. Blessings.

Another reason I love Ben:

He puts up with my taste for kitsch.

See, Ben appreciates sophistication. He likes to sip expensive coffees from tall mugs, and scotch from short glass tumblers. He likes homes that are clean and modern. He likes fancy cars. He’s always dreamed about working in a high-rise building, wearing a suit, surrounded by framed architectural drawings on the walls. He appreciates leather couches and classy jazz music.

So when I found a gold Christmas tree on discount during Boxing Week when we were engaged, I thought for sure he wouldn’t go for it.

I have a soft spot for kitschy stuff. I actually didn’t even know what the word “kitsch” meant until recently, when I looked it up on Wikipedia. The first thing I saw pictured on the page was a garden gnome, presented as a prime example of kitsch. And I thought to myself, “Ahh . . . so that’s the name for the stuff I like.”

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a thing for tacky stuff. Like my gnome collection, or my oversized, sombrero-wearing, stuffed frog Helen. That kind of stuff just gives me the jollies. In moderation, of course.

Helen

I think I was about twelve when I first saw a silver Christmas tree, featured on Family Matters. I decided at that very moment that I would someday have a silver Christmas tree. When I got older I started to doubt whether I’d ever come across such a rare marvel. And then I stumbled upon the “auburn wonder,” six feet tall, on sale for only $40 at Sears. I had to have it. I had to have a gold Christmas tree. But I was scared to bring it up with Ben.

When I did, he just said, “Sure. Where can you get it from?”

We drove to the mall and picked it up that weekend. We also came across some other mind-blowingly awesome accessories, the purchasing of which Ben wholeheartedly supported.

I don’t know why he agreed to it. It’s totally not his style. But he could see how important it was to me, so he just let it slide. In fact, he lets me get away with almost all my decorating fancies. He let me paint our living room “lively lime” (yes, that’s the actual name of the paint colour).  He lets me put up a miniature gold tree up downstairs for the gnomes. He occasionally lets me bring Helen out of her closet. OK, so he’s not totally accepting of Helen. But he hasn’t burned her in the fire pit yet like he keeps threatening, so that’s something.

I appreciate that he’s willing to make those kinds of sacrifices for me. Because he knows they’re important to me.

Every year, now, instead of having to dread the supremely frustrating and rather pointless tradition  of putting up a Christmas tree, I have something to look forward to. I still dislike the process of stringing the lights and getting the ribbon to go around it nicely, but I do it anyway out of my passionate love for the “evergold.”  We have the rock-awesomest Christmas tree in the world, I’m pretty sure. To allow you the full effect, I will now present to you a video of the Seventh Wonder of the World: the Quiring Residence Golden Christmas Tree.

[OK, crap. You may have noticed that that’s not a video. I can’t seem to upload my video footage no matter what I do. So I’ll have to just describe it to you. *Sigh.* The tree has a special base, into which we can plug the lights. It comes with a Santa-shaped remote. With the press of a button on the remote, you can control the lights – on or off. Another button makes the tree slowly rotate. And a third button plays an ear-shattering medley of pingy-sounding Christmas songs, from “Jingle Bells” to “Deck the Halls.” It is a wonder to behold. It is a shame I couldn’t share it here.]

What kinds of idiosyncracies does you spouse tolerate from you just to keep the peace? Or, if you’re not married, what kinds of things do you hope your spouse will tolerate? What kinds of junk do you put up with  for the sake of love?

Hey guys,

Remember Dustin, the really smart and classy guy from Engaged Marriage who answered ALL my questions about natural family planning last week? Well, he kindly asked me to offer some of my own thoughts and reflections on NFP, as a response to the Q&A we put together. I enthusiastically agreed, because I now have lots to say on the subject! Maybe I was a little too enthusiastic. I wrote a lot. Nevertheless, you can find my response over on his cool blog. He gave me the thumbs-up on entitling it “An Educated, Artsy-Fartsy Protestant’s Thoughts on Natural Family Planning.” I told him I felt bad about putting “Artsy-Fartsy” in his permanent archives but he was totally cool with it. What a nice guy, right?

While you’re there, take a look around: he provides fabulous, practical marriage advice (something I don’t do), as well as thought-provoking articles on marriage. I appreciate that he’s young and that he has a fresh, energetic style. I really dig his site. It’s not every day you get to hear about marriage from a young but wise and knowledgeable guy. Plus, his site is real fancy-looking, without being flashy. I like that. I aspire to have such a nice-looking site someday.

If you’re a new visitor from Engaged Marriage: Hi! Thanks for stopping by! If you want to get a general idea of what Project M is all about, you might want to start with this post, which explains my goals and purposes. There’s also my About the Project page, but you probably could have figured that out yourself. Some people get a kick out of my discussion of sex. That’s where this whole things started, actually.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to check me out! Blessings!