Not Ready for Marriage?

Last month, I met a young man at a church who is getting married later this summer. He and his fiancee are reading through Before the wedding bells book and busy planning for a great wedding. After discussing some wedding issues, I inquired how ready is he for marriage. His thought deeply about my question and then replied, “No one will ever be fully ready for marriage!”

That answer surprised me and at the same time, I sensed he has seriously thought about what he is getting into.
It is sure that one may never fully be ready, no matter what how much preparation one does or what tools they use. There is an element of faith involved in the decision to get married. To be close to another person and in being intimate involves being vulnerable in a matter one may have never done it before.

Some may have had a past relationships and come with significant apprehension, whether this one is going to work or not. Others after breakups and past emotional entanglement are concerned if their mate will discover all the past.
Then there is fear of the unknown, what if happily ever after is going evade them. What if your mate is not the person you thought to be.

To love and to be loved involve a great deal of risk and faith. To be totally transparent to another person is always a risky proposition. You may wonder if you mate will still love or extend grace when their find out about your past failures and mess ups. Nor do you want to hurt another person with all the past troubles of your life.

But marriage is about sharing life and sharing all of it. Triumphs, trials and tragedies – all of it. Past, present and Future – every one of it. What you chose, what other chose for you and what got thrown at you for no mistake of your own – all of it. In being vulnerable, we are being restored. In baring out soul to other, we experience God kind of love and grace.

God’s ultimate agenda through marriage is to make little bit more like Him. It is a crucible for discipleship. God shows who He is and what He wants to do in our lives. We discover God’s love and grace for us in a new way after marriage. He beckons us not only to experience this deeper love but also to love our mate from that reservoir of love. God’s love spills over to love our mate and we experience God’s love through our mate as well. In the process God is transforming us, loving us into being like that of his Son, Jesus.

For resources on marriage preparation, see our wedding bells books.

Stigma in Seeking Help

The following article was written by Sam George that was published by an Indian paper in the US.

We begin a new series on counseling. Typically, those who need it do not like talking about it. Everyone wants to believe they will never have to seek any counseling and it is meant for others. Many suffer silently, hopelessly, and do not know where to turn. What a tragedy!

No one is exempt from problems. Everyone has some form of familial difficulty through every stage of  life.  Oftentimes, the trouble does not come with prior notice; it simply shows up at our doorstep unannounced. Often it comes when we least expect it or are ready to face it. It leaves a trail of pain and victims wherever it goes. Some struggle with serious mental illness, hoping things will automatically improve.

It is sad to see many individuals and families struggle alone. Immigrant families do not have a support system like they do back home. They are predisposed to many kinds of dysfunctionality due to cultural adjustments and value conflicts. They do not know what help they must seek or where to get it. One of the major barriers to seeking help is the stigma associated with counseling.

The word stigma originated in ancient Greece and is derived from a word meaning ‘to mark someone.’ The Dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace or reproach. Stigma is not simply the use of negative labels, but is disrespectful toward people with mental illness. Furthermore, stigma encourages fear, mistrust, and gossip against people with mental illness.

Stigma keeps us from sharing our problems with our colleagues because they might judge us as incompetent at work. We cannot share problems with our family back home because they probably cannot fathom our context or offer any meaningful help. We cannot share with anyone in the community for they may isolate us and label us as a “troubled” family.

Stigma primarily arises out of ignorance. Many correlate mental illness with going “mad”. Traditionally, people do not want to associate with mentally ill persons. These mentally ill people get isolated in society and nobody will ever seek alliances from a family with members having mental problems. Fear of being cut off and limiting future prospects keeps us from seeking any help.

Mental health and behavioral issues are not recognized as medical problems in many Asian cultures. Medication and hospitalization are a last resort, if available. Family members are often shunned or hidden from the public if they are believed to have a mental or behavioral illness. Popular media portrays people with mental illness and relational problems with negative terms.

Most individual and family problems do not require psychiatric medication or prolonged treatment. Moreover, mental health science has grown significantly in the past few decades and could provide decisive help for people struggling with serious illness. More insight into mental problems and medications are available today than in our parent’s age.

Get help. Don’t let your problems overwhelm you. Seek a trained professional who will be able to guide and navigate you through your troubles. A professional counselor can quickly detect the extent of the problem and escalate your case to appropriate next steps. A basic level of counseling should be able to ease many behavioral and relational issues.

What is happening to families in Canada?

Whatsup with families north of the border? Much of the same – gradual breakdown of families. Much of the social liberal policies are undermining the society and the nation. The southern neighbor may have contributed to this decline as well.

For the first time there are more single Canadian adults than married Canadians. Canadians are also working longer hours, and spending less time with their families and the families they have are less likely to be the traditional nuclear family. The number of married couples without children also outnumbered married couples with children for the first time.

These research finding comes from Vanier Institute of the Family. The report is called ‘Families Count – Profiling Canada’s Families IV’. See the news report.

Other distrubing trends include: Married-with-children families now represent 39 per cent of families, compared to 55 per cent in 1981. Common-law families are the fastest-growing family type in Canada, from 5.6 per of families in 1981 to 15.5 per cent in 2006. Two decades ago, 81 per cent of children under the age of 15 lived with legally married parents, but in 2006, only 66 per cent of children under 15 did.

New economic realities has its impact as well: Families are responding by working more. Men are working longer hours, up to 8.8 a day in 2005 compared to 8.2 hours in 1986. That extra work is coming at the expense of the family, with men now spending 3.4 hours a day with family, compared to 4.2 hours in 1986. Women are now more likely to be the breadwinner in a two-parent family, with 28 per cent being the primary earner in their family.

More elders to care for. More young people choosing to cohabitating, not having children, pain of divorce culture, gay lifestyle etc are sure destablize society at large. It has happened in rest of the Western society and Canada will not be able withstand the downward spiral of societal decay.

Children of Divorce – Excellent Resource

I came across another fascinating research on children of divorce. It is a book by the above title written by Andrew Root and published by Baker Academics. This one is good for your book shelf, if you are involved with youth and family work of any fashion. Get here at amazon.

If you have known young children or teens who come from a broken home you know this well. But have you wondered why does divorce cause so much strain and long-term distress for children of all ages? What made really interesting was Andrew is a a child of divorce himself and comes with years of youth ministry. Also, this goes beyond quick fixes and pop psychology to get to the root of it. It contains good theological wisdom and ontological pain of divorce with the redemptive power of Christ.

Author explains that divorce causes children to question their core identity. Since a child is the product of the union of a mother and father, when that union ends, he or she experiences a baffling sense of loss of self–a loss of his or her very sense of being. Root redirects efforts for assisting children of divorce to first address this fundamental experience. This unique book examines the impact of divorce not only from a theological and spiritual perspective but also from a young person’s perspective. It will benefit those who have experienced divorce and those who minister to children of divorce.

Recently some survey found that adult children of divorce do not want to repeat what their parents have done and desires for enduring marriages. See more about in my other blog entry in Wedding Bells blog.

Childlessness among Women

Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

While childlessness has risen for all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels, it has fallen over the past decade for women with advanced degrees. In 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree were childless, a decline from 31% in 1994. However, the most educated women still are among the most likely never to have had a child.

Over the past few decades, public attitude toward childlessness have become more accepting. Most adults disagree that people without children “lead empty lives” and children increasingly are seen as less central to a good marriage. 41% of adults said that children are very important for a successful marriage, a decline from 65% who said so in 1990.

Among women born in 1960, 17% in the U.S. were childless at approximately age 40, compared with 22% in the United Kingdom, 19% in Finland and the Netherlands, and 17% in Italy and Ireland. Rates ranged from 12% to 14% for Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden, and from 7% to 11% for several Eastern European countries and Iceland.

Marriages & Divorces in USA

The Pew Research Center recently released an analysis of data on marriage and divorce rates by state. The numbers are primarily drawn from Census Bureau’s 2008 Community Survey. An interactive map of the data is here.

Here are some highlights:

a) Marriage Rate: The state with the highest share of people who are currently married is Idaho, where 58 percent of men and 56 percent of women currently have a spouse. The District of Columbia has the lowest current marriage rate, at just 28 percent of men and 23 percent of women.

b) Divorces: Men in New York and New Jersey and women in North Dakota are least likely to be currently divorced. Nevada has the highest share of currently divorced men and women, at rates of 13 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

c) Divorce rates. The divorce rate — measured as the number of divorces within the previous 12 months per 1,000 women — tends to be higher in states where women marry young, as in Oklahoma and Idaho.

d) Education and income. Higher education levels are correlated with an older age at first marriage, and lower likelihood of being married three or more times. In states with lower income levels, men are more likely to have been married three or more times.

e) Religion. Pew Research Center did not find a strong correlation between a state’s religiosity — that is, the percentage of people who said religion was “very important” in their lives — and marriage or divorce patterns.

f) Marriage Age: In Arkansas and Oklahoma, men and women marry young — half of first-time brides in these states were age 24 or younger on their wedding day. These states also have above-average shares of women who divorced in 2007-2008. Massachusetts and New York residents marry late — half of ever-married New York men were older than age 30 when they first wed. These states also have below-average shares of men and women who divorced in 2007-2008.

Some interesting facts: The proportion of Americans who are currently married has been diminishing for decades and is lower than it has been in at least half a century. Currently it is only 52% of males and 48% of females (ages 15 and older). Arkansas has the highest married thrice or more population (1o%).

Also check out New York Times report on the research finding.

Young Adults say Family – Most Important in their lives

Americans born between 1980 and 1991, sometimes termed “Millennials,” put family first in importance in their lives, followed by friends, education, and career, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research. Religion came in sixth at 13%; other responses included finances (12%), happiness (12%), health (10%), and the future (5%).

In the study, conducted Aug. 2009, and recently released, researchers Thom and Jess Rainer said the priority of family was mentioned most often by whites, the more educated, those who were married, and those who self-identified as Christian. Friendships are more important to younger Millennials, those with higher incomes, and singles.

“Millennials are committed to family above other priorities, even though many are waiting to start their own families,” Thom Rainer said. “Churches with a strong understanding and sense of family–as well as those that are able to cross generations, allowing older adults to reach younger adults–will be able to more easily reach Millennials.”

In a world of constant flux, dysfunctional societal trends and developmentally distancing themselves from adults, today young adults are leaning more on their families and valuing it even more than previous generations. Family will grow to be even more influential than peers or popular culture. We all must resolve to make our family experiences an enriching one for the young ones in our nest.

Children born to Married vs Cohabitating Parents

Guess who does better: Children born to married parents or cohabitating parents? Obvioulsy it is the earlier. Researches on both side of Atlantic have shown that children born to married parents achieve better outcomes both at school and in terms of their social and emotional development, than children born into other family forms, including into cohabiting unions. Most recent finding comes from UK. See reports in Daily Mail. See the actual report from Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The study found that the most important factor in a child’s development is their parents’ background, including their ethnicity, education, social status, wealth and relationship history. Unstable relationship of the parents creates insecurity in the lives of children and deep seated fear about their future. The natural development of children born to cohabitating couples are permanently impaired.

Marriage is good for all – for the couple, children born to them, the society and the nation. Cohabiting couples tended to be less educated, younger, had a lower household income than married parents, and the quality and stability of their relationship also differed. The tidal wave to undermine marriage by live-in relationship will undermine western society as we know it – its values, prosperity and influence around the world.

At the slightest trouble (which is sure to happen in all relationships) a cohabitating couple is bound to go their seprate ways. Couples who committed to marraige are more likely to work harder through any problems for the benefit of each other and their children. Cohabitating folks only think about themselves all the time – ultimate narcissistic thinking of our modern times, while marriage causes to think about the other – living for the benefit of your spouse and children, which ultimately helps you realize your own needs.

Sure enough growing marital breakdown has kept young adults from pursuing marriage. When you have seen your older siblings and friends go through divorce, they are disillusioned about marriage. But my questions why are you looking to half of broken marriages, turn to the other half. See some thriving marriages and learn from them what is making those marriages go the distance. Ultimately it is about commitment, acquiring the skills and above all aligning yourself to divine blueprints of the maker of the marriage (God).

Growing media consumption of teens

Guess what teens are doing right now? A new research shows that it is highly likely they are online or playing on some electornic toys. According to a recent Kaiser Foundation study, if your teenager is awake and isn’t in school, he or she is staring at a screen a smart-phone, a computer, or watching television. See the report in New York Times.

 The study found that preteens and teens spend an average of 7.5 hours on electronic devices daily, compared to 6 hours some five years ago. If you add the multitasking (talking on the phone and browsing Internet simultanesouly) it comes to 11 hours a day! They send and recieve hundreds of text messages everyday. Tweens (between ages 11 and 14) are the heaviest media users.

Very shocking indeed. Media consumption among teens have risen sharply in recent year. It has risen with more mobile and wireless gadgets like iPod, smartphones, Internet hotspots and utitlies like social networking. What I found very distrubing was that more than 7 in 10 youths have a TV in their bedroom, and about a third have a computer with Internet access in their bedroom. This is extremely dangerous. Without any adult supervision, kids are sure sure to get into trouble.

Parents are clueless about this growing trends and they do not what to do about it as well. When they were growing much of these were non-existent. It is hard for them to stay current on much of technology and are confused how to regulate technology or media use of their kids. We must communicate with the coming generations that life without electonics and Internet is possible and must be encouraged.

The boredom kids experience without these toys  is due to lack of imagination, requiring all kinds of stimuli to prevent them from losing interest in things, and even in life. The alternative to all this fiddling with cell phones is being alone with your own thoughts, which terrifies people used to the constant stimulation provided by our media-saturated culture.

Things are not going to get any easier in future. Parents must get into the game, not in becoming more adept at all those gadgets but talking with their kids about what they are doing. They must also explore potential dangers of some of the toy or utilities they use and set limits on media consumption. Every home must develop their household media policy, based on age of each children, media rules and sanctions when rules are broken. Parents must also model healthy media consumption and not allow unnecessary content to be dumped into our homes.

Lot more to do and know for the already exhausted, stressed out parents!

Is Facebook Fueling Divorces?

Is Facebook fueling divcorces? Does social networking site leading to breakdown in marriages. Could that really happen? YES, it is true. According to London’s Telegraph one out of five divorces in UK are on account of Facebook! I haven’t come across any numbers on other end of the Atlantic. But here is a story on TIME on this growing trend.

The story cited examples of how people discovered flirtuous relationship of their spouses over social networking sites. Someone even found that they are getting divorced by her husbands status update! Relationship status can be changed from “married” to with a click to “in relationship” or “open to relationship.” Facebook is not only about connecting, but also about disconnecting!

Facebook has not only helped dispersed people to reconnect with childhood friends and old colleagues, but also many married people to cheat. It has been extremely popular with teens and singles, because it has helped them to connect up and explore relationships. But now married couples to hooking up over Facebook. Divorce lawyers claim the explosion in popularity of social networking sites is tempting people to cheat.

 Of course, most of these marriages may already destined for failure and Facebook just becomes another excuse for why the relationship did not work. They are already frustrated with their spouses and online networking tools provided ways to look beyond their marriages easily and without guilt. Unhappily married couples are meeting their old girl/boy friends, who lend them a listening ears and a shoulder to cry over their pathetic life situations, and soon find themselves falling in love with each other. Social sites have become a perfect platform to wash dirty laundry.

Then there are many who stay in marriage, but initiate  extra marital relationships with old friends over Internet. They agree to stay in their respective marriages, but continue to maintain a secret online relationships. They even meet up and may in involved intimately, but for the sake of others stay with their spouse and kids. Annonymity and psuedo intimacy of the Internet is a boost to online extra marital affairs.

Suspicious spouses are logging on and using the same sites to find evidence of their mate’s flirting. Some even create fictitious names and profile to be included in friend’s list of your mate and then secretly keep track of their online posts and activities. Some apps are being developed to spy on your spouses online activities. What a strange world we are now living in!

What do you do to keep you from falterning in your marrige? Develop a discipline to establish personal standards of online life. Build virtual hedges to protect you marriage. No filters or tech tools can keep you from stumbling into these dangers. Nurture your own marriage and stay committed to it for life. Hold yourself accountabile to someone about your online activities.

No matter what you are doing through in your marriage, put the work needed and you are sure to enjoy rich returns. If you are struggling through something in your marriage, get help. Don’t sulk and think your problems will go away by itself. Don’t think you can run away from problems and find someone online to solve your marital issues. Your problems will come chasing after you.