Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mr. Good Enough (Marnie)

I read the most fascinating and eye-opening book suggested by one of our readers this summer. It’s called “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb. Now before you go off and think “settling” means giving up the most important things you need in a future spouse – such as respect, responsibility, integrity, and a strong testimony – know that it’s not. In fact, I think this title might be a turn off and should be instead called, The Case for Accepting Mr. Good Enough. I’ll have to talk to her publisher….

There are many points the author puts out there – but one point I really related to was the fact that women often give up or pass up fantastic men because they don’t fit their extremely large list of “requirements” in a future spouse. Of course, some of her examples were just absurd: women who had relationships with men that were funny, smart, good looking, kind, and someone they related to but broke up with them because they weren’t romantic enough or dressed well enough. I think single women in their 30s and 40s realize that there is no perfect man and that romantic love stories in movies are just for the movies. They don’t exist.

Or do we?? Do we really believe it? Do we believe that the outer shell of a person doesn’t really reflect the person that will make a perfect husband and family man? The author had some excellent examples about how the men we THINK we want to marry are the men we pass up for trivial and silly reasons.

I’m completely guilty of that. I’ve broken up with a really great man for some unrealistic picture of a man, but I surely have passed up some men after only one date because – his laugh was just too annoying, or he had facial hair, or was shorter than me, or I just didn’t “feel” anything after a first date. And after reading this book, I’m completely ashamed.

Now let me qualify here that there are some men that have asked me out that yes - it ain’t ever gonna to happen. But aren’t there also some people in my social circle that I have written off for no real good reason who could be a real potential and great spouse if I just “got over myself?” And I don’t mean the creepy or the needy ones, or those with absolutely no social skills. I mean, the nice guys that we overlook because they are too nice, aren’t tall enough, or have less education then us, or not quite good looking enough.

Have you ever said about a guy, “oh, he is the absolute best! Kind, funny, fulfills his church calling. He’d be perfect for anyone but me!” I do that ALL the time! But why?? I think it’s time I start analyzing and realizing why I’m really discounting these men. Are they good enough reasons? Are these reasons important ENOUGH? Is it just because I’ve always wanted a man 4.5 inches taller than me so I discount those that aren’t? Or a man who has a better job than me that will impress family and friends? Or is it because that one guy that dumped me had that one special trait that I just thought was so perfect for me and I keep holding on to it as though it’s the most important thing in the world and discounting men that don’t have it?

REALLY? Isn’t this exactly the shallow behavior I accuse men of doing all the time???

I liked this book because it had reality in it. I’m forty. My dating pool is smaller and with scarier looking fish. I need to open my horizons and stop focusing on the shallow things we accuse the men in the world of doing. I need to look at MYSELF and stop getting in my own way of finding my spouse.

So what does that mean? What am I going to give up? Well, there are several childish, ridiculous rules I made up when I was 12 when dreaming of a future husband. Admit it! You’ve all had them. I’ve given up several already, I’m proud to admit. Here is a list of some of the qualifications I had as a college student:

1. Had to be from a big city and not from Utah. (that lasted 3 years before I fell for a guy from Toquerville, Utah. Population 910.)

2. Had to be over 5’11 (love of my life admitted he was lying when he said he was 5’8” and was actually 5’7” yet I could have cared less)

3. Never married – because I never wanted to be compared to a previous wife (Yet, I dated another great guy who was divorced and was the most thoughtful of all I’ve dated)

Well, luckily I got over those childish reasons. But yet I’ve still held on to some with all my might and strength and won’t give them up because I’m too prideful to admit that they are childish. I’m not telling you what they are – I’ve already admitted too much here. But you know what I’m talking about. These stringent rules that eliminate really good men because we feel like we can’t control much in this life, so darn it, we are going to control this about who we marry!

Things like they had to served a mission and be righteous to this very day with no bumps in the road in their past, has to have all the skills to be a future Bishop, has to be charismatic and take the lead but also let you lead whenever you want to, can’t be shy, has to like your favorite types of movies or music, has to anticipate your needs before you know them…you can see how this list can be completely ridiculous.

I had a lot of epiphanies from this book and I’ll be posting about them later, but one other point I want to share is the need of letting the man I marry be human. If I expect a man to accept me for all that I am – with my many failings and quirks – I should give him a break and let him be just as human and quirky. If he wears bow ties and forgets to take out the trash, so what! As long as he loves and adores me and is a supportive husband. He should be allowed to be just as human as I am.

Do you see the difference from giving up some things you should never compromise from the things that really have no bearing on a good marriage? Having that realization is helping me think about the men in my life differently.

I challenge you (and myself) to take a good look at the men around you and see if they have the qualities you are looking for even if they might not be in the perfect packaging. Which guy makes you laugh? Which guy do you respect for how he treats you and others? Which guy is really kind and looks out for others? Even if they are 20 pounds overweight, no hair and dresses like he is a crazy professor - take the time to get to know them and flirt or even ask them out once. No, you aren’t committing to marriage so don’t get freaked out! You are just opening up your options and seeing people as Christ does.

I think you’d be really surprised as to who you might find attractive in the end – IF you just give him a chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From Where I Sit (Stella)

I have a new, dear friend that has been kind enough to entertain some of my questions about dating from the male perspective. He's unbelievably patient with me and so far hasn't taken offense to anything I've asked which has endeared him to me forever. The following post is a slightly edited version of my response to my friend and be advised it's written with a great deal of passion and (I'm honest enough to admit) years of hurt feelings and disappointments. It is in no way intended to be a man bash or an invitation to tear our brothers apart but an honest out-pouring of one woman's heart.

The question I posed was: At what point is it okay to start looking outside the church for marriage opportunities? The answer (in a nutshell) I received: Never. You never give up hope and you never accept anything less. Be patient and have faith in the Lord.
As a woman I am promised that I will have the opportunity for an eternal marriage if I live worthily of it in this life. I will receive it in this life or the next and "it mattereth not." Men do not have that same promise...(well not quite anyway) but are charged with the responsibility of preparing themselves through education and gospel pursuits and then going out and finding a wife while they are young(ish.) If through no fault of their own and despite their best efforts that blessing doesn't come then of course they have the same promise that we women do. That said I just flat out do not believe that any man who wants a marriage can't find it (please see disclaimer below.) Of course I've never been a man so I can't say that conclusively but I do know girls and lots of really good ones who will/have/do love men of all types, backgrounds, physicality, abilities etc.

Disclaimer: I have also known plenty of nightmares who have pummelled good men with their lies, selfishness and absolute lack of gratitude for the blessing of the good man by their sides. But this isn't about those girls - it's about the ones like myself and my fellow contributers to this blog. Good, loving, beautiful, faithful women who quite frankly deserve someone equally wonderful and who get pummelled themselves.

If you have not yet read A Single Voice by Kristen Oaks you need to. Run, do not walk to your local Deseret Book or computer and order it today. While discussing the importance of keeping our standards high Sister Oaks states something to the effect of "Men are not being who they are supposed to be." This is not said in a disparaging way and it is not said in a hateful way. It is stated as a fact of her experience and by so doing has validated mine. For any who may be offended by such a bold statement I ask you to reflect on the efforts of dear President Monson and the men and women who lead with him. Their gentle begging of single men to make something of themselves, get married, and start families (while promising them happiness and eternal joy) simultaneously brings tears of sorrow to my eyes and makes my Irish blood boil. What can I say? I'm a complicated woman and while I can be compassionate I've also had quite enough.

So while I agree in being patient, while I agree in being faithful I must stomp my foot and say what have I been the last 20 years but faithful and patient? Despite having heartbreak and frustration and normal human desires I have not left the church, I have not sacrificed my virtue (and not because I haven't wanted to,) I have not fallen away though many times I have given it thought. If I were to marry a man outside the church it would be with great care, prayer & fasting, priesthood blessings, and absolute confidence that I was not turning my back on the Lord's will for my life. I have absolute confidence that Heavenly Father would not leave me alone in that decision and if I felt the confirmation that it was okay I would move forward with all zealousness. So who is really being the faithless one? Who is really the one to lose their blessing? Me or the LDS men who have let me pass through their fingers? I declare emphatically it would not be me.

The Lord's will and counsel don't change. The scriptures are as true as the day they were given - I believe them with my whole heart. I know full well that eternal blessings only come through Temple ordinances and I know that we are to strive for Temple marriages. But I also believe that if I create a home with a man who loves and honors God and the Savior and loves and honors me then we will have an eternal marriage - in this life or the next. While I don't pretend to know what it would feel like to not share the Temple with my spouse or have him bless our babies, I did grow up in a home where my dad was a member and my mom wasn't. We had a wonderful, loving, faithful home and when the Lord's time came for our family to become eternal it did and always will be. Maybe I'm being naive, maybe today I'm just throwing a temper tantrum but my intention and my hope is that I'm being faithful. More then anything I hope I am pleasing the Lord in my quests and my pursuits. I would never choose an earthly family over an eternal one if I was offered both choices but at what point do I utilize that faith and belief that Heavenly Father will bless my life and my future family even if the opportunities brought to me are not in the package I expect?

And I must ask - am I really expected to live the next 1 minute - 60+ years lonely and miserable? Am I really to hold on to this painful hope that never seems to be realized? I have longed described this trial in my life as my version of Abraham sacrificing Isaac and while I have fought Heavenly Father and myself and prayed and begged and been sickened by the idea of earthly singleness I have, to the very best of my ability, offered my heart and my willingness to embrace this revolting idea if that is what the Lord wants. I have tried to walk up that mountain and raise that dagger in the form of focusing on work, family, friends, church, pursing so many degrees & opportunities the wall needs extra supports only to repeatedly find myself miserable and knowing that something huge is missing and I am not living the life I'm supposed to.

Now because as far as I can tell I have been (imperfectly of course) where I should have been, done what I should have done, accepted every date with every man who ever asked (unless I had good reason not to - i.e. safety.) I assume that I have done my part thus far. Because the desire and the hope and the never ending feeling & confirmation that it is the Lord's will that I am to be married and have a family I am lead to this...

If it is the Lord's will and it is my will - whose will is missing? I ask again - would a loving and just Heavenly Father withhold my eternal blessings or the one who has yet to show up?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Offerings (Anne)

When I transferred from BYU to a Midwestern university, I enrolled in Institute. I was 22 at the time, and was returning to church activity after a horrific engagement to a boy who did not share my faith (and was an all-around awful person). I loved the Institute teacher, and I always felt like he “got me” in a way my religion professors at BYU did not.

Three years later, I returned from my mission, and a boy who I thought had waited for me broke my heart in rather devastating fashion. When Institute classes started, and that same teacher asked me questions about my mission and how I was adjusting, I told him about the boy and my fear that I would never get married.

My teacher said, “Maybe being single is going to be your Abrahamic trial.”

I wanted to punch him.

That was 13 years ago, and apparently, that Institute teacher was somewhat clairvoyant.

But I think of his analogy every so often, especially when I do things that I consider sacrifices. Trying online dating: an offering. Going to a single adult conference, where I am the youngest person in attendance by at least 25 years: an offering. Continual church attendance despite feeling like a complete freak: an offering.

Offering after offering on the Altar of Please-Don't-Let-Me-Die-Alone.

Last weekend, I attended one of those single adult conferences. I could only make it to parts of it, and really didn't have a chance to mingle much, but I went. And in the opening prayer of one of the speaker events, the pray-er asked that we would be blessed for our faith in attending.

I was so touched by that idea—that by going to the conference, by myself, knowing not a single soul could even be considered an act of faith.

I enjoyed the speakers (Barbara Thompson was one of them) and the one workshop I was able to attend before I had to leave for another obligation. I didn't see anyone close to my age. And yes, I know I probably shouldn't be age-ist, but I'm just not ready to date men closer to my father's age than mine.

I did not have enough faith to attend the dance.

But I laid down an offering just the same.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If They Are In Trouble So Are We (Stella)

As I was doing a little "work avoidance" I came across this article on CNN's website and felt that familiar feeling of "I've got to blog this" come upon me. I ask you to hang in there with me - this is not a man bash, this is not a frustrated single girl vent and this is not an attempt to find someone to blame for my current life predicament. It is however, a frightening reality of our current society, and in typical Stella style I say let's examine and try to fix.

In this article it is discussed that men in U.S. society are falling behind women in education, career success, and family ties. I'll let you read and decide on your own but some of the high points are:

  • Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two.

  • The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. Of course we can only blame men for 1/2 of that...

  • Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.

  • Current census reports that for the 1st time in recorded American history there are more singles then marrieds, & more adults then children.
I suppose the easy thing to do would be for those of us of the XX chromosome persuasion to point our fingers at our brothers and chastise them for not keeping up. 10 years ago I would have been at the front of the finger pointing line - however time and experience has shown me that things are not always as they seem. Therefore I must stop and ask:


As children of our Heavenly Father we know that women are no more talented or gifted then men - He has blessed us all with gifts, talents, and abilities. In America it can be argued that we all have similar access to education. As members of the church we all receive the same Prophetic guidance and counsel. So what gives? Some thoughts...

  • Divorce and the break up of families. How many have watched their parents marriage break up or other loved ones or maybe even their own and have sworn they will never again go through that?

  • Women's lib - no offense to any libbers out there but somewhere in the quest for equality we handed over our rights to chivalry, our God given right to be gentle and female and though I doubt that any of us mourn the demise of the corset, I for one wouldn't mind being taken care of once and a while even if I don't "need" to be and yes I'm willing to wear a corset to make that happen.

  • Selfishness and the waxing cold of mankinds' hearts. Marriage and family require putting others needs first every day - and for some this isn't very "fun."

  • Massive decline in morality and values. I can't help but think of the reference to buying the milk if the cow's giving it away...

  • Satan's all out attack on (I believe) men and their VITAL importance to women and the world. I long ago lost count of how many men have told me they aren't good enough for me. Knowing that I am no better then anyone else I have come to interpret this as "I don't have anything to offer you;" or "I don't want to put forth the effort that that would require;" or better said "I don't believe I have it in me."
Granted, all of this began long before any of us began our mortal journey and it's hard to say exactly when it started to fall apart. Maybe it began during WWII when women kept the country going and had a taste of earning income and working outside the home? Maybe it was the Flower Power and free love generation? Or maybe we can blame it on the invention of Atari (the article cites that men 18-34 play video games more then boys age 12-17.)

I wonder if this is a chicken/egg type of situation. Certainly as women we just might be the most educated and accomplished generation ever. Is that because we are career & achievement orientated or because we weren't given another choice? Certainly I believe most of us would have (and should have) pursued an education regardless but I'm quite certain I wouldn't have gone on to graduate school or have the career that I have if I had been given another option.

I decided long ago that I wanted a "good" life. I wanted to be able to care for my own needs, I wanted to be able to enjoy some of life's 'fineries' and since I didn't have a partner that landed squarely on my shoulders. For me, that meant formal education and a career. So the question I pose is: Have women surpassed men in these areas because we are these super go-getters or because we didn't have another choice?

My follow up question is to wonder if our achievements (and maybe even a get out of my way, I am woman hear me roar mentality that some of those achievements bring) have somehow pushed the men of our society into thinking that they can't, or shouldn't, or don't need to pursue their own achievements?

I can't help but think that if we expect men to return to who they once were we have to in part do the same. During the October 2000 general conference Margaret Nadauld said:

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."

I believe therein lies the challenge. We do not need to hide our intelligence or abilities nor do we need to stop reaching for our greatest potentials but perhaps as we draw closer to who we are to be we will clear the path for our brothers to embrace who they are. If women of the world returned to the virtues the Lord has outlined for us it seems to me that men would have no choice but to follow the example. Of course we are one small percentage of womanhood but if we can inspire other women with our examples perhaps change can begin to happen - maybe not everyone and certainly not immediately but I believe it can happen. Let us encourage the best of one another, love each other and cheer each other on to achieve all the Lord has sent us here to be.

The article concluded with this thought: "This decline in founding virtues -- work, marriage, and religion -- has caught the eye of social commentators from all corners." Make no mistake friends - if the world is starting to notice you can say with absolute authority:


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moneyball. (Anne)

I saw Moneyball with a friend today. I'm an Aaron Sorkin fangirl, and he co-wrote the screenplay, and I'm a baseball fan, so it met the litmus test for being worth the price of matinee admission.

It didn't have the typical pizazz of a Sorkin script, but near the end of the film, the statistician shares a metaphor with the General Manager, Billy Beane.

He shows Beane footage of a minor league catcher—way overweight for baseball standards with an admitted fear of going to 2nd base. He's at bat, hits a perfect pitch, and can tell from the contact that he hit it well. So he takes the leap. He approaches first and we see him round the base to head to 2nd.

And he falls down.

He belly crawls back to first, because he doesn't want to be tagged out. Head in the dirt, he clings to the base, almost hugging it, despite the first baseman and the first base coach tugging at him, motioning for him to get up. He was so focused on staying safe at first base that he didn't see he had hit a home run.

In the movie, the metaphor was intended to persuade Beane to take a lucrative contract in Boston. But the metaphor wasn't lost on its applicability in my own life. I have this great career. People with whom I work respect me. I chair a committee that can affect true change. I write in my spare time. I teach piano lessons, raising a piano army for church. And I do a million other valuable things with my time.

But sometimes, my face is in the dirt and I'm belly crawling to first base, believing that I'm not valuable if I'm not married—and I can't be bothered to see all the home runs I'm hitting.

So. The next time you trip and fall into the self-esteem spiral that often accompanies being single and LDS, look up, as Elder Cook counseled Saturday afternoon in Conference.

Look up and see what you just knocked out of the park.