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More Advice to a Young Wife

 

IN RESPONSE to the young woman who wrote in about her marriage, Matthew H. writes:

The first year or two of marriage is always difficult. My wife and I married when I was 30, and the first year of our marriage was an ordeal, frankly. The wedding day was difficult, the honeymoon was difficult, most everything was difficult. We fought constantly, my wife gave me the cold shoulder more often than not, and I yelled at her far too much. But our marriage has gotten better ever since then. We will have been married for 12 years this month, and we are both far happier now than we were 11 years ago.

Why did things get better? There was no single transformative event — things did not just “click” one day, and neither one of us ever had a sudden revelation that completely changed our perspective and solved all of our problems. Things just slowly got better. Over time, we started fighting less and treating each other with more kindness. We still fight from time to time, and I still struggle with being a good husband.  But things are much, much better now.

I have an Ivy League education, too, and you are right that it does not prepare you for life as a religious married person. The people I associated with while in school had an entirely secular outlook on life. I had a few friends who were devout Catholics and Orthodox Jews, but 95 percent of my classmates were secular and post-modern. They were not bad people — many of them are nice people — but they were raised by secular humanist liberals and have no sense of the sacred or the traditional. They have not actively rejected God and traditional morality, they never knew Him to begin with, and they reflexively worship careerism and criticize tradition because that’s all they know. They ape the 60′s and 70′s liberalism of their parents without really believing it. You are right that your peers cannot support you in your efforts to build a strong marriage. They don’t know how. All they can do is recite trite feminist platitudes and encourage you to “be true to yourself.” But that’s not the kind of practical advice you are looking for. If we lived in less secular times, you would be able to seek advice from your family as well as your peers — you’d have a wise aunt who could help you learn to relate to your husband better, or you’d have an older sister that you could observe and emulate. But these days you don’t have that kind of support network, and that makes things harder.

But you can do it on your own! If you and your husband put effort into making your marriage succeed, it will succeed. Our marriage  is proof.  I hesitate to hold my marriage up as an example of a good marriage, because it is far from perfect and I am far from perfect, but our marriage has gotten much stronger and our love for each other has deepened.  There are still many, many problems, but things have gotten much better.

And as your marriage succeeds, it will not just benefit you and your husband. Part of what I try to do these days, as a married man with children, is set an example for my secular colleagues. They gravitate toward me because they instinctively know that their lives are empty, and I try to show them that there is a better way of life out there.  I invite the single men to dinner and to family functions.  They are often afraid of the responsibilities of marriage and family because they have been taught by their narcissistic, career-oriented parents that children are a burden. I try to show them that If I can do it, they can, too, and that they can find happiness leading the traditional life that they have been taught to critique.

But you can do it. You and your husband are already doing the most important thing that you can do to improve the marriage — you are committed to staying married and thinking seriously about how to improve it.  Just stay on that path and trust in God, and it will improve. You will learn how to relate to your husband and God will remove the emotional burdens from the early years of your marriage.  The one other thing you can do is forgive yourself. It is normal to struggle during the first years of a marriage, so don’t be too hard on yourself because yours had its problems. No marriage is ever perfect. If you and your husband are committed to making your marriage work, it will work. And it is obvious that you and your husband are committed to making it work.

—- Comments —-

Kimberly writes:

Laura D. sounds very similar to me five years ago, doesn’t she, Laura? And I have to say, Laura D., you’ve come to the right woman. The Thinking Housewife helped me tremendously through those very difficult years of early marriage. She was my mentor, both directly and indirectly. You’re a smart young woman, so you will get a lot from this blog.

I got married at 19 and I’m about to turn 27 this week. Maintaining my marriage has been the most difficult and the most beautiful accomplishment of my life. Our fourth child is on the way and we are, as a family and as a couple, starting to really figure out our ways. And through some strong words with my mother, who was never purposely feminist but behaved like one, I have managed to become a big influence on her as well.

I read Fascinating Womanhood, but I read it after I had already felt these things out. Still, it was an excellent book, and it was great for me to have things organized and written out so clearly. The woman that gave me the book is a dear friend who I never dreamed could have existed. I believed so firmly that there was nobody near my age with my traditional values, so I didn’t even have any hope of making any good friends. This young lady, however, was wise and humble enough to pray for one. She prayed very hard for a good, Catholic friend. And then she found me and pursued me until I found out enough about her to be shocked and interested! How humbling it was to find such a good woman, living just down the street from me! And we’ve been the best of friends ever since. I know I’m not alone anymore.

Another powerful means of realizing that I am not alone is going to confession. I think that very often that Protestants completely shut out the idea of confession. It seems like they are determined to focus only on the positives. While the positives are certainly wonderful, I would never have found them to be enough to help me change. Becoming a grateful wife, becoming more feminine, learning how to talk to a man; these were all fun and very useful. At the same time, I had to make way for these virtues to take hold. I was steeped in self-pity, the most useless emotion there is. I was confused. Going to confession gave me a tremendous grace to conquer my faults. It still gives it. I am planning on going today because I can feel the need, and I can’t wait to feel the fresh, clean-soul feeling I’ll most certainly have, as I always have, when I walk out of that confessional. I can’t imagine any Christian considering it an actual sin to go to confession, so why not give it a try? Anyone can use this sacrament.

What struck me most about what Laura D. had to say was her clear understanding of how much praise and approval these feminist girls get, and how all of society has managed to make simple, real women like us feel so twisted and backward. They really think we’re stupid, and if they find out we’re not, it freaks them out so much that it makes us feel weird. I hate that. I’ve been experiencing it a lot lately. I think the truth is that feminist men don’t really expect anything all that intelligent to come out of a woman’s mouth anyway, since they’ve rarely seen it these days, and that the only reason they (as a non-intimate crowd) show any attention to any women whatsoever is due to the slutty way they act and dress. That’s easy for them to approve and applaud. I can’t seen any other reason that they would encourage these women over us. Although maybe there is more to the way they are raised than I can grasp. I was raised Catholic and have never turned away once. I don’t understand these people.

Laura writes:

Thank you, Kimberly, Matthew H. and all the readers who have offered so much wisdom to Laura D.

David C. writes:

Every day of committed marriage that goes by is an act of defiance against the Powers That Be; every such day surely allows the Light to creep a little further into the darkness of this world. Tonight I am happy to report that a little of that Light touched me, thanks to your readers.

I find I have a dramatically different perception of the things that happen around me on a daily basis than my friends, family, and acquaintances, and therefore I am alone each day with my perception of the total wrong-ness, disorder, and chaos of our age. Among those who are at least somewhat aware of all that is wrong today, I cannot be the only one who sometimes feels that the very lines of reality itself bend and warp, because it is a daunting and exhausting task to keep the truth straight in one’s own head when everything else stands against it.

So liberalism and feminism are truly powerful and omnipresent forces in our society; it can be overwhelming to see just how powerful they really are. I believe the essence of this situation for me and perhaps for others is an experience of total, ontological dependence on God.

A reader writes:

Protestants do believe in confession. We confess our sins publicly during public prayer at church, also privately. We pray the Lord’s prayer: “. . .forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. . .” We just don’t go to an earthly priest. But to say we don’t confess our sins at all is a strange misapprehension.

Kimberly responds:

I never said that Protestants don’t confess their sins. I said that they don’t like the idea of confession, and don’t make use of it as a sacrament. Catholics pray the Our Father a lot, especially the Rosary-praying Catholics. It does not, at all, replace the graces of the sacrament of confession, beautiful as it is. Jesus gave His apostles the power to forgive sins. In the sacrament of confession, the priest hears our sins, and if he discerns that we are there with a truly contrite heart and firm intention to commit these sins no more, they will grant us God’s forgiveness, and we are given absolution, directly. I have never been rejected this forgiveness, personally, but I could see how very easily I might not deserve it without getting my head on straight about my sins before making my confession. This sacrament is absolutely amazing. It’s a real, intimate encounter with Christ. I can’t imagine that confessing sins to a group of peers in public could give a person the same peace.

Clark Coleman writes:

Laura D. has had Fascinating Womanhood recommended to her. I know little of the book, but I think that another good recommendation would be a book that can be read equally by men and women, which men and women could discuss, which gives a positive exposition of what male-female relations should be. For example, Laura D. and her husband could read it and discuss it, but also, any Christian single male or female could read it and give a copy to anyone they are seriously considering for courtship. If the receiver reads it and has a bad reaction, be thankful you found out and move on.

Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor is that book, in my opinion. I found it recently. I have since bought two copies, for my two sons. I will recommend that they give a copy to any woman in whom they are interested. It is short, well-written, and very common-sensical, and it is equally suited women and men. I find that all of us, not just Laura D., need a positive vision of what we should do in our relationships, and not just a list of things to avoid doing.

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