Where Logic Meets Love

Ask Google Jessica: The Marriage Edition

Friday, April 5, 2013

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Ask Jessica: The Marriage Edition | Faith Permeating Life

It's time for another edition of Ask Google Jessica, where I take the questions that people actually asked Google (and ended up landing on my blog) and attempt to answer them myself, since whatever post they landed on probably didn't answer their question.

Previously, I responded to questions about Christians and sex and about weight, which consistently keep my posts titled "How Do Christians Have Sex?" and "Stop Telling Me I'm Too Skinny" the top two most popular posts I've ever written. (I wrote them back-to-back, too. I was apparently having a really good week.)

The two most common tags for posts on this blog are "marriage" and "husband," so it should be no surprise that I also get a lot of Google searches about marriage ending up here -- usually in conjunction with the Christian sex post, but not always. I've gathered a handful of these questions, which I will now endeavor to answer. Please share your own responses in comments!

Why shouldn't I have sex before marriage?
Look, I'm not going to be the one to tell you what you should and shouldn't do with your body at any point in your life. I'm much more concerned with whether you're at peace with the sexual activities you're engaging in than whether or not you're legally married while doing them, and this requires developing your own sexual ethic (which may be largely informed by a particular religion's sexual ethic).

If you've already decided that waiting until marriage is the right option for you and you're looking for reasons to defend that, I can share with you my own reasons for making the same decision to help you explain it to others. However, I'm not going to lie and tell you that if you do have sex before marriage, you are guaranteed to destroy your future relationships, have enormous guilt, and suffer negative consequences for the rest of your life as a result. Nor will I tell you that if you wait until marriage, everything is guaranteed to be perfect sunshine and rainbows. No one should make such sweeping statements about other people's experiences.

Is getting engaged at 23 too young?
I got married when my husband and I were 23, and we're still blissfully married three and a half years later. We got engaged at age 22. People mature at different rates and in different areas. There is no magic age at which all people are suddenly ready for marriage. People meet their future spouses at different ages; at 23, you may have known each other a month or, in our case, almost five years. I don't think I got married too young because we were both mature enough to make a lifelong commitment, we'd known each other long enough to know enough about the person we were committing to, and we wanted to experience life together, not "live our life before settling down forever." I can't tell you whether you're ready to be engaged at this point in your life, to this person, but I can tell you that the number of years you've been alive is not a good way of answering that question.

My cousin didn't buy a wedding gift. Should I buy one for her wedding?
Ah, wedding etiquette. So fraught with controversy and confusion. I'm not Emily Post, but I can speak to larger issues of life and relationships that go beyond the do's and don'ts of etiquette books. Let's talk about your wedding first. (I am assuming it was your wedding she didn't buy a gift for.) Did you invite your cousin to her wedding because a) it was an important day for you and you wanted the most important people in your life there to celebrate with you, or b) because you were hoping she would buy you something? Even if the answer is c) to preserve the relationship with my mother/aunt/grandmother who made me invite her, it probably had more to do with wanting to acknowledge and celebrate the relationships in your life than as a sort of money grab. So if you wanted her there, and she attended, then mission accomplished. Certainly it is traditional to buy the couple a gift as a way of congratulating them on this step in their relationship and/or preparing them for their new life together, but there may be a number of reasons your cousin didn't buy you a wedding gift: She couldn't afford it. She felt that the money she spent traveling to attend was a gift. She contributed money to a group gift and that information wasn't shared. Her parents gave a gift and she felt that was on behalf of the whole family. And so on.

So the issue of whether to buy her a gift should essentially be separate from whether she did or did not buy you one. Wedding gifts are not a business exchange. I disagree with the advice that says you should buy a gift that equals the cost of the meal provided during the reception. If you are planning a wedding, you should plan one that you are able to afford and invite the people that you want there to celebrate with you, without an expectation of the amount of money or gifts you will get in return. If you are attending a wedding, you are going to celebrate with the couple, not broker a deal whereby your meal for the evening is purchased with a toaster. If you are able to afford it and want to show an appreciation for your relationship with your cousin and/or congratulate her on her marriage, then do buy her a gift. Or think of it this way: Would you buy her a gift if she were the one who had gotten married first?

"Everyone is getting married, so you should get married too" is an example of which fallacy?
I believe that would be the bandwagon fallacy, which some good-old hyperbole ("everyone") thrown in for good measure.

Although this was probably somebody's rhetoric homework question, it's worth pointing out that this is a terrible thing to say to someone, logical fallacy or not. Somehow our culture decided that there were certain milestones all adults needed to hit -- get a job, get married, have multiple children, buy a house -- and in the same way we get anxious if children aren't talking and walking by certain ages, we rush one another to hurry up and complete these adult milestones already. It's problematic for a number of reasons, chief of which is that plenty of people never do one or more of these things and have perfectly happy and productive lives. It also takes the focus away from an individual's own goals and priorities -- finding out what's important to a person and celebrating them for where they are at that moment -- and instead imposes artificial, external benchmarks of worth that make it seem as if people aren't "measuring up" or progressing quickly enough.

In other words: Marriage is a lifelong commitment two people make when it makes sense to them for them to do so. It is not something everyone does, nor is it something one must do in order to be fully an adult, no matter how many other people marry at a particular age or point in time.

Once you get married, how does your life plan change?
It doesn't necessarily, and it certainly shouldn't change the instant you get married. A wedding marks a particular moment in a relationship with another person, but your life plans may begin shifting from the moment you meet that person or begin dating, even if in small ways, like changing a weekend routine to include time with this person. As you begin to think about wanting this person to be a larger part of your life, and you discuss getting married and/or moving in together, you may have to make choices about career opportunities, distance to family, and desire to travel in order to mesh with this other person's opportunities and desires. But in a loving, supportive partnership, your dreams and life goals should be taken seriously even when they cannot be easily or immediately accomplished. Getting married should not mean having your life plans unilaterally changed by the other person; however, it may mean a change in priorities that places being with your spouse and caring for a shared living space above the opportunity to travel or move on a moment's notice.

What percent of marriages end in divorce because of school reunions?
I don't know what this question means! Does this person somehow think that school reunions are a common cause of divorces? Or, more likely, did attending a school reunion where many people were divorced cause this person to wonder how many marriages end in divorce? In any case, I can tell you that the only thing we know for sure is that we don't know how many couples married today will eventually get divorced. But it's probably not 50%.

Those are my thoughts -- what would you change or add?


  1. What percent of marriages end in divorce because of school reunions?
    I think this question means, "I've heard of several people who got divorced because one spouse went to a school reunion and met up with the person he/she wanted to date back in high school and that person is now available and that made the spouse disillusioned with the marriage in favor of making the old fantasy come true--so is that common?" I doubt that it's common enough to be measured as a % of all marriages, and even if it was, I doubt that anyone has such clear data on why marriages end.

    Now, can you explain to me what the guy who left the last comment on my most popular article was asking? I'm confused--but I think it might be just spam or a joke.

    I think your other answers are great; I don't have anything to add.

    I should write an article like this someday...except that at least half the searches that bring people to my site are about either blood types (a subject on which I know nothing more than I've already written) or Teletubbies (a subject on which I've already vehemently expressed my opinion but kind of wish I hadn't because it draws so many hateful comments from crazed Teletubby fans). If anybody out there is researching the blood types of Teletubbies, contact me about a guest post.

    My favorite of today's search terms is "How has a dishwasher impacted society?" I think it's the use of "a" rather than "the" that triggers me to picture some sort of society having a nice meeting when suddenly a dishwasher comes crashing through the ceiling. I bet Teletubbies were to blame.

    Second favorite search term today: "earthling butter". Indeed, I am the #1 Google result for that search. If I have accomplished nothing else in my visit to this planet, at least I have learned how to make that earthling butter more spreadable. :-)

    1. Ah, you may be right about what that school reunion question was asking. Either way -- pretty sure there are no stats on that.

      I'm almost positive that comment on your post was spam, since the person's name appears to link to some kind of porn site (I didn't click it, I just searched the site name). It was probably made by someone paid to find articles and write comments vaguely linking the article's subject matter to sex.

      I enjoy hearing the interesting search terms that land people on various sites. I like your imagery of "a dishwasher" coming from outer space :) I can't remember where, but there's a blogger who did several posts of illustrations of the strange search terms that landed people on her blog.

    2. I like the idea of illustrating what the searchers are hoping to find.

      I've been coping with spam comments by posting the most entertaining ones as comments to this post: When Robots Comment on Your Blog. I've got quite a collection now....

  2. The last one is my favorite. I don't know whether the asker was going to or already had seen an ex/former crush at a reunion, or if the asker knew someone who had divorced after running into someone at a reunion, or what, but I bet there's an interesting story there.

    Trying to imagine the story behind these questions would be an interesting writing prompt.

    1. Agreed -- I often wonder what led someone to type in a particular search term, and that would make a very good creative writing prompt.


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