Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marriage and Parenting - Part 1

This semester I'm taking a class entitled "Home and Family Living." To some people this seems a little odd - like I'm taking a class on how to be a housewife. On the contrary, in the discipline of Social Sciences, there have been somewhat recent studies showing the impact of different aspects of the home on family life. It's truly a fascinating class and my professor is amazing!
Anyway, we had a great lesson the other day on Marriage and Parenting that I just had to share. So as not to get too long, I'll post it in two parts. :)

In a quote by Gary Morson, the idea of a prosaic marriage is given form:
"Prosaic thinkers tend to be debunkers. They are hostile to the ideology of romantic love, which regards ordinary marriage as uninteresting and great passion as real life. That classic twentieth-century criticism, Rougement’s Love in the Western World contends that Eros and romantic passion render impossible the truest and most important kind of love, family love. One cannot marry Iseult (Mrs. Tristan?), nor can one imagine Romeo and Juliet routinely sitting down to breakfast. Romantic love comes complete with an ideology of transcendence and desire, and a utopian contempt for prosaic marriage, which it finds hopelessly boring and middle-class. But in fact “to love in the sense of passion-love is the contrary of to live.” Marriage cannot be based on passion, because marital love and romantic love are as contradictory as prose and poetry."

Now, don't take this the wrong way - it's not saying that marriage should be without romance. The idea is that marriage and real, true love, is not that thing that Hollywood portrays in it's countless 'chick-flicks.' That feeling you get when you watch Pride and Prejudice - you know the one: where you're wishing Mr. Darcy would come sweep you off your feet... is not what real love is! I'll admit, I do love a good chick-flick. However, when it's all over I also find myself wishing my life was more exciting, or that my husband would be more like the impossible character portrayed in the the movie, when in reality I have the most wonderful, loving husband I could dream of.

In class we discussed three principles of a strong and happy marriage. Let me just say that I was surprised by them! I'm sure we've all heard countless "tips and tricks for a good marriage," and I'm sure a lot of them are really good, but these are so simple and so true that I just love them!

Principle #1: Build Friendship
How great is that?! Build friendship! It's so basic! :) John Gottman said, “The simple truth is that happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company…When she orders him a salad, she knows to ask for the dressing on the side. If she works late, he’ll tape her favorite TV show because he knows which one it is and when it’s on…Without such a love map, you can’t really know your spouse…”
One thing to remember though, is that a marriage is a process, not an event and to truly build a solid friendship and in turn, a lasting relationship, it takes a great deal of patience, selflessness, and generosity.

Principle #2: Share in the Housework of the Home
What wife out there doesn't love this one? :) All joking aside, marriages are strengthened every time husbands and wives value each other during the “grind of everyday life.” This doesn't mean splitting up everything exactly equally and then getting upset when he isn't pulling his weight." Instead, do things together! Do the dishes together, with one of you washing and the other drying and putting away, or go grocery shopping together! "Romance actually grows when couples are in a supermarket and the wife says, ‘Are we out of bleach?’ and the husband says, ‘I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,’ instead of shrugging apathetically.”
Life is not the big events that are few and far between, but rather all of the little "mundane" things you do everyday. In all of your talk of grand hopes and dreams and plans, make a little time to talk (and re-talk) about groceries, dust, and runny noses.

Principle #3): Nurture sexual intimacy that fits our real, prosaic lives
This goes back to that first quote that I mentioned. The world has created a pervasive myth, that sexual intimacy must be a romantic escape from life. It must take us, and take place, outside our real lives into a place with unlimited time, energy, and novelty.
Really though, who wants sex to be a stage-like performance; the whole purpose of a special evening? I can't think of a single woman who wants to feel like they have to live up to the steamy portrayals of sex in the media, and if they don't there's something wrong with them... and I'm willing to bet that men are the same way.
Instead, marital intimacy should be "robustly domestic and household sexuality, embedded in and transformed by daily married life..." Or in other words, we should be putting the emphasis on sex as a loving experience that fits comfortably into our homes and into the temporal rhythms of our daily lives. We have to "reclaim" intimacy from the Hollywood culture and place it squarely back into the home, within the walls of ordinary time.
Marriage really is so wonderful. You could read reasons why marriage is good for you all day, but just being married isn't all there is to it. It takes work on both sides. But you know, I can't think of anything else to which I would rather dedicate my time.

"The power of permanent male-female love is one of the strongest forces in human kind’s experience. Marriage has remarkable power…Something unique to married love gives us motivation and strength, as our urge to lift the person we love helps us to face conflict and to overcome our own weakness….Every noble impulse, every unselfish expression of love, every brave suffering for the right; every surrender of self to something higher than self; every loyalty
There is some kind of paradox, something about finding ourselves by losing ourselves, in the way genuine married love demands everything of us—even as it simultaneously brings fulfillment."


  1. Allyson, I love this. I can't believe I didn't discover it until today. It's so good, I'm not even kidding you. So wise. I should take a class like that, even though I'm not even married. Maybe when I get married. I love their emphasis on friendship and equal partnership and the fact that sex should not be the way Hollywood portrays it. Such a good entry. I can't wait for the next part!

  2. Thanks Liesl! :) It's one of my favorite classes at BYU - SFL 105. You should take it from Jenet Erickson (although she is having a baby so I don't know what her teaching schedule is going to be like.)

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I wish I had known all of this years ago. It makes sense. Most of us are not satisfied with life because we are expecting the myths you talked about.

  4. Excellent info. Thanks for sharing Ally.