Monthly Archives: February 2016

What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

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Are we responsible for another’s feelings?

One common problem that women, especially the younger, gentler, and less worldly, run into is the problem of being overly responsible for other people feelings. Symptoms of this include being excessively apologetic, saying yes when we mean no, and, worse, being passive-aggressive.

A typical single gal example, and of course I never did this in my younger days (ahem), is continuing to go out with a guy because you feel bad telling him that you don’t like him romantically. You don’t want to “hurt him”. This leads to Stray Puppy Effect* (you keep on going out with him, after all). However, because you’re not being honest with your feelings and with him, you are stuck in a relationship you don’t want to be in with this particular person.

The antidote to this is thinking not about what the other person might feel if we were honest with them, but what would we  feel if we were on the receiving end of the treatment. For example, what if you found out someone hung out with you just because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings and for no other reason? You would probably be offended that you weren’t being treated like a person who can handle themselves like a grown-up. It shows respect for another person to be honest with them about your feelings.

It can be hard to know what exactly we are responsible for and what we are not. If you read too many writings of Orthodox monastics and are a highly conscientious person, you can be left with a crushing sense of responsibility for the world’s sins. I like this recent Carolyn Hax article because she brings “commonsense moral reasoning” to explaining what one is responsible for, and what one is not.

Q: You have said a few times something along the lines of “We are not responsible for someone else’s feelings,” and when it comes to the extremes of narcissistic or victim-playing behavior, I get this. But if I do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else, whether through malicious forethought or benign error, it’s hard for me not to feel at least a little responsible for the likely distress that person then feels, and I do my best to make amends.

[…]

A: Truth is, I think a lot of what I advise and espouse amounts to a system — an emotional word problem, in a way. Therefore, talking about it involves breaking down very emotional things into transactions, which is inherently cold. But that’s just in the mechanics; the result is an emotional exchange, which, if handled with respect and fair concern for all involved, tends to be the opposite of cold. Take the transaction you cite: If you “do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else,” you’re still not responsible for the other person’s feelings; it’s his or her place alone to decide what to think about and do with your actions. BUT: You are responsible for you — which means you make a good-faith effort to express your regret and repair or mitigate any damage when you do something you recognize as wrong. Short version: Your actions can cause pain, of course, but you can’t reach in and personally adjust the pain levels. You can only change your actions.It is a cold word problem, but it also shows the path to a happy result where people care about each other while also recognizing the line between what is under your control (the outcome you intend) and isn’t (outcome you get).

 

*Thanks, Brigid!

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Quote

We should hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always and by everyone.

– St. Vincent of Lerins

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February Linkage

What Being A Straight Woman On Tinder Has Taught Me [Buzzfeed]

5 Things Pride And Prejudice Can Teach You About Men [Verily]

She’s Pretty, She’s Smart, And She’s Fun, So Why Don’t I Ask Her Out? [Verily]

St. Teresa and the Single Ladies [NYT]

Indian Women Are Never Taught How To Be Alone, And That’s A Problem [Buzzfeed]

Inadequate [Evlogia]

Telling women to apologize less isn’t about empowerment. It’s about shame. [Washington Post]
See also: Crap Apps

Loving Our Detractors [Morning Offering]

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