Category Archives: Religion

How to Know You’re Ready for Marriage

You’ve dated around, had a couple of long-term relationships, and hopefully figured out which qualities are important to you and what makes a relationship work. Now you’re faced with the inevitable question, “Am I ready to get married?”

For women, the most important signs are:

  1. You share similar goals.  If you and your guy have different priorities, you’re going to end up being disappointed. For example, a woman called my show the other day complaining that her husband had moved their family 13 times in as many years to satisfy his appetite for wanderlust (which is a HORRIBLE thing for kids).  Before you consider marriage, ask yourself and your partner about where you want to live, if you want to have kids, and religious views.  Find out what the deal breakers are.
  2. You don’t want to change him.  Similar to buying a dress from the store, when you get married, you take your man “as-is”.  Sure, you might be able to tweak him a little bit, but you can’t fundamentally change him.  If you don’t accept that, you’re going to end up frustrated and bitchy.  You don’t have to adore everything about him, but you do have to make peace with the fact that on Sunday afternoons it’s him and ESPN, and you’re not going to change that.
  3. You connect on more than just a physical level.  A very small percentage of marriage is spent in passionate lovemaking.  You need to know that you can have fun together and enjoy each other when your clothes are ON.
  4. You can see past your wedding day.  Many women are bridezillas: They are so focused on their wedding and being the center of the universe in their stunning white gown that they lose sight of their fiancé and the whole concept of marriage.
  5. You can talk to each other.  You know you’re ready to get married when you can talk things out rationally (without yelling or screaming) and not let issues get pushed under the rug without being resolved.
  6. Everyone you know says your guy is fab.  It’s fine if a few family members or friends aren’t huge fans (you can’t please everybody), but if everyone you know hates this guy, they might be on to something.  Your family and friends know you, and they can look at the situation objectivity. If they’re reasonably nice people, pay attention to them, otherwise your marriage is going to be a constant acid drip.

Guys, on the other hand, start feeling ready for marriage when the singles scene just doesn’t appeal to them anymore, and they stop wanting to bed hot girls that they can’t have conversations with afterward.  Men have biological clocks, but it has nothing to do with making babies. It has to do with being financially stable and settled in their careers.  Most college educated men don’t consider marriage as a possibility until at least 26, and they don’t enter a phase of high commitment until the ages of 28-33.  Guys who have gone to graduate school hit their commitment peak even later (30-36).

Here are some signs that a guy is NOT ready to get married:

  1. He’s financially unstable. If a guy is still struggling to pay his bills, he’s not ready to get married or take on the extra burden of a family.  In addition, if he buys a very expensive car for himself instead of saving up for a ring or your future, he’s not interested in marriage.
  2. He won’t commit.   If a guy is unable to commit to a job, family or friends, then he can’t be counted on.
  3. You have to talk him into it.  If he says he’s not interested in getting married, don’t try to change his mind – believe him.
  4. He calls his married friends “losers” or “stupid.”  A guy who thinks having a family is cute is much more ready to become a husband and a father.
  5. He continually makes you cry (and I’m not talking about tears of happiness).  If he’s unreliable, abusive, a liar, a cheater, or a flirt, you need to divorce yourself from this relationship BEFORE you’re married.

Above all: use your brain.  Don’t get married when you’re in the throes of the early stages of a relationship. Fantasies are not the stuff that long-term relationships are built on.

Not Everything is Forgivable

I am really ticked off that so many experts, shrinks, religious leaders, and medical doctors say that if you’ve been wronged, regardless of how severely, you must forgive the person who wronged you or you are considered a bad person who will never heal.

I think that is some of the stupidest tripe I have ever heard expressed.

First of all, if unconditional forgiveness itself does not allow for judgment, how is it fair that other people can judge your virtue simply because you won’t find it in your heart to forgive somebody?  (Throw that at the next person who tries to judge you for not forgiving someone). 

Secondly, forgiveness focuses on the perpetrator.  A victim should not be fixated.  It freezes them and prevents them from getting on with their life. 

I want to tell you a story about someone who I have never forgiven.  This person – who shall remain nameless to protect their identity – was someone who I trusted to arrange something for me.  I put my mind, body, soul and savings into this experience, and this person did not take the responsibility to make sure serious information was checked.  And because of that, everything I put in was blown. 

They ruined something that meant a tremendous deal to me.  And, to top everything off, this person still wanted compensation.  I thought it would have been more professional and classy to say, “Since you did everything I asked you to do and I blew it, don’t pay me.”  But instead, they sent me a bill.  After some period of time, I finally told them, “The truth is I don’t, can’t and won’t forgive you.  This was your responsibility and you blew it.  You’ve been compensated, and I’m left here staring at my fingernails.”

As you can see, I expressed no forgiveness, and yet, I think it was still extremely healthy.  I get very frustrated hearing how many of you go through tragic situations or horrible things and then get pressured by people to forgive the person who wronged you.  The truth is, forgiving may be the worst thing you can do. 

Over the three decades I’ve been on the air, it has been horrifying to hear so many people say that they’ve been pressured to forgive a perpetrator.  I’ve listened to countless stories about families who have turned their backs on victims of crimes like sexual abuse because the victims wouldn’t keep their mouths shut, forgive their attacker, let things go, and get on with life.  There have been many women who have called in saying that they stood up to an abusive husband only to be cut off by their children because they wouldn’t forgive their abuser. 

That’s what makes a lot of people say, “I forgive you” – family members telling them that if they don’t forgive, there will be hell to pay.  Out of fear of being banished or messing up their family, many victims keep their hurt on the inside.  However, this becomes very toxic because they don’t and shouldn’t actually forgive their abusers. 

I say don’t give in to this pressure.  Most of the time, everyone in the family simply wants there to be forgiveness because it will make family functions seem normal.  But there are things that are unforgivable.

Another thing that infuriates me is when people say victims are supposed to forgive as a gift to their offender.  In my opinion, this takes responsibility away from the offender, and a lot of times, the forgiveness serves as a benefit to the offender.  I’ve seen sick things like people put on trial for molesting, torturing and killing children, and the parents say, “I forgive him.”  I just want to take those parents and slap them up one side and down the other.  Why?  Because they are betraying their children, that’s why.  They may be making themselves feel better and look really good, but they are betraying their children.  I find that despicable. 

After the Columbine High School shootings, mourners put flags on a hill with the names of the children who were murdered.  And beside them, somebody decided to put up flags for each of the psycho-creeps who shot them because they died too.  I went on the air that day stating that it was a desecration because showing compassion for evil is showing evil to the innocent.  That was one of the most disgusting displays of phony righteousness I have ever seen.  The parents who had lost their kids had to deal with flags for those creeps placed on the same soil as the ones for their murdered children. 

You should not forgive someone until they have earned the potential for forgiveness.  How do they earn it?  They need to follow the four “R’s”:

1) Responsibility — The perpetrator needs to take complete and absolute responsibility for what they’ve done.  They should not blame it on anyone else, their childhood, bullying, or moon spots.  If it was their own decision, they must take full responsibility for having made that decision without justification or excuses.

2) Remorse — The perpetrator must be truly remorseful.  Most people feel bad because they were caught or had to suffer consequences, however, that’s not true remorse.  The only problem with this step is that no other human being can tell for certain if another is truly remorseful.  People can say it, but we don’t really know what’s in their hearts. 

3) Repair — The perpetrator must do whatever it takes to repair the damage.  Some damage cannot be repaired.  I remember reading a story about a driver who plowed into a group of young people riding their bicycles.  One biker, who was a superior human being and an athlete, had his arms, legs, and just about every rib broken, and his brain would never be the same again.  People wanted the driver to be forgiven after creating a lifetime of torture for this young man.  To that, I say, “No!”

4) Repetition – The perpetrator must take whatever steps needed so that this action is never repeated.

A lot of you folks who simply forgive your drinking or philandering spouse over and over again only give them permission to repeat their behavior.  Don’t be weak. Follow the four R’s.

Everybody who has been hurt has to go through a grieving and healing process.  It often takes a long time.  No one can tell you how to do it or how fast to go.  If someone is obsessing over you not forgiving someone, tell them to leave you alone.

And if someone continues to lay judgment on you because you refuse to forgive what you consider an unforgivable act, send them to me.  There are things that are unforgivable.

Regretting the Divorce

Over the many, many years I’ve worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice and on the air, I’ve done a lot of research on divorce, especially when it involves kids.  The scientific literature differs very much from popular literature in what the happiness quotient is after a divorce.  Scientific literature suggests that a good three quarters of people who divorce regret it.  Maybe not immediately, but 10 years later, they do.  “I should never have done it” is the kind of thing usually uttered privately after a divorce.  And after the papers have been signed, the property divided, the child custody settled, and the emotional pain still lingering, it’s usually too late to go back. 

Half of women and a third of men stay angry at their former spouse after a divorce.  They mentally just don’t move on.   They have to deal with a host of things: loneliness, painful memories, having to get new friends, uncomfortable changes, uncertainty about how they are going to pay their bills (people don’t usually go up in economic standing after their family is torn apart).

In my opinion, most marriages careening into divorce can be saved.  By saved, I’m talking about turning a troubled situation into a good one – not just coexisting.  A lot of times I nag people to just stay in a marriage in the hopes that if they just cut down on the rage and realize they have to endure and make the best of it, the tension calms and better things come out of it.  Generally, there are very simple things they can do to make themselves and their spouse happy.  

Of course, if your spouse is abusive, has had affairs, is an addict, suffers from a mental illness, or refuses to get help or follow through with therapy, then although it’s sad, a divorce is probably inevitable and you’re going to be happier to unload all of that pain.  But I think for the most part, especially after hearing from all the people on my program over the years, most divorces (most, not all) happen because someone says, “I’m unhappy and I don’t know what else to do.”  They figure, “OK, I’ll get a divorce and I’ll be happier because my marriage is the source of my unhappiness.”

There are a number of factors which can minimize your chances of getting a divorce.   If I were empress for a day, I would make it so that nobody could get married without premarital counseling.  It creates a much lower divorce rate because people work out their differences in a calm and neutral setting before the problems arise.  They have a trained professional helping them deal with the things most people avoid, which later come up and bite them. 

Additionally, as it turns out, people who actively practice one religion together and pray on a daily basis have a much lower divorce rate.  It doesn’t matter which religion.  These people are more centered.  Also, very religious people are givers.  They are not as concerned with taking.  When you have two people who are givers, the marriage works out really well.  Now, “so-called” religious couples – couples who share the same religion but are not active – do not have a lower divorce rate.   

Another divorce factor is how early you get married.  The reason?  Maturity.  The closer you are to 28 years old before you marry, the more realistic it is that you’ll stay with your spouse.  

We live in a society today where marriage and family are no longer seen as sacred, permanent and unconditional.  This lack of stability hurts the entire country.  The increasing number of second marriages, the resulting stepfamilies, and the even higher divorce rates occurring after the stepfamilies are created all contribute to the problem.  It’s not just the dissolution of the nuclear family that’s so destructive – it’s what happens afterwards.

When Kids See Smut Online

Should parents be concerned about Internet porn?

Yes!

The thing parents should be worried about most is the victimization of their children.  Whether it’s being preyed upon by a pedophile or experiencing crass sex totally disconnected from intimacy, it’s all victimization.
 
Today’s kids live in a culture where hard-core pornography is everywhere.  Kids have an arsenal of portable devices these days which enable them to go online just about anywhere.  Even if you monitor them closely at home by getting them to use child-friendly search engines and setting up OpenDNS or other parental controls, you still might not be able to stop them from looking at porn.  They could see it at a friend’s house, on a cell phone, or someplace where there’s public access to the Internet – like the library or at school. 

As far as I’m concerned, the windows in front of Victoria’s Secret stores depict soft-core pornography.  The same goes for Abercrombie and Fitch.  When parents walk by these stores in the mall with their kids or get their catalogues in the mail, they are exposing their kids to porn. 

A lot of people call in to my radio show wanting to know if they should wait until their kid asks about sex to talk about it.  I just tell them that at that point, it’s already way too late.  You should talk to kids about sex beginning at a very, very early age because they already have a high chance of seeing porn when their age is still in the single digits. 

You can say we all have different morals and philosophies about this topic, but mine is very child-centered and focused on kids having quality lives with quality relationships.   I think the ultimate goal for developing a child’s sexuality is making them see why connecting both sexually and spiritually is important.  You need to make them see that sex is a special act, and it symbolizes deep love and commitment between a husband and wife.  There are things that are sacred and sublime, and there are things that aren’t.  To take something sacred and put it in a meaningless context diminishes humanity, and affects not only the child’s sexuality, but his or her values, such as how women should be treated.

By helping your kids see the big picture about how sex is sacred and how it is being abused largely in our culture, you will be better prepared to confront the problem of pornography when it occurs in your children’s lives.

If you find out your child has looked at pornography, don’t get hysterical.  I think children are always victims of a form of sexual abuse whenever they are confronted with sexually provocative materials.   Gently find out if someone introduced it to them.  It’s really important to understand the context in which they got a hold of it.  It could have just been a pop-up, or their web search request came back with a porn site (e.g. they typed the word “fox” with two “x’s” by accident). 

And in the worst case scenario, your child could be looking at porn because it has been sent by someone who preys on kids.  “Pedophiles can use access to porn to establish a bond with a child.  The bond can lower a child’s resistance to meeting in person, and viewing porn may lower his or her resistance to being persuaded to perform sexual acts.  Showing a child pornography also is a good way to prevent detection because the child knows at some level he or she is doing something his parents wouldn’t sanction and is unlikely to tell them.”

Lastly, if your kid was just curious and looked at porn, don’t punish them.  Yelling, “We’re taking the computer away and we’re not going to feed you for four days,” is not helpful.   Instead, I think you should use the incident as an opportunity to teach your child that not everything and everyone on the Internet is harmless.  It’s a good time to talk to them about sexuality, how it can be exploited, and your values about sex, marriage, men, women, and relationships.  In your own home, it’s always a good idea to put the computer in a place where it is visible to the adults and limit the amount of time your child spends there.  You initiate the Internet session, log them on and off, and use blocking software and tracking services.  Basically, you set the rules.  If a child breaks the rules, then they get punished, but don’t punish them simply because they were curious and looked at porn.  If they are going to get a punishment, it should be because they disobeyed the rules.  Above all, you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable talking to you about something as incredibly important as their sexuality.

Your kids are being seduced all the time, and you have to keep that in mind.  I constantly see commercials that make my drop jaw.  It used to be that people would get hysterical over a kid getting his hands on a Playboy, but it’s not even close to that way anymore.  Our kids have lost their innocence and their sensitivity about viewing certain things that should be special.  It’s time to redirect and educate them.

Here are some alarming statistics about how Internet pornography is affecting our kids:

When Bad Things Happen to Children

On my SiriusXM show recently, I spoke about the meaning of life, and then I got this email from Lisa:

I heard part of your program today and you read about the different thoughts about the meaning of life… I’ve been thinking about that, too.

As the mother of a child who is dying of cancer, like many of us, we are losing our faith in a big powerful “daddy in the sky” that hears our prayers. I’ve heard from Christians that “God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle” but I can’t handle this. “God gives you strength to get through it” – no, He doesn’t. I’m about to lose my mind… the pain is much too great to bear. I hear that this is God’s plan, or that God needs another angel. If he needed another angel, he would just take one, HE WOULDN’T TORTURE THEM FIRST! How could he PLAN to put a child through this kind of HELL? What good could ever come out of this?

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. We wear gold ribbons, but only 3% of cancer research goes to childhood cancers. Does anybody care? Is the meaning of life only to do research on the “popular” cancers because they are the ones that will make money for the one who finds the cure? My son’s cancer is so rare that he gets the same chemotherapy he would have had in the 1980s… it doesn’t get researched.

Please tell me what the meaning of life is!

If you look at God as a “big powerful daddy in the sky that hears [your] prayers” and will give you what you want, and if you are a good person, you can’t help but be disappointed on a daily basis. That doesn’t seem to be the way it works. 

I know no other pain on the face of the earth that is greater than a parent having to see their child suffer and die.   I think parents would rather they suffer and die and trade themselves in for their kids.  So, this is the worst torture, but this is not a test of God.  That someone’s child or husband or wife or parent or friend gets ill and dies is not a test of whether or not there is a God.  There isn’t a test of whether or not there is a God — that’s why it’s called “faith.” To say that “I’m dubious about God” because my prayers aren’t being answered in the way that I want, is, in my opinion, never to have understood faith in the first place, but just to have played a social role in which you call yourself “religious.” 

There is no explanation for these things.  And, I agree with Lisa when she writes:  “If he needed another angel, he would just take one, HE WOULDN’T TORTURE THEM FIRST!….What good could ever come out of this?”  I like that answer of hers.  I think telling somebody this is God’s plan is a little obnoxious and I always thought it was.  It’s your assumption God is planning this.  You have no proof of that.  People go back to the story of Job and what he had to suffer and Abraham who almost wiped out his own kid until God said, “I see you really love me.  You don’t have to do this.” 

There are some important concepts and issues here.  When any of us says “I can’t handle this,” yet we make it through every day, we are handling it.  “Handling it” doesn’t mean it feels good or it’s easy; “handling it” usually means we are surviving it and doing the best we can.

I don’t understand all of the mass murders of the world — Stalin, Pol Pot, Germany, Japan. I don’t understand how that’s God’s will or God’s plan. It doesn’t make any sense to me, either.  And I don’t know how to put it together.  I don’t know how it’s God’s plan to have little children put in ovens and killed.  Or mommies and their children shot to death and put into a hole in the ground, naked.  I don’t understand how any of that is God’s plan.  So, I have no answer to that. 

This was not a theological thing where I was going to explain what life really means, other than there’s always been horror.  It’s like the horror films you see in the movies where there’s evil and someone in the church or somebody else finally squelches the evil and at the end you see the evil creeping up through the ground again. 

There is evil, there is disappointment, there is pain, there is everything.  So, ultimately, whether you really believe in God or not, we really need to hold on to each other.  There is something about touching the hand of another who corroborates your pain.  That’s why with parents in this situation, I always tell them to find other parents in this situation.  They will be the first ones to hug you and they won’t get tired of hearing from you like other relatives will.  It’s not they get tired, per se, it’s just they can’t do anything to help and it’s upsetting, so they don’t want to hear it anymore.  They are not being bad, they just don’t know how to fix it. They feel guilt and they feel uncomfortable and then they start feeling anger.  So, to go to people who have been there and done that is the way we hold on to each other.  Some people call that behavior the way God helps you go through things which are inexplicable. 

So, let’s not call bad things that happen “God’s plan,” because that hurts people.  God planned to hurt my kid?  You’re gonna tell me, there’s some higher power and I’m supposed to rise above that pain and say absolutely “I adore you?”  I think it’s a horrible thing to tell people.  I don’t think it’s good to tell kids God’s an all-powerful “daddy in the sky” who can do anything.  Well, then why isn’t he doing it for me?  I don’t like when people walk out of a bus that just been in a crash and they are alive and everyone else is dead and they say, “but for the grace of God.”  What the heck does that mean?  God intentionally wiped them out and kept you?

I think we want to feel special like we feel to a parent.  God is some kind of extension of parenthood.  We sometimes don’t realize how cruel we sound.  So, here’s my frame of reference for all of this.  There are evil things people do because they are evil.  There are horrible things that happen just because there are horrible things that happen.  The human body has weaknesses and that’s just the way it is.  There aren’t cures for everything because we are not good enough yet to produce them.  It’s hard to get money for things only a few people suffer from – Lisa is right about that.

The bottom line is we’ve got to hold on to each other.  That’s the immediate salvation: to hold on to each other’s love, support, and kind feeling.  It’s irrelevant if bad things are happening or not.  The way to make it through life, I believe, is to really be compassionate and to be open to compassion.  That’s what helps you get through the things that are inexplicable and horrible.

Baptists Need to DO Something About the Phelps Family

I’m certain you’ve heard of the vile, blasphemous, ferociously mean, insensitive, disgusting and downright evil actions of the members of the Phelps family of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist church – a group of trash who give Christianity a seriously bad name.  This group travels all over the country, protesting at military funerals, and saying that “the deaths of soldiers are God’s way of punishing the country for homosexuality.”  Motorcycle groups like the Patriot Riders travel to these funerals as well, to rev between these slime (who call themselves religious) and the suffering family and friends gathering for the funeral of an American hero, a son, a brother, a husband, or a friend.

I want to know whether there is any organization of Baptist churches which “pulls the member’s card” (if there is such a thing as Baptist excommunication).  If there isn’t one, there ought to be.  Where are the Baptist churches which send out their own members to stand between this evil group and the innocent?

Phil Roberts, President of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri  has said:

“The Southern Baptist Convention has repeatedly stated its position on homosexuality.  The 2000 Baptist faith and message said Christians should oppose all forms of sexual immorality including adultery, homosexuality and pornography.  However, since 1980, various SBC annual meetings have passed ten resolutions related to homosexuality including one in 1985 testifying of God’s love for homosexuals.  It reads: ‘We affirm the Biblical injunction which declares homosexuals, like all sinners, can receive forgiveness and victory through personal faith in Jesus Christ.’

The difference between Fred Phelps and the Southern Baptists is vast.  Phelps has a heretical position because, indeed, we are commanded to go and make disciples of all people.  That means all religions, ethnicities, and moral categories, realizing that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Homosexuals need Jesus Christ just as everyone else does.  The sin of homosexuality is a forgiveable sin…..

….Phelps apparently is quite willing to do God’s work for God in terms of condemning them all to hell without mentioning that redemption awaits  everyone who comes to faith in Christ….

…[This] man is not representative of the Christian community.

I have a huge problem with this.  Roberts is arguing about whether or not homosexuality is a sin; whether it’s forgiveable.  This is so not the point!

Whatever your philosophical or spiritual religious notions are about homosexuality, these people supposedly representing the Baptist Church are going from funeral to funeral, disrupting the mourning, the pain, the lives, and the ceremonies to cherish a lost warrior in the name of their religion.  It is blasphemous to speak for God or do something evil in God’s name (and that’s from a little Jewish girl).

The Phelps family has been emotionally and psychologically terrorizing military families in mourning for years using the banner of free speech.  I love free speech (as you know if you listen to my program), but since you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theatre when there isn’t one, I propose we have laws that prohibit protests at funerals within a five mile radius.  The pieces of crap called the Phelps family would then be out of shouting distance, but still have their freedom of speech!

What triggered my writing about this is that one man, Ryan Newell had enough and apparently decided to do something about it since no one else would.  Mr. Newell is a decorated military veteran who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan.  He received many medals for his service, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  He is being charged with five misdemeanors, including stalking and three counts of criminal use of a firearm, as well as impersonating a law enforcement officer after he was found following a van that carried the Westboro church members.  The Westboro creeps say they feared for their lives.
What??  They can dish it out but can’t take it?  A number of lawyers have volunteered to defend Mr. Newell pro bono.  Good for them.

But I’m asking for more than lip service from the Baptist churches around the country.  This sort of reminds me of CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations.  They go ballistic and start bullying and threatening any time someone speaks their mind about Islam.  I don’t, however, see them muscling the bad guys in their midst.  I don’t hear about it.  I don’t hear them digging out cells or undermining attempts to blow us up.  I don’t hear about that.  What I hear from CAIR is lip service – defensive, hostile, bullying lip service – and I want to hear MORE from the Baptist churches than the proclamation that “folks need to realize that this man is not representative of the Christian community.”   Why not put your body where your mouth is?  If he’s blaspheming God in your name for years and years and  years, I really have the expectation that you’d clean up your own house. 

I’m pretty exasperated with these people being allowed to do what they do.  It’s America – I know, they’re allowed to protest.  I get that, but where are the Baptist churches sending people in buses, trains, cars and planes every time the Phelps family announces that they are going to be somewhere?  I would expect Baptists to stand up against blasphemy and to stand up for the families of our fallen American heroes.  Lip service is bull.  Talk is cheap.  Do something about it.  Do something legal, do something moral, but do something.