Tag Archives: Vows

Why Shacking Up Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Couples who shack up before marriage are more likely to divorce, experience domestic violence, have sexual and emotional problems, and be involved in affairs. Yet, regardless of the statistics, people continue to do it.

The myth couples use to justify shacking up is that by living together before marriage, they can “test drive the car” and have a more satisfying and longer-lasting marriage. But it’s just the opposite.  People shack up because they are skittish about commitment and, therefore, more likely to call it quits when problems arise.

In addition, couples who shack up actually lose objectivity because they’re not looking at the relationship from a distance.  They literally haven’t had the “space” to step back and objectively consider whether this person is truly the best match for them.  Instead, they sort of just drift into marriage.

Another reason not to shack up: You won’t have a healthy relationship with your extended family.  A supportive extended family is one of the things that makes a marriage work.  However, moms, dads, siblings, and other family members are not going to expend as much effort, caring, and commitment to you as a couple when it’s an iffy situation.  People often forget that and then complain about their family not treating their shack-up stud or honey like family. Well hell, if you want them to be treated like family, make them family!

Quite frankly, if you shack up, you are basically saying that your future marriage isn’t valuable enough to be worth waiting and making tough sacrifices for.  I love it when people shack up and then demand a traditional wedding. How can you choose to live in a tremendously untraditional way and still expect your parents to cough up the money for a traditional party?  If a kid wants to slap the face of tradition, they are on their own.

Finally (and most importantly), shacking up hurts kids.  If (and usually when) a woman gets pregnant in a shack-up situation, there is a high probability that the sperm donor will split within two years, which results in a never-married-single-mom raising a fatherless child. A guy who is screwing a woman without laying down his life for her doesn’t want to be a dad – he’s just getting off.

In my opinion, the best way to test your compatibility for marriage and reduce your chances of divorce to almost nothing is:

1) Don’t have sex until you’re married.
2) Date for at least one year before you get engaged.  
3) Participate in a structured premarital counseling program which includes psychological testing. 

However, I know most of you are not going to do that.  So, operate at your own risk – or rather, the risk of your kids.

Nightmarish Dream Weddings

The economy is really bad, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  Because finances are such an issue, practicality is especially important these days.  However, a lot of people still have delusions of grandeur about certain things like weddings.  Many of them watch too much reality television and get swept away by the fairy tale nonsense.   Instead of seeing a wedding as a stage for making vows to love, cherish, protect, hold dear, and support in sickness and in health, they (especially women) look at it as a major opportunity to be queen for a day.

The average couple spends $27,000 on their wedding. Talk about extravaganzas.  I think the reason for this is because women, in particular, are pressured by friends, family, and even strangers.  They are also victimized by media visions, such as all those incredible photos you see posted on Pinterest.  These kinds of things are what create the sense of fantasy and cause weddings to go way over budget. 

Sadly, what results is couples starting their lives together in debt and often without the resources to go on a honeymoon.  When you’re young, you already have a lot of bills.  If you’ve got $30,000 in student loans to pay off in addition to the wedding, you are not going to have enough money to live on.  Marriage is already tough enough without the added stress of money problems. 

In addition, parents borrow on their homes or dip into their retirement funds to pay for their kids’ weddings.  It’s not all that surprising seeing that couples, on average, spend $12,000 on the reception and $5,000 for the engagement ring.

We really need to simplify.  Love is simple and sweet.  You’re planning a celebration of vows, not the Academy Awards.  At a time when the median U.S. income is about $45,000, no one should be spending $27,000 on a single event.  In one article I read, a couple said, “If it were up to us, we would have a taco truck and a DJ.”   However, instead, women spend thousands and thousands of dollars on dresses that they are (hopefully) only going to wear one time.  What happened to this being a touching and meaningful occasion? 

If you want to cut down on your wedding costs, here are some helpful tips:

1. Avoid wedding seasonWedding season is traditionally May through October.  If you get married off season, things will be a lot cheaper.  In addition, avoid the highest-priced time charged by reception halls (Saturday at 7 p.m.). 

2. Limit the guest list.  When your parents and friends want to bring people you’ve never even heard of, you need to tell them “no.”   Your mom or dad might object, “But, I do business with these people!,” however, the answer is still “no.”  There should be nobody at your wedding that a) you don’t know, or b) you don’t think is there to support your vows.  I know that’s a novel concept these days, but it’s an important one.  You shouldn’t be walking around the room wondering, “Who the hell is that?”  If your parents want to invite business partners or other friends, let them have their own party at some other time and invite all these extraneous people to celebrate that their kid got married.

3. Consider having a wedding buffet, luncheon, brunch, or just a dessert reception instead of a multi-course wedding dinner.  You don’t need to have a major sit-down dinner.  You also don’t have to go overboard with desserts.  Most of the time, people have stuffed themselves and don’t want to eat a huge dessert.  You could offer them cookies or other itty bitty things instead.  And as for the booze – buy it yourself.  It’ll be much cheaper than having a catering hall provide it.

4. Rethink the location.  Consider having your wedding at a national park or the beach.  Ask a relative or friend to use their backyard.  I’ve had several friends’ weddings in my backyard.  I said to them, “Do you know how much money you are going to save if you just have your wedding at my house?  We can rent some tables and spiff it up.   It has got a beautiful view, and most importantly, it’s free.  That’s a good price.”

5. Save on flowers and decor.  Instead of spending a ton of money on floral arrangements, buy some small, inexpensive vases and dress them up with ribbons and other accessories.  Then, get your flowers from the grocery store.  It’s as simple as that.

6. Cut down on attire.  Attire accounts for 10 percent of the average wedding cost.  Did you know that you can rent a gown?  Check out sample sales, department stores and outlet stores.  You don’t have to pay $2,000-7,000 for a dress you’re not going to wear again.  Even if you get divorced and remarried four times, you’re probably not going to wear that same dress. And, if you try to sell a $5,000 dollar dress, you may only get $750 for it.   It’s a ridiculous expense – rent a gown for the night.

7. Go for a DJ instead of live music.  Couples spend an average of 8 percent of their wedding expenses on music.  DJs are very popular these days, and they are much cheaper than hiring a live band.

8. Get an amateur to take your photos and videos.  Why go through all the hassles and fights you’re bound to have with a professional photographer?  Hire an amateur.  Check out the local colleges where people are studying photography and find somebody there.  Or, like one wedding I went to, put disposable cameras on every table so that your guests can take pictures of each other.  You’ll end up with quite a lot of pictures. 

9. Send your wedding invitations via email.  I recently got invited to a baby shower via Evite.  All I had to do was click “yay” or “nay” to RSVP.  It was very cute.  Something like that is a whole lot less expensive than the 42 different envelopes packed into one with all the tissue paper and stamps.  Forget all that. Use the net.

10.  Don’t have so many bridesmaids, and let them wear their own choice of attire.  It saves money and makes everybody happier.  Give them a color scheme and say, “Whatever it is, it needs to be ____ shade of blue.”  You can even send them all a swatch of that shade for comparison.  In addition, you only need to have one or two bridesmaids.   You are not one of the royals in England. 

Nowadays, people tend to spend more time on the desserts and who’s going to sit where than they do on what they’re actually committing to: their sacred vows.  Keep it simple, keep it sweet, and most importantly, keep it meaningful.

Reasons to Get Married

A lot of people get married for selfish reasons.  They want to be free from their parents, ease loneliness, have sex, show that they’re adults, save or help someone else, attain citizenship, and/or have a baby.  They also might get married because all their friends are married, or they feel like they’re running out of time.

But all of these reasons are WRONG!

You should get married because you have a deep admiration and respect for someone else, and you are willing to help fulfill his or her needs and dreams.  You should get married when you’ve learned enough about a person and his or her family to know that he or she is emotionally and psychologically healthy, and you really want to share your lives together.  When you get up in the morning, you should look at your spouse and think, “What can I do to make him or her happy today and glad he or she is married to me?  How can I make him or her glad to come home to me tonight?”  There’d be a lot more happy people if all we did that.

This is why good marriage counselors don’t start off with the problems and the things your spouse does that make you mad.  Instead they ask, “What was there that made you fall in love?  What was there about each other that you admired, respected, and enjoyed?  What kept you together long enough to get married?”  
 
And then there’s the whole commitment thing. 

What’s the point of a commitment you might ask?  Isn’t it just a piece of paper? 

The answer is no.  Love without commitment is not enough to maintain a relationship.  In the beginning, rules about commitment are not an issue because the two of you are so overwhelmed by emotion.  But when you start having ups and downs and challenges, and you’ve both gotten a little lazy about being loving and supportive, the rules and expectations start coming into play.  When you guys forget your vows and promises to each other, everything else loses meaning. 

And that’s why marriage is important.  It’s the expression of commitment and devotion in public with promises.

Married people also eat better, take better care of themselves, and have more stable, secure, and scheduled lifestyles than unmarried ones.  Read more about how marriage positively affects your physical and mental health. 

And here’s an email Fiona sent me about the benefits of being married.  I chose it because she added a dimension I hadn’t heard put quite that way.

Hi Dr. Laura,

There are so many wonderful things about being married.  I would like to touch on two that I think are the most meaningful to me.

1. It is nice to know there is someone in life who is “for” you.  I am for him and he is for me.  My husband and I are each other’s cheerleaders.  “Rah Rah!, I’m rooting for you Baby…and thanks for rooting for me too!”  If someone asked me for advice on marriage, I would tell them to make sure you are both FOR each other.  It’s really an easy way to choose wisely.  If that quality isn’t present, you are not a match.

2. The second thing is this:  we are there to be a witness to each other’s lives.  We know each other’s dreams, accomplishments, failures, mistakes, heartaches, triumphs, tragedies, and ecstasies.  We know what is important to each other and what we both believe and what our values are.  We can say, “Yes, they were here, this is who they were, this is what they did, and this is what meant enough to them to fight for.”  I was a witness, I was there.

Till Death Do Us Part

I heard this story a few months ago, but wanted to bring it to your attention again right before Valentine’s Day as an example of true and deep love.

The headline from last October read: “Iowa Couple Married 72 Years Dies Holding Hands, an Hour Apart,” and the article went on to say that their passing “reflected the nature of their marriage where…everything was done together,” according to their daughter.  Here’s more about them:

Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.

The most important part of the story is what comes next.  I really want you to think about it.

“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager, 52. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”

When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.

He joined his right hand to her left hand, and that’s how they died. 

The key to the whole story, however, was they were concerned about each other up to the moment they passed away.

I wrote a book several years ago entitled “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage,” in which I talk about waking up each day, looking over at your spouse and making the decision to make their day worthwhile and to make them happy that they are married to you.  In other words, instead of waking up with all your bitchy thoughts, all your self- centered thoughts about what you’re not getting, what you’re not feeling,  wake up thinking  what you do for him/her to make his/her life worth living and worth living with you.  That is the key to this couple.  And that’s the key to them dying together.

There are more stories that illustrate this point: Couple Die Together After 62 Years of Marriage

Eighty-four-year-old Robert, whose health had declined steadily in recent years, always expected to go first. His 80-year-old wife, Darlene, had been his steady caretaker at home they built with their own hands, until she was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few weeks to live.

When Robert learned Darlene was terminally ill, he quickly grumbled: “I’m terminal, too.”  While family members and caretakers just chalked off that statement to the emotion of the moment, as his wife lay beside him in her last moments, he, too because to die.  Only six hours separated their deaths.
It was a bittersweet moment for the couple’s five children and extended family.

While they’d lost their mother and father, they knew their parents, the couple who lived and breathed love for one another, who spooned together every night while watching the news, who even walked to their mailbox in tandem had received their last wish.

Their story of love and long-term devotion showcases an aspect of humanity that even modern science has a hard time explaining: that sometimes strength of will decides whether we live or die.

Their chemistry was magical, the family said. They got up from bed together and always waited for the other to get in bed at night. Mornings over coffee together developed a mutual plan of attack for the day. Darlene always made sure Robert’s lunch was packed and clothes folded for him to wear.

They eventually had nine children, and it’s safe to say they proved their doctor wrong.

Robert suffered strokes, kidney troubles, congestive heart failure and other ailments following, but he never complained.

“I’m fine,” he’d always say.

In retirement, they never left each other’s sides. If a check needed depositing, they went to the bank together. Grocery shopping was done in tandem. The pair even ventured to the mailbox together everyday unless one was too ill to do so.

In the days before their deaths, hospice had a special bed put into the couple’s bedroom, where youthful pictures of Robert and Darlene hang above their respective bedsides. Robert, in their own bed, held her hand tight as she began to die.

Not long after, the nurse came to check on Robert. Astonishingly, his vital signs began to fail. His breathing became broken. He was actively dying, the nurse told the family. There were no drugs or methods he’d used to quicken death; it just began to happen.

They gave him two days to live, tops. Instead, he joined his wife in death only six hours after hers.

Robert and Darlene, whose services were held Thursday, will be buried in the same way they lived their lives together.

In the same casket.

Dying beside the love of your life and passing into eternity together is the stuff of legends, but it’s well documented around the world.  It’s some connection.  It’s some special connection.  In some cases, research shows that one person’s heartbeat can affect and even regulate another’s (working as a type of life support).

Now, in none of these cases where spouses died within minutes or hours of each other was there a suicide.  I think the amazing thing to take from these stories is that these relationships lasted that long. But it’s a simple fact (and one to remember when you find yourselves crabbing and whining about each other):  these husbands and wives lived to make sure the other was happy.  And, in doing so, they were happy. 

It’s really not that complicated, and it’s something very special to think about this Valentine’s Day.