marriage

Financial Goals for 2017

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Like any game plan, financial goals will have to adjusted in response to bumps along the way. It is better to start with a plan that just needs changes, than to be struck with a crisis and have no clue at all where to start!

With 2017 just days away, how are you getting yourself or your family off with the right financial game plan? These are a few of our financial goals for the next year. I hope they help inspire you to make small changes with big impact!

1. Update our budget.

I am a zero-based budget girl, which means that when incomes change and expenses change, so does our budget. A couple of years ago I updated our budget every month – but it became impossible to keep up with! Now, I’m making a general plan for the year, and I can update it when significant things happen. If we make a little extra or lose income, we adjust our expenses to get back to zero! (Okay, in our case I think we have ten dollars at the end, but that’s “wiggle room.”)

Bonus! You can look at my own zero-based budget template by following this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1E4MWBflO6FqEigl6c0QbH7i7VNEJA8ejtZLWELlj0XA/edit?usp=sharing

Once you view the budget, copy and paste it to edit and make it your own!

2. Save at least $15,000.00 for a down payment on a house.

We really, really, really want a house. We like to set ambitious goals, so we have to work at them, you know? But first, we had to build up our emergency savings.  This year, we established our emergency savings, and are on our way – thanks to an automatic savings plan and our increased budget – to making this home-ownership goal a reality. It will be a sacrifice, but we can do it!

If a house seems like a far-off dream to you, start with the basics from my post “3 Steps to Being Good With Money.”

3. Make regular contributions to our HSA.

We have had an HSA for the past couple of years, and I basically use it as a tax-deduction “funnel” for health care expenses. We don’t go to the doctor regularly enough to keep money sitting in there. I would rather keep our savings in a place I can use for any needs that arise – health care, fixing our existing cars, new car, etc. What I do is when I have a health care expense, I deposit enough money in the HSA to cover that expense, use it to pay the bill or reimburse myself for paying the bill, and voila it is paid and I get the tax deduction. This year, I carved out the tiniest piece I could in our budget and will make twenty-five dollar monthly deposits into our HSA. I know it’s comically small, but I figured that over time, we will eventually have an emergency health care expense, and I will feel really good knowing he have at least a couple of hundred dollars stashed away to help pay the bill. Also, I learned that money in an HSA doesn’t go away – even if you change health insurance plans! You can still use it, you just can’t make additional deposits to the HSA.

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I married younger, but look at how cute he is? Age is just a number, after all….

4. Establish an IRA for my husband, and make regular contributions.

I began my IRA through my employer when I started my job last year. I was, coincidentally, twenty-five years old. Since then, I have made regular contributions, and my employer has matched them. My balance is only a couple of thousand dollars at the moment, but it will make a big difference down the road. My husband turned twenty-five this year, and has no such plan through his job. He also anticipates being self-employed some day, so retirement is his responsibility alone. Accordingly, in January of 2017, we will establish his IRA and make regular contributions – roughly what I am contributing. To start us off on a positive foot, we will cash in a small federal savings bond I happen to have and use the proceeds as a foundation. By the end of his first year, he and I will be on roughly the same track and on our way to a financially stable future.

5. Stick to our budget.

What good is a budget if you don’t stick to it? After some tough conversations, we believe we have pin-pointed our problem with sticking strictly with the budget: extras! Extra needs or extra incomes don’t fit in the budget and we never know what to do with them. For example, what if we have used up our eating out budget for the month, and a friend we really want to spend time with asks to go out to eat? Or what if one of us gets a bonus, and one of us wants to use it to catch up on the budget we’re breaking, while the other one wants to use it to buy things which are really needed? See what I mean? Extras. To solve – at least hopefully – this issue, we have included a “slush fund” in our budget. This small, cash-only cushion will be used for the extras that inevitably arise. We have also agreed to treat bonuses like bonuses, which will happen when we truly stick to our budget. *fingers crossed*

6. Pay off two more student loans.

This year, I paid off one student loan and I’m half-way through another! I’ve thrown bonuses, tax refunds, and cash found on the street at these loans and can’t wait to slaughter them. I anticipate that our tax refund will pay off the one I am attacking now, so that leaves eight months to hit another one. By the end of the year, if we accomplish this goal, we will reduce our monthly payments by almost fifty dollars and save hundreds in interest! Motivation!!

What are your financial goals for 2017? What is in your family playbook for the next six months or year?

-D. E. Barbi Bee

XO Marriage Conference

This past weekend, Massimo and I had the joy of attending a simulcast presentation of XO Marriage Today Conference. It was surprising, deep, and life-giving to hear the truth of God’s word being preached over two days from some of the most intelligent, thoughtful speakers I’ve ever heard. Here, I want to break down the why, what, and how of the conference, and encourage you to attend this conference in the future!

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Why did you go to a marriage conference?

To be honest, I was against attending at first. When the first announcements happened in church, I told Massimo I would go if he wanted to, but let’s be real – I was hoping he was as uninterested as I was.

Then, a few days before the conference, Massimo asked me if I wanted to go. I had a list ready to go of all the reasons – good ones, too – not to go: it costs money, it costs time (precious weekend time), we don’t have big issues in our marriage, we already talk about marriage all the time together, and (the biggest one) I’m afraid it will be cheesy, shallow, and emphasize complementarian theology.

They were good reasons, no one is denying, but after talking about it some more, and quieting my fears, we decided that we should go. Turns out, there were very good reasons to go:

1. Any time invested in marriage is time well spent, even if it means taking away from sleeping in.

2. It wasn’t that much money, and my fears about spending money are often out of proportion with reality.

3. We went to the first day of the conference last year, and they didn’t talk at all about complementarian theology, so there was a good chance that would be the case as well this year.

4. We need to support marriage ministry in our church. By attending conferences we may or may not love, we are showing those investing their time and energy into these events that there is an interest, and then they may end up doing something we do love next time.

And so, we decided that no matter how tired we were, or how many other things we could do Friday night and Saturday morning, we would still go to the conference.

What happened at the conference?

The simulcast conference was streamed live from Texas, from 8-10:30 pm Friday, and from 10-12:30 pm Saturday. There were several lecture sessions each day, with breaks (and delicious snacks) in between. For a former grad student like myself, it was so natural to be taking notes and listening to a teacher again.

The speakers were Jimmy Evans, Dr. Henry Cloud, and John Gray. Each speaker was unique, but each was also apologetically preaching! Every speaker weaved scripture seamlessly into his messages. Every speaker was counter-cultural, and straight forward. They preached the truth and were unconcerned about how you might take it. All throughout the conference, I was thinking, “These people really care about marriage, and they are all obviously in the Word all the time.” It was beautiful and life-giving.

The other gorgeous thing that happened at the conference was that they didn’t base their teaching on gender stereotypes and narrow boxes. There were occasional jokes about her not knowing what to wear, and his just wanting to watch the Superbowl without interruption, but when things got serious, they were not messing around with any tropes: they emphasized our unity, equality, and common needs. I can’t even tell you how refreshing I found this, especially since I expected the complete opposite coming in.

How did the conference help you?

If nothing else, it was a wonderful time spent together as husband and wife, listening to the same teachers, and actively participating in focusing on our marriage. It’s important to talk about marriage one-on-one, but to both be sitting side-by-side, being fed the same truth – it’s really uniting and strengthening. And since we were there together, we’ve been talking about some of the messages together practically non-stop since the conference.

I learned a lot over the few days (including that there are good marriage conferences out there); these are just a few of the quick takeaways:

  1. Marriage was created for intimacy; that’s how things were in the Garden of Eden, and that’s what God wants in our marriages. Intimacy is not automatic; it must be built and jealously protected. Intimacy is for every marriage, and can be found even after all hope seems to be lost.
  2. All humans need connection. In the beginning, we were perfectly connected to each other and to God, but now that connection has been broken. Marriage is the process of re-connecting to each other, and to God. It can be painful, but the sacrifice is well worth it.
  3. Marriage is a miracle. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, and he’s working miracles every day that a marriage stays alive. The covenant of marriage is sealed and signed through physical intimacy, and breaks curses of generations past. Marriage belongs to God, not our government.
  4. Physical intimacy is special and spiritual. It connects two people like nothing else can, and represents the covenant of marriage like nothing else can.

The bottom line is this: there are no quick-fixes in marriage. Culture likes to sell short cuts, but God has a process (he can accelerate that process, but there is still a process), and the result is so worth the effort! This conference did not try to sell short-cuts: they looked in the Bible, saw the goal, and gave you encouragement to press on!

I can’t say that our marriage will be radically different, or that were in a dark place and it was saved by this conference. But attending the conference was such an honor. I was blown away by how much different it was than what I was afraid it would be. Please go to a conference like this when you have a chance – you might be surprised, too!

-debarbibee

The Beauty of a Feelings Argument

“…one of man’s core passions.”

“These are [her] core desires….”

“…he feels a sense….”

“… the unique role God has given men to feel…”

“Part of [her] make-up is a desire….”

These are the common ways that true “biblical” manhood and womanhood are often explained: by describing feelings.

In a recent conversation with a Christian brother, he was discussing with me a book on biblical manhood. At one point in the conversation, he pointed to me and said, “It is your desire that he [my husband] initiate, that he lead.” I looked skeptical and so he said it a few more times, always saying it that way: “It is your desire….”

Speaking a while later with my husband about the topic, he asked me, “Is it your desire that I initiate things?”

First of all, I appreciated that he actually asked me, instead of telling me how I ought to feel. Second, I didn’t know how to answer.

See, the beauty of a feelings argument – looking at your own desires or telling someone else what their desires are – is that you can never be wrong. If you tell someone what they feel and need and you are right, you have the strongest evidence you need that your whole argument is right. If you tell someone what they feel and need and you are wrong, then you simply tell them that they have lost touch with their “true needs,” “womanly/manly soul,” etc. You can never be wrong.

The problem with the feelings argument, and the reason I was having so much trouble answering my husband, was that I can’t know if my feelings are trustworthy or not. If I agree and say I do like when he initiates things, I don’t know if that is because: a) it’s my biblical design as a woman to follow his leadership; b) I’ve been culturally conditioned to accept male leadership as the norm in our modern patriarchal society; or c) at my core, I am a broken, lazy, sinful human who is always looking for a way to pass responsibility on to someone else.

Feelings are created by God, and they are purposeful and complicated. I appreciate feelings, and I’m learning more and more that feelings need to be recognized and respected if you are going to respect the whole person (even “sadness” and “anger,” a la Inside Out). However, using feelings as the main thrust of your worldview is highly problematic. I can’t always trust my feelings, because Satan likes to get in there and mix things up; he likes to plant seeds of doubt where they don’t belong. My “core needs” may be coming from my core sinful nature, or my nature that is created in the image of God. Telling the difference is straight-up impossible sometimes.

Here’s what I do know: people are messy, and people are complicated. I believe in an infinitely creative God who can imagine and form billions and billions of beautiful humans and never run out of ideas. Each of us is inherently valuable, and put on this earth to bring glory to God. Learn about the people around you, and you will learn about God. I promise. God is a three-in-one eternally relating being who wants to relate to us, wants us to relate to Him, and wants us to relate to each other.

That’s where I’m at: trying to stop worrying about if my feelings are right or womanly or wrong or human and trying to humbly get back to why I was put on this planet in the first place.

-debarbibee

2 Years

Announcing Mr. and Mrs. Barbi - June 30, 2013.

Announcing Mr. and Mrs. Barbi – June 30, 2013.

Two years ago, today, we got married. 

At this point, we have been married longer than we were dating. I think it’s finally starting to sink in that this is for real, and its so much better than I could have dreamt; even my wild imagination could not have created something like what we have. As I’ve said, this isn’t a fairy tale; real life is so much better. And with you, it really, truly is. The only problem is that it’s going by too fast.

A recap of the last year. We didn’t move anywhere, we only started one new job between the two of us, and God provided work for you long before you even needed it. We drove to North Carolina, Ohio, and Maine, each time getting to witness another wedding. You finished your guitar and we have starting taking tangible steps towards your future in lutherie. The biggest change of this year was my graduation from law school, and we saw that coming years in advance. It was a more settled year, for sure, but that is exactly what we needed.

Mr. and Mrs. Barbi for nearly one year.

Mr. and Mrs. Barbi for nearly one year.

I won’t say the first year was harder than the second, or more fun, or scarier, or more stressful – it was just different. The first year is all the firsts – first home, first Christmas, first time doing this or that; but by the second year, you no longer have to create ways of doing things, you get to repeat or modify. People no longer stare at you as “newlyweds,” nor do they ask (well, mostly) invasive, sometimes embarrassing questions about “married life.” We started to find our grove, we know each other better, and aren’t as afraid that we’ll make stupid mistakes because we’ve already made plenty and realized they are not the end of the world.

While the groove has been found, the spark has by no means been lost. I can’t say what life will be like in five, ten, or forty years, but I can tell you that I still have no idea what people mean by the “honeymoon” phase. For a while, I imagined that at some point into our marriage – one month, six months, one year? – I would wake up and suddenly realize how hard this was, suddenly no longer find marriage cute or exciting or fun, but find it a burden and a challenge that might not be worth fighting for. That, I thought, must be when I know the honeymoon phase ends.

Two years later and I still haven’t woken up to think any of those things. (To more seasoned wedded readers, my use of the word “still” will sound laughable, but bear with me because it is the longest I’ve ever been married.) In fact, due to outside challenges that have resulted in us leaning on each other for support, wisdom, and comfort, we are certainly closer than ever. I still love him. He still makes me happy. I still find marriage to be the best, most gloriously mysterious relationship I’ve ever been a part of. I’m still 100% in this, and Massimo seems pretty into it, too. Call it a honeymoon phase, call it newlywed bliss, call it whatever you want – I’m calling it my life.

Married for just shy of two years. Where has the time gone?

Married for just shy of two years. Where has the time gone?

The importance of our marriage has become even more stark since being surprised this year by the end or apparent end of some other marriages. In my life, I’ve never been up close and personal with divorce or separation, apart from my job, that is. But in legal work, the lawyer usually doesn’t see the death of the marriage, we see the people that once knew it coming by to claim its belongings. It’s a gruesome business and I don’t much care for it. This year, I was caught off guard by several marriages in my personal circle going on life support, and it was scary.

Will that ever be us? Could that happen to us? We had this conversation many times this year, and the conclusion has always been the same: no, it won’t. I don’t want to sound naive, but here’s all I know: for us, getting married was like building a house, a big house that needed to stand against serious storms and hold for many, many years. Our house needed good blueprints and to be made of really good materials. I know that we have good plans in our marriage, because we put the work in, consulted the experts, and worked out the details with the maker of marriage. As far as the materials, I know that for all his sinfulness, Massimo is made from the best stuff on earth, and he says that I’m the good stuff, too. We’re far from perfect, but I think our house has at least a fighting chance. Two years in, and I know that now better than ever.

Every so often I listen to the song we used for our first dance, and it’s words get more and more applicable the more I get to know you and get to know our marriage.

Happy anniversary, my signore. I can’t wait for all the rest. Thank you for picking me to be your partner and love; I know God put us together because only the Perfect Creator could have designed something like this.

-debarbibee

Why I Changed My Name When I Got Married

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine - June 6, 2015.

Drew, Ellen, Me, and my husband, Massimo at Hermit Island, Maine – June 6, 2015.

Wedding season is officially in full force. Having recently returned from my cousin Drew’s beach-side nuptials in woody Maine this past weekend, I have got weddings on the brain. Ever since getting married almost two years ago, attending weddings always bring up all the memories and feelings surrounding my own wedding day.

Of all the decisions one has to make when getting married (and there are a lot!), one that is often overlooked is whether or not the bride will change her name – and if so, to what? This deeply personal choice (it is your name, after all)  most of us don’t learn about until after the wedding. Back when we were first talking about getting married, Massimo and I made the choice together that I would take his name, and here I am to share what factors went into that decision, for anyone curious about some things one may consider when going from Miss to Mrs.

1. I changed my name because I had a choice.

Although we still have a ways to go, here in the US, and in my particular family, we women have the choice of changing our names or not. Some people don’t like women changing their name upon marriage because of the history of the tradition – that when you got married, you were no longer a legal individual, but the property of your husband. Personally, I felt it important to reclaim the tradition, and exercise my freedom to consider the change or not for myself and for my new family of two. I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

2. I changed my name because it was representative of our new, united family.

This is a common reason to change your name: so that everyone will have the same name. It’s a practical reason, but also has its symbolic implications. Having the same name helps symbolize my new role as a wife, and instantly associates me with my husband, and, should we have them someday, our children. In some ways, I feel sorry for Massimo and men in general that they don’t get the same symbolic “re-birth” (for lack of a better term), but I suppose it’s up to the husbands to figure out their own way to represent our covenant – tradition has given me one already and I happen to like it.

3. I changed my name because it mattered to my fiance.

Even though it was I who would be living with a new name, as an engaged couple, it was important for me to respect the opinions and feelings of my soon-to-be husband in such big a decision as a name change. If I was neutral on the idea, and didn’t care either way, but Massimo felt very strongly and always pictured me having his last name, then I would do it. In reality, I was mostly already planning on changing my name before we discussed it, but knowing how much it mattered to him helped me dive in all the way.

I had the choice – and that alone made it worth considering.

4. I changed my name because there were other Devenneys to carry on the family name.

I come from a family with a lot of girls, but we do have two boys that can carry on the family name. Some women want to keep their name (either as a surname or middle name) to preserve it if they have no brothers to do so. I was fortunate enough to not have that pressure on me, and little did I know that nearly a year after getting married, we would add a sister-in-law to the family who happily took on the Devenney name through my brother.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. - June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

When we were brand-new Mr. and Mrs. – June 30, 2015 in Haddam, CT.

5. I changed my name because I got married young.

I always assumed that if I got married at all, it would be years and years into my career. For that reason, I worried about changing my name after already having a client base and law firm, and how it might affect my professional recognition.Would I change it legally, but keep my maiden name professionally? Would I let people call me by my husband’s name, but not legally change it at all?

These questions are especially significant in the field of law, where your name is not just what people call you, but often the name on the moniker on your building. All these questions subsided and I fortunately didn’t have to answer them when I married at the ripe young age of 23, when the most recognition I had for my last name was the fact that my first-year Torts professor could never, ever say it right.

6. I changed my name because it’s easier for me to change my name than anything else.

As I said, we wanted both of us to have the same last name, and we wanted to symbolize our new life as a married couple. Well then, “Why doesn’t he change his name, or you hyphenate the two of them?” While those options would give us the same result, “Devenney” is a lengthy name to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names. When a woman changes her name, it is instantly understood, and we don’t have to answer a lot of questions about why we suddenly have a new name.

When I had to go through the process of changing my name (which took about a year to do thoroughly), all I had to say was, “I got married,” and that (along with appropriate documentation) was enough. I can’t imagine the confused looks and questions that Massimo would have had to endure had he tried to change his name. Everyone would probably assume he was trying to commit identity theft. Until security questions ask, “What is your mother or father’s unmarried name?” it will simply make more practical sense, if anyone in the couple is going to change it, for wives to do so.

Now, I do realize this is a circular argument, because if wives keep doing this then our culture will never change. But I also realize that me – being just one person – am not solely responsible for the 60% of Americans who think women should take their husband’s last name when they get married.

7. I changed my name because no matter what it says on my license, I will always be a Devenney.

At first, I worried that I would lose a part of me if I changed my name – I would no longer be instantly associated with the Devenney name and family. After considering this, I realized that my mother has been a Devenney for over 30 years, and is still easily identified with her parents and brothers, who carry her maiden name. I grew up in the same town as my grandparents and cousins – all of whom had different last names – and yet everyone still knew that we were related. I realized that no matter how long I am a Barbi, people will still know that I was a Devenney first.

8. I changed my name because I wanted to honor the support of my husband on my diploma and in my career. 

The name “Deborah Devenney” appeared on 23 years’ worth of essays, programs, awards, certificates, and diplomas. Every time it showed up, I was able to represent the Devenney name and let the world know that the Devenneys had all helped me get to wherever I was. I got married one year into law school, and although my parents, siblings, grandparents and so on were still extremely supportive and instrumental in allowing me to finish law school, it was Massimo who stepped up and took on the role of supportive spouse full-time.

When I realized that I would be getting married before graduating, I told Massimo that I wanted his name to show up on my diploma, so that everyone would know that it was he who helped me get there. When we each have our own businesses or careers or whatever, our shared name will let everyone know that I helped him, and he helped me. Having the same name is one way we chose to symbolize that mutual support, and share in each other’s successes.

“Devenney” is a lengthy name to try to hyphenate, and the fact is that our culture simply isn’t designed for men to easily change their names.

-debarbibee

First Anniversary Trip to New York City [in Pictures]

It’s been one year today. One year ago, he wore his suit, and I my dress, and we met at the chapel. I walked with my Dad down the aisle to him. His face – oh I’ll never forget it! We prayed, we listened, we vowed, and put on those shiny new rings. And there it began. It seems like it was both last week and decades ago, but I can truly remember every moment of that day if I try.

They say things about the first year: that it’s the hardest, that it’s the easiest. They talk about honeymoon phases and newlywed fights. I don’t know much about those things, but I do know that if this was the hardest, then I don’t know what on earth people complain about. And if it’s the easiest, then bring it on, world, because we’re in it for the long haul.

This year was absolutely amazing: challenging, rewarding, and so full of love and joy. To top off the year, we took the train into New York City and did some of our favorite things, with my favorite guy.

First up: some shopping, of course. Massimo spoils me. But it was on sale!

Next: the Central Park Zoo, complete with Rio 4-D!

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Then we had a flawless early dinner at Uva. I can’t stop thinking about that meal – this place was awesome. And started off with a three-cheese platter. You can’t go wrong when you start with cheese and figs.

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And finally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We only saw about 10% of this monstrous museum, but we did get to see some 200 year-old Martin guitars and Van Gogh paintings. Not too shabby.

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And in the end, I took my first taxi ride back to the station and got a piece of cheesecake for the ride home. Thank you for a fabulous day in the city, love! Happy Anniversary, and I can’t wait for so many more!

-debarbibee

Loving and Respecting My Church

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Open space in the church – where there is room for each other. photo via @darlingmagazine

Our church is a Love & Respect church. I love our church and I really do believe that the book, video series, workbooks, follow-up studies, and retreats have truly helped many families in our church. And I’m really glad that they were able to find a safe place to talk about some conflicts in their marriage and work on ways to resolve them. Satan hates happy marriages, and a place where the church can support them is a very positive thing.

However, I have struggled for years with this book and some of it’s dedicated following. A whole book based on a single verse in the New Testament? A wide-reaching, money-making campaign with THE SECRET to a long and happy marriage, based on two words and a 7,000-person survey – what could be wrong with that?

The website for Love and Respect proudly states that the founders realized the key to marital bliss when they asked 7,000 people at their marriage seminars one question, and then they found the universal truth! 7,000 people?! That’s like asking 8 people in New York City where the best pizza is, and if 6 of them agree, you’ve found the unquestionable answer. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Also take a look around their website and you’ll notice something: a lack of diversity. I wonder why a book written by two white, 50-something, middle-class American’s doesn’t translate to all other cultures if it’s supposed to the universal truth? (Who, by the way, had revenue to the tune of $1.8 million in 2010 for their “secret”.) That seems to be a problem.

I haven’t read it. I have had at least a dozen people tell me to do so. I have read their blog and their daughter’s blog. I have watched their videos and interviews. I have read the testimonials and the critics. I probably know about as much as I can about this book without actually opening the front cover. And I don’t want to.

Why? Because I’ve been hurt by sexism in the church before, and every time it rears its ugly head these days it brings back painful memories. I’ve been treated with disrespect by pastors, Christian camp counselors, authoritative voices in the church and online, and I’ve even been hurt by people very close to me, whom I love. It’s the book, it’s the idea, and it complementarianism in general.

It sucks when someone tells me my husband has to make more money and have a more impressive job than I do to feel good about himself. No he doesn’t; please don’t treat my husband like a bank account. He’s really not.

It find it downright disrespectful when someone tells me I, as a women, tend to act with my heart, and not my head. It is a basic principal in negotiations that you cannot let your emotions rule. If I’m not good at that, then I can’t negotiate. If I can’t negotiate, then the last four years of my life leading up to and studying in law school have been a waste and I need a new career.

I really don’t like it when Dr. Eggerichs uses an analogy that women see, hear, and say everything through a pink filter, and men through a blue filter. No, actually. I see, hear, and say everything through a Deborah filter, and Massimo through a Massimo filter. Get to know me and I’ll get to know you. Then we can understand each other.

I cannot understand it when the founders assume that men do not listen and they only want to fix things. Actually, my husband happens to be a top-notch listener, but we both tend to want to fix things for the other person. That’s what happens when you love someone: you want to make their world better.

I’m insulted when people make jokes about men being the head, but the woman “can move the head any way she wants.” Apparently the only way I have a voice in my relationship is through manipulation and guilt? That’s just being plain rude to me and my husband.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Basically, every premise that this Marriage-Saving conglomerate puts forth hits us like slaps in the face, telling me once again that I am in the wrong career, so is my husband, and we are nothing more than our defined sexes.

And I’m not the only one. I was so relieved to see that Elizabeth Esther also did not find the book’s old-school misogynistic tone very female-friendly. The thing is that it’s not just insulting to women, it’s also rude to men. They are supposedly the “stronger” sex, but at the same time, they act like a crazy child when their gender trump-card is declined.

My stomach churns when someone brings it up. I know they mean well – it helped them, so they want to pass it on. But it hurts. And it makes me angry.

Anger. That’s not the way I should feel on a Sunday morning. But Satan knows my weaknesses and he grabs a hold of those moments. My mind starts spinning, going faster than I can even form words. I start writing, furiously. Massimo and I vent to each other in the car. “Why? Why is this message still out there? And why do I fall victim to these scars every time this book is brought up?”

The thing is that I know in my head that this is what some people believe, and how they’ve modeled their marriages. Personally, Massimo and I prefer more of a co-leadership model. We respect each other’s hearts and minds, and use them together to make decisions as a team. We don’t worry so much about who’s in charge and who has the last word. In fact, if those thoughts do present themselves in our relationship, it is a sign of a conflict that needs to be sorted out.

But that’s what works for us. And it may not work for you, or your friends, or your kids. I don’t know! But I do know that my past is having a bad influence on my present, and it’s causing internal and sometimes external conflict. And for I while I’ve been stuck: what can I do about it? I’ve been praying and praying for relief from this battle.

And finally, I read this: “Fighting Words.” It’s about the battle between complementarians and egalitarians, and how we are too often either defending our stand or attacking the other. It’s about how we need to lay our weapons down, especially if we truly believe in equality. Since both views are biblically-based, we don’t need to fight about it. If we truly believe in equality, then that should also hold true in our respect for interpretations of scripture contrary to our own.

The message came through even more when I read this, about what feminists and complementarians have in common. It’s not a war, not even a battle. There is grace and there is love and I can stop worrying about defending my views or my decisions. That doesn’t mean we have to stop the conversation, but it does mean that I can show respect for the other side. And that truly, at the end of it all, we’re on the same side: that of defending Christ-centered marriages.

I will continue to have to work on healing the scars from sexist Christians in the past, and I will defend my husband from the same kind of mistreatment. But that is a battle that God and I can work through together. And in the mean time, I can be loving towards couples who find helpful advice in Love & Respect, I can have respect for the leaders who advocate for it’s message, and I don’t want the church to stop talking about marriage. After all, we ought to be submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (see Ephesians 5:21).

-debarbibee

Marriage Advice from a Very Experienced Woman Who’s Been Married 11.5 Months

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Look at those kids: they didn’t know anything! Married for 45 minutes – those babes were just starting out.

My little brother William is getting married tomorrow in Lima, Peru. I am super duper totally excited for him because he’s marrying an amazing, godly woman named Mayra. And I won’t be there. BUT, as his big sister, who has been married a whole 11.5 months, I thought it was my sisterly duty to offer the young man some solid marriage advice. I’m so much older and so much wiser (which are the only qualifications for offering advice, according to The Sound of Music). We’ve found that these were important fundamentals to keep in mind in our marriage, so we wanted to share them as a little gift to you guys.

1. Every marriage is different.

People always ask me, “How’s married life?” (They will ask you, too. A lot. Figure out a thorough, yet succinct answer fast because you will need it on-hand at all times.) I think that’s such a funny question because I’ve only been married once, to this one man. What do I know about “married life?” I know about my married life. That’s all.

You are unique. Mayra is unique. That means that your marriage is totally unique! And that’s awesome and beautiful and amazing. It’s like this precious little other being that is being born, and you get to spend the rest of your life taking care of it and getting to know it and watching it grow. So when someone says something about “marriage,” or “wives,” or “husbands,” or you have expectations about what “marriage” is like, just check those expectations at the door, and examine them fully before you let them in. Focus on how God made You, and Mayra, and brought you together. Start there.

2. That doesn’t mean I can’t give you advice.

Well, it doesn’t mean no one can give you advice. There are some similarities between marriages (like there are some similarities between you and your pastor, or me and my sisters). Marriage, as we know and think of it, is a sacred covenant. It’s an ancient sacrament that is mysteriously binding you both to each other, and to other married couples down the ages. It’s like becoming a citizen of a new country: you have new rights, new responsibilities, and a new identity. But you are also still yourself. Basically, it’s a confusing and pretty miraculous thing. The point is: be wise and cautious about who you listen to, and set a good example for others

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But look at these mature, knowledgeable adults! At 11 months, we’ve seen a thing or two.

3. You’re giving up a lot, and getting a lot.

I didn’t really know what I would have to give up when I got married. I knew I would have to give up some things, but I really couldn’t comprehend how much everything in my life would get re-prioritized. (You really can’t comprehend it before you’re in it; so just hang on.)

Church obligations, social circles, family, school, work, leisure, health, money: everything gets shifted. It’s sort of like on those shipwreck movies where everything’s cool and you’re on a relaxing vacation, and it’s all, “Who wants another soda?” And then all of a sudden you are lost and you need to make a shelter from leaves and sticks and drink pee to survive. Like, whatever your reality was before, you can’t take anything for granted and you have to re-prioritize and start from scratch. It can get messy, and a little painful.

The good news is: you are getting a partner for the rest of your life. And I can’t really begin to explain how much you gain with a partner by your side, through thick and thin. So try not to mourn the losses and focus on building up and investing in the gains.

4. For goodness sakes make each other happy.

When the terrible, stressful things are happening and it’s just one of those days, what makes Mayra happy? Does she like gifts, or time alone, or time with you, or does she like when you help take over some of her usual responsibilities, or does she want relaxing time away? Like, figure it out (ask her), and do it. (Recall the part where she is unique and everyone’s different and stuff? Yeah, she’s super special.)

Find out what makes you happy no matter what terrible thing is going on and tell her so she can do it. (P.S. Did you know that good communication is A-tops first primo important? Mhm. Tell Her!!! Ask Her! Mayra: Tell Him! Ask Him!!!)

5. Pray pray pray together and for each other.

Pray before meals, pray before bed, pray in the store and in the car, pray when your spouse is having a bad day, when he or she is having a good day, pray when you are upset with him or her. Pray all the time, for all the reasons, especially when you are upset. And tell the other person that you are praying. No matter what else Massimo ever does for me, my favorite thing is when I know he’s praying for me. It’s basically the most loving thing you can do for a person.

6. Communicate

Neither of you are mind-readers (as far as I know). We decided early-on in our relationship to not hold each other accountable for something we didn’t know. I can’t get upset with him for something I wanted him to do when I didn’t tell him, and vice versa. Honest, open communication is so crazy important, and non-verbal communication doesn’t count.

There are SO MANY less misunderstandings when you use your words, like our good parents taught you. We are not monkeys; we have a verbal and written language, and that’s why we are able to get married. You don’t see monkeys on Say Yes To The Dress, do you? That’s my point. Talk it out. (And you guys have two languages to use, so you have no excuses.)

I love you both and I can’t wait to see your love for each other and marriage grow over the years!

-debarbibee