Thursday, September 26, 2013

New: The Institute for Family Studies

I want to let you know of a new entity called The Institute for Family Studies. The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) is dedicated to strengthening marriage and family life, and advancing the well-being of children, through research and public education.

The Institute has a blog that will include regular pieces by a range of thinkers on marriage and family, including Bill Coffin, Laurie F. DeRose, Robert I. Lerman, Emily Esfahani Smith, Scott Stanley, Charles E. Stokes, W. Bradford Wilcox, Amber Lapp, David Lapp, Kay Hymowitz, and Ashley E. McGuire.

I know many of the regular readers of some of my pieces here would be interested in a lot of the content. To check out the newest entries on the blog there, try this link. 

I know the site is new but there are already archived pieces to read.

My first entry is a new, updated version of one of my most popular themes which I have blogged about here in the past. It’s entitled, “Life Before Marriage: Does What Happens in Vegas Stay in Vegas?

I encourage you to check it out and the other excellent content on the site. 


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

That's Cool: Sacrifices and Partner Influence on Dressing for Comfort

I was in an airport a month ago waiting for a flight and I chanced to overhear a couple talking. Now, to be clear, I don’t try to overhear couples talking. I’m an introvert, and I’m not seeking social interaction (participatory or otherwise) in an airport. I also do no try to analyze any couples, either, when I’m out and about. I’d rather be reading, thinking, or writing.

This sort of reminds me of my common party response when a couple learns what I do and asks, “Are you analyzing us now?” To which, I most often have replied, “Are you paying me to?”  I’ve worked with couples, directly, a lot in my life, but not anymore. I am too busy with other responsibilities. But that work had meaning for me and hopefully the couples that I saw.  Just not what I do anymore.

Back to the airport. I could not help but overhear a tiny bit of the interchange between the man and woman. They were young. You don’t really need details but I’ll give you a few. She was very pretty, with red hair. She was a woman many people would notice. He was handsome, but less unique than her. They looked and sounded happy as a couple.  Both were young, attractive, and, perhaps, have a whole life together a head of them. I have no idea if they were married, but they were young for typical age at marriage, so I would guess not.    

What’s the plot here? Well, she was dressed in only shorts and a short sleeve, tight shirt.  I don’t know about you, but I more often get cold on flights than warm. I know it’s the opposite for others. And, of course, on some flights, it gets too warm for everyone (you can see in your mind’s eye that point when many arms reach up to open up the blower nozzels, in vein, can’t you?) and, on some flights, it gets ridiculously freezing. I really dread those cold flights, as I’m going to really feel it. Maybe this woman does, also. Certainly, there are two things that would be true if I were dressed like her for a flight:  (1) I’d be very concerned about shivering, and (2) it’s possible some people would be asking to move to a seat further from me. 

I always take an over-shirt or sweater with me on flights. I hate to feel cold. Don’t love warm but I hate feeling cold.  I must be the bear who wants the temperature to be "just right." 

This young lady wanted to go change to put more clothes on in case the flight was cold. That would entail covering up more. In fact, the airport was cold so she may already have felt cold. Her beau didn’t want her to do this.  Now, honestly, I didn’t try to hear his explanation, and I’m not sure he gave one but I’d guess that he probably did as they lowered their voices a bit. The main thing is that he clearly didn’t want her to go change, and they were not waiting on a flight that was leaving anytime soon, so that didn’t explain his resistance to taking the time to change. They were in no danger of missing their flight. 

Maybe the guy had a really great reason why he didn't want her to change. (Heck, most people want their partner to change, right?!) I could not, however, imagine any other reason than him really liking the way she looked in the way she was already dressed; perhaps, more, he might like the way she looked because he was with her. He really could have a great reason for not wanting her to change. I have no idea. And, it's worth realizing that even if it was one of those type reasons I just speculated about, she may actually feel flattered by it--but uncomfortable if it's a cold flight. What was clear is that she didn't want to be cold on the flight, and something in him overrode him being able to encourage her to do what she wanted to do.  

In some way or another, him encouraging her to change would have required him to put his personal preference aside (based on whatever). In other words, it might have required a little sacrifice within him.

Long-term love and commitment—and definitely marriage—require long-term, consistent sacrifices one for another. Sure, there are times when we don’t sacrifice (too many of them in most marriages). But I wondered if this incident was part of a pattern. I hope not. If it is a pattern, and they stay together, she’s in for more cold times ahead. 

This couple was quite young, so a lot could change. Behaviors, dressing habits—they’ll change at some point, right? Whether or not this particular example relates to sacrifice at all for this couple, I can’t think of anything much more important for people to consider strongly in prospective mates than evidence about whether or not the other will sacrifice for you. Sacrifices can take many forms, but I think the small ones are the most important to see in action before committing to life-long love. It’s fine to be looking for love but it’s smart to be looking for sacrifice. It's important to be looking for someone who watches out for your best interest. I know people get tired of hearing it, but past behavior really is the best predictor of future behavior.  

If you want more on the theme of sacrifice, one of my favorite pieces I ever wrote is an essay on sacrifice called Afterglow (click on the title if you are interested).  Also, if you want more to read on the subject, I've written a fair amount about sacrifice here on this blog, so if you want to read more, just use the little search box on the top left for searching within the blog, and put in the word “sacrifice”.  A lot will pop up.

Here’s to doing the small sacrifices of loving commitment that make relationships thrive.