Secrets of a Happy Marriage and Mating

Community Education Health and Wholeness Personal Development Relationships What Your Father Should Have Taught You

Marriage is commonly considered the union of souls and a triumph of love. Some describe “finding the one” as finding their “soul mate.” But for such lofty language and expectations, too often today people proceed into marriage without the care that has marked the institution of marriage for thousands of years. Not surprisingly, such carelessness at the outset is not conducive to a “till death do us part” lasting relationship and modern ideas are not producing lasting results. I ignored my parents’ antiquated and traditional advice and embraced a more enlightened, modern, and egalitarian outlook that better reflected today’s society and was taught to me by educators and media. Let me tell you about my results.

I cannot judge others who embrace modern ideas on this and other issues. I did too. I not only ignored but rejected my parents good advice as “old fashioned,” “out of touch with today’s reality,” and “patriarchal.” Using these “enlightened” ideas my first marriage failed in less than seven years – it had died earlier but still lurched on like some flesh eating zombie that was dead but still stumbled forward.

On a purely practical level marriage is the surest way to establish a sturdy and safe home life for children (the statistics regarding abuse by step-parents and boy friends is dis-heartening,) and building the ongoing structure for the continuation of humanity, culture, philosophy, and art in a dangerous world. At least, it is sure if you heed the advice of that your parents should have told you instead of listening to media and “pop” relationship gurus who all have ideas but no track record of success and stability.

I have come to understand that the wisdom shared with me by my parents resonates deeply with the reality of human nature and relationships in creating and maintaining a successful marriage. In this candid account I will share my parents advice, my initial disregard of it, and the difficult and painful lessons I learned over time that, ultimately, validated what my father had taught me.

The Wisdom of the Ages

There is no question that raising children is a difficult task and throughout history it has been recognized that the most stable and successful means for doing that is the two parent family. This is a method that works so well it lies at the heart of every advanced civilization and culture on the Earth. Maybe the reason we are failing at these is that we have abandoned the wisdom of previous generations for careful mate selection as “outdated” and embraced “improvisation” and ideas that have not and do not work.

In my own experience I found that the more traditional advice of my parents yielded better results than the “modern” cultural experiment that has predominated in the West for more than 60 years. Their wisdom, garnered from the experience of the World War II generation and many generations who went before, contained wisdom that has echoed through time. It eschews selection based primarily upon the allure of ephemeral characteristics of beauty, or feelings such as desire and encourages mate selection based on more lasting characteristics of shared values, interests, and conversation.

Dismissing Wisdom and Embracing an Education in Ignorance

In my younger years I embraced gender ideas that I was taught in school and rejected my parent’s antiquated ideas about partnership and growth. Surely, the unisex ideal that differences in male and female were culturally derived and artificial was more “scientific” than the old idea that male and female were one complementary whole that were both necessary for completion and balance.

This idea was everywhere in the 60s and 70s and our societies elite grew up with this idea and accepted it. As the Boomers who created the chaos of that age, the free sex movement, and a society that rejected every aspect of learned wisdom and society that came before them, took control and proceeded to dismantle every institution, they now teach this discredited theory to our children. Putting their ideas on new generations even though the results of those ideas have created chaos, pain, and loneliness.
I was not only taught wrong but it had become the dominant idea of society.

If any objections were brought up by my parents, well… surely, love conquers all? My father’s advice seemed to me to be antiquated when I compared it to my own perception and modern “enlightenment.” It wasn’t. I was sold a lie.

A Humbling Reality Check; Coming Face to Face With Reality

My “modern” attitudes of outdated 60s and 70s ideas of culturally determined gender constructs and patriarchal oppression were proven by scientific study, and my own experience to be inadequate to the reality we live in.

The passage of time brought forth the realization that while technology changes rapidly, human nature remains rooted in its essence. I came to understand that my parents’ counsel was not bound by generational limitations; it was based on the fundamental dynamics of human interaction that remain consistent across time. Human evolution is slow. Anatomically correct humans have not fundamentally changed physically or neurologically for 40,000 years. Far from being outdated advice my father recognized that human nature is far more stable than the outer trappings of society and to a large degree the study of evolutionary biology and the advance of science has disproven the unisex gender theories of the 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, these ideas are still perpetuated and even added to by writings today of authors who either deny or are ignorant of the science involved and the many studies that have thoroughly debunked the ideas of a unisex “reality” or gender fluidity. These ideas continue to be spread by ideologues and science deniers who reject the findings of biologists, neuro-scientists, zoologists, and evolutionary biologists.

As one zoologist said in a book he wrote when he decided to study humans with the same lens that he used to study any other animal: psychology and sociology can make no meaningful progress as long as their statements are more a reflection of how they want things to be than how they actually are. (This was in response to a statement he placed in the introduction by an international consortium of psychologists that had met in Spain and issued a public statement that violence was not a natural behavior for humans but an aberrational and learned disfunction- he then proceeded to tear this statement apart in the intro with a thorough comparison of human behavior with other primates all of which were violent, territorial, and killed other members of their species for control of resources or females.)

The most important thing to me in life was marriage and a family. I wanted the dream of marrying my first love, having a family, and living happily ever after. Divorce ripped both of those things apart guaranteeing that I could only see my children intermittently and I had to continuously battle for that. I was told that most dads only kept contact for two years on the average with their children. I couldn’t understand that until I found that every visitation included required verbal battle with my ex. Finally, after the wife of one of my friends commented, “I don’t think the courts ever intended that Karen be able to exercise that much control over visitation.” I woke up and engaged a lawyer to compel my ex-wife to allow the parental rights and visitation that I was granted by the judge. Even so, I had to resort to this more than once before things ran more smoothly and as ordered by the court.

Through this time I poured over books and studies on relationships, sexuality, and gender to see if the entire situation truly was “all my fault” as my ex-wife never ceased to inform me that it was. I literally read dozens of books on the topic, including books on evolutionary biology. (Please note that, unlike the majority of people today who use the word when I say “literally” I actually mean “literally” and am not just using the word for emphasis.) Honestly, I fully realized that things were not “all my fault” when I arranged counseling for us to save our marriage and she told me to go by myself because she didn’t need to change. That was when I realized there was no point in continuing in the relationship.

After my utter failure to produce a “till death do us part” lasting marriage by dismissing “patriarchal norms” and using the modern and “enlightened” ideas of gender, sexuality, and relationships, I initially turned upon all ideas of fidelity and exclusivity as false before further study and experience revealed that while “traditional” ideas of monogamy were not biologically determined the were at the heart of every successful society and were geared toward (not human nature,) but toward controlling our animal instincts and desires for the sake of creating a stable, secure society for the most people.

Granted, I am stubborn and can be a slow learner but on the positive side once I do learn something I don’t forget and what I learned was that my parents, although they didn’t know the science behind it, had given me excellent advice many years before. When I got to seminary and learned of the genre of religious, philosophical, and moral writings called Wisdom Literature – and their almost verbatim similarity from culture to culture I realized that it was basically the earliest form of science. Wisdom literature is essentially the same from culture to culture because it is based upon observation by the sages of human behavior. Even religions that denied evolution recognized that humanity had tendencies that were consistent everywhere and everywhen.

I finally returned and revisited my parent’s advice when I decided to consider finding a new mate.

Elements of a Fulfilling Union – My Parent’s Guidance

My parents offered a roadmap to a harmonious relationship. They emphasized that evaluating a potential spouse’s family background, social compatibility, shared values, and mutual faith are pivotal in forging a lasting partnership. Their wisdom highlighted the importance of approaching marriage as a lifelong commitment, not as an escape route from the challenges of life into a utopian marriage but as a committed partnership to face the shared struggle of life and growth.

I. Looks are fleeting – Conversation is more important. Marry someone whom you have enough common interests with that you can have meaningful conversation but enough differences to be interesting. Looks are ephemeral, when youth and beauty fade the character of your mate remains.

II. Look at the mother and father of your potential spouse. Meeting the family is not a formality but a reconnaissance into your possible future. This is your best indicator of what you wife will be like in 20-30 years and the relationship of her father and mother shows you what she has learned about being a family (reverse this if you are a woman.)

III. Don’t marry too far down and don’t marry too far up. By this they meant that the social strata and culture that formed us gives us many of our experiences and attitudes. If we go too far down the social ladder, or too far up, we are likely to marry someone with radically different ways of thinking and very different images of what living as a family and raising children looks like.

IV. Before you marry you should have talked to them about your values and your desires. How do you each see your life together? If you marry someone who has radically different values in life, faith, and child rearing then you are marrying for trouble and you are multiplying the pain and difficulties you face as you find that, when life suddenly brings conflict, instead of a united front against the struggles of life you will first have to contend with each other as you argue about what to do.

Check the click of your trigger and balance your blade freedom troopers because point number Five is a major one and we’ll make sure we fully engage this topic before we move on.

V. Divorce is not an option, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Kiss your wife goodnight each night and good morning each morning. No matter how angry you get, this reminds you that whatever disagreements you have they don’t change the fact that you choose to love each other and stay together. Marriage is for the long term and who you marry will always have an effect upon you. Especially if you have kids together, this person will be in your life for decades.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “It is better to live in the corner of a roof top than to live with a contentious wife.” But I am sure that goes both directions. If you pick a mate who fights with you about everything and struggles for domination instead of standing with you against the world you are setting yourselves and your children up for failure, pain, and regret.

I readily admit that I have a strong personality and tend to order things around me. I picked both of my wives because neither were not pushovers. Karen, my first wife, was strong and honest. She was not afraid of speaking her mind and I liked that. Elizabeth, my second, was smart, educated, and strong-willed. I wanted a strong woman who could stand with me and add her strength to mine in partnership against the struggles of life. The problem is, that our society, doesn’t teach cooperation and division of labor but conflict and victimhood. Karen saw me opening the door for her, walking between her and strangers, stepping forward when danger threatened as threatening her autonomy and independence. Elizabeth, recognized it as signs of deference and security.

When Elizabeth and I married I tended to be a bit of a feminist but offered her the social deference of courtesy that chivalry demanded. It was a part of the military tradition and etiquette of “an officer and a gentleman.” As we grew together and I saw the results of a feminism that had moved far beyond equality to a false dogma of man-hating unisex sameness that denied not only evolutionary biology but virtually all science I too, became an anti-feminist. However I still believe, as she does, in equality that allows people to seek their own desires. But I will never support phony totalitarian domination that imposes ridiculous quotas on hiring, job selection, and results on work performance and choices that deny gender preferences and neurological and physical realities.

I remember a friend, more than one actually, who knew Karen and I well and they all said some variation of: “I understand that opposites attract and that having such different approaches can allow you to see things you might miss if you were both alike (which was my rationale in my first marriage,) but trying to reconcile those differences takes so much work that I wouldn’t do it.” Another, who knew us both, as we recalled Karen (now deceased,) said, “I liked both of you but it was easy to see how you could never live together.” Unfortunately, when we married we both believed that “love conquers all.”

Worse, she was in a bad situation in her home life and when she turned 18 she was eager to be “rescued” from it and I had a need to play out the role of a “rescuer.” As anyone who has studied relationships knows this is not a basis for a stable marriage but the basis of co-dependence.

I would like to say that I learned my lesson but when Elizabeth and I met she was in a miserable marriage and was eager to be rescued and I was still seeing myself as the white knight who could “rescue” her from a “cold and uncaring husband.” So strong, co-dependent urges were in both but in the second marriage I applied my parents’ criteria for careful mate selection and we ended up with enough lasting connections to work through our problems, engage in marital counseling, work past the insecurities and attitudes that threatened our marriage, and heal from our co-dependence and her abuse issues. It was not easy by any means but it was worth it.

I mentioned that Elizabeth was not in a happy marriage when we first met and both of us have been accused of trading in our former spouses for someone “better looking.” However, we had both separately come to the conclusion that we were in bad marriages and I was divorced long before we met. In actuality, the deciding factor for both of us was not looks but compatibility. I barely scratched the surface concerning Karen and my differences and I won’t go into detail about Elizabeth and her first husbands problems but I will mention it briefly because it is relevant to this entire conversation.

Elizabeth and her husband were both physicists, they went to High School together, they were both Catholic, but she practiced and he did not, she believed, and he did not, on a superficial level it might appear that they were a good match but everyone has a “language of love.” [See the Five Languages of Love by ] When Elizabeth told her husband what she needed to feel loved and what she wanted out of life her husband said, “I could do those things and give you what you want. But I won’t.” So she was not just “trading up” as one of my military friends said that I had done, but in a toxic relationship that had to go. Like Karen, Elizabeth’s husband refused to go to counseling or do anything to save the marriage and blamed his spouse for all the problems in the relationship.

So, in neither case, was it ever as superficial as trading in our former spouse for “eye candy.” Although the description definitely fit her.

However, although it was not the main reason I chose Elizabeth I would be lying if I said it was not Elizabeth’s beauty that first caught my eye as she ascended the stairs to class in the Military and Naval Science Building. Like the other two women I dated around that time it was their looks that first caught my eye initially, then their intelligence, competence, and confidence, but it was finally the conversation, interests, values, and meeting the family that decided the matter for me.

I was born when my mom was forty and my father was 43. My parents had settled into a mutually supporting relationship and I remembered parents who held hands, took walks and boat rides together, talked regularly, and went to church together. But it was not always that way. My siblings told me that they had some violent fights that included both yelling and heavy objects that flew in both directions. But I saw harmony and mutual support. But you cannot ever get to this point if you don’t deal with your relationship problems as they show up. Fortunately, they didn’t have no fault divorce in my parents’ day or they may never have stayed together long enough for me to be born; and I’m glad I’m here.

If you don’t resolve each disagreement as they appear, even though it is uncomfortable to do so, things will grow and putrefy like a wound that was bandaged but never properly cleaned. Such resentment will fester and grow overnight as you each quietly fume and wallow on your separate sides of the bed building night to day and day to night until the little difficulty that you avoided dealing with and tried to overlook originally swells and accumulates until you explode yelling over any little thing when it is the unresolved hurts of years that actually angers you.

Marriage requires courage and understanding. The courage to face your fears and your problems as they arise instead of burying them and it takes the understanding that you both love each other and trust one another enough that you can disagree but still work together to reach a resolution. My folks insistence that you never go to bed angry and that you kiss and make up (or make up in more demonstrative ways if you want to,) but you need to reconnect figuratively and physically after every disagreement.

My parents directly credited reconnecting with a kiss each night (whether they had fought or not,) and holding one another through the night as well as starting off the day together with a kiss each morning as the key to getting through any adversity together and not letting things grow to toxic proportions.

VI. Your children are not more important than your spouse. If you don’t attend to your marriage first you will be raising your children alone. Every study and statistic I have read ties the rise of violence in teens and youth to be connected directly to single parent homes. Surveys of criminal populations in juvenile detention, jail, and prison reinforce this data. It does not mean a child WILL be a delinquent but it stacks the deck against them. Over and over again studies show that the majority of violent offenders were raised in a single parent home.

Have a date night, take weekends without the kids, but beyond that spend time each day holding hands, walking, and talking, Your relationship with your spouse is more important than the one with your children because your children depend upon you both for a stable marriage and home environment. It must come first so your children have a secure home to live in and learn to deal with trouble in relationships constructively. Children see and hear more than you think, and more than your would probably like, but they will learn how to be a man or woman and how to have relationships (or break them,) by watching their mother and father.

Remember to spend quality time together connecting and no matter how mad you are always kiss each other goodnight and good-morning. This reminds you that, despite any disagreements, you are sealed one to the other. And whatever trouble you face you’ll do it together.

VII. Pray and meditate about it before you get married. Anything that sets off warning bells before you are married will just get louder after the honeymoon is over. You have a honeymoon phase of 6 months to a year in your relationship, if you don’t have a strong enough bond by then it will begin to spiral out of control. Choose a woman of faith similar to your own. If you wander too far from the faith you were raised in you may have trouble with the values thing. When my second wife and I were married we went to a seminar on faith during our honeymoon (we wanted to go and it showed up at an inopportune time but we went anyway). At our wedding reception we announced that we were both going to Seminary.

I was raised in the church, I was even the youth representative on several church boards, my mom was the choir director and my family performed songs of faith in harmony – my mom held up the Von Trapp family as an example for us (this is the real life family portrayed in the movie the Sound of Music.)

Later, I was pastor of three churches and my son’s were told that they had to go to one service with me each Sunday but not all three, and I let them choose which congregation they wanted to worship with. I bring this up because after I conducted services at my three churches and my wife did her two we either ate together as a family, together at a church supper, or went out to eat as a family. (My father and mother had a tradition of going out to eat after church and I continued that.) This gives you context for something my middle son said when he was thirteen. Coming home from church he asked, “Did mom ever go to church Dad?” I answered, “After we got out of the Army and when we lived together in Lincoln for a couple years we went to my parent’s church together.” He sat quiet for awhile and then said, “It wasn’t enough.”

Again, I followed my father’s advice on my second marriage and it has lasted for more than thirty years. I followed societies modern and “enlightened” ideas on the first one and it failed.

Challenges and Triumphs, The Evolution of a Shared Bond

My first marriage could not even survive the day to day events of a normal life. My second marriage has survived a difficult pregnancy that left my new wife bedridden throughout, prolonged unemployment, serious relationship problems, a disabling car accident, Covid and lockdowns, I was hospitalized 28 times that year with each stay lasting from 2 to 14 days, I had liver failure and a subsequent transplant, three surgeries to drain fluid from my lungs, a year in recovery, continued disability, and all of this became part of our shared struggle. Then, as things were looking up and my health and our finances were beginning to stabilize my wife became disabled and was no longer able to bring in income. Although she had natural immunity for Covid (since we all got it in February of 2020 and despite repeated exposure never got it again,) she decided to get a shot because her family was so terrified from media reporting that they wouldn’t see her otherwise. It seemed to me that they were overwhelmed by the totals on the news every night and didn’t understand that when you are talking hundreds of millions of people even a death rate of a fraction of a percent can lead to large totals but it does not warrant wearing three masks and excluding your loved ones from your life.

Fear, however, is a dangerous thing and has been the preferred tool of despots for millennia. Within 24 hours of receiving a treatment that we were promised was “safe and effective” she developed symptoms of advanced problems, constant pain, and was no longer able to work. She remains disabled today. Although, we have both noted that the Covid warriors who were so fanatical about the misinformation spread by media, seem to have no interest in noting that the vaccine injuries are more common than death or hospitalization of the disease. One of these couples who were lock-down Karens and self-proclaimed vax warriors when asked if they were following the revelations of the Pfizer release and various medical studies responded, “No, we thought it would just be depressing.” Bjorn Andersen pointed out another who proclaimed, “If people knew this why didn’t these anti-vax people try to warn us?”

You really could not make this stuff up and expect someone to believe it.

None of these things could have been weathered in our first marriages. Seriously, they didn’t even survive a relatively painless and un-challenging normal existence let alone the chaos of the last few years. Divorce is horrible and one of the reasons we stayed together was I was unwilling to lose daily access to yet another of my sons. But now, after over thirty years, Elizabeth and I have weathered all our storms and grown together through shared struggle and we still enjoy spending time together, sitting on our porch, meditating and discussing history, archaeology, theology, life, and personal growth.

Later this month we are going to a Victorian dress dance ball – sharing our mutual interest in history where she approaches it from life and culture and I from military and political viewpoints. She made her clothes for the ball and I will wear my 19th Century dress cavalry uniform and riding boots. (I wore this to my son’s Halloween Party last year and my middle son said, “Look, Dad’s wearing his old ROTC uniform, I’m surprised it still fits.” This is the same son that sat with me to watch a documentary about Rome and turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize military life was so difficult when you were in.” Cute kid.)

But as for my wife and I, even when we sit in separate rooms on our computers working on our respective tasks we talk to one another and take “breaks” together where we do dishes, prepare a meal, work in the garden, or take walks.

Choosing A Partner for the Journey

Marriage, much like life, is a journey fraught with challenges. Embracing the idea that conflict is inevitable and committing to working through those challenges together is pivotal. The guidance to prioritize my spouse, even amid disagreements, has transformed my outlook on relationships and allowed us to face the struggles along life’s journey together.

The Bible says that “Two are better than one for if one stumbles the other can help them up.” In its descriptions of marriage it talks about a division of labor and each partner as a help-mate for the other. We all face trouble in life. But we don’t have to face it alone.

Choosing a life partner is a pivotal decision, one that profoundly shapes the course of one’s life. While youth might instill a sense of invincibility and the belief that we know better, the wisdom of our predecessors holds invaluable insights. My parents’ counsel, once perceived as antiquated, proved to be timeless and practical, providing a framework for navigating the intricate terrain of marriage. By heeding their advice and learning from my own experiences, I’ve come to appreciate the depth and significance of a companionship rooted in shared values, common interests, and enduring love.

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