Marriage and Mormonism

December 18, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Married Life, Religious

I forwarded myself this link with the title “best article ever on marriage from a Mormon perspective“.

And I seriously think it is. I read it out loud to That Husband as we were going to bed last night and we had a great discussion revolving around several of the topics. A few of my favorite points:

  • Mormon divorce statistics aren’t really that different from the rest of the country [we have a lot of room to improve]
  • We are not only marrying incredibly young, we are going from meeting-dating-engagement-marriage in a matter of weeks, and it’s not good
  • Surprise, our sex lives are probably different [better] than what most people would expect for a group of mostly-conservatives

An aside prompted by the article:

So often in Mormon circles women will say “It’s a huge problem for so many females in the church to be told sex is bad one day, then you get married, and it’s okay the next.” This is why sex is an issue for my Mormon girlfriends.

But something Lambert said made me realize I don’t really think that’s the problem. I think our actual problem is differences regarding what is okay and what is not okay between husband and wife. The LDS Church position today is that couples should decide what is appropriate for their own relationship, and it is none of the leadership’s business, but several decades ago this was not the case. Couples were being asked very personal questions about their intimate life by their church leaders, and opinions were given regarding what should be eliminated from the bedroom. I feel like I can’t stress enough that we don’t live in that kind of time anymore, but I think that the culture hasn’t yet shifted to fully accepting that it’s between the couple and shouldn’t be determined by past statements from leaders. This is where a lot of marital troubles can arise, specifically when women do something with their husband that makes them feel “unholy”, and they don’t talk it out with their spouse. The solution here is better communication during marriage, but also before. If you think X is okay, but your spouse thinks XXX is okay, you’re in for some rough surprises if you don’t have sex until marriage.  To my single friends: talk about this before the wedding night.

Back to my favorite points:

  • Unrealistic expectations about how dreamy and easy marriage will be [prince riding in on a white horse and taking his princess to a castle in a fairyland] make a difficult thing ever more difficult
  • Gender roles and living in a patriarchal society
  • Judging our spouse if they don’t “choose the right”, based on what we think is right [he gives the example of a husband watching an R rated movie, and the wife struggling to deal with his choice]
  • Dealing with change as our spouse becomes a different person than they were when you got married. What they believe might change, and that is hard to accept in a culture that stresses that a family must all stay together in order to sit down for family dinner every night in the Celestial Kingdom.

And the article titled “Thou Shalt Not Coerce They Spouse” is a must read. I’ve read it several times over the past few days and every time I like it more. Particularly this line:

Everybody changes, even if it’s just to become even more insecure and inflexible and dogmatic about their original beliefs. Assuming that everything else in the relationship is cool, it’s the height of irony to divorce someone over God, particularly since faith in him is supposed to be all about patience, forgiveness, and love. Frankly, who better deserves this kind of treatment than the person you vowed to love forever?

This post is all over the place. I wanted to share it with the Mormons who read, because I think it can make our culture/marriages stronger to talk about these things. I wanted to share it with those who aren’t Mormon because if you come from a religious conservative background some of these things will probably apply. And I know there are many of you who don’t fit into the former two categories, but have an abiding interest in these sort of things and will have interesting opinions to share below.

The 3rd Anniversary

October 11, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Married Life

I’m so glad we still laugh together like this. We’re going to need it, as I expect life has some hard times ahead for us. With you, I know I can do anything.

Yet another year of choosing each other.

Guiding Our Household to Better Eating

June 16, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Food, Married Life, Personal

I didn’t mean for this to be so long, but I couldn’t figure out how to cut it down! I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you feel like you’re struggling with how to feed your spouse the same things you feed yourself (which is what inspired me to write this little essay). Our changes were gradual, which helped, but I think you can find something that works for your household!

Did anyone watch the first episode of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition? As someone who is trying to lose a significant amount of weight I’m a sucker for shows about heavy people changing their habits and shedding the excess. The first episode featured Rachel, who did a fantastic job losing a whole lot of weight while continuing to live her normal life. Based on what they showed though, her weight loss seemed to be hindered a little bit due to resistance from her family regarding the changes to her diet that would be necessary for extensive weight loss. I’ve talked before about locking up the junk food, because I just can’t take having it around, and it seems like that’s what Rachel needed too! A lot of it was probably added drama to make the show more exciting, but I think Rachel stood in as an example for what a lot of individuals in the US are trying to figure out each day. How do I eat better when the people I live with aren’t eating the way I do?

This seems to be a common problem that women face (maybe men too, but I mostly interact with women online and that’s where I’m getting the questions from). How did we, an American girl with a typical American diet, and a meat-loving Polish husband become near-vegetarians (compassionavores :) ) who eat little meat and buy/eat almost exclusively in season?

To tell this story, I think we need to go back in time, to when I first started dating That Husband. Here we are.

That Husband had horrible eating habits. He ate out for every single meal, and most of it was fast-food. Before he worked at Company X (where he was treated to many of the finer things in life) his palate was anything but refined, and so he didn’t understand what the difference between a grass fed burger on whole wheat bun with raw milk cheese and heirloom tomatoes, and a whopper from Burger King could be. Both are made with meat and cheese and bread, but one costs much less than the other. Why wouldn’t he eat at BK every day?

Then we started dating, and I happened to live in the basement of a house where I had an entire kitchen to myself. I started cooking for him, and introduced him to the difference between fast food and home cooked meals. It was nothing like the way I eat now, but I was trying to lose weight so the focus was staying away from large amounts of fat and carbs. I think he started to realize that eating a little bit healthier made him feel better overall.

We dated for about a year and a half, and then we got married. Suddenly, he was supporting two people instead of one, and eating out became a luxury he couldn’t afford. For about a year after we were first married we ate a slightly healthier version of the American diet. I kept a steady supply of crackers/corn chips in the pantry, all of our dinners were meat focused with rice/bread/potatoes on the side and me forcing myself to add some microwaved frozen vegetables on the side, and our freezer was stocked with Kashi frozen pizzas and Lean Cuisine boxes. He wasn’t excited about packing a lunch and so he ate out for all of his lunches, while I fixed myself something at home.

Then I read Real Food by Nina Planck and a whole new world view was introduced to me. I could drink whole milk and eat whole dairy? And I could throw out the Annie’s mac n’ cheese and crackers and chips and Lean Cuisine and somehow survive? Unfortunately in the beginning the only thing we really changed was switching from fat free milk and margarine to whole milk and butter. I was still shopping exclusively at the grocery store, buying the same old boring veggies (bananas and mealy fresh tomatoes, and those variety packs from the frozen vegetable aisle), and I didn’t let go of our processed foods yet. I knew Nina said she did it, but I just didn’t get how it worked for people. That Husband watched my weight balloon due to the switch to whole dairy combined with high intake of processed foods and he openly mocked Nina because he didn’t buy into her ways of thinking. I don’t blame him because I don’t think I was the best example of what the real food philosophy could be.

IMG_9917

Mmmmmm. Hot dogs. 

After T1 was born I spent a lot of time sitting around feeding him, and finally picked up a copy of In Defense of Food and BOOM. I finally got it and I could see how we could make things work. TH thought I had found another Nina and he wasn’t impressed with the passages I was reading him, until I handed him a copy of Food Rules and things clicked for him as well. We bought the audio book for In Defense of Food so he could listen to it and hear the science behind the real food movement, and I started throwing out our packaged foods en masse. I was overwhelmed by it at first, but I started visiting the Farmer’s Market. I bought my vegetables and dairy at the market, and went to the grocery store for staples and meat, and I thought we’d made all the changes we needed to make.

Previously, every single dinner dish I prepared had meat in it, most of it bought on clearance from the old meat section of the grocery store (and thus was never very good). We were reading in Genesis and I felt like the scriptures were telling us a message (respect the animals, eat less meat) that didn’t jive with the way we were living our lives. This was a mutual decision that we came to, not something I forced on TH. I knew we would cut back, but I figured that meant we would make one vegetarian meal per week. It was last May that I posted about wanting to cut back on meat but I didn’t have any idea how to do it. I remember feeling like it was a really novel thing to be doing, and then SO many of you chimed in and said you’d been eating meat-free or almost-meatless for a long time. I was behind the times!

Cristin sent me a copy of Eating Animals and another BOOM. I decided to exclusively put my funds toward meat sourced in ways I agree with. This means no eggs or meat from the grocery store (the way that chickens are raised in these industrial settings is absolutely deplorable and it pains me to think that I contribute to that whenever I eat eggs that aren’t purchased directly from a farmer who uses methods I agree with), I use a guide from the Chicago aquarium to help me understand what fish is sustainably raised/caught, and I eat as a vegetarian when I eat out of the house.

This is the stage where That Husband and I diverged the most, at first. In the beginning I was still cooking with meat several times per week, and I would just give him a much bigger portion of meat than I would give myself. Over the summer of 2010 I cooked with meat once or twice a month, but that number went up to most nights of the week over the winter. We bought a share in a meat CSA and I felt pressure to make a dent in our monthly share before the next delivery came because we were running out of room in our freezer! A month or so ago That Husband asked me to stop cooking so much meat. Specifically he said that he didn’t feel like he really appreciated it the way he used to, and that he’d like to cut back even farther. What the what?!?!? I guess all of those juicy heirloom tomatoes, summer squash chips, and crisp cucumbers had won and we could now declare ourselves almost-vegetarians.

europe-1056

We’ve experienced this shift in preferences once before. When I started seriously trying to lose my baby weight we locked up anything and everything in the house that acted as a temptation for me (like cheese, we kept the cheese locked up in a bag in the fridge). He didn’t want to feel deprived though, so he kept a bag of candy (most of it Polish candy that his parents sent him), some Sunchips from Costco, and other assorted things to snack on. Over time, he started turning to his stash less and less, and eventually he realized that he felt better without it. Eating it didn’t make him want it less, it made him want it more! The same thing happens for me with cheese, actually. So of his own accord the bag of candy was emptied out, he discovered that Sunchips are really just corn chips and lost the desire to eat them, and now there are no more snacks hidden away just for him. We both also learned over time that vegetables and whole grains can be the star of the show, not the back-up singers to a huge slab of meat bleeding all over our plate.

It was only last week that we had yet another major breakthrough. We were having the missionaries over for dinner, and previously we had provided meat for every single guest (except our lovely vegetarian friend!) who came into our house. I said that I didn’t want to cook any meat, that I felt I could prepare a meatless dinner that they could enjoy, and that from now on I didn’t think there was any reason to specifically be preparing meat when we have people over unless it was winter and we would be eating it anyway. We argued about it at first, but before we went to bed I calmed down and explained my position more rationally, and he agreed with me. Even now, we’re still making progress when it comes to the way we eat! The missionaries ate the vegetarian meal with no complaint whatsoever, and future guests in our home will be treated the same way.

We still don’t approach things in exactly the same way. When he eats out, he eats whatever he pleases, whereas I won’t order anything with meat/fish in it if I don’t know where it came from and try to avoid any egg heavy dishes. But I do all of the grocery shopping and the cooking, so when we’re home he eats what I make. I don’t ever make something separate meal for him or myself, and I don’t plan to with any of our kids either.

My reasons for eating the way I do are because of my religious beliefs, my beliefs about what is best for our health, and beliefs about what is best for the environment/society. We sit down and discuss these positions, and though we might not agree on every tiny detail, our thinking has merged in all of the key places. This isn’t about winning over the other person to your side, it’s about doing your research and figuring out what you really believe in, and then taking that information to your spouse and saying “This is why I think this approach is best. Tell me more about your approach and let’s figure out how we can do all of this together.”

If you want to make similar changes but your spouse is digging in their heels, find out why. Communicate with each other! It’s possible that you’ll never come to a place where you both see eye to eye, and if that’s the case you’re going to be living life very differently than I do. I urge couples to sit down and talk things through, because I just can’t imagine cooking two separate meals every night, one for me and one for him.

This post didn’t even touch on feeding your kids, because for me it’s a non-issue. T1 eats what we eat, period, and he always will. He doesn’t know anything about hot dogs or macaraoni and cheese or gummi candies or chicken nuggets because we don’t keep them in the house and we don’t eat them ourselves. If you suspect your husband is picky because of the way he was raised, don’t do the same thing to your children! Be adventurous with your food choices and work hard to educate yourself and you can lead by example.

There is a part of me that wonders if maybe I’ll be writing another post in the future that details becoming a vegan. I don’t think it will happen, but a few years ago I never would have considered myself a (near) vegetarian, excitedly telling people about the new world I’ve discovered, but a lot has changed for me in a really short period of time. I just hope that whatever changes I make in the future continue to make me better!

If You Like ‘Em Put A Ring On It. Right?

April 07, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Married Life

When the news that Prince William wouldn’t be wearing a ring broke last week, people went cuh-ray-zy. Crazy. This lady in Chicago claims that men who don’t wear a ring are slime.

Notice anything about TH’s fingers in this picture?

No ring!

I bought him a ring off Etsy for like $30, but it’s too big and so he stopped waring it by the end of our honeymoon. H e’s never been a watch/ring person, and the ring didn’t fit him very well because I had to order it when we were living long distance and I don’t think he was sized properly. I’m pretty sure the ring is sitting in my jewelry box on my dresser? I’m not sure. If I do still have it, I plan to give it to T1 if it fits him and he wants it.

TH’s ring on our wedding day, picture courtesy of Kelli Nicole

 

I have no idea who Dr. Helen is, but I found this question on her site really interesting:

Dear Dr. Helen,

I see in the news that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding ring after marrying Kate Middleton. Is this decision different than a wife that does not take her husband’s last name?

I see many are upset at his decision but we no longer notice what I think is a similar female choice. Why? Both decisions seem of equivalent impact.

Shortwave

It’s interesting to me that Shortwave put the two issues together like that, because I didn’t change my name! I do wonder if my relaxed attitude about the name change contributes to my relaxed attitude about him deciding not to wear a ring.

Wen we got married I intended to become:

Jenna B______z

but it was so much easier to stay

Jenna Andersen

so I did!

If Prince William wants to go ring-free I don’t think we should demonize him, any more than we should be demonizing women who choose to keep their maiden names after getting married. This fight is a little bit ridiculous since wedding rings only became customary for both husbands and wives during the 20th century! Largely pushed by jewelry companies in the earlier part of the 20th century, I don’t think the tradition has the pure roots that we would all like to imagine (I realize that cultures were exchanging/wearing rings for many years before that, but it wasn’t mainstream until then).

I have no doubt that my husband is committed to me, fully. He doesn’t need to wear a piece of metal around his finger to show me that, I’d much rather he help with the baby, run his hand down the small of my back as we read scriptures together each night, or write me a love note on my birthday. Those are the kind of things Kate and William are going to need to keep their marriage strong, not an overly priced round of gold from the jewelry department at Harrods.

2010 in Review

January 01, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Personal

I’ve seen a few bloggers do posts like this in the last few days, and I love it for a few reasons. It’s a great way for me to look back in a few years and remember what my year was like. It’s also a great way to point out some favorite posts from the past year to any new readers!

January

I wrote about my struggle with pregnancy weight gain and accepting my new body shape. I started eating in the style of the Real Food movement, something I am still doing today. I started answering questions on Formspring, and kept doing so even when it felt like everyone else was dropping out. To date I’ve answered almost 3500 questions! That’s a whole lot of talking about myself :). Baby was going to arrive in a few moments and I knew the time would go by in a blink, so I started thinking about the post-partum period.

February

I talked about Good/Better/Best, and I’m still working to do better each day. We stressed about what we would name T1. I admitted that I pee my panties a little bit sometimes. We had a snow day in Dallas (very rare) and I went exploring in a wooded area near my house, coming frighteningly close to getting lost!

March

I gave you a tour of our apartment at Villa Miranda in Dallas. I made baklava for the first time, something I would most definitely like to do again. My stomach exploded with stretch marks, a part of my pregnancy that is still with me to this day. I had maternity photos taken by my friend Bethany! I devoted a post to my caring and devoted husband. I was showered with love at my baby shower. This was an exciting month, but the highlight was most definitely finding out that we were moving to Chicago!

April

I wrote about how I had been preparing my body to have a baby. I tried live blogging general conference, something I’d like to do again in the future but probably won’t happen now that I have a baby to entertain! I was getting so little sleep that it started to consume my thoughts, which of course led to a post here on That Wife. I wrote one final letter to T1 in embryo. Finally, T1 arrived! I wasn’t producing enough milk, which starved our son, and so I started supplementing with formula and wrapping him in a biliblanket to treat the jaundice which resulted.

May

I posted the story of T1′s birth, and tried to answer your birth questions. I wrote about how we are paying for our expenses while at business school, even though TH isn’t currently working. Stopped breastfeeding. Ignited a whole lot of controversy why I wrote my interpretation of the LDS views on mothers working outside the home. Highlighted ways that blogging had made me a better person. I had the first of many awful OBGYN appointments. My diet changed once again as we drastically cut back on the amount of meat we consume.

June

We used cloth diapers! I wrote candidly about what post-partum recovery is like. Let’s stop using “retard” and “gay” is derogatory terms! We buzzed T1′s hair, which made you all a little crazy. I realized that mommy blogging kind of sucks sometimes. Yet another sucky OBGYN appointment. That Food Diary was launched. I showed what it’s like to take care of a 4 month old. We had a little family outing at the Dr. Pepper Festival in Dublin. I took a little break from blogging.

July

I fed the missionaries, which was a big deal because it was my first experience trying to cook a meal for guests and manage a baby at the same time. I caught on to the idea of voting with my food dollars. We flew to Washington for T1′s baby blessing. T1 had two notable firsts, swimming and laughing. I became obsessed with the farmer’s market.

August

I’m a baby-wearin’ mama, and changed my eating habits even more drastically. We found an AMAZING apartment. Sadly, this caused us to give up cloth diapering. I spent time with e-friends at a pool party at my apartment building, a soda shop in Dallas, and in Boston.

September

We moved to Chicago and suffered through weeks and weeks without internet. I was able to spend some time with long-time reader Sophia and the Chicago bees. I attempted to save money and dye my hair myself, which was most definitely not a good idea. I grossed a whole lot of people out by creating a placenta print and posting pictures of the process. I came to terms with being a self-taught photographer. That Wife Book Club was launched! We struggled with juggling our baby at church, and I talked about postnatal cuddling. No internet was stressful, but TH not having a passport weeks before we were set to leave for Europe was most definitely a low point for us.

October

We went to Europe!!! (A trip I still need to post about in full.) I stressed about greeting my in-laws with a kiss, they introduced T1 to solid foods. I advocated for less helicopter parenting. T1 dressed as the Sleep Bandit for Halloween. My parents came.

November

T1 gained two teeth. I dressed up as the housing bubble and TH was a mortgage backed security for a University of Chicago MBA party. I officially lost 25 pounds. I attempted to go to Ikea alone with a baby, which was a very bad idea. We spent Thanksgiving in Washington after the wedding of TH’s best friend brought to the Pacific Northwest.

December

We want to shave T1′s hair yet again. I finally finished revamping my Jenna Cole sites. I pulled off a holiday party for That Wife blog readers, with about 10 people in attendance, and vowed to do that no more than once a year. I posted my thoughts on motherhood so far, T1 started crawling, I spoke in church, we joined some CSAs, and I showed what it’s like to run around after an 8 month old all day. We didn’t buy T1 anything for Christmas, and we decided we won’t be telling him Santa is real. We flew to Utah for 7 days and spent some time at a house in Heber City with my parents, we were spoiled by the amount of gifts we received and I felt a little guilty because I am so fortunate. Our entire family loved this way of spending Christmas enough that we’re considering repeating it next year.

You know what? After going through all of these posts and reviewing the past year, I realized that I really, really loved 2010. I feel like it’s an appropriate time for a little letter.

Dear 2011,I bet you can’t beat 2010 on the awesomeness scale. But why don’t you give it a try?

Love,

That Wife

Happy New Year friends!

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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