Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Families: No unconditional love, happiness, or friends required.

My friend Jessica, also known affectionately as J-Schro, let me know today about this symposium, put on by Students for the Family, "a group of independent students from various schools and academic disciplines dedicated to promoting education and research on the family." As I am a world-renowned family scientist have a bachelor's degree in marriage and family studies, Jessica invited me to consider submitting some of my papers to the conference.

While I have two papers long enough to submit, written during my undergrad, I'm not terribly excited about the content of either one. One deals with the transition to fatherhood, the other with the dangers of enmeshment (when families are too close and overly involved in each others' lives). Both topics are interesting, but I'm not extremely passionate about either one. I will probably submit them, but if I had the time, the following topics and ideas are what I would really love to write a paper about. Some of my family soap boxes/pet peeves if you will. I'm only giving a short summary of my ideas, so if you want to hear the long rant on any of them, let me know and we'll go to lunch or I'll write you a treatise.

My treatise wouldn't be about scurvy, though.

What is a family? Our lesson in Relief Society last Sunday was on families, and the teacher opened the lesson with the question, "What is a family?" Several individuals offered input, ranging from the simple statement, "Unconditional love," to the broad definition, "Any people who share a home and support each other." This theme of ambiguous and "warm fuzzy" beliefs about what a family is continued throughout the duration of the hour, and frankly, alarmed me.

From a religious standpoint, such a wishy-washy view of families is what the world would like us to believe. Yes, true families can be characterized by love, support, and a shared household, but much more is needed. I also believe that, although sad, all families do not have love (conditional or unconditional), support, or a shared home. This belief that a family is defined by feelings or a living situation contributes to the sentiment that if the love or support wavers--the family has an excuse to dissolve.

Babies need stability!

Families are not defined by feelings because, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, feelings can change quickly and dramatically. Feelings are not stable, and a family should be. My belief is that a family is a societal unit connected by biological and/or legal ties. Because feelings are so fickle, families need the stability of commitment to help them ride through the bumpy times. This leads me to my next soapbox.

Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy; you are supposed to make your marriage happy. When I hear about divorce for any reason other than the horrible troika of "A's" (adultery, abuse, addiction), I am so sad. You hear excuses like "we fell out of love," "I need to do something for me right now," "it wasn't working." What I hear behind these excuses: "I stopped being loving." "I'm being selfish." "I wasn't working." It seems the predominant belief about marriage (and life in general) is that it is supposed make you happy. Guess what? You make you happy. How? Through choices. How do you make your marriage happy? Make your partner happy. Funny how that works. If you aren't happy in your marriage (barring the unholy three above)--you have something to do with it. This is good news--that means you can do something to fix it. Trust me, I am an expert because I've been married for two years.

An expert and his parents.

I don't want to ruin the friendship. / Can I have friends of the opposite gender when married? Several times I have heard from friends that they don't want to try dating a close friend (who they like and who likes them--you know who they are) because they don't want to "ruin the friendship." Guess what? You're either going to date them and marry them and have something better than friendship, or you're not going to date them and then you'll marry someone else and that will ruin the friendship. You may as well try for the first.

But on to the second idea--will it really ruin the friendship? Yes and no, is my ambiguous answer. I think it is fine to have friends of the opposite gender when you are married, but I think how close of friends you are should be carefully considered. Whereas before marriage it was perfectly fine to tell this friend your deepest thoughts and feelings, after marriage, the mortal (say your prayers!) male confidant in your life should be your husband and only your husband (with the exception of your male family members, as long as you aren't telling them something you wouldn't tell your spouse--this goes for all female confidants as well). Yes, it is kind of sad that you need to sacrifice that level of friendship with some of your good guy friends, but I think it is a completely necessary precaution and protection.

A+ to you for making it through to the end. A- if you skimmed, because that probably took some effort. That reminds me of another soapbox about how it's silly that people think children need self-esteem ...


  1. troika is such an awesome $500 word. i will write tomrrow, and try to work it in. =)

    and you are right, children don't need self-esteem, they need a job!


  2. I read a great article once that claimed that "self-esteem" was little more than the nominalizing of a 1950s psychological inquiry into how people feel about themselves. It is, by definition not something you can have or not, but rather a description of how. In order for kids to "have" self-esteem, they would need to be developed enough to think about the "self" and have an opinion about it.

  3. Self esteem is just a load of crap because it is defined as how you think others perceive you. What kids really need is self-efficacy, their belief in their ability to do things.

  4. I knew you'd be the perfect person to invite to submit a paper or two. :) Seriously, you are perfect for what we are trying to accomplish for this symposium, especially with your comments on what a family is.


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