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Friday, May 15, 2009

Raised Blind

Our daughter started raising guide-dog puppies for the blind when she was only twelve years old. From that day on, the "Puppy Truck" brought a darling eight-week-old puppy  into our lives every year for the next five years. Young Sarah worked diligently to turn each ill-mannered pup into a well-trained dog, ready to return to the professionals at Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Memories were stirred when, recently,  Sarah's younger brother decided to write an essay about training puppies for his writing class. It got me thinking about all the positive and negative reinforcement that took place in our home over those years. I remembered how much I learned; not only about training dogs, but how I also gradually recognized the profound role that conditioning had played in our family's lives.

You see, as my five children were growing, I was usually busy and preoccupied. I didn't realize what was happening at the time, but I was conditioning them with unspoken messages about themselves and their worth. Messages like: "I can't stop to appreciate you or recognize your accomplishments right now," or,  "I wish I could stop to listen or talk to you, but I just have so much to do," were, in  essence, telling them,"What I am busy with at the moment is more important than almost anything you do or say." To my discredit, in trying to provide for everybody's physical needs, I neglected to give emotional and spiritual support that would have helped them recognize their own value.

To be fair to myself, I must tell you that I truly was overwhelmed by the pressures of getting from day to day, so much so that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I didn't find time at all for myself. But, as I was struggling blindly along, my children were being conditioned to believe certain negative things about themselves and their worth as human beings. I look back and am horrified by what happened without my knowledge. In a sense, I was more blind than the people for whom my daughter was raising Guide-Dogs.

It wasn't just my children who experienced a discouraging beginning, it happened to me when I was little too. The sad truth is that it happens everyday to families of busy, stressed-out parents, and--even worse--to other youngsters who are abused and even abandoned.  I have seen it all too often, certainly magnified in polygamous families where children were  often lost in the complicated relationships of their parents and numerous siblings. Some of my nieces and nephews experienced neglect and extreme trauma in their polygamous upbringing, and were raised without a clue about their true worth.  Even those chlidren lucky enough to have an almost perfect upbringing will likely face confidence busters dealt out by certain peers, co-workers, and even strangers.

In contrast, I noticed another type of conditioning while raising Guide-Dogs. I learned that it was very  important not to spoil the pups we were raising. If we gave off signals that we were there only to please, fawned over the pup too much, and set no boundaries, it would begin to take control--demanding attention at all times, doing only what it felt like doing when it felt like doing it, etc.  There are instances where untrained dogs will even begin to take over the best chair in the room and snarl at guests, thus making the decision about who its owners can welcome into their homes, and believing that the house and everything in it belongs to them. Does this sound like the behavior of certain children or grown-ups you have met in your lifetime? You know the ones I'm talking about: the ones who think the very world, and everything in it, revolves around them-- from the confused, angry toddlers, and  vicious tyrant teens, to the older haughty Queen Bees, and ruthless  Kings of the Road.

It all appears so complicated and discouraging when we look at the mechanics of our relationships. Yet,  it becomes simpler when we discover that there are only two main things necessary to overcome the problems mentioned here: Love and Awareness. Maybe they are really both the same thing. Think about it: If we were to stop and truly look into the faces of our children, our mates, our loved ones, we might begin to know them and it would translate to them as love. If we were to raise our children recognizing their immeasurable value as gifted human beings - human beings that sometimes need boundaries and correction- they would have confidence to deal with the onslaught of negativity they will be facing throughout their lives, yet possess the humility and self-discipline necessary to counteract the dangerous lures of empty vanity and selfish pride. If we exuded a healthy, positive strength to counteract the relentless forces that always seem to reinforce the wrong things children believe about themselves, perhaps our youth would no longer see themselves as unvalued, inferior sex objects or demanding angry gods.

The question is: How can we bestow the right kind of caring upon our families if we feel worthless and unloved ourselves?

None of us has all the answers but, for now, we can begin by seeing what's missing. We can face the painful yet liberating understanding of wrong conditioning that has affected so much of our  lives, making us into fearfully timid or angry wayward people we were not meant to be. Many of us have been effectively robbed of the level of  human awareness and unique gifts each was born with and meant to share with our families, friends, and the world.

By opening our eyes to old conditioning, we break the spell that held us captive and made us blind to what we could be. I believe that embarking on the journey of finding who and what  we really are is the only road to true happiness. Though it may not be possible for people to create Heaven on earth, with God's help, each of us can find it for ourselves by fulfilling the measure of our creation.

 

 

 

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Does Porn Really Matter?

Let's face it: porn has become so common, it's now mainstream. Some would have us believe that those of us who see something wrong with it are up-tight prudes not comfortable with our own sexuality. These same people would have us believe it is a harmless diversion that every hot-blooded male has a right to indulge himself in.

But, let's talk about reality. There are women who have lost their mates to it, children their fathers and, according to stats dealing with murder and rape victims, many have experienced violence at the hands of men heavily influenced by porn. Some may have lost their lives.  Take serial woman killer Ted Bundy, who admitted the profound influence the regular use of porn had upon his psyche and actions.

Okay, let's admit right up front that  most men who view porn will not become murderers. Since this is a site about marriage, let's talk about the women who claim that they have lost meaningful relationships to a partner's porn addiction. And what about adultery? I don't even need to see stats to recognize that porn use can break down barriers that would normally discourage unfaithfulness.

Also, I wonder how many marriages have been torn apart after porn began to dominate the family-life to the extent that a man could no longer relate to a woman as friend and lover, or appreciate the innocence of his children. I  have read about, and met, far too many women and children who are in just such a position. Here's what some have said (using fictitious names):

"My husband spent his free time watching porn on his computer in his office. He wanted less and less to do with me. He had been mentally devouring "sirloin steak" all day - I was like the common "hamburger," not very exciting. He also began to ignore the kids and their needs... it just kept getting worse," Kelly told me sadly. She has been divorced for over five years.

Janet said of her ex-husband, "Jeff couldn't feel sexual towards a wife and mother after watching all that garbage. For him, sex could not have anything to do with caring or love, it had to be dirty and trashy. And how boring is an innocent child, even if it's his own?"

Nicole's relationship also came to a sad ending. "He ended up sleeping in another room to avoid physical contact with me," she said of her husband. "Everyone thought he was so nice and friendly, " she added, "he put on this super act of "Mister Nice Guy" for everyone but his family. To us he was like a distant  stranger. First it was the porn, then it was other women in real life."

I'm willing to bet that most of you reading this blog  have experience with, or know someone whose life has been negatively  affected by porn. Women are also becoming addicted and have become comfortable with being nothing more than sex toys, forgetting that they may be subjecting their bodies to disease or creating a new life, all for a few moments pleasure.  In fact, the tables are now  being turned as men become objects of use to be thrown away with disdain. 

As for me, I mourn the lost innocence of our youth as  they are singled out  by porn marketers. (Think MTV.) How many will lose their wonderful and dynamic identities? How many will grow to feel comfortable being degraded or degrading others for meaningless self-gratification? Or worse?

This brings me back to Ted Bundy. His porn addiction began as a young teen. He struggled into adulthood as one new low led to another, until the images were not enough. Finally, this person who seemed to be a well-balanced, dependable fellow to his friends and neighbors, was overcome by fantasies influenced by years of pornography. He crossed the line. What he did makes the discussions of  broken homes and lost innocence pale in comparison. Bundy became a sexual predator eventually executed for  the rapes and murders of as many as fifty women. It happened over twenty years ago. People need to be reminded. Here, I include a thought provoking quote from this man-turned-devil who was about to die in the electric chair:

I’m no social scientist, and I don’t pretend to believe what John Q. Citizen thinks about this, but I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography - deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true."....
Ted Bundy


July 2010
How to be Somebody Special

 

Everyone wants to be special, and I often wonder why my family struggles with feelings of low self esteem. I suspect that we are not the only ones who face feelings of self-doubt and inferiority for, when I am surrounded by groups of seemingly confident people, I often detect hints of insecurity... even in the most popular and well-bred of the bunch.

As for me, I come from humble beginnings. My great-grandfather could not read or write and signed his name with an X, and my very own dear grandpa only received a fourth grade education during his upbringing in Oklahoma. Mom quit high school after her junior year when they moved to Arizona during hard times. Yet, instead of shame, my heart fills with admiration as I think of each of them.

Mom was smart. She learned so fast, they jumped her ahead two grades in elementary school. Not only was she sharp, she was famously witty, and so intuitive she seemed to possess a sixth sense.  Great Grandpa Flowers eventually became one of the most respected (and wealthy) members of his community with extensive land-holdings, and his oldest son (my grandpa) worked tirelessly, planned wisely, saved carefully, and paid cash for the horses, cars, and houses he bought in his lifetime. He died in his own home, a self-sufficient, well-loved man of character nearing the age of ninety-three.

Many wonderful characteristics run strong on both sides of my family but, even though people who knew them were often impressed and inspired by them, self-confidence was not a strong point in their lives. They were not born into wealth or royalty, and they were all too aware of their lack of formal education or refined finesse.

Unfortunately, countless talented, wise, and good-hearted people are conditioned during upbringing and by circumstances to see themselves as less than who they are, and may never realize the value they inherently possess within their own souls. They are like roses, daisies, and  fruit-bearing vines that are smothered and choked by a lifetime of neglect and weeds.

Sweet and sensitive children are sometimes ignored and pushed into the background by their family, friends, or both. They, like submissive puppies dominated by top-dogs, are conditioned to believe that they are inferior. (This is often the case in polygamous families where children are at the bottom of the pack order, just below the less favored wives).

People are "broken" in many different ways. They begin to behave in a manner that actually tells others how they feel about themselves, and unconsciously signal how they expect to be treated. It becomes almost impossible to recognize, have faith in, and behave like the person each of us was born to be. Some of us will appear overconfident and proud to compensate for not really feeling special at all. Oh, the potential that is wasted, the Hell that evolves on earth when people are not themselves!

As I consider my humble grandparents along with the proud pretenders I have met in my life, I find myself searching within my own heart. Looking deep, I realize that I don't want to feel inferior or superior to others. I am led to believe that to be somebody "special" we must reclaim our unique and individual places in creation and, after banishing the two-faced demon of inferiority and pride, simply become ourselves.

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Joy and Sorrow of Spring

As  winter fades, the frosty air outside is replaced with comforting spring rain, and the days are sometimes warm enough to open the windows in the closed-up stuffy rooms of our home. Fresh air meanders in, and we listen to a familiar serenade of crickets, accompanied by a chorus of little tree-frogs chirping out back where the water runs behind our house. It is  a beautiful and welcome time of the year, yet also a sad and melancholy time for me.

Several years ago, one day late in April,  I sat  at the bedside of my mother listening to these same  sounds as her life ebbed away. She left us as I held her hand in the room of our home where she had been a constant part or our lives  for three years. Without fail, each spring brings with it the memory of that day.

As  years pass and I grow older, I find myself understanding and appreciating  who my mother was and what she did more and more each day. You see, she was always there for her family and, in fact, had very little life of her own.  

Mom was born in a little town in Oklahoma in the spring of 1920. She milked cows, worked in the fields, and helped in the kitchen. Unbeknownst to her hardworking, religious parents, she would one day move away from their small-town traditions and take on a life of different hardships of which they had no concept. 

She married young, then watched most of her daughters enter into polygamous relationships against her wishes. She then worked incessantly to help provide for their needs as they struggled with ever-growing  families without the help or support from their multi-wived husbands.

At the time in life when the children of most families are independently building lives of their own, my parents' house was a safe-haven, always open and crowded as Mom cooked and cleaned like a servant for her overworked daughters and needy grandchildren.

Some might say she gave too much. She gave up privacy, peace, and comfort to try to make life more bearable for everyone. Was this her attempt to make up for the guilt she felt for not being able to protect her daughters from the influences they were under...the choices they made that brought so much suffering into their own lives and the lives of their children? 

Sadly, she was taken for granted. We came to expect her help and sacrifices, and in our own life-struggles we didn't see or appreciate all that she did, her generosity, and the difference she made. We did judge her: after all she sometimes seemed negative or controlling about little things. I look back and shake my head; controlling? For most of her life she was at the mercy of circumstances, struggling to survive,  trying to fill  huge voids in the lives of her children and grandchildren. Grasping to hold onto a few minor possessions and parts of her life was a meager attempt to have control over something.

Mom cared for her parents as they aged, as well as for my father in his difficult last year of poor health. Then,  when my sister became the  victim of an unspeakable tragedy in Mexico, she gave up a short-lived quiet period of  retirement to take on a new family. She was growing old and tired, had  health problems of her own, and was still grieving for my father. Her grandchildren needed help..what else could she do?

Mom wasn't perfect...no...and she was the first to admit it. She saw her faults too clearly, wished that she could have been better and stronger, hoped that God would forgive her for sometimes "not being a very nice person." In truth, she did not understand and appreciate her own worth.

Today, as I welcome the lovely sounds and smells of spring, I am  reminded once again of her last days. I sit with opened windows listening to the sound of spring rain, and think of her. How  I wish that I could go back in time and see her life and suffering with fresh, clear eyes. How I hope that I can be forgiven for my own immaturity and selfishness. As I remember my mother, I miss her and pray that her soul rests with God in peace.

 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Marriage Under Construction: Proceed With Caution!

Marriage is hard work. It is a constantly changing experience that not only goes through different seasons, but through different phases of "construction."

Like any long term project, some of the most important parts are in the planning stages. Building a successful marriage actually begins before vows are taken and promises are made. I'm not talking about the ceremony. If a couple doesn't really take time to become well acquainted before getting to that point, they may be unpleasantly surprised to discover that, once the initial attraction fades, they don't even like each other! 

Remember that emotions experienced in a blossoming relationship tend to blur the image of the person of interest. He or she may be gorgeous, talented, and interesting, and you may be flattered by  the attention bestowed. This is an important time to stop and consider that there is more to marriage than outward appearances and/or a pleasing personality. A long courtship and time spent communicating is  the first step towards choosing a person who is in sync with the direction you want to go in life, both spiritually and physically. What is most important to you, should also be important to the other...deepest held beliefs shared. At this stage, communicate, converse, then talk some more. Get to know one another's families. Watch actions and attitudes over time, and be familiar with and understand each other's background.

If physical appearance, success, or sexual chemistry were main motivating factors before marriage, the struggle will be to remain always wealthy, always seductive, forever young and beautiful.  There is the very real possibility that someone with more of all-of-the-above will come along to disrupt a shallow union.
 
Should getting to know one another include sex?  This is a moral issue that is important for many reasons. I believe that morality not only has a spiritual side but a practical, protective one. On the practical side, sexual intimacy before marriage will dominate feelings and cloud objectivity. You need to truly know the heart of a person before you marry him or her because, not only will the first blush of romance all too soon become dulled by everyday life, but powerful sexual desire will also be overshadowed by sickness, financial issues, the arrival of children, and aging.

Does all romance fade for those who move towards a more mature type of love? Heavens no! Moments of caring and affection become rich and sweet for those who choose wisely and persevere.

If any marriage is to be a happy one, both husband and wife must learn to stop thinking only about how  good their mate makes them feel about themselves. Merging together as one, out of individual worlds of self-interest, a whole new way of looking at one another unfolds. With a sense of compassion and understanding, they can begin to focus on what they can do  to give one another's life more meaning and joy.  Developing attitudes of patience and awareness can carry a couple into whatever the future may hold.

Lastly, never underestimate a harmless-sounding little word called "time."  It can make or break a marriage. Without time spent together as a family, there can be no bond. Time for recreation, discussion of problems, and shared joy and sorrow  all  form strong invisible ties, fulfilling one another's need to be loved. Sometimes just being together in silence is as uplifting as struggling to say the right things. Sadly, where there is no journey towards deeper love, time is a curse to be spent trying to escape from problems that appear insurmountable.

"Do you promise to Love, Honor and Cherish each other, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, so long as you both shall live?" Marriage is shared time, held together not only by love and loyalty, but with commitment and effort. Let the construction begin..

November 2009

In Search of a Father's Love
 

We always hear about how important women are to their children. Truthfully,  I don't suppose we can even imagine what would happen to our world without motherly love and caring. Good mothers and women have always had immeasurable power to affect the societies they live in, and are a blessing to all who know them.

But, lately I've been thinking about modern-day  fathers. How often do we hear people singing praises or writing poetry about the other half of the parent equation? In the media, I see many father-figures being portrayed as downright stupid, and no more respectable than shallow, immature children.  It seems to me that the importance of  fatherly love is being all but lost in our modern culture. One of the most important spiritual and natural elements in the world is being trivialized almost into extinction. We are becoming blind to the fact that there is nothing that can replace the protective, guiding love of a good father.  

The problem lies not only with the sitcoms and movies. In recent years, in the name of women's liberation, men have been belittled, made fun of, and vilified. "Masculinity," which is almost considered a bad word to the politically correct crowd, is being relentlessly attacked and replaced with "sensitivity" and  other  traits mostly associated with women. Even God is no longer allowed to be considered masculine by  those who have been most affected by this unnatural trend.

Men who are conditioned to be ashamed of being men cannot make good fathers. Children who are deprived of  healthy masculine influences suffer. How sorely  manly strength and goodness is being missed by many people who don't even know what they are missing! 

It is true that  heightened emphasis on sexuality seems to be replacing natural love and caring in men, women,  and children. Yet, even as pornography becomes mainstream, and the very moral fiber and foundation of our country is pulled from beneath us--as gender confusion rises to new heights--some of us have still been blessed with good father figures in the present, or from the past, to remind us of what's being lost.

Let's be honest: No man is perfect, but it is imperative that we remember the importance of masculinity and the love of a father. Not only will he rise above his passions to be an example to those who need and trust him, but a kind, honorable man will put his family's welfare before his own, and even offer his  life to protect the innocent.

Tragically, many have never experienced a close, healthy  relationship with a father. Some have lost their daddies to wars or untimely deaths, others have been abandoned, abused, or betrayed by confused or selfish men who chose to abdicate their sacred roles. Those numbers are rising. The scenarios of pain and rejection that play out daily almost appear hopeless as men forget how to be men, and we lose our examples of strong fatherly love.

I am reminded of a verse in the Bible that speaks of returning the hearts of the children to the  fathers, and the fathers to the children. Like a breath of fresh air,  at this time of year especially, I remember  the birth of a child in Bethlehem who grew to speak of God like no other prophet or teacher before him. He called the very Creator of life "Father."  Amazingly, He taught us to do the same. This hopeful story of long ago didn't end there--for the noble Son still offers forgiveness and  strength as He leads those willing to be led, to the healing love of His Father.

 

(The following blog was inspired by Mary's comments on my "Letters" page.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

 The Power of Beauty

"The beautiful princess married the handsome prince, and they both lived happily ever after..." This was the type of ending to the fairy tales many of us were raised on. I believed in them. I grew up thinking  that if I could be beautiful, I would hold the key to true happiness and my life would be complete. I would be loved.

It wasn't just the stories I read that conveyed this idea to me--beautiful women were glorified in the movies I watched, and praised lavishly in songs that were written for them. They took people's breath away, won the hearts of heroes, and earned smiles and admiration just by entering a room. How hard it was to be ordinary, how devastating is was to be different. Yet this was the situation many young girls found themselves in growing up. It seemed to matter very little how funny, kind, or talented a person was if they were not pleasant to look at. The least attractive girls were usually at the bottom of the pecking order amongst their peers. And I observed that in plural marriages, where a man can marry numerous women, youthful beauties captured men's hearts over and over again.

Fast forward twenty or thirty years. Beauty is still important. Oh yes, the masses worship fervently at the altars of gorgeous, egotistical Hollywood stars--both men and women. And even some men now feel the urge to be beautiful. But something else has changed. Young girls not only feel the need to be pretty, they must now be "hot." The little girl you see playing happily in the mud, will one day almost certainly grow into a teenager who feels the pressure to dress and act in a way that turns guys on. In her quest to discover a sense of fulfillment, she will likely be tempted with measures far surpassing the heavy make-up girls once used to make themselves feel beautiful in my day. Plastic surgery, breast implants, and body piercing have become common procedures not only for older women, but for high school students as well. What we women were born to look like can now be altered permanently with relative ease. Skimpy, revealing clothing is the norm.

While many girls grow to believe that their mission in life is to be irresistibly tempting, young men, on the other hand, fall prey to the idea that they are meant to be incessantly tempted. Many of them sink to animal-like levels where sensual urges and thoughts dominate almost every waking moment. Add modern-day access to pornography to the mix, and we have a recipe for anything but real love and caring. Some men will really come to believe that animals are all that they were ever meant to be. They will degrade themselves, as they degrade their women. Sadly, unhappy women and young girls fall prey daily to the deadly eating disorders that now plague our culture like never before. Innocence and character are lost where the powers of raw beauty and sensuality dominate.

I believe that beauty is a gift. How pleasant it is to look upon a delicate flower, a wide-eyed child, a lovely woman, or a handsome man. Yet it was not meant for everything and everyone to be  beautiful. Physical appearance should not be worshipped, neither should sex be glorified to be more than it was meant to be. We are all born with gifts to be discovered, developed, and enjoyed. I long for our  youth to understand  their true worth and to seek out beauty in life that is not only seen with the eyes, but discovered deep within the heart and spirit of humankind.

All of us grow older. Even the most extraordinarily beautiful people age, and each of us will one day lay on our death-beds. What will beauty or sex appeal mean to us then?  When all is said and done, perhaps some of us will remember a time long ago when we played innocently in the mud with our sun-burned, dirt-speckled, toothless friends,  filled with an awesome sense of adventure and discovery--blissfully ignorant of the sensual power of beauty. 

"...for  the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these..."


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ron and His Brother Paul

   My husband could have taken another wife. Like me, he was raised with the idea that it is acceptable to live polygamy. An older brother of his, named Paul, did decide to take multiple wives throughout his life, eventually totaling six in all. Yet, Paul passed away a year or so ago while living alone as a bachelor in Mexico where he suffered a fatal stroke.  Few, if any, of the many children he fathered even knew where he lived, nor was there great sorrow at his passing. He did have a dog. You see, although Paul had  many women and children he could have bonded with,  he never learned how to relate to any of them as a person, a husband, or a father. Not one. Except for a few strangers, he died alone.
   Today marks the thirty-first milestone of my marriage to my husband Ron. Unlike Warren Jeffs and his child-brides in the photos above and below, we are only six months apart in age and share a similar level of maturity. And, unlike his brother Paul, Ron stayed committed to one wife and one family. Me. Us. Ron and I have lived with each other for the biggest part of our lives. Like a good wine,  I guess you could say we have aged and matured together.
   To celebrate, we took some time to travel to the coast  and it was there that we indulged ourselves with breezy walks on the beach and uninterrupted  meaningful  conversation that only two people knowing each other so well can share. 
   It was during the course of one of these discussions, that I began to realize more deeply why many of the men I knew, were attracted to plural marriages aside from the S-E-X factor mentioned in my last blog: As I was growing up, it was always apparent to me that the motives for having more than one wife for most men did not genuinely include a strong respect for the institution of marriage, nor did they  possess an exceptional ability to bond successfully with many women and children. In fact, looking back, I can see that many male polygamists in reality  lacked the character to truly learn to relate to any woman. Although it naturally seemed that they would be--should be--committed to many women, in truth they were committed to none.
   You see,  polygamy can be a great escape from the challenges and perseverance necessary  to become truly spiritually and emotionally  intimate with a woman or her children, while providing a physical heyday for a guy. It can protect the pride of one not wishing to see his own shortcomings, and discourage unselfish love. How easy it is to escape into the arms of a woman who never expects more than a small portion of his time and who is grateful to be noticed at all, while leaving behind or ignoring the wife who longs for more. A wife demanding her well-deserved rights is absolutely futile in a polygamous relationship. Begging is more acceptable, but it is demeaning and not very effective either. The children usually have no rights at all.
   Yet, I recently read somewhere that many Americans consider long-term monogamy to be cruel and unusual punishment! Most of us who have been married can relate to that statement on some level. To be honest, staying together for so long, at times has required a supreme effort on both the  part of my husband and myself. But, considering our unusual and stressful backgrounds, we are living proof that two people can learn to love and support each other in a healthy way  if they are committed to it. We have been rewarded for our patience and persistence with an almost profound understanding of one another. Now, thirty-two years later, fights and anger fade quickly--we both know we're in it for good. And we intend to keep it this way.
   Happy Anniversary, Ron!

 Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pedophilia and the Case Against Polygamy

You may wonder why I am so concerned about the spread of polygamy. After all, what's the big deal? In reality, why should I care if a man marries multiple women instead of choosing to be faithful to one wife? Please read on.

I have said many times that I think that one of  the main reasons women choose to live polygamy is because  it is taught to them as a religious requirement, often beginning at a very young age. That's one reason for concern right there. But, what about the men? Why do they choose polygamy?

Is it, as some Christian polygamists now claim, about "profound, selfless, Christ-like love for women"? That sure sounds noble, but I'll bet many of you will  question that motive right along with me. After all, a man doesn't have to marry a woman to give her that kind of love. You may even suspect, as I do,  that the real reason amounts to a three letter word that begins with the letter "S" and ends with the letter "X".

I suppose that some of these men honestly do envision themselves as benevolent leaders dividing their wisdom and goodness among many adoring women and children, and that the pollination part really is secondary. The fact is, the boys in my former religion were taught that they must have multiple wives to honor God's highest calling, and some did go into it for that reason. I knew many of them when they were decent young men - I saw them take wives, have children, and change.

In the "Letters" section, my old friend makes a heart-wrenching case about the negative effects of polygamy on a man's ego.  I don't think that discussion can be complete without bringing up the S-E-X factor. Here are some questions just begging to be asked: What is it like for a man to know that any women he feels physically attracted to can be a potential mate? What happens to the average guy who can indulge himself with a variety of bed partners and is constantly in demand by different women?  How does a man of character  remain spiritually grounded in the face of all these sensual experiences? Just how does all of this affect a man's psyche? 

It becomes obvious over time, that in such situations (including the extremes of our modern culture),  the needs of  "the flesh"  become more and more demanding. Unnatural hungers are awakened. At their worst they become destructive and violating to the innocent.

Of the men that  I knew, a few became dissatisfied with having only one bed partner at a time. While presenting a religious front, others of these men became molesters and pedophiles. Although they had numerous wives coming and going from their lives, they still were not satisfied. Some developed incestuous relationships with their own children. Even little boys were not safe. (No, these extreme examples were not  the case with all of the men. But I have been informed of such behavior commonly hidden within other polygamist  groups as well.)

I think it is safe to say that the institution of polygamy attracts such degrading types of men who have absolutely no religious or noble intentions to begin with. And young women raised in polygamy (or otherwise) who did not get enough attention from their fathers can be prime targets for a lustful man who steps in to fill their need for fatherly love. In polygamy, a variety of young girls can be desired and married by much older men--and this is not uncommon. How sad it is for these girls as they age and are neglected and ignored for exciting new wives and even younger child-brides. How bleak it is for their children who will also miss having a  loving father.

On a radio talk show the other day,  the host mentioned to me that it may be a sense of family that motivates some women to become plural wives, and I think  that holds some truth. In fact, in my old religion wives of the same husband were called "sister-wives." We were taught that we would be sisters throughout eternity, and some really did start out behaving like sisters. (Heck, some of the women married to the same man really were sisters! ) But the reality of jealousies and resentments soon set in. Although some women were better at suppressing their pain, and denying their unmet need for the love and support of a full-time husband,  the need was still there. Very few of the marriages survived until old age. It seemed like the men didn't really care, they always had replacements for any unhappy woman who gave up the miserable battle! So much for loving fathers and strong families.

Let's be honest: realistically, even under the best circumstances, a man will find that it is challenging to be a good father and husband that meets the emotional and physical needs of only one family.
I strongly suggest that the polygamy ideal now being perpetrated by determined activists is not only an illusion--it is a dangerous one. And for this reason accepting  plural marriage as a norm  for our society would be taking a GIANT step backward.

August 1, 2008
The Stressful Years

Life was busy. We had four children to raise, bills to pay, a house and yard to keep up, not to mention Ron's long regular work hours and me helping my elderly mom on top of managing the household jobs. As my husband  and I shouldered our duties, we barely had time to look at one another - let alone carry on a conversation that amounted to more than just a few sentences. Brief exchanges of vital information pretty much summed up our communication at that point. We didn't have the time or money to get out much.

At some point, I began to feel that our marriage was entering its last stages.  It seemed we had nothing in common besides our responsibilities and the stress we shared each day. And love. What was love anyway? We hardly ever smiled at each other. I couldn't blame him for not loving the overweight, harried housewife I had become. Did I say "harried"? Okay, let me be completely honest and change that word to "angry." 

One day I actually wondered: What would our lives be like without each other? Maybe there was some dream I could pursue to make life interesting. Maybe I could move somewhere new and exciting with the kids. I believe that it was providential when our seven year old daughter approached me as I stood folding laundry later that day.

"Mommy, do you know who taught me how to tie my shoes?" she asked seemingly out of nowhere. I looked at her wordlessly and shook my head no. "Daddy did," she replied with a smile. "Do you know who taught me how to ride my bike?" I gulped and shook my head no again.  "Daddy did," she laughed looking surprised at my ignorance. "Daddy teaches me lots of things."

I suddenly felt ashamed. I had been too busy to notice those things. Even though he had always been busy and under constant pressure, my husband had never tried to evade his responsibility to us and had always found the time to be there for our children. Wasn't that love? How foolish I had been to entertain thoughts of life without him. 

And what about those  vows we took that said "for better or for worse" - wasn't that more than a quaint old saying?  As for our personal life and lack of communication - when was the last time I had slowed down and really become aware of  my husband?  Had I ever  stopped to offer him a word of encouragement or gratitude for all that he did for his family day in, day out? I suddenly realized we were both on automatic pilot, treading water, trying hard to get through each day.

That day was the beginning of new understanding for me. I began to take time to give my husband a hug when he came home from work, and to show in little ways that I loved and appreciated him. I could see the surprise and gratitude in his eyes. 

I started to notice the times he stopped to rub my tired shoulders - wasn't he doing it more often now?  And the cup of  specialty coffee he began to splurge on and surprise me with after an unusually long and tiring week, was as  welcome as diamonds. So were the lovely flowers he had delivered to me on our anniversary.

The moral of the story is this: When times are stressful, a little thoughtful awareness of your spouse goes a long way. In fact, it  can work miracles. A hug out of nowhere can be all that's needed to start turning things around (although it takes getting used to if you haven't been affectionate  with one another for awhile).

It's now been over thirty years. If our marriage had not been monogamous, I'm certain that we would never have had the chance to see clearly and deal with all of our challenges, and would have given up, or lived on in misery.

Most of the kids are grown and we now have time to talk, watch a movie or go for a walk, and enjoy our family and grandchildren. Laughing together is the best.

Since Ron's heart attack a few years ago, I realize even more how grateful I am for my husband and how important he is to his family. We are truly partners for life.

And when I'm least expecting it, he still surprises me with a cup of specialty coffee.


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