What Married People Wish Single People Knew #1: Recognize how weighty the decision to get married is.

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On to my post!

The first piece of advice given to me by my married friends was also the most often given: realize how weighty the decision to get married is.

Deciding who you marry is probably the most important decision of your life. It will affect everything. Both married and divorced people that I interviewed stressed this point again and again, especially if they made hasty decisions that they regretted later.

Turns out, most people don’t have the best judgement when first in love. There is a good reason for this: most of them are basically like drug addicts. Seriously. According to the National Public Radio Show Radio Lab in an episode called “This Is Your Brain On Love, “ scientists have looked at the brains of people who are newly in love and compared them to the brains of cocaine addicts. They looked very similar.

According to this source, there are many naturally occurring chemicals we become addicted to when we fall in love. The most prominent one is dopamine. This is a chemical that makes a person feel happy and passionate. When first attracted to someone, a person has huge surges of dopamine running through his or her body

If dopamine were a woman at a party she would be the one who is a really good kisser and who looks amazing in her skin-tight outfit but who really doesn’t want anything long-term. She comes on strong and it feels really good to be around her, but her commitment quickly fades. Her love is not the kind of love that is sustainable.

Thankfully, after six months or so of being in a relationship with someone, a hormone called oxytocin comes into the mix that starts displacing the dopamine. This chemical is marked with a sense of calm and stability rather than with unsustainable highs. It lasts much longer than dopamine, even if it doesn’t make a person as “happy.” It helps one person attach to another, and it promotes contentment in that relationship.

Oxytocin is comparable to that really nice girl next door with a southern accent. The one who is not as flashy but who has a good heart and who would probably make a really good wife some day.

Our Hollywood-saturated society often gives us the idea that love is simply having the feeling that dopamine running through our system gives us. But chemicals that make us happy and uncontrollably passionate are not what makes love last. They may help draw us to someone, but they don’t foster long-term commitment. Once we are committed to each other, dopamine will help bring a little romance, but it is not the glue that holds a marriage together. It is sobering to see how many divorces and affairs have happened because people have mistaken this chemically-induced feeling for love and have abandoned their partner when the “love” wears off.

Keep this in mind as you date someone. Remember that your brain is a bowl of hormonal soup right now. And bowls of hormonal soup do not often make good decisions.

Let yourself be in love. Be aware and appreciative of this special season where it feels so good to be in someone’s presence. Let dopamine do its job; let it attract you to someone who could be a good partner. But do not let dopamine be in the driver’s seat and propel you to make big decisions unwisely.

Give yourself a lot of time to get good information before making decisions. Let some of the chemicals wear off so you can be sober in your decision making. Remember that romance and the feeling of being high on love won’t make a marriage. However, someone you are close friends with, someone who is kind, and someone who you love being around will.

Ask yourself: “Does this person have a good track record with the way they have treated me, or do I keep telling myself that they have ‘good potential,’ that they will get better with time?” Getting married to someone with a good track record is a pretty safe choice. Marrying someone who just has potential is not very safe. And track records take time.

There is great wisdom in looking for the fruit of something even when it is still a seed. Yes, you are in love now, but what will it be like to have children with this person? What will it be like to grow old with him or her? Maybe his obsession with Super Mario Bros. is cute now, but will it be cute in ten years if he is lazy and doesn’t want to work? Maybe you are able to excuse her road rage now, but will she get angry like that with you or your children in the future? These are all questions you should consider.

Does anyone have anonymous stories about jumping into love too fast or thoughts on Hollywood’s idea of love?

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Do I Really Need A Minivan In The Game Of Life?

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I was playing cards with my little friend Isabella the other day. We were playing Old Maid.

You know the game: each person has a set of cards. You draw from the other player, and lay down the pairs that you find. Twos twos twos. There is a sense of anticipation every time a card is drawn from the other player’s hand. Who will pair up next?

Another pair, and another pair, and another pair. Each laid down, one right next to the other.

There was one card left in my hand at the end of the game. The Old Maid. The card had a picture an older woman surrounded by cats. Apparently cats are the only creatures that will live with single ladies that are mature in age.

Isabella pointed at me and said “Look Kate! You have the Old Maid! That means you are the loser.

I didn’t know what to do with this statement, or with this game. I don’t usually mind losing games to five year olds. But I was a little more sensitive about losing this time. “Am I the loser?” I thought.

I decided to lean more about the history of the game. Here’s what I found out: it is a very old victorian game. There are versions around the world, many with different names. In Brazil, it goes by the flattering name Stink. The English version is called Scabby Queen, a name brings up even worse images than the picture of the American cat lady. And my personal favorite, the French version that is known as Le Pouilleux, which means the louse. Just in case you don’t know what that is, it’s a parasitic insect. Another word for louse is cootie. Awesome.

In my research, I also found pictures of some vintage Old Maid games. My favorite was a 1940‘s deck that had wonderful cartoons of very attractive curvy women. One woman was riding on an airplane. Another was surfing. A third looked like a successful business lady.

The Old Maid? A little old single lady, sitting in a rocking chair knitting, which is quite appropriate, since that is where the word spinster comes from. One who spins. It seems that single people who are a little older have nothing better to do than sit in a rocking chair and knit some booties for their favorite nephew.

A few weeks after this incident, I was playing another game with my ten year old friend, Collin. The Game Of Life. This game has versions of it dating all the way back to 1860. It has a track in which players move in little plastic cars through various life scenarios. Consequently, in the late 80’s the game changed the car from a convertible to a Chrysler-esque minivan.

“Wait a second.” I said to Collin. “What if I want a four wheel drive Subaru instead of a minivan?” Collin retorted “you have to have a mini van in the game of life.”

Well, I realized, it makes sense that you need to have decent leg space in your car, since you have to put your growing family in it.

This family is acquired towards the beginning of the game, when you hit a stop sign in front of a three dimensional chapel. It is here that you must get married and put a new blue or pink peg beside you in your minivan.  I looked at Collin and said “Hey, what if I don’t want to get married? Or what if, by some crazy turn of circumstances, it just doesn’t happen for me?” Collin gave me a quizzical look and said, “You can’t do that Kate! You have to get married in the game of life.”

It’s true. I did. If I didn’t, I would be stuck at the beginning of the game. Forever. I gave in, but mostly because you get $5,000 worth of wedding gifts on the next space.

At the end of the game, the bank paid out money for various things. I wasn’t at all surprised that you received a decent amount for each child that you were able to raise in your minivan. It seems that in the game of life, he who dies with the most kids gets the most cash.

Really, Milton Bradley? Really?

These are some of the stereotypes that are placed in our minds at a very young age, and I admit I can relate to some of them. Like the Old Maid, I have seen my friends pair up two by two. I am not as old as she is, but I am in my thirties, which is pretty old to be single, especially in Christian circles. And yes, I do put my knitted creations on etsy.

But that’s where the similarities stop. I hate cats, I have many other things to do with my time than sit in a rocking chair, and I am really, honestly, not a loser.

Those are good signs that I am not really an Old Maid, right?

There are also things in The Game of Life that I can relate to. I often feel like society says to me “You’re not married? You don’t have children? How could you possibly ride around in your plastic car with one lonely plastic peg in it? Is there something wrong? Are you going to get stuck at the beginning of life and never move on to the rest of your game because of your singleness?”

At this point, I have no idea if I will ever get married. I have stopped trying to control it. I do know that I want to make a new game of life. One in which I can go anywhere I want to go, even if no one is with me in the plastic minivan.

Anyone else out there have childhood memories that made it feel like being married was the only thing that would bring happiness or value to your life?