Marriage Math Two Become One: Subtract One Leaves One Half
Marriage Math Two Become One; Subtract One Leaves One Half Mary Stromer Hanson June 6, 2021 A huge amount of planning is invested into two people becoming one. The words, “til death do we part” hardly make an impression on the day of the original vows. So much happy anticipation goes into the coming event. Every decorative detail of a wedding, the date, venue, and who gets invitations is all consuming for the young couple. Time and attention are devoted to premarital counseling; friends and relatives shower the newlyweds with all possible blessings and gifts. So much effort goes into nurturing the two successfully to become one.
Who is going mar the beginning of a joyous occasion by starting with the end into view? The newlyweds walk down the aisle with little thought of the hardships that await them, but the months and years slip by. At times, the effort to become a functioning unit as one seems like enormous compromise instead of the happy road they imagined. Riches and poverty, health and sickness, children and grandchildren come and go. If indeed the marriage has succeeded, the two that so long ago became one truly are stuck together like roots of an old tree in a stone mountain. There is no prying them apart. They finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts, they can’t get by with the slightest of white lies without the other knowing.
Then the end comes. This sweetest of entanglements is rendered asunder−not by human actions−but by death. To every beginning on this side of heaven, there is an end. It is no different with “I do.” Regardless if the end comes suddenly or with months or years of warning, there is certainly no happy anticipation and little to no preparation for the end of a long marriage.
Perhaps after children arrive, a few moments are spent talking about life insurance. Some estate planning may be three-hole-punched and forgotten on a shelf. Decades later a lawyer may bring up end-of-life decisions penned in an advance directive. With nervous sighs about “pulling the plug,” mutual decisions are signed, dated, and forgotten about. Burial arrangements are made, but that is all in the distant future.
An end will come, hopefully later rather than sooner. Ideally, the two will live long healthy lives and die within a short time of each other. That is the best scenario. However, a span of many years may intervene between the death of spouses. The one, who was so used to being half of a partnership, is missing their other half like a plant pulled out of soil. The sweater tightly knitted is now unraveled into a pile of yarn. All the management of life issues must be accomplished with two hands instead of four.
How did she …? Where did he put …? I will ask him . . . no I can’t. Why didn’t I have him reach that rake in the garage while he could; why didn’t I have her write down the birthdays? She would know . . .but a jolt brings back the cruel reality, she took that knowledge to the grave. The house is creaky, the dog whines, the kitchen is too quiet, no one makes coffee like him/her. The list goes on and on. For every minute of every day the other half is missing. Who anticipates this stage of life? Up until this point one thinks there is only “happily ever after,” but “ever after” is a fairy tale. Suddenly a new box to check, “widow” applies.
It is impossible to anticipate the day, one denies the eventuality even after a long illness. How different from the original wedding day? For a funeral, flowers are hurriedly chosen, music and a program are thrown together. Friends gather, but they excuse themselves quickly. Condolences murmured; cards opened. If only there were one easy answer, but there is not. How does a one-half of a couple revert to one again?
Can any words here ease the pain? “Your memories will sustain you,” no, not really. They are only old memories. Now there are no new memories in the making. “A loved one lives on in your heart.” But the reality is they are not there. You want to hold a real hand, feel warm breath, hear a real voice. All the words, as well-meaning as they may be, are empty. No one warns about this part of marriage: the end. Imagine investing as much into the end of a marriage as the beginning—I am putting divorces to the side here and I speak mostly from the wife’s point of view.
The familiarity of old habits a couple shared brings some normalcy, if only for the reason one does not have to rethink the schedule or the menu when one cannot think at all. If possible, the common home and financial savings offer relief from physical worry. That is a huge advantage and cannot be taken for granted. The years of raising kids, which sometimes stretched a couple to their limits, now pays dividends. The memories made together and saved in photos and mementos bring a smile occasionally. These certainly do help mere survival and the “two that is now one” has this physical presence which is much to be thankful for, but while those empty rooms form a shell of safety, there is no denying it is lonely. This does not sound like living more abundantly, joy in the morning, blessed are those who mourn. It is mere survival with a strained happy face.
The biblical record is rather sparse in discussion of specific named widows and widowers. Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16); Elisha provides the widow with a never ending supply of oil (2 Kings 4:1-38) Jesus restores her dead son to the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Typically, widows in the Bible are a teaching opportunity to illustrate theological points. When a widow appears, an important lesson will occur.
Abigail, Ruth and Naomi, and Judith (found in the apocryphal book, Judith 15:9-10) are widows who are rescued by a new husband, purportedly because they were beautiful, young, and/ or rich. As optimistic as these stories are, this is not going to be the solution for most women. Anna in Luke 2:36-38 spends her widowhood serving in the temple. Also, not a likely long-term living situation now days. Speaking in general, widows, and orphans, are to be pitied and objects of mercy. James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”
Widowhood carries a stain. Priests were forbidden to marry widows Lev 21:14. The state of widowhood was seen as a punishment for sin (Is 54:4). Levirate marriage was offered as an antidote for the curse of widowhood (Deut. 25:5-6, Ruth 1:13}. The route of Ruth may have worked in the OT, but not likely to be pursued now.
From the widowers’ point of view, the situation of losing a wife is just a bump in the road compared to the disaster it is for wives. After the detailed account we have of his beloved Sarah’s death and burial, Abraham remarried (Genesis 25). He had six sons with a new wife with little offered in additional details. We assume he found new joy, but Genesis is silent on that. Jacob lost Rachel, the most beloved of his four spouses, but with three partners left, how much did he know of being a widower?
Now is the moment when everything a couple has put together throughout their years comes to the rescue. The faith they shared remains and grows. This is the amazing thing: at the same time when faith is surely shaken, God’s grace steps in. Here is an example of the correct understanding of Romans 8:28. The bereaved becomes aware of all the mercies surrounding their loss. These may be as profound as noting that God’s timing in the death of a spouse occurred to ease both your and their suffering. The many smaller “coincidences” that fall your way are not there by accident. Old acquaintances, who have been silent for years, come out of the woodwork. Someone writes condolences, signed by a name you do not recognize, but they knew your spouse and tell a wonderful story about something they did. As much as you prayed for a miracle, this is earthly existence: death is certain. So is birth. A grandchild may bring joy again.
You may see God’s hand in big and small decisions you made in the last years together: taking a vacation, fixing a roof, planting a tree, taking a photograph. Now the person living alone is relieved for the attic and garage cleaning competed, because the survivor will have many more painful decisions to make concerning what of his/her possessions to keep or give away.
Proponents of Christians for Biblical Equality recognize that the marriage-long practice of sharing all the responsibilities comes together to keep the survivor from drowning. The perfectly obvious needs to be mentioned: Everything in the file cabinet, or now days on the computer, must be known to both parties. No one can plead ignorance of financial, insurance, and tax business because, “I just don’t have a head for money.” There is no excuse for, “I don’t want my wife to have to worry about deeds and policies.” Husbands who insist on being “head of the house” are leaving their wives very vulnerable. The opposite is true as well, husbands who can’t cook and clean are helpless babes, but that is another chapter.
Practically speaking, the family, friendships, neighbors, and church community the couple nurtured together are now there to support the survivor. Friendships may shift more to the single members of your circle of friends. An example of how churches prepare for the eventual end: fellowship groups should not focus on separate couples and singles groups. Married couples should not be so inseparable that they do not have separate interests. It is appreciated when married women friends go out with single woman friends to pursue an interest that their husbands would rather skip. Healing is possible, but it is like wrapping multiple bandages over a wound. The bandages are new experiences which numb the amputation. The wounded slowly misses the lost member less, but occasionally a memory rips the gauze off in layers and the wound is exposed. The survivor must be empowered to live new experiences with new people, which does not erase the old memories, but puts them into storage, so to say, to take out for review occasionally. Hopefully, this is the legacy of empowerment transferred by the deceased to the survivor: strength to meet new challenges and courage to acquire new experiences and meet new people.
Dare I Say . . . the Third Installment of Online Dating! Mary Stromer Hanson March 14, 2021
I Cor 13: 5-6 KJV Charity . . . doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth:
Dishonesty is as old as the Father of Lies. That is not the news here. This blog concerns lies directed to Christian women. We heard the familiar text above at our first weddings possibly recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. With our young husbands, we were imagining a seemingly endless future of family, home, and adventures. Now after many years and the tragic end of that young marriage, we are thinking of another beginning, but this time the end is much more clearly in sight. Objectively speaking, this search is for someone with whom to live out our last years. Or more bluntly put: one of us will die first. So far, so cheery!
We venture into the guessing game of reading profiles on dating websites. We read through the flotsam and jetsam of lives lived, searching for someone with whom to generate happiness for the remaining years we are granted. There is a lot of reading between the lines to guess at the experiences of these potential mates and how they will mesh with ours. It is particularly discouraging to discover utter dishonesty that introduces yet another layer of peril in an already a painful process.
I have stumbled onto a research project: how to sort out the valid dating site clients from the phonies. Beyond this, I am venturing into psychology and trying to understand why people (I try to not heap this on men alone) imagine they gain by pretending to be someone else. If any readers with the appropriate academic degrees are inclined to take this on, help yourself.
This is written for the intrepid souls who are entering this new dating world for the first time since the Beetles were in the top forty. We courageously put ourselves out there. Bar scene etiquette is too complex, even in non-COVID times. Online dating turns out to be more efficient and effective for recoupling than random selection. We have become smart about so many lies in our lives: your car warranty is about to expire, e-mail attachments, your firewall has been breached, you have won the lottery, but you have to pay postage and handling. Here is yet another snare for the unsuspecting older woman who is trying to rebuild her life.
I hear men gripe that women post photos that are not recent or photoshopped. Let me tell you what is going on from the woman’s point of view. The posted photos are the least of the problem. Many are awful: a blurry selfie, a scowling reflection in the mirror of a messy bathroom. Well, that is useful information. You know what grooming products he uses, and you certainly don’t want to be his maid. So, quick swipe left, but the sad truth is that this guy is probably a live one. Several good-looking photos with glamorous backgrounds do not equal a safe pitch. Learn how to “back check” a photo on your Google search page. Look up socialcatfishing.com. It is possible to determine if the photos are “borrowed” from somewhere online which eliminates one level of deceit. This is hard to wrap your head around: stolen identity. I did some googling and found that according to unscientific, anecdotal evidence, fully 10% of the candidates on dating sites are fake. From personal experience on several sites, I find the estimate to be low.
A photo of a kindly gentleman seems genuine, but he may not be remotely related to the person initiating the conversation. Greetings such as, “Hello Gorgeous” or “Mary, you are adorable. What are you doing this weekend?” are standards for a scammer. After greetings, look for inconsistencies in their story. They claim to be at home in your location, but then in a few lines say they work elsewhere. An occupation that is accessible only by cell, such as a military contractor in Afghanistan or an oil rig is very convenient. Another ploy I experienced is the story he spins about relocating to Denver and is coming in a few weeks to find housing. A few lines later it is obvious he knows nothing about Denver real estate. Look for offhand exaggerations such that he is “only looking for the best,” or “cost is not an issue.” Eliminate guys with a well-worn story: my friend/boss is looking over my shoulder at the computer and really likes your photo. He wants to get in contact with you. Here is his cell number blah, blah, blah . . .
The well-known dating sites are worth the fee. A free site for widows yielded a fellow who looked like Mr. Rogers and the next photo was pornographic. The administrators did not remove the photos even when notified. The free “Dating” site associated with Facebook is worthless. Watch out for guys with Scandinavian educations. I have encountered scammers on both Zoosk and Match. To their credit, these sites offer convenient means to report bad behavior: make use of the three little vertical dots in the upper right corner. Match even cut one guy off as I was communicating with him because someone else just reported him. I have not encountered any shenanigans on eHarmony yet, but I have been on it a shorter time. These well-known sites have safeguards built in, but applicants get around them. Photos are verified by Facebook, Twitter, or Google, and cell phone numbers are checked for validity. Unfortunately, the cell numbers can be temporary, and they set up a quickie Facebook account.
Do not prematurely give anyone your cell number. The sooner they ask for it, the more likely they are fake. I have had men ask for my cell number after only a few interchanges. Once I told him that I had experienced problems with “cat-fishers,” and I asked him for his name. That ended the conversation. They should voluntarily offer their real name and then you check for any on-line presence which almost everyone has now. Yes, stalking is necessary for safety purposes. If their Facebook page has little history, then it was set up in a hurry−bad sign. If they say they are business owners or have professional careers, then they should have a website. Look for their resume on LinkedIn. If he is not upfront about this information or makes excuses−good riddance. At this point I am inserting obvious advice for newbies in this world. Never divulge your address or financial information or things could get dangerous. I fortunately, have not experienced anything worse than disappointment and disgust. If everything so far checks out, then proceed with meeting in a safe public location. This will happen only after about sixty carefully filtered contacts. Congratulations!
Now some sad commentary. The bad apples I have described so far are men who identify themselves as Christians! I emphasize again: I have only initiated or followed up with men who claim affiliation with Christianity, which I would assume includes honesty! (Refer above to I Corinthians 13:6). This whole discussion sets aside men who claim to be “spiritual, agnostic,” and various other religions. A dating website with “Christian” in the name was worse than any other and I quickly dropped that membership. For women first peeking at dating sites, members specify their religious preferences along with all other pertinent information as age, location, children, marital status, zodiac sign (gives an idea of when their birthday occurs without giving specific dates), and education. Users can easily sort according to any category. Encouragingly, I have found there are a handful of men who are not hesitant to express their Christian beliefs and offer original and sincere faith statements. I look for mention of church, charitable, and mission activities. The phrase “my faith is important” is overused. Do note that the Bible is a default favorite book choice and means nothing. An optional question offers opportunity to list books they are reading. Some guys looked promising until I noted flaky reading material.
Other filters include Christian: Protestant and Catholic. I have found that the Catholic guys are most genuine about their faith. Widowed or divorced? That depends. “Separated” is out. One guy has kids but has never been married. Huh? At least one fella is separated from his wife who is in memory care. Yes, one wonders at the wrenching life stories just below the surface. There are probably many more in this category, but their marital status is: “it’s complicated, will discuss when we meet.” Do I have to mention politics? I have had good prospects until I dropped a hint about my political leanings. The texts stopped immediately, but to me this is a deal breaker. Some things are better found out sooner than later.
Now, my biggest source of puzzlement: what is the gain for men to claim to be Christian seeking a Christian woman, and they themselves are not practicing the principles of that faith? One never reads: “I am agnostic, seeking a Christian woman.” Some men apparently have enough Christian background to know that Christian qualities in a woman are desirable and they will claim faith to get her attention. If they ever opened a Bible−Proverbs is good for a start−half the verses concern truth. Psalms is loaded with proper use of tongue, lips, mouth . . .and texting. Another example of the old double standard: they want an honest woman, but the same standard doesn’t apply to them. What is it they gain by pretending to be someone they are not? 1) Scammers imagine Christian women to be naive and/or trusting of human nature if down the road they present themselves in financial trouble and ask for money. 2) They don’t think their real selves are impressive enough. Or any ideas out there . . .?
A successful dating site profile is written to present possible commonalities to potential partners. Members venture a few lines of text and strike up conversations trusting that a relationship is based on honest information. This is not a game to those earnestly searching. They have experienced years of seemingly unanswered prayers. After tragedy, one wonders if one more prayer is left. I am certain that honest men are also disgusted that these creeps are muddying the waters.
Twice, in six months, I have found genuine guys online that were also interested in me. I met them “live” and enjoyed good conversations. Nothing permanent yet. This must be like panning for gold . . . with the same odds. I keep on forging ahead at least until opportunities for live social contacts open again. I have many acquaintances who have successfully maneuvered this maze and are now well matched and married. Your stories are very encouraging! In the meantime, this is quite an experiment and commentary on human (male) behavior. Men, you are welcome to inform me about female vices!
First, the Facebook experience. We have all received weird friend requests from men we immediately delete without a thought. I made an exception to a request from a nice-looking guy, about my age, born in Oslo, Norway, widowed, and he identified himself as an evangelical Christian. By all appearances genuine. Four photos included one of him flyfishing and another of his two cute dachshunds. I have a heart for widowers. I also have a background photo of a Norwegian fjord on my page. I imagine he sees I am also widowed, and I apparently like Norway. Sounds like at least a good penpal. I answered back and asked him how he knew me. He noticed me on his recommended friend list, so I figure somewhere we have an acquaintance in common. He said he was attracted to my smile. I am an ordinary looking woman, so I was flattered.
The texting intensified. I click “friend.” Now for those of you who are new at this, note these warnings: His Facebook page is obviously very recent. No list of “friends,” no history of events. He asked if he can text me instead of messaging on Facebook because he doesn’t check in often. OK, sounds reasonable. I tell him to send me his cell phone number first. He does and I text back. He sends me a selfie of himself. I send one back. Now we have each other’s phone numbers. He looks like the man on Facebook. I proceed. His Facebook page disappears a few days later. I google his name and he has no public online presence.
Some of you are going to start nodding here in familiarity of what will happen, and I will tell you from the beginning, thank God, nothing bad happens. I just didn’t know these things and I thought I was taking necessary precautions. He claimed to be a senior petroleum engineer on an oil platform off the coast of Canada. He was finishing his last contract and he wants to settle down to retirement life with a nice woman. We text every evening and talk about everything. He quite intelligently talks about his faith and church life growing up in Oslo, including the church where he grew up and mentioned his mother had been the pianist there. He is very convincing− and I see through people quite well. I also didn’t realize that I missed the company of a man, loved falling in love again, and enjoyed the flattery, so possibly I was blind to a few warning signals.
For women who may fall prey, note these characteristics! He is in a location where supposedly he can’t zoom, skype, facetime, and has limited internet access. He stated his love, yes love, for me sight unseen, in way too short a time. He is planning his life with me to the point of asking if I have garage space for his car. He gave the impression that he is about to leave the oil platform. Next warning sign! I did not hear from him for about 48 hours. He experienced a crisis. At this point, victims of this kind of scam receive a panicked request for money. I did not, and that would have set off alarms for me. When I did hear from him, he claimed to have experienced a “blast” on the oil platform, was injured and he had been in the infirmary where Wi-Fi is not allowed because of medical equipment.
This is the first point where I am beginning to get suspicious. I asked him to send me a selfie of his injuries. I expected a photo of his face with a bruise. He had sent a selfie before, so I knew it was possible, even if he protested that his contract did not allow it. Another point of suspicion was that he said that he liked to shower a woman he loved with surprises! He didn’t want me to discuss our on-line affair with anyone. Hummm? I did anyway. My saving grace: I had shared with my adult kids and friends that I was texting this man.
They told me that “catfishing” was a thing. Who knew? Look it up. My computer savvy daughter-in-law reversed checked all his photos and got no information, except for the one he sent of his “injury” which came from a website. Now, despite disappointment, I came to the realization that this whole experience was phony. I confronted him with the evidence. He denied it. He didn’t understand what he did wrong and he still loves me. End of story. I blocked his number. There are websites informing of these phenomena. I was totally unaware. I had not responded to an email from Nigeria from someone asking for emergency funds.
What are the chances this would happen again? One result of this experience: I came to the realization that a man in my life would be enjoyable. Somewhat jaded, I try legitimate dating websites. One I examine has many safeguards built in. Applicants must make a selfie video and turn their head left and right. Someone who monitors the site compares each photo submitted to photos on Facebook and other online presence to certify that the person is really the one on the profile. Seemed fool proof.
A guy contacts me first and says, “I just can’t help noticing your smile and can’t resist a woman in a pretty dress.” My smile seems to be getting me into trouble! OK, nothing inappropriate. In his profile he calls himself Christian-Protestant and he says his faith is important to him. We text for a few days. I give him my website address which he shows evidence that he actually read by noting he agrees with my positions and admires my aggressiveness in expressing what I believe in. I notice he took down his original profile on the dating site. He says I am the one he was looking for and he is now concentrating on me. I am thinking some of these fellas sure do know how to flatter a woman and I am also hearing the same phrases I have heard before.
He portrays himself as widowed and from a suburb of Denver, so it is entirely realistic we will meet. He sends me several photos of himself with grandchildren and his corvette. Hum . . . I have seen muscle cars before! We agree to meet, but within a day of our date he says he is at the airport on the way to an exotic location for business. Can we delay the date? He is so sorry and will send me a gift to make up for it. Later, I receive a call from the location where he says he is traveling in South America . . . during a pandemic? So, we actually talk. I think this is progress from the last experience I had. He has a nice-sounding voice, a ready laugh, he is going to see me as soon as his business is completed. Again, I share with friends and family that I am texting someone and it sounds too good to be true. They, like me, think this can’t be happening twice!
He emails me on a letterhead which − incidentally? − includes his business website address. I click on to a very slick website with his name prominently displayed as the owner managing partner of a firm with multiple international branches. It also includes his photo, maybe a few years old, but it definitely matches photos I already received. My trusty tech savvy kids start reverse checking this photo. This is why you have kids!
The photo matches that of a man running for office in a professional organization. This brings up another victim of this kind of scam. The online identity of a perfectly hapless individual has been stolen, including photos of his family, grandsons and his fancy car. Other than notifying the person that someone is pretending to be them, I do not know if any recourse is possible.
In summary, for those readers who may be older and not aware of the pitfalls in the world of singles, here are the safeguards I have collected. Use the computer to your advantage and if this is a foreign territory to you, just ask your younger friends for help. It is easy to reverse search images, check Linkedin for his professional history, and look for a lengthy Facebook page. Very few people do not have an online presence anymore.
Other warning signs: the man has a lot of time to text very fluent and flowery phrases. He will proclaim exclusive interest in you and love after just a few days. He will start planning a life with you – just as soon as he is freed up from his current professional entanglements. He is in a location where communication, other than texting, is not possible. He is about to meet with you, but then there is a last-minute snag. He experiences an emergency of some kind and seems to enjoy the sympathy you extend.
I am not quite able to wrap my head around this phenomenon of men flirting online with women while pretending to be someone else. It is not an innocent vice, there are possible dangers, if nothing more than disappointment and waste of time. It is common knowledge that one does not give personal identifying information or bank account numbers to unknown people. Give me credit for that much discernment. The guys I texted with were wordsmiths, and they were total gentlemen never suggesting impropriety.
One can be misled into the feeling of intimate acquaintance by online communication alone. A woman can begin to feel like you know the person well and start to divulge too much information and reciprocate the feelings. Most disappointing, an online suiter can claim to be Christian and is indeed knowledgeable and totally convincing about his faith. I am fearing a similarity with pornography, and since in my experience, the men were able to speak knowledgeably about the Bible and describe church involvement, they may be Christians looking for companionship in a seemingly more innocent way than pornography.
I ask, if they are so skillful at seducing a woman online, why don’t they just go out and meet women in reality? Someone please educate me! Of course, they may be married. Beyond that, they seem to vicariously enjoy inventing a glamorous life in which they can only dream of inhabiting−far beyond their mundane life. They spin an almost James Bond, yet believable lifestyle that a woman, in her own vulnerability, is drawn into. The online flirting is their readily available substitute. They get the serotonin rush in this fantasy world, as their victim can get hooked into participating as well.
As we are discovering in 2020, online communication is effective and we are getting better at it. So much work, as well as the mission of the church can be accomplished online. The Spirit is still working, even through the means of technology. Yet here is another ensnarement for all of us to be aware with the difference that we must be informed of the advantages as well as the dangers technology offers. The means of delivery is new, but the deviousness is an old story, nothing is new under the sun.
The Acquaintance Never Thought Possible: Dating Sites
My writing does not usually generate much laughter. The following is my attempt at humor to fuel forward propulsion. The time has come that widowhood has become a habit for me. After decades of taking care of a family, I have bought a coffeepot for one, the grocery cart contains two bananas, and half loaf of bread. Small bowls of mixed fruit that seemed so overpriced before now make sense. Throwing out spoiled milk does not pain my heart anymore. Evenings are filled with meetings, choir practice, book clubs, or eating out with “girl” friends. Then the pandemic hits. Zoom meetings have their advantages but physical proximity is not one of them. Opportunity to meet new people, i.e., men, is zero.
My kids said, “Mom, you need to find a ‘boy’ friend to do things with.” They gave me a list of dating sites. I never imagined I would see this day. Few of us do. From the profiles I have read so far, none of us imagine we will ever need to make acquaintance with this brave new world of online matchmaking. Many apologize up front about their ineptness. At first, it seems a lot like reading used car ads. The odometer is the most important number, how many previous owners, and how much tread is on the tires.
I am assuming that most of the readership here is as new at this as I am when you find yourself single. There is a learning curve and precautions to keep in mind. One gets their toes wet by googling Match.com, which is the brand name I am using as just a generic example. This will only be necessary once, because from this time forward, you will be inundated with potential sites every time you open your computer. You click on a few and find some are more user-friendly than others. The chances of accidentally hitting a “smile” or “heart” on a man’s photo, who is totally out of the question, is quite easily accomplished. The goal of these sites is to facilitate communication between members, and they couldn’t make it easier.
You check out the trial periods, the monthly subscription, the safety features, and wade in. First, you have to write a profile about yourself. This should be carefully crafted. How else are all these potential mates supposed to know anything about you? Apparently, many men just go by the photos. This reinforces one of the great stereotypical divides: men are visual. Women want to know about your grandkids. I do find it very enduring how many men are proud of their grandchildren. “Love me, love my grandkids.” This also applies to many pets as well.
Men are particularly interested that women’s photos are recent and authentically you - not photoshopped - not borrowed from a Pilates studio. I don’t know what some women are trying, but a man wrote: “when we meet you better look like your photo, and if you don’t, we will drink until you do.” Now as to their own photos, I really wonder what some of these men are thinking: no smiles. They take a selfie of themselves reflected in their bathroom mirror wearing a sleeveless t-shirt. They are so clueless. Honestly, how do they expect to get a response if they can’t even rummage up a decent photo from the past year? OK, I admit, women are visual too.
Some sites have kindly advisors who will help you write a profile. They recommend, “just write what your friends say about you.” I have read profiles that start out with, “My dog recommends me highly, but he/she is not a great conversationalist.” I groan over all the men who are looking for a woman with “a sense of humor.” In fact, they all say that. Every. Single. One. But why not just write some humor into their profile and prove their own funny ability? The old writers’ axiom applies− show don’t tell. In my book, that is what separates the men from the boys. Instead I read for the hundredth time, “looking for a soul mate who is fit, has no baggage from the past, no drama, rides motorcycles, and a sense of humor is important.” Blah, blah, blah. If you want humor, show me humor.
The men try to post photos that get the women to imagine a great life with them. I am writing from Colorado, so local men feature their cute cabin with a view, or a big motor home, or boat, or motorcycle, or pickup truck, or horse, or all their means of mobility in one photo. I have seen a lot of dead fish. I like dead fish on a plate with lemon and parsley. OK, I get it. These guys are proud of their ability to provide a good meal to a potential mate. Then there are hunters who prove their prowess by also providing a fur to cuddle in. Women are imagining how two families will blend. Do we have grandkids the same age? Is there an ex-wife in the picture? My house or his house?
Why all the Harley-Davidson logos on their shirts, baseball caps, in their man caves, or in the backdrop of the bars where they are drinking with friends? Judging from the photos of men searching for partners, at least 70% of the male population rides motorcycles. Is displaying themselves astride a motorcycle a hint at their vitality? There are a lot of not-so-veiled metaphors going on. “Take a look at my long, low, shiny (red) corvette, with the top down, the door open and my arm draped across the back of the passenger seat.” Are they inviting me into their car? Certainly. But the invitation to get into their bed is brain-dead obvious.
I also have never noticed so many mountain bikers and climbers of fourteeners. I asked my physical therapist how 70-year-old men manage to ride horses or hike all day. She said, some do if they are used to it, but she sees them the next day when they cannot move a muscle. How does this work out between the sheets? They assure potential mates that everything is well functioning like their sleek vehicles − or horse. Sorry, another stereotype confirmed.
Warning! I must get serious here. Even secular sites recognize that a common religion is important in relationships. There are several boxes to click. “Spiritual” casts a wide net and there are a lot of agnostics. Christian is subdivided into Protestant and Catholic. In most cases this seems to be a cultural identification only. “I expect respect from my woman and I treat her like a queen.” Push delete fast! That is not a partnership; both deserve respect and love. I, for one, do not want to be on a pedestal in exchange for waiting on him. Watch out for a man looking for a nurse with a purse! One man stated, “My faith is important to me.” He turned out to be a fake profile. Catfishing is prevalent. I will expand on this topic another time.
Christian sites have no advantages that I note. There is no way to check their true faith convictions outside of reading between the lines of their profile. Look for regular involvement in church activities, perhaps their college alma mater, and their volunteer activities. An amazing number will claim the Bible as their favorite book. Sadly, I suspect that many men claim Christian affiliation because they are more likely to attract a serious, faithful woman. I am impressed by men whose goals for their retirement years include service to church and community. Instead, almost always the long-for for companion is someone with whom to enjoy sunsets from the deck, nice restaurants, and lots of travel. OK, that is good too. Ultimately the true colors of their Christian faith are only revealed in real life conversation and observation. No shortcuts here. May I suggest that any sociologist or psychologist reading this writes a dissertation on the rate of success in online matches? More than a decade has passed now since this online phenomenon which offers enough history to study the evidence. I am not saying it is impossible to find a Christian partner on a dating site and I have heard of couples who have happily found each other. It just takes some careful sifting and follow up. Nothing different here from real life searching. If anyone is in this brave new world during a pandemic with me, send advice!
Mary Stromer Hanson October. 18, 2020 The Babies We Never Saw It has been forty years since October 20, 1980, and again I mourn for the baby I never met face to face. The memory of lost children periodically brings new pain to every woman who has suffered a stillborn or miscarriage. Faces that we never saw press to the surface when particular stimuli cause the sadness to surface. Many women have never really grieved this trauma, we have just pressed on with life. I write this as part of my own catharsis and opportunity for readers to pause and process their own loss.
Not only is this anniversary especially poignant personally, many other news items are bringing thoughts to the forefront. In Colorado, proposition 115, which limits abortion after 22 weeks gestation, is on the ballot. Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett keep the topic in the headlines. The celebrity couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen is attracting attention with her frank description and vivid black and white photos documenting their grief at the loss of their unborn child.
Miscarriages and stillbirths are a common experience, and lately in addition to widowhood, I have been inundated with the life experiences of a mature women. Putting it all together, here are some thoughts while looking back on those lost babies who left a chronological and emotional gap in our lives. Thoughts that are prayerfully helpful and comforting to those living with this tragedy. I rest assured that I am not bringing up memories preferably left forgotten. This experience is quite common and is never forgotten. About 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and according to CDC about 24,000 stillbirths occur yearly−technically death of the baby from typically unknown causes at 20 weeks until full-term. The experience may be put in the back of a closet, covered with other memories, but it is always there, brought out suddenly by unexpected and seemingly unrelated events. For me, the time of the year, a nice October day, and years that end in “0”, bring back the old feelings. My first thought at waking up from anesthetic that morning was, “what a nice day this would have been for a birthday.” Within twelve hours I went from expecting a baby to no baby at all. Sunshine pouring through the window was incongruent with my feelings; the rest of the world was going on as usual.
We were informed the baby was an eight-pound girl and appeared normal. That was all the information we wanted. I regret over the years that we had decided not to see her, but how does a couple anticipate this choice? The times have changed concerning how to help bereaved parents grieve. At that time, no one was available for photos or perinatal bereavement care. Taking the pill to stop lactation, the post-partum recovery, leaving the hospital without a baby. This all occurred in a fog of numbness and denial. It had to be a bad dream.
I had done everything right with the pregnancy: good nutrition, Lamaze classes, the baby’s room was ready. This first pregnancy progressed well, except the baby was in breech position. Two more days and I was scheduled for a C-section. The water broke at home and the cord slipped out. It was painless on my part; I could not imagine this so deadly for the baby but after four minutes of no oxygen, brain damage occurs.
Women have had babies successfully for millennia. Why was I a failure? The whole experience was a crushing defeat. In the following weeks I consoled myself by making a scrapbook with all the cards and letters we received. That was the best I could do for her. That was all I had for this baby. A small funeral and burial followed.
At the time I thought that the pain would dissolve through the years. Indeed, with the busyness of two successful pregnancies and a family growing up, the memory receded but certainly did not disappear−one member was always missing. Now her father, my husband is also gone. He was always by my side and main support, but the loss of a baby is a lonely grief. The mother is really the only person who knows the baby through fetal movement, acid reflux, and growing abdomen. My husband’s main concern was for my recovery and support.
Interestingly as his Alzheimer’s progressed and simultaneously our granddaughter was born, he brought up our lost baby girl more frequently. It was surprising how vividly he remembered the event forty years earlier when he was typically not the one who would think of her birthday as the years passed. I too realize as I get older, her memory also becomes closer to me. What may seem rather incongruous, this observation has helped me consolidate thoughts on abortion. What does involuntary loss of unborn baby have to do with voluntarily taking the life of an unborn baby? This brings me to Proposition 115 which will require a voting decision in just a few days in Colorado. For years, having lost a baby, I was adamantly against abortion under any circumstances. With the history I have, how have I finessed my thoughts on this issue? I present here a small excursus, which is background on issues that can be reviewed more extensively from many other sources. Presently, Colorado is one of the few states where abortions can be performed at any gestational age. Despite the availability, the number of abortions has decreased steadily in this state and nation-wide because of increased education, availability of birth control, and medical care.
No one is FOR abortion−no political party, neither men nor women, nor any religion. The heated argument is HOW the rate of abortion is further decreased. According to the Colorado Department of Health, in 2019, 170 abortions were reported after 21 weeks: the data does not capture the reason for the abortions.
Education instead of legislation is my argument on two fronts. First, education of boys and girls, age appropriate and biologically accurate, so there is no confusion as to how pregnancy and birth control function. This includes fetal development and maternal care with accompanying discussion of responsibilities. Abortion is clearly presented as not a method of birth control. How, when, and who offers this education in church, school, and family, is another topic too large for this essay. Sex Ed does not cause sex to happen. Parents can still choose the school their kids go to or teach their kids at home. But do it!
The second education factor is even more important and most difficult to overcome with greater cultural obstacles. The status of girls and women must be raised so they have access to the above-mentioned education, and further that they can imagine career opportunities and purpose in their lives beyond early dependence on a man in marriage and childbearing. I am speaking from the first-world perspective here. Not only females themselves but the social structures must be in place to encourage and enforce the value of investing in girls’ education. This is a continuing struggle, and in many regions only in the beginning stages.
Now back to my original story. My husband as he descended into Alzheimer’s and nearer death, recalled his lost daughter more vividly. I also, in approaching old age, look forward to seeing loved ones preceding me in death. This is the hope that does not disappoint (Rom 5:5). I do not accuse God of any death. There is no “greater good” achieved by the death of a child. Death is evil; God is not the author of evil. Christ constantly healed illness and disability while he walked in Galilee and overcame death on the cross. God does generously surround the tragedy with mercy and grace in many forms (Romans 8:28). God gives us the greatest hope of all, which seems far away in youth, but enlarges as the end of life creeps closer.
We, and I am assuming this readership is Christian, believe in a heavenly afterlife, where we join all the other saints. We will see our loved ones again, including the children we never saw. A brief review: there is ample biblical support for reuniting with departed believers in heaven: David’s son lost in infancy (2 Samuel 12:23); Jesus telling the centurion that many will come from the east and west to sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matt 8:11); Jesus assuring his disciples that he will not drink from the vine until he drinks in his Father’s kingdom with them (Matthew 26:29); Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3); the assembly of the firstborn are gathered (Hebrews 12:23); God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep to join with those still alive (I Thess 4:14).
This is where the intersection between the stillborn experience and abortion takes place. Yes, I realize there is a difference between babies willfully destroyed and those who died of natural causes, but I believe they are all waiting. I do not care to guess how we will recognize our babies and how old they will be, but all our aborted, stillborn, and miscarried babies await us in the afterlife. There will be a final accounting. If you are in doubt and trust the Bible, a few references to the judgement include Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:11-12, Acts 17:31, John 5:29, Matthew 25:46, I Corinthians 4:5, Romans 14:10. Those women who have casually destroyed their in utero children will be held accountable by God. How will they also face the children they aborted? This is the summary, be merciful with me, the topic is complex, I will continue to tweak my thoughts, and I am trying to keep this succinct. When the circumstances are so terrible that abortion must be considered, the mother and medical team must prayerfully imagine speaking to that child and explain to him/her why they are destroying his/her life. This is a painful dilemma that belongs to the mother, with the advice and support of the people she chooses, not legislation.