The Creepy Concept of Covenant Marriage

Recently, I came across a disturbing little factoid. In 1997, the state of Louisiana passed Covenant Marriage into law. Arkansas and Arizona later jumped on the bandwagon. Thank goodness no other states have taken the bait.

These policies, if you opt into them, make marriage more difficult to get into, and a lot more difficult to get out of. For starters, according to Wikipedia, you have to attend premarital counseling sessions, which “emphasize the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage”, and you must sign a statement saying that the marriage is for life.

While I think premarital counseling is a great idea, I wonder who exactly is conducting these sessions. And I really would have a problem with having someone other than me and my spouse dictate what the nature, purpose and responsibilities of our marriage are to be. Marriage is what you make it. No two are alike.

And as for signing one’s life away, if you aren’t confident that the other person is going to try for a lifelong commitment unless they put it in writing, then you might want to reexamine how much you trust this person in the first place. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. If you don’t have that, you’re building a castle on sand.

This is starting to sound like the equivalent of a homeowners’ association for relationships. I chafe at rules and regulations. I’ll pass.

Even worse are the restrictions placed on getting out of the marriage. In a covenant marriage, you are waiving your rights to a no-fault divorce. Before you can even consider divorce, you have to first go to counseling. You must also be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, a felony, is a drug addict or a sexual predator, or that you’ve been living apart for at least a year (perhaps two, depending on the state.)

First of all, why bother with counseling if your spouse is involved in such heinous acts? Those things, as far as I’m concerned, are deal breakers.

And you notice there’s no provision for your husband punching you in the face and not being prosecuted for it, nor is there an option if your wife suddenly joins a cult. Your only recourse in those situations would be a long painful separation, and there’s no guarantee that the nut job in question would agree to being apart.

Life is messy. It can go south in many ways that are outside the bounds of these few legislative dicta. No one should have the right to define what you deem to be unsupportable.

Is it just me, or is it creepy and strange that these three super red states, full to the brim with conservatives who claim to want less government, not more, are all for these highly regulated covenant marriages? But then, this legislates religion and “family values”, and restricts the freedom of women even further, so yeah, I guess it makes sense.

Fortunately, these three states have not made covenant marriage mandatory, and less than 1 percent of the couples getting married each year in these places opt in to this foolishness. But still, it seems like a disturbing, backward trend, and it gives me the willies.

I love holding my husband’s hand, but I wouldn’t want to be handcuffed to it.

Business people handcuffed together

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You Have Been Warned

I’ve seen two things recently that have made my hair stand on end because they seem to be so prescient. We are living in terrifying times. And they’re all the more terrifying because these things have happened before.

The first thing I’m referring to is the Hulu series, the Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Here are some of the events that have taken place in the first 4 episodes. These things either sound very familiar at the moment or very possible:

  • Militarization.
  • Propaganda and catch phrases.
  • News is regulated.
  • People who protest are shot at.
  • People are forced to don particular clothing to identify their role in society.
  • Special rewards for the rich.
  • An atmosphere of divide and conquer.
  • Forced religion.
  • Doctors, professors, and homosexuals being executed by hanging them on a wall.
  • People encouraged to do violence by the ruling party.
  • Calling women sluts and whores.
  • Increased surveillance.
  • Book burnings.
  • Travel restrictions.
  • Martial law in response to terrorism, real or imagined.
  • Women’s credit card and bank accounts suspended.
  • Women fired from jobs.
  • Institutionalized misogyny.
  • Women’s rights over their own bodies prevented.
  • Rape by men in positions of power with no consequence.
  • Women being blamed for all of the above.

Chilling, isn’t it? Even more disturbing is a website that lists the events that occurred in the first 100 days of Fascist Germany. I read every single day. I actually learned quite a bit that makes me even more worried about our future. Here are some of the things that went on:

  • Attacks on the press.
  • Widespread belief in unsubstantiated conspiracies.
  • Prohibition of protests.
  • Public urged to report foreigners who are causing conflict.
  • Communists rounded up.
  • A big effort to crush resistance.
  • Politicians overstate successes.
  • Jew bashing doesn’t start until Day 40. (That surprised me.)
  • Hitler wants to arm all the people.
  • There as much more resistance than I thought. People were going into exile.
  • Artists and writers and homosexuals attacked.
  • Gay bars closed down.
  • Trade Unions banned.
  • Jews begin to be fired.
  • The first concentration camp, Dachau, is open by day 49 and starts receiving political prisoners by day 51.
  • The press warns that its freedoms are being diminished, and stresses the importance of relying on multiple sources to confirm the validity of information.
  • On Day 55 Goring states that persecution of a person based on ethnicity will not be tolerated. The next day the Nazi Party orders a nationwide boycott of Jewish merchants.
  • Hitler says the press are issuing “slanderous propaganda” about Germany. The Nazi party claims that the press is run by “international Jewry”.
  • Book burning.
  • Civil service workers who do not agree with the Nazis are dismissed.
  • Anti-semitic signs begin to appear everywhere.
  • The government begins identifying all non-Aryans, using early IBM computers.
  • Day 74, an opinion piece appears saying that actual Christian values are nothing like the values of the conservative Christians who have aligned themselves with the Nazi party.

Wake up, people! Wake up! Wake up!

handmaid's tale

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Travel Restrictions

Travel is my reason for being. Due to finances, I haven’t been able to leave the country in several years, but I have been to 19 other countries, and these experiences have been the high points in my life.

I strongly encourage everyone to travel. It’s the only way you can truly have an open mind. It’s the only way you’ll learn that “our” way isn’t the only way and in fact it may not even be the best way. Until everyone truly understands that concept, there is no chance for any type of peace on earth.

Having said that, as people become more financially desperate, the world is becoming an increasingly scary place, with kidnappings, incarcerations and crime on the rise. And Americans are becoming, if anything, more hated by segments of the international community.

Does that mean we should stop travelling altogether? On the contrary. Now, more than ever, we need to eschew isolation and make more of an effort to be part of the global community. Not only to spread our wealth around a bit, but also to foster as much good will as we can.

But it is very important to travel intelligently. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it might be a good idea to avoid war zones. But it’s also important to understand the human rights philosophy of the government in question. When making travel plans, my first stop is always the State Department website, where you can read up to date reports on travel advisability and news for each country. Many countries are safe to travel in, but contain regions to avoid, and this is always good information to have. And if you fall into a particular minority group, you may want to extend your research even further afield.

As sad as it makes me to say this, I know that there are certain countries which I realistically will never visit. North Korea, for example. But also, as an outspoken woman who refuses to be treated as a second class citizen, I don’t see myself ever visiting Saudi Arabia, either. While I’m willing to respect customs related to clothing, no one will ever tell me I can’t drive. Full stop. Sadly, as a woman traveling alone, there are many parts of the world I should think twice about visiting.

My nephew has reached an age where he’s looking forward to exploring the planet, and I’m thrilled for him. I remember what that’s like, that feeling that you have endless possibilities for adventure. I love him to pieces, so it nearly killed me to have to ever-so-slightly rain on his parade.

He was talking about going to Egypt, and that’s someplace that I’ve always wanted to see myself. But I had to tell him that as the laws stand in that country at the present time, he can be incarcerated simply for being gay. He told me he didn’t plan on doing “gay things” while there, and while, yes, that would greatly reduce his risk, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely, and this is a young man who, try as he might, would not be able to “fake it”. Unfortunately there are many countries in the world that would pose a risk for him. That breaks my heart, but it’s a fact.

Americans seem to be under the impression that they have some sort of immunity when traveling abroad. They think that if arrested, they will simply be able to call their embassy and be set free. Au contraire. All the embassy can or will do for you in the vast majority of cases is make sure your relatives are notified, deliver your mail, and give you the occasional red cross package. So the best thing to do is be aware of the laws of the country in which you travel, and strictly adhere to them. I’ve never found that to be particularly hard, but apparently some people do. If you plan to go somewhere with several kilos of cocaine taped to your inner thigh, well then, you deserve what you get.

So travel, yes, but do your homework first. Knowledge is power. Bon voyage.

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“We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve”

That is one of the main messages in the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it really hits home for me.

My whole life, I’ve had a problem with boundaries, or, actually, a lack of boundaries. In essence, I’ve allowed people to step all over me because I was obsessed with being a nice person. Even if someone was unspeakably rude to me, I was never rude back, and I certainly didn’t call them on their behavior. I’ve allowed myself to be ripped off, stepped on, and emotionally abused. As a child in school, when I was bullied or beaten up, I never fought back. I’ve always found it amazingly difficult to say, “No,” “Go away,” “Leave me alone,” or “F*** off.” In short, I’ve taken massive amounts of crap in my lifetime because if people see an opportunity to take advantage, they will do so, and I practically had “WELCOME” tattooed on my forehead.

This lack of boundaries goes hand in glove with accepting the love we think we deserve, because when your borders are kind of fuzzy, you begin to think you deserve the intrusions you suffer as a result.

Ah, but the universe is a wonderful teacher, is it not? It often seems as though the very type of person who needs to be put in your path so that you might learn and grow will be dropped there like an obstructive boulder, and you will be forced to go over, under, around or through that person to get to the other side.

I have to say that being in a relationship with someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be brutal and devastating, but it can also be an opportunity for growth like no other. When someone in your life knows how to push your buttons and doesn’t hesitate to do so, you learn exactly what your buttons are, and that gives you the opportunity to explore the reason behind those buttons. That can be quite useful.

When you are essentially living with a big old bully, you either learn to stick up for yourself or you cave in under the pressure. I decided to stick up for myself. And now, I must say, I don’t take crap from anyone. I am a woman of steel.

At first I was a little militant about it, a little rigid. I can see how it would have been easy to become a bully myself. But with time I learned to tone it down, and now I don’t push, but neither do I allow intrusions on my boundaries. I’m not afraid to establish my very reasonable rules, and if someone doesn’t like those rules, well, there are plenty of other people out there to play the game with.

The other day one of my coworkers said that she needed me to go through all our grocery bags that we use for trash bags and throw out the ones that had holes. Five years ago I might have done it. I’d have resented it, but I’d probably have done it. On this day, though, I just looked her square in the eye and said, “Uh…no. If you have a problem with bags with holes in them, simply throw them out when you come across one.” And that was that. It was a little thing, but for me it was a triumph, and a hard-won triumph at that.

But all this boundary drawing has had a delightful effect. Many of the people I love are actually behaving much more courteously, and it actually seems like it’s a relief not only to me, but to them as well. People actually like to know where the limits are. It makes it that much easier to travel through life without bumping into stuff. And having boundaries of your own teaches you to respect those of others as well.

So the trick is to determine the kind of love you want, and better yet, the love you don’t want, and then apply the restrictions accordingly, and you’ll be amazed how well your personal frontiers will be respected.

Peace in the kingdom. Maybe it’s not that hard after all.

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No More Fried Chicken for Breakfast and Other Self-Imposed Rules

Since I work graveyard shift, I tend to eat very strange things for breakfast. I get off work at 8 am craving hamburgers, and after eating them, I go to bed for the day. Recently I found this fantastic 24 hour fried chicken place on my route home from work. The only problem is that after I eat this delicious treat, I invariably wake up with a case of indigestion that’s so severe I feel like ripping out my clavicle and beating myself to death with it.

So I have a new rule. No more fried chicken for breakfast.

Don’t we all accumulate these highly personal rules as we age? No ice skating. You could fall and re-herniate that disc. No more bikinis. That goes without saying. Make one more bad investment at your peril. Don’t ask Aunt Mabel for a childhood story unless you’ve got several hours to spare.

To a certain extent, these rules are necessary for our survival, physically, financially, socially or emotionally. But how rigid is the box that we’re putting ourselves in? And how many of these regulations have been so much a part of our day to day lives that we don’t even realize we’re operating under their restrictions?

From now on, I’ll think very carefully before adding to my list of rules. Oh, wait. That’s a rule…

rules

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