Monthly Archives: February 2014

Linkage: Work Edition

Lean out [The Atlantic]

Tips on managing others at work when young, female, and recently-promoted [Captain Awkward]

Young women and stubborn stereotypes [Chicago Tribune]

Benevolent sexism sucks too. [The Muse]

The latest Women In Media report is depressing. [Times]

Advising women to marry young insults men more than women. [HuffPo]

Because really, haven’t there been enough versions of Woman Laughing Alone With Salad? [Seattle Times]

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Love is not all

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna St Vincent Millay, “Love Is Not All”

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Deciding whether to marry the non-Orthodox

In a previous post, I addressed whether faithful Orthodox singles should date non-Orthodox people, and mentioned the difficulties associated with it. Today’s topic is whether to marry them.

There is a range of possible outcomes when marrying the heterodox. The best outcome is for the boyfriend/girlfriend to convert before the wedding, out of their own will and preferably for the reason that they believe that it is necessary for the salvation of their soul (tho access to Greek food is also an acceptable answer). That way, the marriage starts off with the important issues of practicing a religion and what to raise the kids already settled. You can go about the business of creating an intentional family culture.

Sometimes the non-Orthodox spouse converts down the road. I’ve heard of the heterodox converting because they wanted to be able to commune with their children and I’ve also heard of deathbed conversions. Whatever the reason for the conversion, it will not come about from being nagged or bullied in to it. Patience and the loving example of the spouse will lead to a better outcome.

But we also have stories of couples where the Orthodox person was at almost every service before the wedding and after the wedding they gradually stopped showing up to church very often.

Life is unpredictable. Some people are married for 40 years when one of them decides to switch confessions. Or becomes an atheist.

For those contemplating marrying someone not Orthodox, there are two main questions that need to be answered. One, what is the Orthodox person’s attitude toward the non-Orthodox person’s beliefs, and what is the non-Orthodox person’s attitude towards Orthodoxy and the Orthodox fiance?

If the non-Orthodox spouse is hostile towards Orthodoxy (or any other core value of the other person), married life will likely become hell. Watch out for signs of being henpecked into doing something you do not want to do or are made feel like an object of derision because of some beliefs not shared. Unfortunately some people are willing to compromise on this because they are scared of being single. Well, to them I say stop believing the myth that being single is the worst thing that can happen to you. Being married to the wrong person is much worse. 

If the heterodox fiance is more indifferent than hostile, the Orthodox fiance should consider where they are entering a marriage expecting that the other person to change. You don’t want to become the boor in the previous example, the one that abuses the spouse because of values not shared. Even if that wouldn’t be the case, the Orthodox spouse should consider whether they can be themselves around their finance.

A marriage where you cannot be your unguarded self – hiding pieces of your heart from your spouse- will not be a happy or harmonious one. It is a very painful thing to break off a relationship with someone you love, but I think it would be even more painful  to be yoked to someone and for the rest of your life every day hope in your heart that they will convert.

If, as we Orthodox believe, marriage is for our and our spouse’s salvation, are we entering a marriage where we can truly help our spouse become their best self (and vice versa)? The average person gets married without really understanding the level of work and sacrifice entailed. People get married because they have been “in a relationship” for a while and it just seems like the next step. Do most couples take the time to talk about shared vision? Probably not. But if you’re Orthodox, and religious in general, you should have a better understanding that marriage is about living for your spouse (and resulting children).

In Greek services, the couple is crowned with wreathes, symbolizing martyrdom. Marriage is for putting to death of the ego, of selfishness. I’m not saying that marriage is all doom and gloom once the first few months’ or years’ elation is gone. But in order to have a good marriage you do need to be with someone you can respect and love in order to instinctively put them first. And you want the same from your spouse.

Therefore, I do not presume to tell anyone what they should do. In an ideal world, the Perfect Orthodox Man would become Orthodox Boyfriend who would become Orthodox Husband. The reality is, men come along with whom we could have happy marriages, even if they aren’t practicing Orthodox. For those who undertake such endeavors, I say good luck. Personally I like Kh. Nicole Damick’s advice to her daughter in mind: Date the heterodox, but don’t marry anyone who isn’t Orthodox by the wedding day. Sadly, with most people, there is going to be too wide of a chasm to ever bridge the differences in lifestyle, character, and worldviews. In dating you risk getting your heart broken, and being Orthodox does not help your prospects one little bit. It’s worth waiting for the person that shares your core values.


I also loved the advice that my friend Carrie S., veteran heterodox dater, has on the topic. She has graciously allowed me to share a letter with you.

My advice is to follow your heart and trust your gut. Here’s how I recommend doing that: Ask yourself the following questions about yourself, without any consideration of your partner. Be honest, even if you don’t like the answer or the implications of the answer.

  • What are my expectations of my partner with regards to faith? Do I expect him to share mine or not? If not, how do I expect him to treat my faith? There are several options… non-Orthodox but participates weekly by attending services/events with you, non-Orthodox with sporadic participation, like Christmas and Pascha, or completely non-participant in all aspects of the faith.

If you chose non-Orthodox but participates weekly by attending services/events with you, then ask yourself these questions:

  • How will I feel not sharing communion with my partner? How will I feel during feast days, knowing my partner does not share my joy?
  • On whose faith will the marriage be based? Will I be comfortable compromising my faith for my partner’s faith/non-faith? How will any future children be raised? How will they come to understand why there is a difference of faiths in the marriage? (Side note: during this time I noticed that all of my friends who were raised in houses where the parents did not share a faith were indifferent towards religion. Totally anecdotal and unscientific, but it scared the shit out of me, especially if part of the purpose of having kids is to raise them to love and fear God.)

If you chose non-Orthodox with sporadic participation, ask yourself the questions above, plus these questions:

  • How will I feel if I am unable to pick the days my partner participates in my faith? Will I grow to resent the fact my partner doesn’t share my faith? What is my long-term expectation, really?
If you chose completely non-participant, ask yourself the questions above, plus these questions:
  • Am I willing to live a lonely spiritual life; meaning one I cannot, nor will I ever be able to share with my partner? Will it bother me that my future children will want to adopt my partner’s attitude towards faith since it is the easier route?
  • Is this the life I really want for myself? Is this the life God wants for me?

Okay, so when you get through those questions, then I think it’s important to ask yourself the following questions specifically about your partner:

  • Is my partner willing to discuss faith with me? Does my partner exhibit anger and/or resentment towards faith in general? Does the topic of faith feel taboo?
  • Is my partner willing to spend time with my church friends outside of church activities, e.g. dinner or game night, etc. (One of my ex boyfriends never wanted to meet my friends. Or spend time with them. Or do anything I wanted to do in general. But if he specifically doesn’t want to meet church friends, it’s a pretty good indicator that he’s hardened to church in particular.)
I think the purpose in asking those questions is to gauge whether there is an open heart or not. If he is unwilling to discuss it it’s a big clue and indicative of where his heart is. Paying attention to these clues could have saved me a lot of heartbreak. At the same time, if the guy is willing to talk about faith openly and come with you, I would ride it out and see where it goes.
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Linkage: Marital philosophizing

Are marriages today better or worse than they used to be? [NYTimes]

A Scientific Guide to Happily Ever After [Acculturated]

3 very different looks at reason to get and stay married:

Calah Alexander [Barefoot and Pregnant]

Time to Lower Our Expectations on Love [Acculturated]

What I Know About Being Single Now That I’m In My 50s [HuffPo]

Bonus, because I’m cranky: Has Sex Gotten Too Cheap? [NYPost] Yes, and it has made finding a life partner very difficult for the chaste. Next question?

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Definition of love


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More Questions from the Search Terms

It’s about time we answer the questions from the search terms again.  Our readers clearly have some interesting ways of getting here….

can long distance courtship lead to marriage?
Sure it can.  Doesn’t mean it will, and it’s got its own set of complications, but as long as you’re being sane, honest, and respectful, “it can” is the best that can be said for any relationship, at a distance or otherwise.

why would a seminarian block a girl on facebook
Because he doesn’t want to interact with her on Facebook.
Seminarians are just guys, often young guys, who happen to be going to school to learn to serve God in a specific way.  That doesn’t make them magic.  Treat it like a breakup, and take good care of yourself.

dating orthodox christian and waiting for sex
Yeah, good call.

love ages bracket
There isn’t one, exactly.  I’m a fan of the xkcd rule for a rough check of “Is this sensible?”, but ultimately I ask 3 questions:
1. Are we in the same place in life?
2. Is the power dynamic healthy?
3. What does my mother/mentor/wise friend think?

is it rude to ask are you alright?
Not generally, especially if you ask quietly or in private, use a pleasant and not condescending tone of voice, and actually listen to the answer.

why do people preface a statement by saying i dont mean to be creepy but
They want a free pass on saying creepy things. Don’t give it to them.

is gaslighting a spiritual warfare?
I’m not sure what you’re asking, but if someone has been gaslighting you, run fast. Healing from gaslighting sure does involve spiritual warfare, so take very good care of yourself and talk to people you can trust.

how does a man with russian orthodox date a woman
With respect, warmth, and a sense of humor, I hope.

nice vocabularies for courting a girl
For compliments, try funny, delightful, charming, warm, confident, lovely, stunning, gorgeous, smart, witty, and creative.  For topics of discussion, perhaps books, hobbies, funny anecdotes, or shared interests.  If you want to speak more eloquently, read well-written books, listen to radio programs and podcasts with high standards, and/or join Toastmasters.

orthodox christian match card game
I don’t know what this is, but let’s totally make one and play it.  I love board games.  This could be the saintly version of Guess Who, or Apples to Apples, or….

spiritual warfare for run away boyfriend relationship
I…what?  Did he run away on you, or do you want to run away with him?  If A, then pray an Akathist—either Supplication to heal your heart, Thanksgiving that you dodged that bullet, or For Your Enemies if you want to break his nose but think your spiritual father would frown on that.
If B, then don’t.  Just don’t.  It’s a terrible idea.

hardcore bored priest wives
Wait, what?

wont date me because i’m not orthodox christian
Oh dear, being rejected for any reason hurts.  I’m sorry for your pain.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense when a person says “X is important to me, and you’re not X, so let’s not date,” especially if you don’t understand the full meaning of X, how it matters, or why it should prevent two such lovely people from dating.  With faith it gets especially tricky, but please trust that the other person knows what they need—it’s good that they were able to communicate.  I’d like to invite you to church if you’re curious about Orthodoxy, but regardless I hope you find just the right person for you.  As always with a breakup or rejection, please take good care of yourself and spend time with people you love.

coping with an introverted spouse
Talk with your spouse about the social and personal needs you and they have, both of your expectations around those, and ways to compromise.  Many priests do marital counseling.  And in the meanwhile, read this.

now that im single life is a blessing
Hurrah! Happy to hear it.

can heartache taint one’s faith
Oh honey.  Please make some time for a good long talk with a priest or nun you trust.  Heartache alone does not have the power to taint your faith, but if your heart hurts it can be hard to trust that God is taking care of you.  You are not alone, and you (and your faith) are not tainted, damaged, or lessened by your pain.  Please gather your friends and people you trust to support you.  In times like this, I recommend rereading the life of Fr. Arseny and saying the Akathist of Thanksgiving.  You can listen to it being sung beautifully here.

3 ways (well intentioned) men creep out women
Creepiness means that the creepy person didn’t have emotional permission for what they did.
1. Doing something too intimate/romantic when they’re not on those terms with each other.
2. Treating her like a stereotype instead of a human being—because all women like roses!*
3. Not listening to what she says or not taking it seriously.  Mr. Collins, I’m looking at you.  

the f*** happened to common courtesy
I feel your pain.  The courtesy article is here.

thoughts on single status
Hm.  Can be a lot of fun, and comes with a lot of freedom and other blessings.  Can be lonely if your support network is a bit thin, and it’s nice to have a designated person to go dancing with, to celebrate holidays with, and to bring you soup when you’re sick (and to bring soup to).  Like most things, it’s what you make of it.  You can glorify God in any case.

– – –

*I really do love roses.

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Linkage: Avoiding Cultural Pressure Edition

Why should the coupled up have all the fun? Tomorrow I’ll be co-hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner for other ladies. What about you?

The wonderful Orson Scott Card on Valentine’s Day [Hatrack River]

Annual Valentine’s Day Rant [Big Think]

Why It’s Smart to Court Your Friends [NY Mag]

5 Things to Honor in Friendship [Just My Type]

Sonja Lyubomirsky on the happiness of singlehood [Big Think]

Expressing Love Beyond Sex and the Single Life [The Crescat]

And finally, as seen on Facebook:

















The original image has been replaced by one with the correct icon of St Valentine, as the previous version was in fact St. Valentin Sventitsky, a Russian martyr.

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Words of Wisdom

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

Agatha Christie

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Single on Valentine’s Day?

Depending on how other things in life are going, being single on St Valentine’s day can be a lot of fun, fine/indifferent, or a bit of a drag.  Here are a few ideas to tip it towards the enjoyable side of the spectrum.

Throw a girls’ night
Grab some of your favorite people, some board games, wine and cheese, and a good movie.  For a romance flick we recommend The Lady Eve for a happy ending or Casablanca for bittersweet; for a non-romance, try Brave, Secondhand Lions, or Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Be a secret valentine
Buy single stems at the florist for a few other singles you know and deliver them with a warm note and a bit of chocolate.  Or, mail pretty valentines to some of your close friends.  Always good to reach out to widows and divorcées, too.

Take time for you
One of the best parts of being single is having the freedom to focus on what you love and need.  Take yourself ice-skating, go on a monastery trip, or give yourself a spa night at home to relax in a hot bath, indulge your skin, and do your nails.

Oftentimes there’s something that’s dear to your heart but hard to make time for.  You could record audiobooks and magazines for the blind, ask the women’s shelter if they need a spare pair of hands, or just give your favorite married couple a free night’s babysitting so they can have a date and you get little-kid cuddles.

There are more ideas on Orthogents.

And, y’know, don’t take it too seriously.  No need to wrap your self-worth up in a Hallmark card, and no need to get bitter or snarky either.  Anyway, St. Valentine himself was celibate.  And martyred.

Have a happy St Valentine’s day.


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Linkage: Recent Reads We’ve Loved Edition

The One Thing to Tell Your Single Friend [Acculturated]. Really like this piece, and we have additional thoughts here.

Modest is Not Hottest [Bad Catholic]

Why I F’ing Love Teenage Girls [Rookie]

Stop Telling Single Women They’re ‘Fabulous’ [The Date Report]

Is Female Purity Bulls***? [Bad Catholic]

Rejection [XKCD]

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