Happy Marriage 101: Don’t raise your voice, yell at your spouse

I was eating lunch with my wife a few days ago when she said that in hindsight she is thankful for a rule I established early on in our relationship. I told her many years ago that I would never raise my voice with her, but that I would expect the same treatment in return. I said I was willing to end the relationship if she could not abide by the rule.

This seems like a common sense condition, but it does not take long to realize that many people do not follow it — even in public. In fact, some people claim that yelling adds “passion” to a relationship. I would argue that screaming at a spouse and calling the ordeal an aphrodisiac is a form of denial; it is dysfunction masquerading as love.

When a person raises his or her voice in an argument, it is a sign of desperation. It indicates a loss of control. The couple immediately enters an emotional realm that is conducive to mental and physical violence, which is why it is exponentially embarrassing if the man is the one who raised his voice first.

Yelling at someone does not add legitimacy to an argument, but for some reason many individuals think increased decibel-levels magically perform such a function.

Raising your voice does denote anger, but a healthier way of conveying that feeling is to simply say, “I am angry.” If you say what you mean and mean what you say with your spouse on a regular basis, then that statement alone will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

As was already mentioned, a man should never yell at his significant other. The vast majority of men are physically stronger than the women in their life, so ending a disagreement by introducing the specter of violence — even if the man has never physically harmed his wife — is  cowardly, wrong, and ipso facto detrimental to the long-term health of the relationship.

“Anybody can become angry,” Aristotle wrote. “That is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not … easy.”

Anger is a natural feeling, and in general there is nothing wrong with feeling anger. The key is to channel that anger in healthy ways. If you struggle with this task, then I suggest checking out the book “Overcoming Sinful Anger,” by Rev. T.G. Morrow. It is a short book, but one filled with advice that will leave you happier and healthier if you take his words to heart.

RELATED: Ten tips for a stable relationship

Media’s next goal: Sell public on non-monogamous marriages

It was just this past summer that NY Mag contributor “Michael Sonomore” attempted to make the case for “open marriages.” Tech Insider has now jumped on a new study by Journal of Marriage and Family to basically say, “Hey, did you and your spouse ever think of becoming a swinger? Maybe you should.”

First the goal of popular culture was to divorce the definition of marriage from Christianity. Then the goal was to strip people of the idea that the union between one man and one woman is so integral to building a healthy civil society that it should be cherished with its own institution. Sometimes sociologists describe marriage without ever using the world “love,” and now it’s essentially “marriage means whatever we say it means,” (i.e., it means nothing).

“Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages” includes the results of surveying 90 Canadians who were questioned on monogamy and marriage. Researchers spoke with 26 heterosexual females, 21 heterosexual males, 21 gay males, and 22 lesbians. Most of the couples were relatively young.

Tech Insider reported Wednesday:

“Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that another big change is happening in how people think about marriage: Some no longer consider monogamy an absolute essential. …

The first questions the couples answered revealed that people are becoming more open to the idea of non-monogamous marriages. Less than half of all the heterosexual female respondents, about one-third of the heterosexual male respondents, and “relatively few” homosexual couples felt that marriage and monogamy were inseparable, the researchers concluded.

Most people interviewed thought that monogamy isn’t something that a marriage necessarily requires. As one participant explained:

‘I’ll say that it’s different for everyone … and you have to find what works for you … [maybe] you’re committed to each other and you’re married but then you guys decide every Friday night we’re going to swinger parties and that’s what we want to do, and that excitement is what brings us together, then awesome. But is it going to be for me? No. Am I going to say, you can’t do it? No.'”

Where is this idea coming from? We know the New York Times has been exploring it since at least 2011:

Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, [Gay-rights activist Dan] Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.

What does it say about a culture when a growing number of couples see nothing wrong with taking other human beings, objectifying them, and then using them as nothing more than masturbatory devices?

Popular culture does not promote loving relationships — it promotes lusting relationships.

The spiritual fulfillment that comes when two adults have a proper understanding of marriage — and then they put in the effort to realize its potential — is unmatched. It takes patience, perseverance, humility, selfless sacrifice and a whole host of other virtues to arrive at the final destination, which is why “pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements” are peddled to the public instead.

Is it easier to act like an animal or act like an angel? The answer is self-evident.

Yes, it may bring “excitement” to act like a beast on occasion, but marriage was never meant to bring two beasts together. Marriage unites human souls, which is why perverting marriage’s proper definition and function is a travesty.

Here is what the modern American male is up against: On every level — physical, mental, and spiritual — there are forces at work to turn him into glorified cattle.

On the physical level he is encouraged to embrace sloth and gluttony; on the mental level he is encouraged to become a servant of the state; and on the spiritual level he is encouraged to become a libidinous pig who drags his wife into the muck.

True happiness can be found, but the path does not begin by taking directions from the purveyors of moral relativism.

Male ‘feminist’ tries to make the case for open marriage, spectacularly fails

NY Mag featured an op-ed by “feminist” Michael Sonmore on July 16 that I hope, on some level, is a piece of satire. Mr. Sonmore’s “What Open Marriage Taught One Man About Feminism” is one of the saddest things I’ve read in years.

The author, a stay-at-home dad, says in his first paragraph:

“She’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.”

If Mr. Sonmore’s understanding of modern feminism is correct, then modern feminism is a recipe for disaster.

As a Catholic man, I have vowed before God to give myself — 100 percent — in mind, body, and soul to my wife. She has done the same and we have become one unit. My responsibility is to love her with every fiber of my being, which demands that I always look out for her long-term interests. If I allowed my wife to objectify another human being and turn him into a living sex toy, then I would not be looking out for her spiritual health. If she allowed me to treat female coworkers as masturbatory slot machines, then there is no doubt my spirit would cry out in sorrow.

The author continues:

She didn’t present it as an issue of feminism to me, but after much soul-searching about why the idea of my wife having sex with other men bothered me I came to a few conclusions: Monogamy meant I controlled her sexual expression, and, not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control.

Here again we find a man who doesn’t understand that marriage is not about “oppression” or “control” of one party over another, but a team effort to fully realize one’s mental, physical, and (most importantly) spiritual potential. The proper exercise of authority and control saves lives — and souls. I want my wife to demand that I strive for the kind of happiness that is only attained when one achieves mastery over his or her basest instincts. She expects the same from me.

It gets worse for Mr. Sonmore:

For my wife, the choice between honoring our vows and fulfilling her desires was a false choice, another trap. She knew how deep our love was, and knew that her wanting a variety of sexual experiences as we traveled through life together would not diminish or disrupt that love. It took me about six months — many long, intense conversations, and an ocean of red wine — before I knew it, too.

When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.

Does a reader laugh or cry that it took the author “an ocean of red wine” to “know” his wife was right? His spirit cried out in protest; instead of listening, he poured an ocean of red wine down his throat to try and shut it up. And yet it still cries out to him, even if he can’t read between the lines of his own op-ed.

Would it be “patriarchal oppression” for a man with two children to forbid his wife from playing Russian Roulette? Of course not. Likewise, it takes a serious amount of self-delusion to believe that prohibiting the sexual equivalent of Russian Roulette is “oppression.”

Speaking of sexual Russian Roulette:

I never forget that my wife is a whole person unto herself, a complete and dynamic individual, and though we are together, we’re not one.

There are of course moments of jealousy, resentment, and insecurity. Recently, my wife went on a date and fell asleep at his apartment. I hadn’t heard from her since 10 p.m., she still wasn’t home at 6 a.m. My texts went unanswered and my calls went to voicemail. A tight knot of dread lodged in my stomach as I imagined all kinds of dire scenarios and realized that I not only didn’t know where she was, I had no idea whom she was with. I pictured myself going to the police saying, “I think she’s in Red Hook with a guy named Ryan. I don’t know his last name, but I think he’s a graphic designer? I’m not sure there’s actually a word for the unique blend of acute terror and unforgivable shame I felt that morning imagining that I’d lost my wife to Ryan, the maybe graphic designer.”

“We’re not one.” Again, that is where Mr. Sonmore is very wrong. If he or his wife realized and respected how spiritually entwined they are, then he would ironically never be put in a place where “a tight knot of dread” formed in his stomach.

Mr. Sonmore imagined himself saying to the cops, “I think she’s … with a guy named Ryan,” although he could have just as easily said “I think she’s with a man … named Jason Voorhees.”

How does Dear old Dad explain it to the kids when mom leaves the family for another man, mom contracts weird diseases, mom becomes pregnant with another man’s child, or mom winds up dead inside another man’s freezer? These are questions the happily married Catholic man will never have to ponder, and he is better for it.

When a male feminist has a wife who sleeps around and doesn't come home at night, he thinks that fear that she accidentally ended up with Jason Voorhees is a good thing. That fear means he isn't
When a male feminist has a wife who sleeps around and doesn’t come home at night, he thinks the fear that she accidentally ended up with Jason Voorhees is a good thing. That fear means he isn’t “controlling” his wife. That fear means he isn’t a part of the “patriarchal oppression” machine.  That fear somehow means his wife truly loves him. Sad.

And then there is this:

I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might. It happened at the beginning: The first person she dated after we opened up fell hard in love with her, and my wife, overwhelmed by his ardor, tried to love him back. Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me.

Imagine a marriage where confusion, anger, and terror were always looming over your head at night. It would not be heavenly — it would be hell.

There is a reason why Catholics pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” That is because evil exists, and the surest way to find yourself in a confusing, anger-filled terror-tunnel of your own making is to have a marriage where giving into all forms of sexual temptation is defined as “freedom.”

If you get a chance, then pray for Mr. Sonmore and his wife. They need it.

Related: Clueless sociologists writing on marriage should read the Bible — or watch Pacific Rim

Ten tips for a stable relationship

There are only so many national security threats a blogger can cover before he needs to create something a bit more uplifting. Valentine’s Day is over, but it’s never too late to go over tips to a successful relationship.

Douglasernstblog.com has never given out such a list, but there’s a first time for everything. Since I’ve been with the same woman for roughly 13 years (with only a few hiccups along the way), I will now give you one recipe for a healthy relationship.

  • Never swear at your significant other. I have often seen couples who will turn towards “asshole” and “bitch” when they’re angry. They say it doesn’t mean anything, but quite frankly it does. It means a lot. No matter how angry you may get at your significant other, it sends a powerful message if you never go down the rout of expletive-laced tirades.
  • Communication. Communication. Communication. This may sound like common sense, but it’s one that everyone — everyone — falls short of on occasion. Think about how many problems could be squashed if we would just be direct and honest with our significant other instead of letting poisonous thoughts swirl around inside our head until they manifest into arguments. A little communication with a lot of tact goes a long way.
  • Your job is not to fundamentally change your significant other. Political junkies will remember the time President Obama said he planned to fundamentally change America. Note: You do not try to fundamentally change something or someone you love. If you see your significant other as a “project” that needs to be fundamentally changed, then you probably should not be in a relationship with that person. People change, but their “core” self (i.e., spirit) is incredibly stable. If you find yourself trying to change your partner’s core traits, then something is probably wrong — with you.
  • Consciously work on growing together so you do not grow apart. If you’ve ever watched ivy growing up a wall (e.g., Chicago’s Wrigley Field), you’ll notice how it can twist and turn and overlap. You and your significant other will change over time, but in many ways you should grow like ivy: you should be separate, but one. Sometimes people fall in love with a very specific person at a very specific moment in time, and then seem to want to keep that person physically, mentally, and spiritually frozen in that moment forever. It doesn’t work. That is why it is important that you fall in love with the “core” or “root” of a person instead of the outer branches of their personality. If you don’t realize that the person you fell in love with at 20 may have many different interests at 30, then you will be in for some painful days down the road.
  • Don’t hold grudges. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, but it’s extremely important. If you can’t “wipe the slate clean” relatively quickly, then it will cause a lot of unnecessary suffering. People do stupid things. Sometimes they almost wreck your car. Sometimes they forget to pay bills. Sometimes they make insensitive comments. If you live in the past, then your present and your future will pay the price.
  • It’s not always about you. If you have always identified with the Peanuts character Lucy van Pelt, there’s a good chance that you will have some rocky romances before finally realizing that a pinch of “Linus” makes relationships run much more smoothly. There is a difference between having a “take charge” attitude and being a bossy jerk. Most people get bossed around at work. The last thing they want is to be ordered around when they come home at night.
  • Stick to your principles. No one likes a push-over. If someone knows your principles, then they may get irritated from time-to-time when a situation demands that you stand firm, but deep down they’ll respect you. You don’t have to have bulging biceps to have a spine of steel — women respect men with backbone.
  • Demand excellence at all times — from yourself. If you are your own toughest critic, then there is a good chance your significant other will never “nag” you. If you exude excellence, then it makes no sense for those around you to harp on the little things — you’ll have already taken care of them.
  • Employ random acts of kindness. Besides the fact that random acts of kindness make you less predictable (in a good way), this sort of behavior has a way of “infecting” the person targeted so that they return the favor. Random acts of kindness create a positive feedback loop that is hard to reverse.
  • Say “I love you” regularly. This may sound strange at first. In fact, your significant other may even sigh with exasperation — but do not relent! If you truly mean it, then they will never get tired of hearing you say those three words. You can never truly love someone too much, but you can definitely love a soul too little. If you exclaim your love every day, then it will yield enormous benefits for years to come.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. These ten tips are simply a few of the things that have helped me sustain a relationship with my girlfriend (now wife) for over a decade. If I’ve left anything out, then feel free to add to it in the comments section below. If you have any questions, then feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer.