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Statistics show that half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. That is a staggering number. Having gone through my parent’s getting divorced in my teen years I know firsthand the hardship and heartbreak that goes into parents separating. In all fairness, I know there are so many circumstances that cause divorce and some of them can’t be foreseen at all. I hope that in teaching my children now while they are young how to confidently choose their spouses that they can eventually have strong marriages and strong families.
There are three subjects that I believe every highschool should teach before a child can graduate and they are: proper etiquette and how to choose a spouse and how to be a good spouse. In our homeschool we are teaching these subjects to our youth and I hope it serves and blesses them in their adult lives.
There are good examples and bad examples. I choose to use both in illustrating the spouse choosing process. I like to wait until they are seventeen or dating age when we begin to study because they are paying more attention.
Here are four books I have my children read and some of the reasons why:
The Portrait of a Lady
By Henry James
This is a powerful story of the importance of paying attention at the beginning of a relationship. What can you live with? What are clues as to personality and opinion? What do you want in a marriage?
“He said to her one day that she had too many ideas and that she must get rid of them. He had told her that already, before their marriage; but then she had not noticed it: it had come back to her only afterwards. This time she might well have noticed it, because he had really meant it. The words had been nothing superficially; but when in the light of deepening experience she had looked into them they had then appeared portentous. He had really meant it-he would have liked her to have nothing of her own but her pretty appearance. She had known she had too many ideas; she had more even than he supposed, many more than she had expression to him when he had asked her to marry him.”
It is better to learn through examples in great literature than to follow a path that will lead to a lifetime of misery. I’ve seen too many relationships destroyed, families torn apart, and friends in despair as they did not learn what to look for in a spouse and made life altering decisions completely based on the deceitful emotion of infatuation. Or worse yet, to see a significant flaw in someone and to brush it off because you think you can change someone or that they may change their mind or behavior or thought patterns later. This is dangerous thinking because it doesn’t always happen.
This book helps youth to learn the difference between true love and the importance of listening and heeding the advice of those closest to you who have only your best interests at heart.
Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart
by Heather Paulsen
A short book that I couple with the reading of Portrait of a Lady. Where was this book when I was a youth? Heather shares the importance of emotional purity and the heart breaking consequences of emotional impurity. What is emotional purity? Not giving your heart away until you have an assurance of the other’s intentions being to commit to you forever—as in marriage. This includes crushes, going out, steady dating and the like. Emotional purity is just as important as physical purity.
In remembering my own tender, fragile heart and the experiences I went through as a young woman, I’d like to save my youth some heartbreak and teach them to be wise and guard their hearts.
Here is a poem that goes along with this topic:
When I was one-and-twenty
by A. E. Housman (A Shropshire Lad. 1896.)
WHEN I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
by George Eliot
Oh, what a delightful tale. Adam was a man I want my sons to emulate. His brother too. Good, hard workers. Believers, forgivers, patient, loving, kind, tender.
Adam’s first love has a serious flaw that he doesn’t see immediately, but you as the reader do. A quick warning about a distasteful grisly scene in the book directly involving her. While ugly and extreme it teaches much and would invoke very good conversation. You could even discuss abortion as a topic as well. That portion of the story goes on to talk about forgiveness and redemption.
“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”
Marriage is a beautiful institution ordained by God. This book shares the joy of true love and how fulfilling it is when you choose the companion who mirrors your beliefs and loves you as you love them.
By Gene Stratton-Porter
I’m in love with Gene (Geneva) Stratton-Porter’s writings. She tugs at the heart strings and draws you into her love stories.
I loved The Harvester as an illustration of a hard working man who knows what he wants in a wife and in life and who does everything he can in an honorable way to achieve both. His girl, Ruth, isn’t won over easily and she nearly dies from ill health. But, when we nurture something with such love and tenderness what a reward we get in the end.
David was a man who had a vast knowledge. He knew how to treat women and had an virtuous appreciation of the fairer sex. He loved animals and treated them well. He was kind, long-suffering, and gentle. With so much selfishness in both men and women in this generation, day, and age, I desire to bring back some old-fashioned love and kindness by teaching my family the how-to’s with good books and hopefully my own example. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.
“Mother,” said the Harvester, “were you with me? Did I do it right? Did I ell them what you would have and me say for the boys? Are you glad now you held me to the narrow way? Do you want me to go before men if I am asked, as Doc says I will be, and tell them that the only way to abolish pain is for them to begin at the foundation by living clean lives? I don’t know if I ddid any good, but they listened to me. Anyway, I did the best I knew. But that isn’t strange; you ground it into me to do that every day, until it is almost an instinct.”
A sweet, old fashioned story to fall in love with. I have my youth read it to see examples of strong manhood and dedication to love and marriage.
Finally, I have my youth write a list of everything important they desire to see in a spouse. I did this when I was sixteen and came across the list a few years ago. My sweet husband filled all of my list and so much more. We are both anything from perfect, but a marriage is made of two forgivers, lots of humor, letting things go, and both desiring to change for the better as individuals and as a couple.
I also make sure my youth remember to make this decision with lots of prayer. God will not lead us astray. With a good knowledge of qualities to look for, qualities to avoid, and prayer, and an open mind, I have no doubt our children will find good eternal companions and raise healthy, happy families.