A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The 40k Challenge

Evangelical leaders have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the institution of marriage, often heralding it as the solution to many of our personal and societal ills. It's not surprising, therefore, that Christian singles have been egged on and admonished to embrace matrimony as their likely fate. Some writers have even gone so far to suggest that single Christians be invited into the homes of married people to help them appreciate the blessings of marriage.

Well, I think it is time for those who have such an elevated view of marriage to, pardon the pun, put their money where their mouth is. There is an old proverb about a sermon lived being better than a thousand preached. I hereby issue the 4ok Challenge. What is it? Simple. I want those who hold to the "normative expectation of marriage" for believers to provide me with some success stories of marriages that meet the following criteria:

1. A couple must have 2 or more children (because we hear so much about how couples need to embrace parenting and how a "quiverfull" is a blessing, etc.).

2. A couple must ideally depend on one income. Let's give the traditionalists the benefit of the doubt and put the financial burden on the man.

3. A couple must have been married more than 7 years (because we need time for the honeymoon to wear off and for reality to set in).

4. A couple must be happy and feel blessed by their union. They should have no second thoughts about their marriage. They should be able to draw from their own experiences in recommending marriage to single people.

Okay, we've got a slew of examples lined up, right? Well, hold on, because I'm not done ...

5. The household income of a couple must be $40,o00 a year or less. It must be for a family living in the United States. After all, not many of us can emigrate to other parts of the globe where the cost of living is lower. I think my 40k figure is reasonable. It's close to the median personal income of all men 25 years or older (the target group of the marriage pundits).

I want to see beautiful, glossy photographs of these people. I want to see their testimonials in the family bookstore aisles. Do we have any takers? Seriously, I'm am open to an attitude adjustment on this matter. The religious relationship experts out there surely have something to say about this. Click the e-mail icon at the foot of this blog post and send a message to them! Let them respond! In a society characterized by consumerism, income disparities, a high cost of living, and a lack of social support for families, I suspect that happy marriages are fast becoming a luxury reserved for yuppies and the such like. But, go ahead ... prove me wrong, dear readers.

Edit: The 40k figure must be what a couple is currently taking in as a household. I am not interested in how a couple lived when bell-bottoms and Shaun Cassidy were in style.

21 comments:

Amir Larijani said...

Anakin: I'd say this is a fruitless pursuit. This is because (a) there are plenty of happily-married Christian couples out there who fit the criteria you specify, and (b) plenty who do not fit the income/wealth specifications who are also quite happy.

If you wish to determine statistically what the breakdowns are, feel free to knock yourself out. But this blog posting won't get you to first base, let alone put you in any position to meaningfully (mathematically) quantify the situation.

Like you, I'm no fan of Maken. Like you, I oppose the "marriage mandate", not because I think marriage is bad for Christians--it is in fact a good thing that God created--but such a "mandate" creates a command where none exists in Scripture. Therefore, the Mandators are just neo-Pharisees who would create bondage for--and arrogate themselves to lord over--single Christians.

Still, no response to your blog is going to make for a statistically meaningful assessment. Ergo, I'd categorize this as a rant.

Christina said...

I agree with Amir on this but just to humor you...

1. A couple must have 2 or more children (because we hear so much about how couples need to embrace parenting and how a "quiverfull" is a blessing, etc.).

In the period of time married, this couple had 5 kids in 9 years. The first born 5 months after they were married.

2. A couple must ideally depend on one income. Let's give the traditionalists the benefit of the doubt and put the financial burden on the man.

For the majority of the marriage, there was only one income. The wife would occasionally work 10 hours a week at a tourist boutique at the Bradenton beach, but that was only in the first 2 years of marriage (by the time the 2nd child was born, she was home full time)

3. A couple must have been married more than 7 years (because we need time for the honeymoon to wear off and for reality to set in).

I'm going to address the first 13 years of marriage due to your final criteria of making less than or equal to $40K. They may have gone longer making that much, but that's when I started to see a noticeable difference in their spending habits. In total, though, they have been married 25 years.

4. A couple must be happy and feel blessed by their union. They should have no second thoughts about their marriage. They should be able to draw from their own experiences in recommending marriage to single people.

Still crazy in love. The husband has never raised his voice to his wife, she respects and loves him and aside from curbing his often superfluous spending habits (as she tracks the finances), does not have anything critical to say about him. In fact, in all the years I've known them, the wife has never spoken ill about her husband except directly to him when she was angry, hurt, and upset (not an excuse, but just something to note that she doesn't speak ill about him to others and only rarely directly to him under extreneous emotion circumstances).

Okay, we've got a slew of examples lined up, right? Well, hold on, because I'm not done ...

5. The household income of a couple must be $40,o00 a year or less. It must be for a family living in the United States. After all, not many of us can emigrate to other parts of the globe where the cost of living is lower. I think my 40k figure is reasonable. It's close to the median personal income of all men 25 years or older (the target group of the marriage pundits).


For the first year of marriage, he worked at a plant nursery making minimum wage. He decided to make a gamble and tried his own business with plants. It flopped miserably and they ended up living with his sister for a year while he got back on his feet. During that time, they were expecting their 2nd child.

I don't know what he did when he moved back to Bradenton, but I know he wasn't making much money. By the time the third was born, he had moved to Sarasota and was again working on a plant nursery living in a trailer on his boss's land.

A pastor at the church he was attending moved to a church in Ocala and he replanted his entire family to attend that church because of that pastor. His wife was pregnant with the fourth. He commuted 45 minutes every day to an insurance company in Gainesville - you've heard of it, Mutual of Omaha. He still wasn't making much because he had no college education. To increase his earning potential, he started attending seminars and teaching himself to pass an exam to become an life insurance salesman.

By the time his 5th child was born (9 years into the marriage), they were finally making financial progress. By their 13th anniversary, he had hit over the $40K mark and was building an addition to their 3/2 house(which he had destroyed into a 3/1 in the first 2 years of living there)...converting it to a 4.5/3.

I think that meets your criteria...right?

FYI, that's my parents marriage-story. I was the first child so I got to witness the vast majority (and I have an early memory). Though my parents never discussed finances, I knew they weren't making much, but it never felt like a problem. I got my pink barbie lunch box in the 4th grade and my own bed when I turned 10 (or 11). I had a bike and a pool in the backyard. I got to live in walking distance of the beach (that's where I learned to walk). I learned to play piano.

You know what the recipe for success was? Family support, involvement, and an unshakeable faith in God and their marital vows.

It's doable.

Ken said...

Good post.

It would be good to get each spouse by himself or herself and allow them to talk "off the record". Most (guys, anyway) would not let on about their second thoughts or regrets or disappointments in front of the spouse, or publicly. Some won't even admit them to themselves - they think they are sinning if they express anything other than thankfulness at the blessing of having their spouse. Married men often go a kind of amnesia about that it is they enjoyed doing or found meaningful, because they are putting their wives and children ahead of themselves at it easier not to "remember" say, how much they enjoyed a particular hobby.

I DO believe that a good marriage between two mature, self-sufficient (financially) people who are basically compatible IS good for society. But those qualifiers are many.

The financial aspect is very important. Now that women have full access to higher academia (and are often the majory on campus) and the professional world, men don't just have to compete with other men for a job, they have to compete with an additonal labor force that men in previous generations did not - women. Does the "AVERAGE" salary pay enough for a man to support a wife and two or more children in the "AVERAGE" community, without relying on more government services and support that he pays for in taxes, or financial support from friends and family?

As for me, I am the sole income earner, but I make more the average (and live where the cost of living is more than average). Our second child is on the way. We have not yet made it to seven years of marriage.

Christina said...

Ken,

I honestly can't believe you'd say this:
Most (guys, anyway) would not let on about their second thoughts or regrets or disappointments in front of the spouse, or publicly. Some won't even admit them to themselves - they think they are sinning if they express anything other than thankfulness at the blessing of having their spouse. Married men often go a kind of amnesia about that it is they enjoyed doing or found meaningful, because they are putting their wives and children ahead of themselves at it easier not to "remember" say, how much they enjoyed a particular hobby.

You know, I wrote a ranting piece (that Amir had to compare himself to a cuddly teddy-bear compared to me because of how prickly and vehemently angry I was over the whole deal) that addressed an article written by a feminist that claimed that if a woman said she liked being a housewife and doting on hubby and kids, then she was lying through her teeth.

Can I tell you how badly I wanted to tear that woman's hair out? As if I have to be self-delusional to be content about being a housewife. How degrading is that? That was my response.

I wonder how a husband who is truly happy in his marriage without being self-delusional would feel about what you just wrote.

To chalk up marriage contentedness to self-delusion is up in the ranks with some of the worst and most degrading claims made by feminists.

Learner said...

Anakin,

A few points:

1. The median age of men in the US at their first marriage is 27. If you want them to be married for 7 years that makes the man 34. You need the median inclome for a male 34 years or older.

2. Why exclude people who can't have kids?

3. This A couple must be happy and feel blessed by their union. They should have no second thoughts about their marriage. does not seem to me to be realistic given the fact that we are talking about human beings.

I know many couples that meet your criteria with the exceptions that I noted above. Friends C and J have been married for 10 years, have 2 kids (from his first marriage- he was a widower). C stays at home, J is the sole breadwinner though since he was in his 40s when they married he makes more than 40k. C is one of my best friends and never has a negative thing to say about J (I mean never). The kids are away at college now and they are enjoying a "second honeymoon" that seems to be lasting about a year so far. Then there's K and K. They have been married for 26 years and have 4 children. She has been a stay at home mom throughout the marriage but has also done hair in their home a little bit. For the first 10-15 years of their marriage he made less that 40k. They are still best friends and flirt to the point that they make some of their friends (meaning me) blush.

If your point here is to say that if Evangelical leaders want to promote marriage that they would be better served to support marriages rather than shove marriage down people's throats I would agree.

Ken said...

Christina,

Thanks for pointing out that I didn't make myself clear.

I am not saying that man can't be truly happy in his marriage. I, for example, am truly happy in mine. I'm not even saying that MOST men can't (or aren't) happy in their marriages.

My point was that SOME husbands (especially within the criteria given) who say they are happy, have no regrets, etc. MAY be 1. lying because their wife is present or will find out what he says; 2. lying to the person asking for some other reason; 3. lying to himself. SOME... not all, not even most.

It could be as basic as regretting that he didn't wait longer to get married to that he could focus longer on building a career that would pay more so that he could provide more conmfort for his wife.

Anonymous said...
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Adam T. said...

Notwithstanding that Amir's last paragraph:

Still, no response to your blog is going to make for a statistically meaningful assessment. Ergo, I'd categorize this as a rant.

is pretty good, this is one where I'm inclined to have sympathy with Anakin. I want very much to believe that a family can still make it today on the SAHM model, but... I don't know. $40,000 / year seems awfully little to me. Awfully little. (How can that really be the median income, anyway?)

I think about these things, because I'm getting married in a few months and will hopefully have a family someday, and I have to say I don't know how I could comfortably raise a family and children on the average person's income. Key word: comfortably, and I know God calls us to give up comfort, but still... I'm just saying.

Anakin says:

I suspect that happy marriages are fast becoming a luxury reserved for yuppies and the such like.

Well, I don't know if I agree about happy marriages, but I may agree about 1950s-style 'traditional' marriages.

Christina said...

Adam T.

The problem that's becoming more and more apparent to me as my husband and I are house shopping is something I'm starting to wonder is across the board.

My parents' house that they are living in now cost around $60,000 when they bought it. They were definitly making less that $40K. And I have to tell you the house was a dump. My dad took us to see the house for the first time the day before we moved.

We looked around...linoleum in the kitchen was coming up, the kitchen was TINY, counters chipped, carpet stained, and the pool in the yard was a very lovely deep green.

"What do you think?" he asks.
Snarky 9-year-old reply -
"We're gonna live here?"

Now, the house is a two story 4/2 that has floors being converted to wood =p For $60K.

That's the house I grew up in.

You look at a house nowadays for $60K and its a shack. At least this house had something to work with!

We've been looking at houses in the $200K range and some of them are still smaller than my parents house. My opinion? If we're paying that much for a house, we better have something to show for it.

I think that there's a lot of sense in entitlement in that sentiment...and I think a LOT of people nowadays have that attitude. I deserve this now, not later. Credit crisis, anyone?

Would I be willing to live a life that my parents lived? Starting out in a shack with a bucket for a toilet with a newborn sleeping in a moses basket at the foot of the full size mattress on plain metal frame that I share with my husband?

I don't think so. But knowing its possible to survive a marriage that starts like that gives me some perspective when considering houses bigger than my parents' house. I could do with less.

We don't need 2 cars. I don't need a mini-van when all i have is one or 2 kids. I don't need a 4 bedroom house for 3 kids...i could fit 5 kids and my husband and i in a 3 bedroom. Learn to share.

Thing is, like learner said, $40K is unrealistic. Its the average starting salary in the workforce. At least it is for the people that are commenting here. Average starting salary and you may just be getting married...or looking.

My hubby is 28 and started in the workforce at 24. He's nearly 5 years in and a hard worker. He's not at a starting salary anymore...so he's making more than $40K. And he just got married to someone making a little more than $40K as I've been working for 3 years. If we play it smart, make good choices, we can do the SAHM thing. Learn to live on one income and bank mine until the baby is born.

Be willing to live in a house that may not meet our expectations. Be willing to drive one car. Be willing to forego namebrands. Be willing to rely on family for childcare when necessary...

Question REALLY is, is it something you want?

Clearly, it was something I wanted. But it was also something HE wanted...someone home who can cook him dinner, keep his house and clothes clean, and have the energy to spend time with him when he comes home from work.

We're willing to make it work.

Amir Larijani said...

Christina: Right now, I'd strongly suggest renting. Just save, save, and save.

In about a year or two, you won't be able to get a mortgage. That's the bad news.

The good news? You won't need a mortgage.

Christina said...

/ahem

Baby. 4 months. One room apartment.

I need out. I can't fit in my home. My wedding presents aren't even in my home because of how squashed we are for space.

The housing slump in Orlando has come to a stand still. We're at the point where people are starting to buy again to take advantage of the slump. If we wait, they're gonna be back up. Though not as high as they were.

Triton said...

Two words, Christina: double-wide.

Here's one in Fort Pierce for $40,000.

Of course, this would require you to swallow some pride and deal with the "stigma" of living in a trailer. But that "stigma" is precisely what makes trailers such good deals.

Fort Pierce might be too far from Orlando, but I'm sure with a little effort you could find one in a more suitable location.

The housing slump in Orlando has come to a stand still. We're at the point where people are starting to buy again to take advantage of the slump. If we wait, they're gonna be back up. Though not as high as they were.

I wouldn't bet on that. It is just as likely that what you are seeing is just a dead-cat bounce before the next leg down. If Obama tries to impersonate FDR, we could all be in for many years of some serious hurt.

Thing is, like learner said, $40K is unrealistic. Its the average starting salary in the workforce.

The college-educated workforce, perhaps. But it is definitely not the average starting salary for the workforce in general. In 2004, the median household income in America was $44,334. That includes both one- and multiple-income families. And that's the median income for workers of all experience levels, not just workers making starting-level incomes.

Elusive Wapiti said...

What an interesting conversation. I'm sorry that I've missed most of it.

#4:
"A couple must be happy and feel blessed by their union. They should have no second thoughts about their marriage."

I don't see how 'feeling' happy and 'feeling' blessed has anything to do with marriage being the solution to many of the ills that afflict our society.

In fact, I'd say that the premium that our society places on 'feeling' happy and 'feeling' blessed are the root of many of those ills in the first place.

I suggest a different standard of marital satisfaction: loving your spouse they way that He commands you to love and that you would want to be loved. Folks need to ask themselves: do you do all that you can to look after your spouses needs?

Christina wrote:
"The housing slump in Orlando has come to a stand still. We're at the point where people are starting to buy again to take advantage of the slump. If we wait, they're gonna be back up. "

Honey, don't do it. Don't even think about buying right now. Our leaders haven't run out of money to print yet, which means that we still have further to drop. Wait to buy until we've fully bottomed out.

Better still, regardless of the state of the (inflated) housing market, take Triton's advice and buy a cheap used double-wide, a rottweiler and a .45 to guard it, and save like big dogs so that you can pay cash or have a huge down payment when you do find a place to live in.

A 'bargain' that puts you behind the financial 8-ball is no bargain at all.

Learner wrote:

"...they would be better served to support marriages rather than shove marriage down people's throats"

I think they would do even better to come out hard against divorce. We don't have a marriage problem IMHO. We do have a divorce (and by extension, a cohabitation) problem, however.

Anakin Niceguy said...

EW writes ...

I don't see how 'feeling' happy and 'feeling' blessed has anything to do with marriage being the solution to many of the ills that afflict our society.

In fact, I'd say that the premium that our society places on 'feeling' happy and 'feeling' blessed are the root of many of those ills in the first place.

I suggest a different standard of marital satisfaction: loving your spouse they way that He commands you to love and that you would want to be loved. Folks need to ask themselves: do you do all that you can to look after your spouses needs?


Here is the problem. Marriage has now become better for society than it has for the people entering into it. True, we tend to focus too much on our feelings and not enough on caring for others. But here's the thing: People are not going to get married if there is no appreciable chance of them having a better quality of life emotionally, etc. People don't need the adversities of marriage to be holy; Christianity and the hardships of life already provide enough of that.

Anonymous said...

Christina-
Housing prices are not headed back up. This housing recession is going to deepen this year.

My advice is NOT TO BUY until you have 12 months of living expenses salted away, including mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities.

Get a bigger apartment. Make do.

Even though you sound humble, I hear a bit of ingratitude over the size of your current place. Get over it - people are losing their houses and jobs everywhere, and you could too. The people next door to me have their foreclosed relatives living with them.

Put some cash in the bank - a lot of cash. Don't invest for retirement until you have that 12 month buffer tucked away in certificates of deposit.

The recession is just getting started, and 2009 will be a year of surprises.

My 60k income is now down to 30k. I live in a state with a good job market, too. Fortunately, I took my own advice and have a big pile of savings (in CDs at 4%, so no stock market losses). I am a year away from buying at least.

The real deals are coming.
---------------------------------
One exception:

Take ONE of your incomes. Take 28% of that number.

If you can get a house for that, then go ahead.

Wonder Woman said...

I'm not American, I think this might mean DISQUALIFICATION!

I make under $40, 000 *sigh*
One income.
Married, not 7 years though (have known each other for about 6and a half...), however if you add up all my marriages... heh.
I smile like a smiling thing, all the damn time.
Content, even committed.
Horny, quite often.
4,3,2... kids at home. Typically 2 during the week. All four on weekends. Yay, lucky me ;-)
Happy.
Own a home.
Hmmmm...
Have a car.
Laugh a lot.

Intersting. I win!

Peter said...

Some writers have even gone so far to suggest that single Christians be invited into the homes of married people to help them appreciate the blessings of marriage.

There are blessings??

Christina said...

There are blessings??

Ugh.

Apparently, there are.

Sex whenever you want and its morally acceptable to your wannabe-prudish ways, companionship, someone to bounce ideas off of constantly, no need to get a cat just so you can pretend your not really talking to yourself...

Someone to say "I love you" to when you open your eyes in the morning, close your eyes at night, and any other random moment during the day...

And you know, HE'D name off the same benefits...unfortunately, someone to cook for him isn't on the list yet. We'll get there, though...he's been doing more household care lately than i have...

Ken said...

"Some writers have even gone so far to suggest that single Christians be invited into the homes of married people to help them appreciate the blessings of marriage."

That can backfire. Maybe the married Christians will envy the unmarried person's life. It can depend on the day of the week.

Off the top of my head, I can remeber one Christian lady I new who had her hair long and was in shape... for years. But shortly after she married, she cut her hair off and gained weight. I doubt it was because her husband asked her to. It wasn't a ringing endorsement of marriage. Forunately, I had positive examples to choose from as well.

Christina said...
>>Sex whenever you want<<

If only that were true for the vast majority of Christian husbands. Or were you talking about the wives? Yes, that is true for the wives... unless they married a guy with a low libido or some other problem. (And she thought he was just being pure before marriage.)


>>companionship<<

You don't need to be married for that.

>>someone to bounce ideas off of constantly<<

Or that.

>>Someone to say "I love you" to when you open your eyes in the morning, close your eyes at night, and any other random moment during the day...<<

Like with the sex...

Marrying the right person CAN be great. That is why I decided to marry - because I did find the right person.

But to present marriage as automatically bringing benefits... we're overstating our case.

MarkyMark said...

ANG,

I can think of one or two couples I've known over the last 20 years that meet your criteria. Do I want to take chances with those kind of odds? Hell no!!

MarkyMark

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