Many who read this blog are either single or are fighting for their struggling marriage. And one thing I think we can all agree on is that we don’t want history to repeat itself. We want to learn the good lessons from our past so that we make wiser, better decisions for our future.
But let me get one thing out-of-the-way. There are no guarantees. Along with that there is virtually no possible way when contemplating a new relationship and especially a new marriage to know if you know enough about the person before marriage. Why? Because marriage changes things. And those changes can’t take place UNTIL you marry. That fact alone is reason enough for some people to retreat from the possibility of dating. But not me. Maybe because I’m more of a risk taker than some. Maybe I have more faith in people than others?
When I had my first child, it hurt. Bad. So much so that I didn’t want to consider another for a good long while. When I found out I was pregnant for a second time before my son was even one year old, I was terrified. Given the choice, I would have waited. I wasn’t ready. But such is life. I survived. And looking back I would never trade my daughter for anything in the world.
Sometimes we give our past-pain too much power. You only get one life. You might as well live it. And I will boldly say that just because I want to grow old WITH someone at my side, doesn’t mean that I’m willing to settle or behave recklessly. The same way I can say with confidence that I want to be successful in life…but I’m not willing to break the law in order to make a buck. Just because you admit that you want something doesn’t mean that your ability to determine good from bad goes out the window.
Only you know when it is right.
How long is long enough when dating? One month? Certainly most people would say no, you need longer than that. But many marriages have survived 5 decades after a two-week courtship. It can happen. Who am I to say it can’t? One year? Possibly if you are very mature, communicate well, and in that year you share a lot of life experience together. One decade? For some this would STILL not be long enough because the fear is, as soon as you spoke the vows, some character trait you hadn’t seen before would be revealed.
Each couple needs to determine this length for themselves. If many people are telling you are rushing into something, maybe you are and need to step back and slow down. But if you feel as if everything has happened in good order, neither one of you is putting pressure on the other to speed things up, and you aren’t forcing anything into place…then chances are the timing is right. Those are very important qualifiers for me that I don’t take lightly. For example when I was with Slimeball I felt rushed by the fact that he wanted me so badly and wanted commitment on my part so quickly at the beginning of our relationship. I also felt pressure to force our relationship into marriage because we wanted to be together more often and he lived in another country. The result was that I had a lack of peace. Instead I felt stressed and upset more often than not.
Along those same lines, using other people’s sob stories as evidence why it’s prudent to wait is not fair. I’m not an actuary and I’m not going to live my life or base my decisions on statistics. If that were the case I’d never get into bed, because there is a chance I’d die falling out of it. 450 each year in the U.S. die of it every year. And 1.8 million have to visit the emergency room. Saying, “Well so and so dated for a year and everything was fine and now…” is a fear tactic. Their marriage has nothing to do with me or the potential success or failure of my choice so why even bring it up?
Let your past inform your choices not determine them.
People are often cruel. Men are often pigs or frogs as I call them. Some are liars. Sometimes we can look back on how our ex-husbands put themselves first, and hurt us deeply and let the pain of that experience keep us from allowing our hearts to soften to another imperfect person for fear of being hurt again. Some people say, if I meet the right person I will consider dating. But what qualifies as “right” are things you wouldn’t even know until you know someone well. In that case, dating in a traditional sense is out of the question entirely since most of the time you date people you are “getting to know” not people you “already know”. There is an off-chance you run in such circles as to “know” someone who then becomes someone important to you but you still have to take a risk to get to know acquaintances better.
If you let your past determine your choice you cut yourself off from the possibility that this guy could be different. This relationship could be worth it. Last night Harry and I watched, On Golden Pond. It is clear in that film that Henry Fonda’s character is a cantankerous, negative, jerk. But he has his redeeming qualities as do we all. There was such incredible love between Thelma and Norman it was palpable. They were not perfect people. But in their case it worked. Since everyone is different, you won’t know what works for you until you give it a shot. Take a leap and try. I’m not saying jump in with two feet recklessly. Use the experiences of your past to help guide you in wisdom but try.
Life has a way of sneaking up on you.
I’m often in a conundrum when people, especially on Facebook, exalt us all to “wait on the Lord.” I’ve always taken that to mean, don’t force your will into a situation which I agree is pure wisdom. But I get the sense that to some people it means don’t act at all. Wait. Stay at home. Don’t date. Don’t have your antennae out at all because you might be thwarting God’s will and end up with the wrong guy. Really?
First of all, God gave us free will for a reason. He also gave us brains for a reason. He wants us to exercise both. Will we make mistakes sometimes? Yes. But that is life. There is a joke that has a man in a boat with a hole in it. The man is determined to wait on the Lord for his salvation from his circumstance. Three times he is provided opportunity for rescue and three times his response is, “No thank you, I”m waiting on the Lord.” What he doesn’t recognize is God uses people and God has sent three opportunities for him to be rescued. God does not, in most cases, miraculously drop someone tailor-made for us in our laps as reward for sitting doing nothing for ourselves. We must act in faith, trusting that God will have our back. Waiting in obedience, keeping ourselves from sin, is different from waiting in the absence of seeking a life and or recognizing when God puts something in our path who has potential to be someone special.
Life is short. In a blink of an eye my job raising my children was over. They are now both adults. Contemplating having children was terrifying for me. I knew I did not have the necessary skills to do a perfect job. No one does. No one is ever ready to be a parent. Neither will anyone ever be ready for the perfect relationship. I’m 44 years-old not 22. I think that makes a difference. Not only do I know myself better than I did when I was 22, I have less time to play with. There are seasons to life. Times when things are supposed to happen based on genetics, and biology. I for one am so grateful I’m getting to love again before I’m too old to physically enjoy it to its fullest. That doesn’t mean I’m rushing anything. I’m just going with the flow instead of trying to shut that flow out of my life.
So all that to say…I had a conversation with a friend this past week where I was accused of all of these things. I think she was wrong on every count. She apologized at the end of the evening and said that she hoped I didn’t think she was totally against my decision. I told her that I can take the heat and I didn’t mind her playing devils advocate. If anything the pressure she put on me has confirmed my choice instead of giving me doubt. My reasons are solid. Apart from my feelings for Harry…my reasons for wanting to marry him hold up.
Perhaps someday she will see Harry and I holding hands rocking back and forth on a porch and be happy that I didn’t listen to her because I got 40 years with the love of my life. Maybe not. But my informed guess on which I’m willing to bet it all is that no matter what happens…it will not be a repeat of my past. Which is good enough for me.