|February 14th, 2014||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2003
Blog Entries: 34
#1 Marriage Thread
Good Advice For The Unmarried
By ROD DREHER • February 14, 2014, 12:07 PM
On this Valentine’s Day, you unmarried readers could do a lot worse than take advice from Matt Walsh, who has only been married for two years, but who is wise beyond his experience when it comes to marriage. His bottom line? You will never be “ready” for marriage. Excerpt:
Look, I wouldn’t presume to give marital “advice.” In my life I’ve met a few people really qualified for that job, and I’m not one of them. But I come across this “divorce is high because people aren’t ready for marriage” shtick quite a bit. Predictably, it’s mostly unmarried folks who say these things. And it only results in more and more people my age hesitating to break out of the cocoon of adolescence and get going with their lives.
We commonly view living together as a logical step before marriage, but it isn’t. It’s something some people do, but it isn’t a step to marriage. Your marriage is defined by the commitment you make to the other person — not by the bathroom or mortgage you share. Living with someone is not a “warm up” for marriage or a “try out” period, precisely because it lacks the essential, definitive characteristic of that permanent commitment. You can’t comfortably transition into an eternal vow. You make it, and then it’s made.
The absolute worst thing that I often hear in defense of the “marriage tryout” strategy is this: “I need to find out if she/he has any annoying habits.”
Answer: yes. Yes, she does. So does he. But if a bad habit or an annoying tendency could be a deal breaker, then well, you aren’t ready.
In fact there is, as far as I can tell, only one form of “not ready” that should possibly stop you from walking down that aisle: immaturity. If you are prepared to dump someone you profess to “love” because they chew with their mouth open or leave wet towels on the floor, you have a maturity issue. And remember, it’s YOUR issue.
Perhaps the problem isn’t that we consider our “readiness” before we get married; it’s that we consider it wrongly. We run down our checklist like we’re buying a car.
Do I have enough money? Is there any single solitary flaw in this other human being that might make me wish I’d gone with another model? Do they have everything I want? Have I driven it enough to know if it has any kinks or mechanical issues? Will it breakdown in three years? Will I be able to sell it for parts and buy something better when I get sick of this one?
These are the wrong questions to ask. Incidentally, I can answer them all for you: No, you don’t have enough money. Yes, they have flaws and kinks and issues of all kinds.
There. And so what?
The real checklist ought to have only four items.
Do I love this person? Can I trust this person? Can they trust me? Do I have the maturity and strength to give myself to this person, and to serve this person, every day for the rest of my life?
I can’t tell you how you’ll answer those questions, but I can tell you what my answers were before I said “I do” to Alissa:
Yes, I love her, but I don’t really understand love or what it means. Yes, I trust her, but I don’t understand trust or what it means. Yes, she can trust me, but I will still come up short in ways I cannot yet predict. Yes, I have the maturity, but I still have a lot of growing to do.
And then we clasped hands and walked into that wild unknown.
Read the whole thing. I should print this out and share it with my kids when they are old enough to start considering marriage.
This sounds familiar, because it’s a lot like the path Julie and I followed. We met one weekend in the autumn of 1996, when I was visiting Austin. We fell instantly, and hard. I was living in Fort Lauderdale, she was finishing college in Austin. Our courtship, such as it was, became mostly a matter of letters and phone calls. Owing to the expense of plane tickets, we saw each other maybe once a month, but usually less frequently. After four months, we became engaged, but waited most of that year for Julie to finish college before we married. Our honeymoon was the longest continuous period of time we had spent in each other’s company since we met.
But it worked, and worked brilliantly, because the answers we held in our hearts were the same as Matt Walsh and his wife held in their hearts. You cannot know in advance what will await you in the wild unknown country of marriage. All you can know — and it’s a matter of intuition as much as anything else — is that you want to have that adventure with the one you love. As Wendell Berry wrote about the country of marriage:
Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
Stay brave, married people. It’s not always going to be happy, even if you’re doing it right, but if you are doing it right, it will always be joyful.
Posted in Culture. Tagged marriage, Matt Walsh, Wendell Berry.