Monday, July 13, 2015

Letters to a young man 39

Hello my friend.

Marriage is perhaps the most important event in a man's life, and the decision of who to marry is perhaps the most important one in a man's life. Curiously, many young men have very little guidance on the subject. Fortunately, those who have pastoral care can seek the wisdom of your pastor or priest or others in your congregation. But for others who have no solid advice it can seem a daunting task. Many find themselves scurrying from friend to friend to ask for advice never having really asked themselves some fundamental questions. I want to share with you my humble insights as a married man and hope that it may be useful to you.

When you are considering whether or not to propose marriage, no one can tell you for sure what the correct choice is and if it will work out. There is no checklist which, if summed, will lead to a completely safe decision. No one can tell you for sure what you should do. Some will suggest what they think is the best course of action, but in that moment right before you ask her the question, it will be just you and her and you will have to face what comes next, whatever her answer may be.

As you stand on that precipice, you may feel fear and anxiety. This is completely normal. (Visualize jumping out of a plane, unsure if your parachute will work.) What will help you in this moment is having searched out your heart and mind to discover what it is about this woman that draws you to her, and why you want to make a life with her. Following are some things to think and pray on while you are considering what will likely be the most important decision of your life.

Firstly, search out your heart and make sure that you love this woman and that you are and can be devoted to her over the course of your life. Imagine that her looks may fade, that she may become injured and that you will have to care for her. Search out your heart and make certain that you care deeply and fundamentally about her as a human being and that you want to be with her for life.

Secondly, ask yourself if you put this woman's happiness first and does she put your happiness first as well. This doesn't mean that either of you should completely derail any hopes for happiness or goals that you have. It doesn't mean that either or both of you become a door mat to the other. This is a question about approach to the relationship. Put another way, do you empathize with one another? Do you love one another as you love yourselves? And can you make sacrifices for one another?

If the first two of these do not yield positive results, I would suggest that you dig deeply into your feelings. Are you wanting to be with her because of sex and attraction? I can see now why people have traditionally waited until marriage to have sex and I think that is the best course of action. Sex an derail our thinking and feeling. We can lose sight of what's truly important at the heart of a relationship. Sex that is pleasurable but ultimately devoid of feeling is loose sand and is not the foundation you want to build a marriage and life on. 

Likewise, if you are wanting to marry a woman because of status, whether the social status is derived from the fact that she has wealth, or because she is very attractive, you need to remind yourself that both of these things may fade. Who is she underneath? Does she share your beliefs, your desires for family, your goals for a good life?

If, on the other hand, the first two things yield positive results, I think you are likely on the right track. Next, ask yourself what your life would be like without her. Imagine that she is gone, and gone forever. If you wince at this prospect and cannot imagine a life without her, then you know that she means something to you.

Other things to consider. How is she with children? And does she want children? Does she put too much emphasis on money and status? Where are her priorities? Will she care for you when you are sick? Is she modest or does she dress provocatively in seeking male attention?

In the final analysis, these questions are but a rough guide to get you thinking properly about marriage and what it means. What you find will help shed some light on your situation. In the end, you must determine if you will make that leap. As I said before, no one can make that decision for you. But this is part of the beauty of the thing. To truly take the leap of faith means you are ready to accept the consequences and enter into the covenant with her. And this is a core of what marriage is and does for you both.

Farewell for now.