Just to continue my inexplicable trend of nonstop posting about a movie I say I don’t particularly care for . . . here’s a post I originally wrote for my friend Mandi’s blog. But she’s taking early retirement, so I’m moving it over here, just so it’s not lost forever.
I was 24 when I got married. Not as young as some certainly, but I still had a lot of growing up to do, so I’m going to go ahead and say I married young. But I also married fast. We were engaged within ten weeks of meeting, and were married in nine months.
Ever since Frozen burst onto the pop culture scene, folks have been sagely nodding their heads in unison about how refreshing it is to see Disney finally telling it like it is:
serious decision. And sometimes, putting it off is the right call. But not
because postponing marriage will ensure that you really know the person you
are marrying. Because you can’t. No matter how long you date someone, you can’t
know exactly who he is, because who he is will change. You can’t know how he’ll
react to parenthood, or losing his job, or illness, or your baffling inability
to input multiple kids’ sports schedules into iCal properly.
When we met, I had a job, two cats, and clean and dirty piles for the laundry.
My husband was a Marine Corps officer working at Boot Camp. He used an unzipped sleeping bag as a comforter on his bed for efficiency and ate a plain peanut butter sandwich for lunch every day.
None of those things is true of either of us anymore. We have both changed in both superficial and fundamental ways.
Circumstances change and people change with them. Who he is with you as a single guy on a romantic night on the town is not a good indicator of who he will be when you’re facing a crisis. But you can’t vet him in every possible situation. At some point you just have trust.
So, here’s how to marry a man you just met:
1. Be compatible
We all have our quirks, the things about us that might drive some folks up a wall. The trick is to marry someone whose quirks don’t bother you. Or better yet, whose quirks you don’t even notice. It doesn’t take years, or even months, to know that you feel really comfortable around someone. Sometimes it can all come out in one magical night when you realize you like the same movies, and you hate the same pop songs, and have the same general worldview. And he doesn’t even notice that weird thing you do when you chew.
My husband and I are the same in some ways and compatible in others. This was true on the evening we met and on our first date and on the night we got engaged. It’s true now. It will still be true on our deathbeds.
2. Be committed
As spouses, it’s important that you generally enjoy each other’s company, and are committed to each other. But it’s even more important to be committed to the IDEA of marriage. If you go into a marriage utterly committed to not only your husband but to marriage itself, as an indissoluble union — and he does the same thing, well that’s most of the battle won already.
Because people change, and circumstances change, but the institution stands. If you never entertained any concept of a marriage failing, then you’ve got to be more likely to have yours succeed.
My husband and I are blessed to both have happily married sets of parents, so growing up, we both had real life examples of what marriage looks like. It’s not a prerequisite to a happy marriage, of course, but it helps. We also have surrounded ourselves with friends who take their marriages seriously. And none of that could have been changed any by dating longer.
3. Answer to a higher power
And when the institution of marriage itself isn’t inspiring enough, we are inspired by faith. Our faith calls us every day to be better spouses and better individuals. It calls us to be self-controlled and self-sacrificing. It calls us to give ourselves completely to the other. If we are willing to love our spouses as we are called by God to do, we cannot fail. But this isn’t something that comes from going on a certain number of dates.
And, honestly, when we were dating neither one of us knew how much we would grow in our faith, as individuals and as spouses. The beauty of a sacramental marriage, is that it gives you the grace you need to live it. When you need it. Not before. And not dependent on any particular timetable.
So, I’m going to side with Cinderella, not Elsa. I’m going to say you can marry a man you just met, and you can marry young, and you can marry poor, and you can have kids right away, and you can have too many kids. And you can do all those things even though some folks say they aren’t responsible. You can weather moves, and job changes, and health scares, and tragedies. Not because you really knew each other before you got married, but because you trusted in God and in each other and you choose to love each other anew each day.
This post originally ran as a guest post at Messy Wife, Blessed Life on Feb. 5, 2014.