Sunday, June 10, 2012

Settling Down and Settling

Courtship Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Some almost-final thoughts:

I'm not saying, of course, that courtship ruins marriages. I know many people who courted and who are now happily married. However, that does not prove that courtship is good or "works," either. I once met a wonderful Christian couple who had been selected at random and married at gunpoint by the Khmer Rouge. I know many couples who have good, happy marriages that started in ways I don't approve of at all. The failure or success of a marriage is entirely due to the people in the marriage, their choices, character, and yes, compatibility, and not on the circumstances that brought them together.

The trouble comes with convincing people to follow courtship under the assumption that it is more godly to let your parents choose for you than it is to choose for yourself. If you want your parents to choose or approve your spouse, fine. But the Bible does not say they have to.

I wonder if a lot of the turmoil is not over the problems we have with choices. Excessive choice is the blessing and bane of modern existence, from buying toothpaste to choosing a spouse. We have so many choices it is hard to settle on one, and hard to be happy with the choice we made. This may be where a lot of the notorious "fear of commitment" comes from.

But you can't solve this problem by arbitrarily removing choices for other people. That leaves people less free, but they still know the other choices are out there. Sooner or later they will grow resentful of their loss of freedom. I'm not sure there is a solution to the choice problem, but a little more awareness might help. We are going to need to start teaching ourselves and each other choice management. The knowledge that the sheer number of choices is going to make it difficult, and that at some point more comparisons are only going to make you more unhappy. Find something that you are happy with, and then turn your mental energy (this is a natural human strength) into justifying your choice.

In this regard, I don't believe in the "Right One" mythos, whether it's expressed in spiritual or secular terms. I don't think there is one magic right soul mate to whom we belong and we should wait until we are sure we have found this mystical being. Add that idea to the vast theoretical field of potential marriage partners and no wonder no one can settle down.

I do believe there is such a thing as true love and a deep and lasting connection with another person. If you've found it, hold on to it. There probably are better people out there. But when you truly love another person, you don't want someone better. You want this one, flaws and all.


Diary of an Autodidact said...

Yet another excellent post. As usual, I have a few random thoughts:

1. "Almost final" coming from a lawyer means about the same thing as "in conclusion" from a pastor. Draw your own conclusions here...

2. My favorite "how they met" story is one of a colleague who I met while clerking on a big case for my now father-in-law. In essence, they met at a bar while he was shacking up with another woman. He got so drunk she drove him home in his car. He passed out, and she had no way to get home. The next morning, they decided to drive to Vegas, where they both got drunk out of their minds again, and decided to get married. He was so stewed, he misspelled his own name on the marriage certificate. After coming to, he tried to get it annulled, but was denied, and told he had to file for a divorce. He decided it was too much trouble. 20+ years and 4 kids later, they are happily married. Not that I would recommend that method or anything...

3. Intellectually, I agree that there is no "one person." Intellectually, I think falling in love is silly. My wife and I are serious and sensible and pragmatic, and figured we would each pick based on logical, well-thought-out criteria. If we could find a person suitable that would have us. We also knew the first time we saw each other that we were getting married. Even if it took a year for me to get my courage up. We knew before we started dating, courting, whatever it was, that we would fall hard if we ever started. I don't even know how to explain it, but everything I thought I knew about love, marriage, and commitment was turned on its head. Eleven years together, and we still don't understand it, but we really were meant for each other. It wasn't justification of a choice. It wasn't a "love is a choice, not a feeling" thing at all. We were and are bonded in a way that I still don't really believe exists. Maybe in eternity this will make sense, but for now, we are just along for the ride.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Perhaps I should just go with Agur, son of Jakeh:
"There are three things that are too wonderful for me, four that I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden." Proverbs 30:18-19

Queen of Carrots said...

Ha! That is quite a story. I guess sometimes what happens in Vegas *doesn't* stay in Vegas.

On point 3, I would say my experience was very similar. And I'd like to boil it down and quantify it and say why or what, but I don't get it either.

Wendy said...

I've found these posts fascinating, although I come from a background where "courtship" was not just not an issue. Later on (after I was married) the Josh Harris book came out and I read it and thought it sounded nice - very interesting to hear the other side.

I was a firm believer that there was no such thing as love at first sight...until I saw my husband. It was like getting hit by lightning in both the positive and negative senses!

@Autodidact Funniest "how we met" ever! Wonder what they tell their kids!

Nelleke Plouffe said...

I just read this series and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I agree with everything you said, and appreciated the way you said it. My family wasn't into so-called courtship as I was growing up, but my father really got into it as soon as I got interested in someone. We had a horrendous time of it at the time, but for once in my life I was stubborn. I think now that it was mostly a personal issue of having a hard time letting go (I was his eldest.). He has lots of respect for my husband now, and a few grandchildren helped. :) And I have had no regrets.