My wife and I will be celebrating our 20th year of marriage this summer. Yes, we are still happy to be together, and grateful to be so. Certainly our marriage has had its high moments and low ones. But I believe we were fortunate in how we started.
Begin well to end well.
Some people might be astonished if they heard that we were engaged within about two months after we first met, and we were married only about 4 1/2 months later after that. Yet we really felt that by the time we got married we knew each other well, felt that our goals and desires were compatible, and were ready for the big step. And these feelings were not because we felt that we were each other’s soul mate or “The One.”
Nathan Blake (whom I’ve never heard of before) makes an impassioned plea for marriage in his article “The Romance of Ordinary Marriage.” He makes many valuable points, one of which is the potential risk of searching for a soul mate. It makes for good novels and movies, but it can lead to unrealistic expectations in a marriage and lead to a person feeling that something is wrong when things aren’t as exciting later in the marriage.
I’ll quote from his article here: “The allure of the idea is that romance and marriage with the soulmate will be easy, but this assurance of ease provides an excuse for laziness (moral and otherwise) in a relationship, and for abandoning the marriage when troubles inevitably come. Furthermore, the person who seems to be one’s soulmate at the age of twenty, or twenty-five or thirty, might be a dreadful match later on.” I find these to be important points. (I recommend the entire article.)
For me and my wife, we took a particular approach to our courtship that really set us up for a good, solid start, in my opinion. I don’t know where we got the idea, otherwise I’d give credit, because I doubt it was something we came up with on our own. But it something that we have offered up many times to friends, loved ones, and people we just met.
We talked a lot. Also, we were each other’s first – and only after our wedding covenant.
See, we were both in college and didn’t have any extra money. We really liked (loved) each other, and wanted to be together, but we didn’t have any expectation that we needed to build credit card debt by doing to fancy things in order to get to know each other. We wanted to be with each other, so we spent hours nearly every evening walking around the neighborhood where our apartments were located just talking. At some point we initiated what we called, “The Question of the Day.” Each day one it was one person’s turn to ask the other a question – and these were pretty serious questions. Things like: “How many children do you want to have?” “Where do you want to live after you graduate from college?” “How important is money to you?” These questions would be the basis for a couple of hours worth of conversation. I actually can’t remember most of the questions, but I do remember that we really came to know each other.
I think one key for us was that we were committed to being honest with our answers. If we were not compatible with each, we wanted to know that. Neither of us wanted to force a relationship if our goals weren’t aligned. That took a lot of pressure of the whole situation. That doesn’t mean that our answers were completely the same, but at some point we realized that we loved each other, and that some differences were more important than others. We decided that we wanted to spent the rest of forever with each other.
In the coming years, as we started having more experiences and more challenges and difficulties in life and in our growing family, we found that this investment of time and energy provided a very powerful foundation for us to continue building on, and we have recommended to many people that are starting to date with an eye to potentially getting married at some point that they employ this “Question of the Day” game in their dating and courtship.
It worked wonders for us.