Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is he a potential husband?

"A man has been pursuing me for the past few weeks but I am so uncertain about him. We have very similar values, particularly about keeping God at the center of everything in our lives (as such, I am firstly continuing to pray about this, but I know that God also desires that we seek to develop wisdom). He is wonderfully communicative about his feelings of respect and admiration toward me, his plans to be able to provide for a family within two or three years (we are in college, I am 21 and he is 26), and the mistakes he has made in his past - major financial mistakes, the "partying" scene, cigarette smoking addiction - that he left totally behind him several years ago when he reconnected strongly with his faith.

I think the sources of my uncertainty are partly due to his reservedness and seriousness in social groups, unproven financial capabilities, and worries about potential consequences of his past. I am, by nature and personality, slow to develop strong feelings about any man. However, I wonder that because I desire marriage and motherhood, I might accept a proposal and make a poor match. Adding to that is the problem that men with such values are terribly scarce where I live. While I'm not strongly attracted to him, I am certainly not repulsed either. I may be letting feelings of being "entitled" to a "perfect" man with a "perfect" past prevent me from taking him or a future suitor seriously. Of course, genuine love grows beyond whatever initial "good chemistry" a couple has, but I wonder how I can be wise about whether I am laying a good foundation for that long-term marital love."

First, very few people have a perfect past these days. Many of us (including myself) made mistakes in our youth, and while I understand some things might sound like a strong put-off (such as a history of addiction, gambling, disastrous relationships), it's entirely possible to make a fresh start, provided that the past was really left behind. Second, even if you meet someone with an unblemished history, it does not make any guarantees for the future. Each man should be viewed as an individual, and each situation should be addressed separately.

You wrote, "the sources of my uncertainty are partly due to his reservedness and seriousness in social groups"; however, keep in mind that most of your life together with your future husband will be not in a social group, but in your family circle. Your one-on-one interaction is far more important than how he behaves when there's company around. Perhaps he is reserved and shy when there are people around, but are the two of you able to have open communication? I think that is the key question here.

As to financial capabilities, I think a man in his twenties simply might not have had time to make his way financially just yet. He might not have much to offer right now in terms of a steady income and possibility to provide for a family, yet it doesn't mean he won't be a good provider in the future. If you haven't already, I suggest you read an old post of mine titled Marriage and Money, where I addressed the issue of being courted by someone who doesn't have a lot of money:

Instead of asking yourself, "how much does this man earn and will it be enough for both of us and the children too?", ask the following questions: is he hardworking and reliable? Is he steady, trustworthy, responsible, and careful in his financial decisions? Does he tend to spend a lot of money on nothings? And most importantly, does he see himself as the provider for his future wife and children, or does he expect his wife to pull an equal share of the financial burden, if not more?

You said you are slow to develop strong feelings, and I think this actually gives you an advantage, because it means you are not driven by the "chemistry", which can be misleading and plays a big part in the ridiculously high divorce rates today. I think it's normal not have a very high level of physical attraction towards a man who has been courting you for only a few weeks (as you describe). If, as you say, he is not repulsive to you, the level of attraction might grow as the courtship develops.

When I went on a first date with my husband, I did not feel terribly attracted to him, though I definitely thought he was good-looking. In fact I felt pretty neutral about him for our first few dates, and I knew it's normal, because we refrained from any physical contact (which plays a big part in starting or stopping the so-called "chemistry"). I didn't really fall in love with him until after we were married, and when it happened, it was based on things like mutual commitment, support, trust and respect.

Of course, I would never presume to tell you whether you should or should not marry this man - you obviously need to pray about it, and perhaps seek advice from more experienced people who know you (and ideally, him) better. But in my opinion, the potential is there, and the courtship can be given a chance.


Anna J said...

I felt little to no connection with my husband when I met him, and even after the first few dates. I was expecting to give him the "let's just be friends" talk, simply because we didn't have immediate chemistry. But it developed and soon we became inseparable! Sometimes, there is an insant "spark" or attraction to a person, but often, it takes time.

SarahF said...

Very sound advice, Anna.

Bonnie said...

very well said Anna! :-) Even though I'm not in that situation, it was good to read your perspective, and I agree with your ideas!

Persuaded said...

Very good advice Anna. In fact as I was reading through this gal's note, I was struck by several thoughts I wanted to share.. but you covered them all! How'd you manage to get so smart at such a young age??
Blessings to you on this fine morning, my dear♥

Paulina said...

Very well said. I've often wondered about this myself.

Anonymous said...

Look at the way the young man regards his own mother. Is he respectful and does he speak well of her? Try to observe how they interact with each other. If he is degrading, disrespectful, unkind, etc., do not think he will treat his future wife any differently. Obviously, this is in addition to all the things that you mentioned, Anna, but a very important consideration.
Mrs. L.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't presume to give this woman advice, I think matters of the heart are very, very complex. And so much luck is involved...

That said, she doesn't seem in the least enamored. I think some basic good chemistry needs to be there. Note I didn't say that fireworks are necessary; but some sexual tension/attraction should be evident. It's certainly not enough 'not to be repulsed'! And I don't think that has much to do with whether or not a couple is getting physical; on the contrary, chemistry often builds up more when a couple abstains.

I agree that the past can often be overlooked, but I would not totally ignore it. In no way would I go near anyone with a gambling past, for instance. It is just far too dangerous, too many men slip back into it in a moment of weakness. Likewise, I can understand if a man has had many girlfriends, but I would be far less forgiving if he treated them like dirt. Some things are just not good signs of character. Habits can be changed, character runs deeper.

I don't think it's necessary to be head over heels when one marries. Love can grow. But it's a gamble. You really have to assess the potential of each match.

Moreover, let's be practical, each of us has to make compromises. We are not all beautiful, or witty, or intellectual, or wealthy.....and the less we have to offer 'objectively', the harder it is to find someone. Compromises are always made, although usually we do them subconsciously, choosing the type of person we think we have a chance with.

Only the young woman in question can assess whether she is compromising too much. It is such a difficult thing to do - so many risks. One can end up with the wrong man, or one can be too critical and end up with no one at all.

Anonymous said...

He sounds like a fabulous guy. Snap him up while you can!
He has obviously made a major turn around that can be seen clearly in his life.
You are blessed to find such a jem.

JMS said...

Anna, I think your advice regarding the young man's financial prospects is spot on. However, I'm very concerned about the reservations the young woman has about him. I believe that if she does not overcome them soon, she should not marry him.

I was in a relationship with a man who treated me very well. He was generous, funny, intelligent, and had an excellent relationship with his parents. All great qualities, right? But I was never really very attracted to him, and I had a number of reservations about his past, his character, and his priorities that I could not overcome. If I had married him, I would be absolutely miserable now. I say that with certainty and with no exaggeration.

I am now married to a wonderful (but imperfect!) man, the kind I always hoped I'd meet but did not really believe I ever would. Our relationship got off to a difficult start, but I never questioned whether I was attracted to him or whether he was the right kind of person for me. It was just obvious. We will soon celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and I could not be happier with him.

I know how difficult it is to have faith that the right man will come along, and the young woman is right--men with good values seem few and far between. But they do exist, and every day, I think about how lucky I am to have met my husband--and how glad I am that I did not settle.

Jenny P. said...

I actually spent the first week after meeting my now-husband trying to avoid him -- he intimidated me and I had my eyes on someone else. But he was patient and persistent, and now we've been married for a fabulous 15 months with many more to come!

While initial feelings feel good, they shouldn't be the entire foundation of a relationship. Do you respect him? Do you enjoy spending time with him? These questions should guide you more than pure feelings.

Pendragon said...

This young woman mentions that men who share her values are in short supply where she lives. She might want to consider moving or finding some other way to mingle with men who share her belief system. (Traveling to attend conferences with like-minded people might be a good start.) Marrying the first suitable man who comes along could be a recipe for life-long unhappiness.

Most men and women, at least most people I know, want to pair up with someone, usually in marriage. As a married person myself, I respect that. But I think it is worth envisioning and planning for a life without marriage, adopting other goals instead. That way, you can afford to be choosey about whom you date and marry. You don't have to settle and you don't have to marry unless and until you come across the person who is right for you.

messy bessy said...

I agree with both JMS and Pendragon. I was a young woman who had really felt at a loss -- having been off the right path for years and returning to the Lord I was trying to find young men who shared my urgent desire to be right with Him.

And I did in fact consider a guy who had all the earmarks of a great husband. But there just was some kind of lack there; I'd never suggest someone get married because of "chemistry," but if there is actually a lack, then you need to tread very very cautiously.

The young woman will, in her heart, with prayer, find the right answer about the current young man. But my advice (and I did find the guy with a lot of weirdness in his past and plenty of faults but who was perfect for me, 14 years ago) is to simply work on building a friendship. Since a husband is, first of all, a friend (although much more, too) the man she should consider for marriage would be the one of whom she can say, "Wow. What a great guy. He's just so kind, and dependable, and fun to be around. He's got my values and he's authentic. What a neat person."

It seems to me that that would the base, and then if there's anything more brewing, it will be more evident. But Pendragon is right -- the more she can relate to him just person to person, without the stress of already trying to see whether marriage is in the cards, the clearer her picture will likely become.

mother in israel said...

I think it's too soon for her to decide. Usually (but not always) neutral feelings start to head in one direction or the other. If they stay neutral, she should probably say no.

Buffy said...

I just wanted to add something to the good advice already posted here. I have been reading Leslie Ludy's books about redefining femininity and girlhood, and what she recommends it to create a solid friendship over several months (if not years) with any man before moving onto romance. In this way you both get to know each other really well before becoming physically involved or feeling you have to "commit" to a romantic situation.