Monday, June 2, 2014

Waiting for the perfect moment

I came across this spot-on article today. Do you know what it's like when you've been thinking something for a long time, and then you read somebody else's very accurate summary of exactly what you meant to say? Well, that's what I felt as I was reading. I wish each and every one of my single friends could read what this man writes.

There can be, and are, many arguments to justify the trend of late singleness. "We are all individuals and cannot be shaped into one mold"; "early marriage is not for everybody"; "we need to mature as individuals"; "G-d has a special plan for each and every one of us" - all of which is true, but still there is no denying that people today are getting married far later than 25 years ago, or that extended singleness comes with a heavy price. 

One tendency I noticed people have is to wait until everything falls into place. Until we get the job of our dreams, or we are done with our exams, or life is less busy. This isn't only true about meeting people or getting married, by the way. Things are much the same with having a child or starting a big important project. We tend to delay until circumstances are "perfect"... and then (hopefully) one day we realize that time is slipping by and we plunge in and do what must be done... in still-imperfect circumstances. So what have we gained by waiting?

My husband and I got married just four months after our first date. We were planning a wedding as I was struggling to complete my hospital internship. Was it a perfect time? No. But we could have continued seeing each other for a year and it still wouldn't be a perfect time, because no doubt something else would come up to make life busy and stressful.

Did I get the perfect husband? Did he get the perfect wife? Did we even know each other very well before getting married? No; not in the sense we got to know each other later, living through ups and downs, having children, moving from house to house, facing periods of unemployment... we could have dated for years and it still wouldn't be like getting to know each other in the course of marriage, after commitment had been made. Of course there are some red flags you can see while you are dating a person, but in my opinion the excessively prolonged dating period which is now so common, or the custom of living together before marriage, are no guarantee of happiness or divorce-proof a subsequent marriage. Quite the contrary - such practices only reinforce fear of commitment and set us up for failure.

Not long ago I've read an article by one quite well-known rabbi (unfortunately, his name eludes me right now), directed at young men. He wrote that, though there have of course been very great and holy men who had married late, his general advice is to lower our financial expectations and get married young. Why? According to him, "youth has both excitement and confidence, which are good for starting and building a marriage. A young man is more likely to approve of a young woman he meets, without focusing on blemishes [both physical and spiritual]. He is less likely to fear failure, or to wonder whether he is mistaken in his choice. As people grow old, all of this becomes more difficult."

What does he mean? As we get older, we become more set in our ways, more critical, more skeptical, more cautious and less flexible. When a man gets older, he is more likely to marry an older woman as well. By this time, he has his own baggage and she has hers. Our fears and doubts are not overcome as we age, because nobody can promise us everything will work out well, no matter how well-prepared we are. In addition, the pool of singles has somewhat thinned out by a certain time, which creates further difficulty. 

What about this nagging "am I making the right choice?" - well, if you are reasonably compatible, and reasonably attracted to one another (you don't necessarily need butterflies in your stomach, but of course it won't do if you are physically repulsed), it is perfectly alright to proceed in good faith. There are many, many stories of good marriages which started very prosaically as good friendships; and also stories of great love that was gone very soon despite the two lovers feeling certain, at one point, that they were soul mates. 

You can be wise, you can be cautious, you can be prepared. But ultimately, getting married means taking a plunge. Of course, once you are married, it doesn't mean that your fate is sealed. You have a very large measure of control over whether your marriage will be a good one or not. But that is probably a subject for some other day. 


Lori Alexander said...

I loved that article you linked to. I wrote a post about it also! I would have loved all my children marrying young but they didn't find anyone they wanted to marry until they were all in their mid to late 20s. However, they all found wonderful spouses since they all diligently prayed for them {and so did we} for years prior to meeting them. I got married at 22 and have never had any regrets. I am loving growing old with one man.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I met and then 3 weeks later, were married. After almost 11 years of marriage we're STILL discovering things about each other that we never knew before!I don't think we would have ever gotten married if we'd waited until all our ducks were "in a row".


Leah Brand-Burks said...

I feel the most important aspect in this getting married younger idea is the support of family and friends. All too often (in the US at least) if someone under the age of 21 claims they want to marry someone, or if they have dated less than a year, all family and friends reply with is "OH you aren't ready! You're too young! Live your life first! Etc, etc" We should trust men and women more with the direction of their own lives, and if they do marry young or quickly, support the marriage wholeheartedly! That itself will likely lead to a lasting, happy marriage, if the family and friends are cheering for and helping the young couple, instead of questioning and being skeptical all the time.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Leah, you are absolutely right, and here we are dealing with something that is already part of a social mindset, so to speak.

Carrie LeighAnna said...

Spot on! Unfortunately, I married largely out of insecurity and believing that no one else would want me (I was 20 years old). It wasn't the foundation of my decision, but it greatly influenced it. Luckily, I was stable enough that I chose a good, faithful man and we've had a blessed marriage because of working hard to maintain harmony and friendship.

Princess Lea said...

I must say this post stung a little because once again, there is that flat statement that if you are single by such and such an age, it is because you sent perfectly nice guys packing.

I don't think anyone here will believe me, but that is often not the case, at least it isn't for me nor a number of my friends.

I have been trying. I have been ridiculously tolerant. But I am still single. I am not waiting for a better time. I thought I was going to be married at 21 like the rest of the frum population, and I'm not.

Yes, there are singles who are overly persnickety, but that is not the singles world as a whole. We are composed of individuals (as the married world is), with our each individual personality, goals, and faith.

Hashem did not send me the right one yet. I'm going to say it again. I am happy for you that He saw fit to send yours at an earlier time. But I would think you could grant us a little more understanding.

Lady Anne said...

For what it's worth, my dad always said the secret to a good marriage was not always *finding* the right person, but *being* the right person.

MarkyMark said...

Mrs. Anna,

Hi, how are you? Long time no comment; long time no visit, either.

Anyway, a young woman wrote me asking advice in finding a good guy. I told her to focus on BEING the right person vs. finding the right person. I then told her to come here, read what you have to say, and to contact you. THIS post is exactly why! This here is good stuff, Ma'am.

BTW, what you say about it never being the right time, the same truism could apply to other areas of endeavor. Here in the US, it's the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion that commenced the liberation of WWII Europe from Nazi Germany. The day they went, 6 June 1944, was far from ideal; that said, they went anyway.


Anonymous said...

Hubby and I were 18 and 20 when we married. Now, we had dated for 3 years, mostly because of our extremely young age (by today's standards, anyway). Yes, we are still learning about each other though we've been married for 28 years.

It's like playdough. When you take playdough out of two cans they can fit together easily and mold to each other. If you let them sit on the counter for a week and then try to put them together, you get a crumbly mess. Most of today's marriages are crumbly messes.

We should be prepping our children for earlier marriage. It prevents a lot of temptations and problems later on.

And speaking of early marriage, anyone know of a like minded young man ready for a sweet wife? I have a 22yo daughter who wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother but all the "men" around here are still little kids:-( How do you find a young adult ready for marriage a descent mate?

Mrs. Anna T said...

Princess Lea, I am very sorry if my post caused hurt feelings. It is not my object to criticize individual singles, or to imply I know the circumstances or destiny of each and every person. You expected to be married at 21; I expected to be married late, or not at all! In fact, when I was 15 I made a bet with my best friend that if I get married before 30, she gets a box of chocolates...

You cannot deny, however, that the social *trend* these days is leaning toward late singleness, and people are more and more reluctant to take the plunge.

I had a friend who had been dating someone for 7 years. He proposed. She was all in doubt - "is he the right person? Is it the right decision?" - well, if it's not, what are you doing with that person? Why are you wasting your life? Such ridiculously prolonged dating and such strong doubts about entering marriage would have seemed preposterous a 100 or even 50 years ago. People married young and were less prepared, but as a rule they stayed married more often and there's no indication they were less happy.

Mrs. Anna T said...

BettySue, perhaps your daughter should look at someone a little older than herself? Not by too much; for people in their twenties, a few years can make a big difference in maturity. I was 22 when I got married, but my husband was 27. From his account, there was no way he'd be ready for marriage at 22, although he admitted himself that getting married earlier would have spared him a lot of heartache.

Having said that, there are some very good men who marry very young. Not long ago we had the pleasure to meet a 23-year-old young man, a homeschool graduate by the way, who's married and has 3 children already, and has a respectable job and lives in his own home. Judging from his children's ages, I think he got married when he was about 18. It's really inspiring to meet this sort of people. Granted, he's much more mature than most young men.

Anonymous said...

My husband is 5 years older than me. When I was in High School I remember looking around at all the guys wondering if any of them would be The One (none were). And I remember thinking, "They're all such little BOYS! Where are the MEN?" Even after school all I could see were immature boys.
My husband was 25 when we got married and he was still a little immature. However, it only took a few years of marriage and a couple of kids to get him over the boy-hood hump. Even now he seems more a man than anyone else our age.

That's all to say, I agree with Mrs. Anna. Maybe Betty's daughter should look toward some of the older men as potential mates.


The Retro Kitchen said...

I agree with you, Kevin and I got married just over 5 months after the day we met. Fast forward 10 years and we have been through job loss, financial insecurities, illness, surgeries, a child, countless moves etc. It is the things that would break a couple apart that give you the most security as a couple if you choose to stay together and face the issues together as a team.