To all the single ladies,
For Valentines Day let me offer a little advice on snagging yourself a top notch man.
- Be friends first. My husband and I were friends for eight years before we walked down the aisle. Four years before we dated, we cultivated shared interests, got to know our quirks and grew as people. This has made a huge difference in our marriage. We knew we liked each other’s company, so when the romance gets a little tired and worn and life gets busy, there is no fear and panic or looking for a way out. My hubs is basically the greatest guy I know and if he withdraws a little or is in a rut romantically, sure I don’t like it, but I know he will come back. He has proved his steadiness for eight years before we tied the knot. Now, we did not set out to be friends before starting something, but we both, providentially, set aside our attraction, to pursue college and the terrific group of friends from our InterVarsity group. I am so thankful we did not pursue romance when we met, me being 18 and him just beginning his walk with Jesus.
- Do not overlook his faults. You must be brutally honest with yourself about the man you are interested in. Do not justify bad behavior. No man is perfect, but in many failed marriages there were glaring red flags that one spouse ignored. I see it all the time as a divorce attorney. After you are married, you must accept and forgive those little irritants. But until you say “I do” keep your eyes wide open, because he is not going to change and become the man you want after you are married.
- Remember that you are marrying his family, too. A wise old lady once told me, “In laws relationships are always a source of conflict. Even the best in laws will drive you crazy sometimes.” So do not expect his mom or sister to become your best friend. But you need to know, assuming your guy has a relationship with his own family, that you can get along with them. If not, picture yourself tearing that guy you care about in half, because no matter how you manipulate, cajole and harass him, he will love his family and your demands on him to choose you alone will tear him apart (not to mention make you look cold and cruel). So figure out what you like about them (they DID raise the man you love) and focus on it, or let the guy go long before you get engaged.
- See how he reacts in difficult situations. When I married my husband I could not be completely sure how he would react in every situation life would bring us. But there are certain things to look for. How does he treat his mom? He will treat you much the same, girlfriends. Count on it. How does he react to a tough day at work? Anger? Drown it in alcohol? How long has he held a steady job? What is his reputation to work and among friends? Do friends walk all over him? Family? How does he react to kids? I was able to watch my future husband as he cared for his ailing father and see how he supported me as I cared for my dying mother. I watched how he handled my obnoxious kid brothers and played with my baby sisters and his nephews and nieces. I saw him set aside time, not only for me, but for his visiting relatives. I observed to see who he looked up to, his choice of friends and their choice of activities.
- Remember that sex clouds your judgment. Sex, in marriage, helps smooth over those rough spots. It gives you something to enjoy when you are having tough times elsewhere. It works well, too. But outside of marriage, it helps you overlook faults that should be carefully noted. It is the cause of lots of foolish decisions to marry men that were immature and unsafe. No sex before marriage equals no regrets and no mistakes.
- Be the kind of person someone would want to marry. It is one thing to be selective and careful; it is a whole other thing to nitpick men who are interested in you and be guilty of the same faults. Do you take care of yourself? Are you financially independent and debt free? Do you have healthy boundaries and relationships with your family? Are you carrying guilt and baggage that needs to be dealt with? Do you take responsibility for your mistakes and refuse to lay the blame on others? Do your friends reflect well on you? Do you need help dealing with anger, anxiety or stress? Have I done anything or read anything useful to prepare myself for marriage? Be the spouse that you want.
I have been blessed with the best of men, that funny, romantic, great provider with a great sense of work-life balance and nice set of pecs. But it was not luck. Though it was providential, I had to say “no thanks” to a couple of losers and a couple of really decent chaps I met along the way. I had to choose to hold out for God’s best and not give in to loneliness and fear. I had to be counter-culture and a bit of an odd-ball. I had to want a husband and future father of my children more than status, admiration and temporary relief from boredom or fear of being alone. But it has paid off a thousand times and I have no regrets.
Happy Valentines Day to the love of my life! You continue to delight and amaze me with your commitment, wisdom, love for me, our girls and this troubled world. Thank you for the fun and adventure so far and looking forward to much more life together. xoxox.