This article was originally written for my weekly Facebook articles feature, called Sunday Notes, on Sunday 28 November 2010
Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding.For her proceeds are better than the profits of silverAnd her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,In her left hand riches and honour.
Her ways are ways of pleasantnessAnd all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of herAnd happy are all who retain her.
OK, so it’s back to my favourite topic for this note then!
I’d like to say “thank you” to everyone who encouraged me to continue writing these notes on relationships. I have to say it was not exactly a deafening chorus of every one of my Facebook friends, but it was enough to let me know that at least some people appreciate my thoughts. Some of these messages were very, very encouraging, and I am genuinely grateful, and I thank you.
I’ve also been thinking that in a way I have been guilty of hijacking the Bible for the sake of saying what I want to say (yes, I’ve also been guilty of brazenly using these notes to communicate completely unsubtle messages to certain people – but I’m not apologising for that!). What I mean is that this was not the original intention of these notes, to present my own viewpoint, but rather to objectively present the Bible, and what it says – specifically about Jesus. However, I do also quite like sharing my own ideas about things – there has after all got to be a reason why I am so opinionated – so I was thinking that I could perhaps do both – leave the Sunday notes for the Bible, presenting it openly so people can see what it says, and then maybe having an opinion piece during the week.
I was hoping to start this past week, but it did not really happen, and as I’ve been frankly itching to get back to what I spend so much time thinking about, I thought that I would really love to talk about the relationships today, then possibly again during the week.
So going back to where I left off (at this juncture I would just like to digress horribly by saying that, after moaning about the snow all week, I have naturally got a corner of my curtain drawn back so that I can watch it (that is the snow, not the curtain,) as it falls quietly and magically down…) – but anyway (!), where I left off on the topic of relationships was considering the idea of being a student of marriage. If anyone has not already guessed, while I have been thinking about these issues for many years, it’s not as if I have a clear cut map or progression in my mind about these issues, or about the notes on relationships. Rather I am very much still grappling with these issues, working them out as I go along, and sometimes one week’s note will build on the previous week’s note.
Who, after all, really wants to become an expert on relationships through experience? I don’t want to get it right on my 50th attempt at a relationship, but rather on my first, and I am hoping and praying that I will at least get married, but I’m also hoping that this will be just the once – I guess everyone hopes this for themselves. So in all, I guess that it makes sense that this is one topic that you could keep adding to and building on, possibly never saying conclusively that I understand it all.
So then, on being a student of marriage, I think from my perspective or what I’ve noticed since I got interested in this topic, is that the same issues or complaints tend to recur in marriages. I refuse to accept that having an excellent marriage is simply a matter of luck, I believe that there HAVE to be wise and knowledgeable steps that you could take to maximise your chances of marital success. By success I don’t just mean a marriage that manages to avoid break-up, but rather one that is a true union built and nurtured on love, where the parties grow stronger and stronger together but also manage to celebrate the individuality of each spouse. Because I am also unashamedly the world’s most romantic feminist, I am also dreaming of oodles of romance, defined not by gifts given, but by time spent together, dreams shared – I hope someone is listening. ( In this I am so different from one of my close female relatives, also single, who always jokes “I can hold my own hand, as long as he brings in the….”. )
I know that there are many things you could do to work on your marriage once you are married. But in a way, once you are married, you have to work with what you’ve already got, you are stuck with the choice that you have already made. If many couples tend to get together the same way, experience similar journeys towards marriage, then the same issues within marriage, why wait for your eyes to be opened within marriage? Why not open them as wide as you can beforehand so that you can do your best to choose someone that will still make you smile with joy and gratitude X years later? So yes, marriage is a strong place to work from to strengthen your marriage. But I believe that the time prior to marriage is stronger still as you can walk away, up until you say “I do” you are not stuck. This is why I encourage others who are single as I am – be a student of marriage. Learn all you can, observe all you can, contemplate all you can before making your own choice. You don’t have to take my own advice; you will probably see me changing my mind countless times in the course of writing these notes. But at least think about it for yourself. You could have 50 years of brave smiles ahead of you, or 50 years of genuine joy – and there’s so much you could do to influence that (it’s really thick now by the way – literally as big as feathers!).
So I will leave you with this one thought – instead of trying to imagine what someone would look like within marriage, (as I tend to try to do – what will he be like? How might he change?) why not find someone that you really admire as a husband, wife, etc, and try to imagine what they would have been like while single? When it comes to single guys, I have to admit that despite all my preaching, my head tends to get turned very easily by charm and charisma and most of all, so predictably, a cute smile. However, this almost never happens when I am considering guys that are already married. Maybe because I don’t sit around assessing if I could fall in love with them. I have no qualms in assessing (in my own mind, of course!) husbands as ok, good, better, or excellent. And when I was trying the exercise recently, I realised that none of these husbands that I deeply admire as husbands are that “cool”. In fact, some of them are kinda dorky, bumbling… For the ones that could be termed “cool” I almost always pity their wives (perhaps as much as they might pity me…). For the husbands that I think are excellent, character is always pre-eminent. And they are genuinely humble. And yet look how I always let my head be turned just because someone looks good. So, this suggests to me that to find someone I will really admire as my own husband and deeply respect, I’ve got to be looking for someone who truly puts a premium on excellent character. Maybe his clothes may not always match, or he may speak English with a strong accent that is not as attractive as, for instance, a Mediterranean accent. However, I’m thinking that in the long run I may not be lookng at that.