Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Being Ready for Marriage...

My brain has been on overload lately.  Between the HHS mandate and the Komen debacle it's been hard to think of anything else.  And so I sit down to type out a new blog, and stare blankly at the computer screen for half an hour and finally opt to post cute pictures of the girls or a cute story, because my brain is so full that I can't seem to get a coherent thought to transmit from my brain to my typing finger tips.

I even tried to go back and find something old that I could repost, but nothing looked vaguely appropriate, maybe because I couldn't figure out what I was looking for to begin with.

One idea for a post has been rolling around in my head these past few days, as we led up to Valentine's Day, and perhaps it will lead somewhere coherent by the time I've finished writing.  Here goes!

Occasionally I'll hear people talk about a couple who's just become engaged, with a sort of horrified tone because it's so clear to everyone around them that they're "just not ready" to get married.  "What do I say?"  I've heard asked (particularly on various forums).  "Congratulations just doesn't seem right!"

And those words always take me back to my own engagement six years ago and I think about how not ready I was, from an outsiders perspective (or really any practical perspective!) and then I think of how the last six years have unfolded.

Six years ago I hadn't gone to church regularly for years.  I had thought I was agnostic for a while, and then went through a phase, that lasted for a couple years, where I read everything I could find about Buddhism.  While I had passed through those two phases, I hadn't yet rediscovered any sort of faith that would ground me, or transform my life.  Any prayers I sent up felt half hearted and brittle.  I was irresponsible with my spending and had a ton of credit card debt, my poor roommate was tortured by my seeming inability to not be a slob, and while it was true that I was very much in love I was also pretty self centered.

Paul and I had been dating for 4 1/2 months when he proposed.  I said yes instantly.  And I know that plenty of the people who knew us, thought that we were insane.  Some couldn't manage to say congratulations or even pretend to be happy.  Others, like a close friend who ended up being my maid-of-honor, trusted my judgement, met Paul and loved him, and was completely supportive.  But the majority seemed pretty sure that the marriage wouldn't work.  After all.  They looked at us and saw that we:  "Just weren't ready."  I had one, not so well meaning person, say that if I got married I would just be on my way to being the next "ex-mrs. so and so..."

Sometimes I wonder if marriage, like parenting, can feel, especially in today's world, like something that you're never really ready for.  I mean, if you wait until you're really ready, will that magic day ever arrive?  Some people are certainly more ready than we were...

And at the time I certainly felt ready.

You see, there was one thing I knew without a doubt.  I'd met the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  He felt the same way.  I trusted that somehow, the rest of the details would work themselves out.

Looking back on the girl I was six years ago, the logical part of my brain would have to have agreed with the naysayers.  I was in love, but immature and irresponsible.  I was that girl living in the SF Bay with torn jeans and a neck tattoo (sometimes I wish I could smack my then self upside the head and say "a neck tattoo!  Seriously!  What were you thinking?!?!?!?").

How could it possibly work?

Fast forward six years.  We married a year to the day after we went on our first date.  I converted to Catholicism, initially beginning the process because I wanted to attend the same Church as my husband, but somewhere along the way finding amazing truths that answered the questions that had begun my stint as an agnostic my sophomore year in college.

I was confirmed and received first communion the Easter after we married (coming up on five years this Easter Vigil) and began going to confession regularly.  We attended Mass every Sunday and watched as our lives were transformed.

The grace of the sacraments flooded into our lives.  It happened so quickly, and so dramatically, that it's hard to pick out exact moments when things began to change.  I know that praying the rosary was a huge part of my conversion.  We learned about and began following the Church's teaching on contraception.  And we both read everything we could about our faith.

It wasn't easy, because marriage, especially starting out, isn't meant to be easy.  For those of us who are called to marriage as a vocation, it's meant to be our path towards God.  And our path towards God, regardless of our vocation, is many things, but easy isn't generally one of them.  We aren't drawn towards holiness by gliding through life without a care.

As husband and wife we're meant to help each other, and our children, towards God.  And so, with baby steps, carried along by grace, I began to "grow up."  Without that grace, the naysayers probably would have been right.  With grace, showered in prayer from our new parish, our lives were transformed.

We still have a long way to go.  After all the path to holiness is never easy.  But I'm so glad that I listened to the tiny voice in my heart that said that this was the right path for us and that he was the man I was supposed to marry.  It has transformed us both in ways I never could have imagined.  And I have a feeling that, without the sacramental grace I've received since we married, I likely still wouldn't "be ready" and would probably hardly be much more "grown up" than I was six years ago.

So if you've ever wondered what to say to someone who is getting married, who you believe shouldn't be... "congratulations" is a good place to start (if your really, really close to the person... like a parent or a best friend... you can broach concerns... but for the most part, those who aren't very, very close to a person should stick to this answer).  And after that, pray for them.  Pray long and hard.  Ask God to shower his graces down upon their hearts.  Maybe they aren't ready.  But maybe he will take the vocation that they've stumbled into and turn it into something amazing.


  1. I agree, and I tend to think way too many people wait way too long to get married or have kids. One thing I've observed, is that the more time one spends as a single (not responsible for anyone else, not living with anyone else, not needing to make compromise, etc.) adult, the harder it is for them to adjust to married life and even harder to adjust to having children. I think spending too much time living alone (and being single) tends to make people more "selfish" in that they don't have to worry about anyone but their self.

    We got engaged after only knowing each other for 6 months (and only dating for about 3), and were married 10 months after that. I do think marriage and having kids is one of those things that if you wait until you are ready, it never happens. Not that people should just jump in heedlessly, as marriage is until death, but I think waiting too long is also detrimental.

    I used to feel strongly that one should wait for marriage until they are all finished with their schooling, but then realized that people can change careers all the time or decide to go back to school after having a career (as my husband did) so it really doesn't matter, so now I just think people should get married as soon as they find the right person. LOL

  2. Lovely post.

    But the thought of Cam with a neck tattoo... :)


  3. Haha. I'm with you on that we. We technically got engaged on our first date. Yes, we had talked online and through text messages before we met in person. I was only 21. Everyone said for us not to get married. In fact, the only people who supported us were his sisters.

    Four years later (yes, I know that's not considered that long) we still love each other so much. I feel that we knew we were going to get married. There was no reason for us to wait some arbitrary time just to make everyone else happy. One of my friends actually told me not to because we hadn't lived together yet. OK, sure.

  4. This was a great post! I had no idea you were such a recent convert.

    I love your advice in the end. The 22 year old me was certainly not ready to get married and I know my family didn't approve, but they stuck by us and prayed for us. 21 years and 7 children later, we are still fumbling our way toward holiness :)

  5. Such a lovely story!

    I didn't marry early, I was too gun-shy. It took a few years of dating and months of living with my now-husband (yes, naughty me, I know) before I realized that this was truly the right thing and that he was safe for me to live with. There was also a LOT of therapy in there...

    Sadly, the most common reaction when someone announces an engagement after a short time tends to be "so, when's the baby due?". Not that babies are horrible, of course--but the assumption that every short courtship/engagement equals a shotgun wedding is a little frustrating!

  6. Wonderful blog post! I met my husband at the end of August or Early September... we were talking marriage within two months. Being that I was in my mid-40's and he was 15 years older meant we both knew a lot about ourselves and we recognized how good we were together and how insanely nuts we were about each other from the first conversation. We got a marriage license in December but did Christmas apart to test ourselves. The license was a test, if it freaked us out, then something was wrong. January we married, actually eloped and then had to set things right with the Church-- my bad, I knew better, but I'm not always a poster child for getting the details right up front. We will be having our second child today.

    Nobody is ever really ready. It can be difficult at any age. IN our case, hubby has some decidedly strong opinions that I find I agree with in theory but find very difficult to accommodate-- this is one of those things that make him an excellent influence on my growth in sanctity. I see some of his more rigid edges getting softer and I find some of my less admirable traits getting much needed pressure to improve. Never easy but so very welcome!

    Marriage is work and it is designed to help us grow in virtue together. How can anyone actually be ready for that? We just do it and trust God for the rest.

  7. Congratulations Ann!!!! Prayers too!!!!

  8. Sometimes you just know that the person is the one your going to marry after only a few weeks. My parents meet in February of 86, were engaged by May and married in august. With me being born the following May. This year they are going to celebrate 26 years of being happily married.


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!