I recently had reason to be ashamed of myself. Very ashamed, in fact.
You know that place as a single woman where everyone is wondering why you’re smart and pretty and hardworking and altogether lovely, and yet you’re not married. There’s pressure from within and without. From your mum and her sisters, to your pastor and church members, everyone is trying to hook you up and just urging you to settle down (as if!). That’s where a friend of mine is right now.
Over the years, my role has been to remind her why it’s a bad idea to marry someone she isn’t attracted to emotionally and physically or someone who she knows deep inside isn’t right for her, just because of the pressure. She’s been more than fantastic about it, and I’m quite proud of her sense of self and her focus, but she’s human. Every once in a while, it gets to her, and I have to turn up the “voice of reason” volume just a little.
I didn’t realise the pressure was getting to me as well, until, not long ago, someone introduced her to this guy. She knew there was nothing there, I knew there was nothing there (when I met him my heart sank), but I started toying with the idea of maybe, you know, somehow, if… I basically settled on her behalf.
Thankfully, it was such a bad fit it couldn’t be forced, but I came away thinking, “What on earth came over you? How could you even have considered that she settle for this after all this time?”
I also wondered, if I who was not wearing the shoes could be so “tired” as to lower the bar like that, what about her? It can’t be easy.
Now that I’m back to my senses, I decided to write down the things we both need to remember should we ever find ourselves in such a situation again. Yes, I’m including myself, because I spend a lot of time encouraging and listening to the woes of women who married men they had no business marrying, and they aren’t even my friends. I. Don’t. Want.
If you’re pressured to “just” marry someone, remember that a spouse isn’t someone to “cope with”; being stuck in a bad marriage is dreadful and even more so when you kind of knew you shouldn’t have done it; life is still challenging for two people who are a perfect fit, how much more facing these with someone who’s all wrong for you; sex-as-duty for the rest of your life is depressing… I could go on and on.
So if a situation like that ever comes up again, I will:
1. Remind her of all the things she ever decided to “manage” when she couldn’t get what she wanted, and how she regretted not holding out. Like that apartment she rented years ago.
2. Tell her the story of another friend of mine who married a guy she knew she shouldn’t have married because she was “getting old”, and is now stuck in a miserable, depressing marriage with two children and no way out in sight, praying prayers that wouldn’t have been necessary had she not lowered her reasonable, not-too-much-to-ask-for standards.
3. Help her recall how happy and in love a couple whose wedding we both attended were and are, then recount the challenges life has thrown at them and how hard the road has been, and ask her to imagine that marriage without the love and synergy that has helped them pull through. (Someone would have run mad by now and it wouldn’t have been the man.)
4. Ask her to imagine being intimate with this person three/four times a week, and get really graphic. (Hopefully, this should produce an “eeew” effect strong enough to chase away thoughts of “managing” said guy.
5. Help her really visualise how she would feel if a guy were marrying her because he was out of options or time, and not because he wanted her in his life and by his side forever, to love and cherish. Why do that to someone else?
6. Remind her of the kind of marriage she’s envisioned.
Accepting the flaws of your beloved is not the same thing as settling. Nobody is perfect (certainly not you) and any happily married person can tell you their sweetheart came with his/her flaws and maybe even a major catch they hadn’t bargained for. The thing is, they still wanted him or her the way they were, regardless of what anyone else thought. They chose, and have continued to choose that person. They didn’t just decide to make do with the person because they were getting old or their mum was disturbing them or everyone in their circle was married.
Have you ever been tempted to “just marry” someone? How have you handled the pressure?