The Thinking 

Hoping for Early Marriage

October 9, 2012


AIDAN writes:

Hello, my name is Aidan and I am 18 years old. I recently started to read this blog and I must admit it’s amazing and relieving to have people to agree with and be open with. Most of the time, I would have to hold my tongue not only to be courteous but to keep from being hated/resented for what I think. I get this wonderful feeling when I read this blog. I have a few questions if that’s alright with you.

First one is, I’ve been dating this girl who is from a Catholic family but they aren’t exactly the best Catholics. Her father isn’t Catholic at all; her mother is a bit liberal. I find it very hard to talk about these kinds of things with my friend because I don’t want to upset her or hurt her feelings or beliefs. Sometimes I know I should, but I hate seeing her hurt if I can help it. So I was wondering if you had any ideas that I could try to help her become a better Catholic and better suited for motherhood. I know it’s a little ahead for me to be thinking this way but she is about to go to one of the most liberal colleges in the nation and I fear it’s going to change be her for the worst. I would love to hear your input and can’t wait to hear back from you.

By the way, I’m hoping to get married younger than most people do. I don’t want to wait a super long time to get married. By 26, I want to be married and at least have a kid or two.

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing. And thank you for your nice comments about this site.

You are wise to care so much about your friend’s beliefs and attitudes. And, judging from your words, you are a kind and sensitive person, especially in your desire not to offend her.

But you probably shouldn’t be dating this friend if she does not share your basic desire to be married to someone in the next five years or so and if it seems her beliefs are vastly different from yours. I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend any time talking with her, but not in a dating relationship. I realize you like her very much and she seems everything right now, but you’re looking for a woman to marry, and you’re not sure she’ll be ready for that any time soon. You also need to be wary and establish some distance because of what she’ll learn at school. Truthfully, I’m not sure you can counter the pervasive cultural messages against early marriage, domesticity and self-sacrifice. You’re one person against an entire institutional edifice.

The time you spend together creates a bond that is difficult to break. I think you should spend less time trying to persuade her of your beliefs and more time looking for someone who shares them. Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue to get to know her. But some distance between you is important.

You need to establish a pattern of being in charge of certain things in a relationship if it is to succeed. If she loves you, she will respect your principles and be willing to give up some benefits for you. You must lead the way.

“Love,” as Thomas Aquinas said, “is the desire to sacrifice oneself for another person.” You are looking for love and if another person does not have that sacrificial understanding, there may not be anything you can do to help her acquire it.

—– Comments ——

Natalie writes:

I think this is all true, but since you really do like this girl here are a few questions I would ask her.

1. Why did you pick this school?

2. What do hope to learn here?

3. How will this help you prepare for the future?

4. Given the above when do you see marriage fitting into your timeline?

5. Also given the above, how do you plan to maintain/grow your faith during your college years?

You might soon learn that she’s really hyped to be attending a “progressive” school that’s on the “cutting edge” of women’s studies, or you may learn that her mom picked this school out, that she’s interested in early childhood education, and that through dating you she’s become more interested in getting married and raising a Christian family. If you’ve got an ounce of game I’d consider using it to bring her into parish life and establish an alternate set of values for her to follow. Depending on how she feels about her family values it may or may not be that hard. I’d also start gently giving her opportunities to express dissatisfaction with her parent’s religious practices and lifestyle. It could be as simple as responding with a “That’s interesting, because in my house we’ve always…..” See what she says.

I hope things work out well for you.

Terry Morris writes:

Aidan refers to his desire to have “at least a kid or two.” I suggest he refer to them as “children.” This kind of language will set the tone for a proper family relationship, and will also be helpful, if properly understood, in finding a suitable young woman for Aidan.

Mary writes:

Aiden wrote: “So I was wondering if you had any ideas that I could try to help her become a better Catholic and better suited for motherhood.”

Since the Mass is the center point of Catholicism, maybe they could attend Mass together at the least liberal, most traditional parish they can find, and discuss and learn together about the place the Mass has in Catholic life and Catholic family life in turn. Do breakfast afterward, talk about the sermon etc.

He should also pray for her, not for his own will to be done but for God’s will to be done in this situation, and prayers for her to stay strong during the challenging college years. If she is really going to an extremely liberal college she will need prayers.

Laura writes:

Both good ideas.

When Aiden first wrote to me, I thought of all the things he might say to his friend to counter the feminist messages she will be learning at school and that she has already taken in. The problem is, if they are already going steady, to use an old-fashioned phrase, she may sense, for good reason, that she can hold onto certain ideas and that he can hold onto certain ideas but that they can still be romantically involved. In other words, she may view these as interesting intellectual differences, but not the heart of their relationship.

In the Henry James novel The Bostonians, Basil Ransom does succeed in winning Verena over despite her feminist ideas. But he never fully persuades her intellectually. In the end, he essentially says, if you want me, you must accept these ideas. And it’s all a question of marriage. They never are a couple until they resolve these differences. I recommend the book to Aiden.

Paul writes:

Aidan is a sensitive young man but needs to learn when to mind his own business. He gives no indication he is in love with this woman or is thinking of asking her to marry him. [Laura writes: Yes, he does. Why else would he want her to embrace motherhood and be concerned about her family? He obviously likes her very much.] To the contrary, he speaks of being only eighteen, of wanting to have children by twenty-six, and of the woman about to leave him for four years; this indicates he does not think the woman is marriage material. Therefore, she is just a friend. Unless his friend asks, the only way he can help her become a better Catholic is to lead by example.

This advice could seem blunt, but it is not meant to hurt. It is based on experience.

I recall many years ago being a Catholic seventeen-year-old and “in love” with a wonderful Catholic girl. I had become so bored with Mass by then that I used to drive her to Mass and wait for her in my car smoking (which I quit many years ago). She never tried hard to talk me out of neglecting Mass because she knew I simply would have continued to smile and say, “Yeah I know I should,” which is probably exactly what I did. Except possibly for minor things, I don’t recall us trying significantly to talk one another out of anything, not that Mass is a minor thing. I admired her fortitude though, which shows how well a good example is remembered.

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