Life is full of twists and turns and some of them are only fully revealed in the rear view mirror, so to speak.
There was a time when I nearly married the "wrong" person. Friends and family tried to warn me. But what they didn't know at the time was that I was aware of more problems with the relationship than they were. In other words, while they thought they were pointing out things that I was blind to, I was actually concealing things from them that they were not privy to. And, for the most part, also concealing them from myself as much as I could.
But when you are in the wrong relationship, there are warning signs that you can't "stuff down" inside your psyche forever. In spite of everything, internal alarms will insist on going off from time to time. When they do, you need to pay attention. One of my alarms went something like this: you really don't love him.
I knew it was true but I would quickly convince myself that it wasn't.
Why did I even contemplate marrying someone I knew deep down that I really didn't love?
Several factors. One was my age. I was almost thirty and keenly aware of my "biological clock" ticking. I wanted a home and children and was afraid I would have neither.
A second factor was his children. He had two and I fell in love, not with him, but with them. They wanted a mother and with all my heart, I wanted to be their mother.
Another factor was security. Their dad had a steady income and was generous. Even more than that, for many years it had just been my mom and myself. So whenever the furnace went out, the grass needed mowing, the new curtains had to be put up, etc, I was the one to do it. I hated things like that. And then this generous, kind-hearted man came into my life, bringing two wonderful kids and suddenly, when something needed doing or fixing around the house, he was there at my side to help me.
It was heady stuff.
To add to these pluses, for the first time I was taken to nice restaurants regularly and also proposed to routinely. Twice I received a dozen roses, the second time with an engagement ring attached to the flowers. I had had a long term romance in the past, back in my college days - but never anything like this.
I vacillated back and forth in the relationship but finally, after 4 months I broke it off.
Not because of anything my friends or family said to me. Not because of warning signals that were going off occasionally from within. But because one day God made it plain to me that I could either marry this man and forfeit His plan for my life or I could stay in His will and break off the relationship. I could do either/or but I couldn't do both.
That was 29 years ago and I can still tell you where I was and how I got the message, so strong was the impression.
I was driving across the I-430 River Bridge during Spring break to visit a friend and as I got to the bridge I thought it would be a good time to pray out loud. Soooo... I did.
Nothing fancy - I just said, "God, please, I want to know..." and then I burst into tears. The next words out of my mouth were, "Why can't I marry him????"
I had lowered my defenses and in about two seconds, He somehow made it beyond clear to me that marriage to my friend was not His will for me. Clearly He was more interested in protecting me from this relationship than I had been interested in protecting myself.
These are some things that I learned from that time:
1. If someone pressures you to marry them early on, before you are ready, run. There's a reason for the pressure to marry yesterday (or to move in together or whatever) already.
2. Which brings me to the second point: many times the reason they pressure you to commit is because of yesterday. Because of failed relationships in the past or even failure to handle adversity well in the past. In other words, marry me before you find out I have a bad track record (that it's not all my ex's fault) or that I have a nasty temper or a tendency to be controlling, manipulative, etc.
3. The third thing I learned, and perhaps the most important was: if thoughts like, "I can live with this" or "I can make this work" or "I can make them happy even though... " or "It will be different after we are married" - if thoughts like these routinely surface, you need to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. It's been said over and over that things that bother you in dating will only get worse, not better, in marriage. It's been said so many times, in fact, that engaged couples often get tired of hearing it and disregard it as a worn-out platitude that doesn't apply to them.
It's been said so often because... it's true.
To disregard it is begging for trouble. In spades.
What happened when I broke off my engagement with my friend?
He wasn't my friend anymore.
He showed me a whole new side to his personality, one that in numerous weekly dates over a four-month period I had never seen before. He was going to kill himself and it was my fault. He would never go to church again and it was my fault. He was going to leave his kids and go to another state for one last look at the mountains before he did himself in. And it was all my fault.
How could I have missed all that while dating him?
I promise, he never showed me anything but generosity, kindness, and a positive outlook on life during the many dates and phone calls that we had. You can do that short term or as long as you have to until the ink is dry on the parchment; you can't, however, do it forever.
How could I have known that this was the opposite side of the coin when I didn't even realize the coin had another side to it?
Only God could.
Which leads me to the last point.
Marriage is rewarding but it is also unbelievably hard. Even in the best of circumstances.
If you are thinking about going into a long-term relationship without first having a strong relationship with God, I would encourage you to think again. Only God knows everything. About you. About your partner. About the future.
And sometimes He is more interested in our welfare than we ourselves are.
Even if the marriage is "right", I promise, over the years circumstances often won't be. Life is full of troubles. When you marry, you double the opportunities, not only for good things to come calling but also for bad things to come calling. There was a movie, Field of Dreams, years ago that said, "Build it and they will come." I'm saying, "Build a marriage and troubles will come." It's just a part of it, the bad comes right along with the good. And sometimes the bad can be incredibly bad, even when you're married to the right person.
Today I am so thankful. Thankful that God intervened in my life some 29 years ago and that I had the sense to listen and do the hard thing He called me to do. He knew the "right" person for me was just around the corner; that the children I wanted to mother would be mothered by someone else and turn out well; that my date would drop the pressure tactics when he saw they didn't work and go back to being a responsible dad again in a fairly short time.
God had a plan for all of us and I'm so thankful that when I was in my late twenties, I didn't just bull ahead and insist on having my own way. Now, at 58 years of age, I can testify that His way is better and I know I'm not alone in this.
I Samuel 15:22 - ... to obey is better than sacrifice..."
Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans that I have for you..."