My husband and I did not date before we were married. In fact, the afternoon I suspected he was about to ask me to dinner — I’d thought he might like me — he asked me this: “Would you consider drinking the covenant cup of marriage with me?”
As he loves to tell, I spun around on one foot — a full 360 — and asked him, “What does THAT mean?”
It was pretty simple, really. Instead of spending time “dating,” we either were going to spend time together with the goal of marriage or we were not. I know this seems strange, what with all the “dating” American people do today. But if you think about it, it’s brilliant. And, frankly, modern-day “dating” is correlated with a reported 40 percent to 50 percent of all U.S. marriages ending in divorce, so I’m not impressed with it.
Rather than spending time, money and — more importantly — precious and intimate feelings and sexual relations “dating” too see if we WANTED to get married, we would do it the other way around.
We would make the commitment first and build our time together around that.
Admittedly, we were both older and had had our slew of failed “dating” relationships. I can count up a few broken hearts — mine, I mean — over the years, and they were excruciating. Never doing that again, I had decided. Plus, being older, we had become more clear what we wanted and needed in a mate and what would, ultimately, sustain a relationship.
And let me be the one to break it to you if no one has: Romance and lust — sometimes called “love” or “chemistry” — do not sustain marriages. The far-less-sexy factors of commitment and self-sacrifice do.
ONCE HE ASKED ME that question — would I consider marriage — he made a true proposal. He wrote up what he would offer me as a husband, what I could expect from a life with him.
Consider this for a minute: “Will you marry me?” is not a proposal. It’s just a question. So I guess you could say he “popped the question” THEN made his proposal.
We sat down over coffee and with a trusted elder family member, one who could be objective where I and my husband could not be. We talked over what marriage meant to each of us — comparing notes — and what we could expect. We even talked about some of the real nitty-gritty stuff, the stuff that weighs down marriages after the wedding, like what house rules might be. I had a no-dogs-in-the-house policy, for one, and toilet-paper rolls really should be placed with the paper coming OVER, not under.
In our negotiations, of course I had an extensive and bulleted list of topics. My husband, a more random thinker, had eloquently written paragraphs.
Does it sound so terribly unromantic? Devoid of “feelings?” Ah, but no. That’s the thing. My husband was wooing me the whole time, just not with candy or flowers or otherwise thrilling dates or sex. He had won me earlier, when we were but friends, with demonstrations of his character. With his proposal, he romanced me with his commitment to offer me his life and his love. When we negotiated — and I definitely think of it as “negotiation” — about things like how we would raise our children, it struck a chord so much deeper than any aspect of any dating relationship ever had.
So much more romantic than flowers or sex.
And you’ve probably caught on we saved all physical relations for after the wedding? And I mean all. Our first kiss was right after our wedding ceremony and in private. It just seemed prudent to do save it all, what with our track records and knowing that “chemistry” could derail us pretty quickly with its enticing and blinding heat.
So many dating relationships end after the initial “fire” dies out, a fire I’ve become convinced is best kindled with the fuel of forever commitment.
And no, we lacked nothing in that area after we were married. It’s a misnomer to say you have to test drive the car, so to speak, before you buy it.