MASSIVE DISCLAIMER: I have zero experience with being married or proposing marriage to a person, so this is just an educated guess.
I’ve thought a fair bit about marriage recently. Among other things, maybe it’s the prevalence of weddings this time of year that has my mind going in that direction. Seriously. Everyone is getting hitched right now.
There’s something that occurred to me about marriage itself and how humans approach it.
I think a lot of us believe we’ll get around to getting married when we find the kind of person who would justify a life-long commitment. That person would have to be as strong if not stronger than us: more virtuous, more intelligent, more creative, etc. Of we find the opposite is true of a person, we drop them like they’re red hot.
Don’t get me wrong – I have and expect high moral and creative/productive standards of my future spouse. But waiting on someone who can do and be what you cannot is probably an unrealistic standard.
You are going to be finding out things about your partner and your partner’s character for years. If you think you have them figured out (for good or for worse) you are probably wrong. Your partner will also change in big ways over a lifetime of marriage. You don’t know how that will make you feel about your decision to marry them.
If your goal is walking away at the end of life having kept a marriage commitment, making your faithfulness dependent on the awesomeness of the other person is mostly a bad idea.
So what’s the point?
I think we need to change how we frame the commitment that is a marriage. Yes, you are making a commitment to another person, but you are first and foremost making a commitment to yourself.
You are promising that you will be the kind of person who stays. You will be the kind of person who keeps promises, who challenges your partner to grow, who holds your partner accountable, who opens himself/herself to the same. You are committing to getting to know one person fully and not reject them for it. To do that, you must willingly shoulder all the unknown and submerged depths of your partner. You have to have a commitment to commitment, and (oddly enough) not just to the other person.
Ultimately, the key factor in a marriage may not so much be the qualities of the other person, but a quality within yourself. We have to be the justification for a life-long commitment. Something that long and hard must be intrinsically motivated.
I don’t think I’m ready yet.