Something commonplace in the modern dating culture is that you don’t have hard conversations early on. You have to get to know the person, but the way this is done is casually. Sex or no sex, you hang out with people, and any mention of what you expect long term in general is taken to mean you are clingy and already have a Pinterest wedding board with their name on. It’s all done very casually, and often people get to face the big issue when it’s too late. Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt allegedly broke up after 18 years together because one wanted children and the other didn’t. In their case alcoholism has made the circumstances more complicated, and maybe changed the desires or brought up things that wouldn’t have been possible…only they know the full truth. However, they are unlikely to be the only two to have split over something that could have been avoided. While divorce rates have been declining, 58% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce in the first 3 years (and 42% in the first 10). To counter as many of the issues that couple will face, top wedding magazines like The Knot have plenty of advice about the conversations you should have before you get married.
The thing is, looking at the list of things, “before you get married” sounds a bit too late. It is true that the average engagement lasts 20 months, and that’s plenty of time to discuss things and call off the engagement if necessary, but the average wait before getting engaged is 3 years…that’s a long time to spend with someone who may turn out to be not compatible on the non-negotiables. Christians seem to do things a lot more quickly, but the number of engagements called off (even just among people I know) make me wonder whether we shouldn’t be having the kind of conversations that are taken to be marriage preparation a lot sooner, before an engagement is made official. So that’s what I have done with Mr Knightley, partly as friends and partly as a new couple.
Discussing whether we are on the same page with regards to important things doesn’t mean that I expect marriage to happen soon, or even with this specific person: it’s just about being efficient with our time. You may not know if you like that person that much to even contemplate spending the rest of your life with them, and you shouldn’t necessarily know it that soon either! The point is, by having the hard conversations sooner you don’t waste time getting to know someone and enjoying things casually to then just realise you actually want more than that, but it turns out they don’t want the same things as you. It either means giving up on what you want, or leave someone you may well be much in love with by that point in time: I find them equally heart-breaking options, and didn’t want that to happen to me.
In our modern society we all seem to need more willingness to date intentionally. It doesn’t have to be right on the first date: there is nothing wrong with enjoying some time with someone just because it’s nice to be around them. However, these shouldn’t be conversations we have after the question was popped, and the Facebook status updated, and the new profile picture is more ring than couple. Dating, according to the unusually well-referenced Wikipedia page on the subject, is “a stage of romantic relationships in humans whereby two people meet socially with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a prospective partner in an intimate relationship or marriage. It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others.” I love this definition, because it gives space to have some conversations that can predict whether it can work long term, and it can still be done in a way that isn’t overbearing. Getting to know a person’s dreams and expectations for their future, values and non-negotiable early on means that you can decide early on whether to pursue things on a different level, or let the person go to get a chance to meet the right person for them sooner rather than later, when things are settled and it’s easier to get stuck in relationships just for fear of throwing away however long you’ve been together, or that it’s too late to find someone else to date long enough to get married, so we compromise. I have often wondered if that’s why my parents got married, and doomed all of us to a lifetime of married misery, and there are many other couples who left me wonder over the years, so I have decided to be brave and risk scaring Mr Knightley off. I didn’t, and now I feel we are building our relationship on a stronger foundation than previous ones I’ve had.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Dating”. Find the rest of the series here.
Meet your co-hosts:
Brita from Belle Brita
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.
Tayler from The Morrell Tale:
Tayler Morrell is a WAHM who loves to talk. She is obsessed with reading, writing, history, Wales. She is a Utahn transplant in Texas. The Morrell Tale aspires to show the real day to day of being a mommy blogger.
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