Marriage and Mr. Right

All the channels feeding me information about marriage are fairly conflicting.  Our society insists that it’s all about love, physical attraction and passion.  And if that fizzles then get out of the marriage.  It’s all about your own happiness, right?  In Papua New Guinea there was more of an emphasis on finding a partnership that benefited the couple as well as the extended family.  True love was only viable if it made sense for the community too.  And women come with a price, a bride price.  In fact every culture has its own view of marriage.  Depending on your culture, some of these views may seem normal but others will seem radical, crazy and even absurd.  The Bible has lots to say on marriage including metaphors of Christ and the church and the infamous Song of Solomon.  My family has quite a few examples of healthy long-term marriages but even we aren’t immune to the divorce epidemic.  Besides my immediate family, I have many examples of strong marriages in my church family.  And my friends are in every stage imaginable.  I still have single friends, most of whom (but not all) want to be married eventually.  I have happily married friends and I already have divorced friends.  Then of course there are books, movies, television and other media that have their own opinions too.

During my time in Papua New Guinea, there really weren’t too many eligible expatriate young men around.  My social circles were limited because of the situation and if I had met someone, where would we have gone on a date anyway?  Hamburger night with the rest of the Ukarumpa community?  To the Ledcafe?  Or to the Kainantu Lodge?  I can’t dismiss this entirely because many a happy love story has come out of Ukarumpa but it didn’t happen that way for me.  There are single Papua New Guinean men too but let’s be honest, I would be a terrible PNG wife.  Mostly because I am completely incompetent when it comes to providing for a family in a village setting.  So in PNG the expat men were few and far between and the PNG men weren’t an option.  But despite the single men vacuum, I was constantly aware of my limitations as a single white female.  I have never wanted to be married more than when I was in PNG.  I am very aware that having a husband wouldn’t have solved all my problems but it seemed like it would have at least helped.  Having a husband while living in PNG would mean having a built-in advocate in a male dominated society, someone to walk you places at night, someone to go on vacation with, someone to drive you to the airstrip or Kainantu, having a go-between with male co-workers and other helpful things.  I realize that none of these things are really reasons to be married but they were definitely perks while living in a place like PNG.

So now I am back in California and there are single men everywhere and while I still want to be married, I feel content once again with my singleness.  I am free and independent here.  I can go out at night alone, drive across the state, travel, shop and talk to strangers all on my own.  In America I don’t need a man.

But I do want to be married and just because a single male is coherent and breathing doesn’t mean he will make a good husband.  So that’s where I am.  Trying to navigate dating and relationships as a Christian immersed in American culture with my heart still floating internationally.  Trying to figure out where to meet men and once you meet someone how to determine if he’s the ‘right’ someone.

Ok so let’s work backwards.  Before finding him, I need to figure out who he could be.  Like most girls, I have always had a list but over the years my list has changed.  Now it’s easy enough to just joke that I want tall, dark and godly.  But at the end of the day, while godly might, tall and dark definitely won’t sustain a relationship.

My best friend, who is happily married, sent me this book called Marry Him, The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb.  This book is all about lowering our expectations for marriage to something reasonable and actually attainable, not compromising on the things that matter but opening ourselves up for something that might not seem right at first but in the end is actually better.  Marry Him is written to an older female audience but the principles are still applicable for me and I found myself giving them some serious thought.  I want to be open for whatever God may have for me and part of the process is figuring out what for me is ultimately non-negotiable.  Currently I would have to say that my top three non-negotiables are a similar faith and theology, an international outlook and wanting to have and provide for a family.  While being taller then me wouldn’t hurt, it really isn’t the most important thing.  Of course there are other characteristics that I might want but giving someone a chance based on the first three seems like a good place to start.

I have to admit that sometimes the book made me a bit depressed because I am guilty of at least some of the bad relationship behavior that Gottlieb describes.  But more so it made me think of the examples of people who I don’t want to be when it comes to settling or not settling for marriage.  I have a friend who chose career over marriage.  And I have another friend who married despite reservations family and friends had with the choice of spouse.  I don’t think either of my friends actually regret their decisions but I don’t envy either of their positions.

An aspect of the book that bothered me was the equation of religion to any other generic criteria someone might have for a future spouse.  Gottlieb cites many examples of relationships that work out despite religious differences.  But I am guessing that most of those people were more culturally religious instead of living their faith.  However, for me religion is different.  It’s not enough just to both be Christians but it is necessary to have someone who has a similar faith and theology.  This is because my faith influences my decisions in every part of my life and this will continue to be true when it comes to marriage and family.

With this as a main criteria, it would seem that church would be a good place to meet men but this isn’t necessarily the case.  There may be single men in the church but I won’t be holding my breath for any of them to ask me out.  This is another blog entry entirely so I won’t elaborate now but basically I think that the Christian church today has done a disservice to young men and women in how they support, present and teach about finding a spouse and marrying well.  The reasons are complicated.  So anyway, besides church, maybe being introduced to my future spouse through friends or mutual acquaintances might work.  So far this hasn’t but if you are reading this, actually know me and have a man in mind, don’t you tell me about it.  Tell the guy and let him decide if he wants to pursue the relationship or not.

After considering the options of church or being introduced by mutual friends, I thought about the guys I meet on a daily basis.  There are all sorts of stories about running into someone at the store, the gym, the coffee shop, the post office or wherever you happen to be.  However, I don’t really know how that is suppose to work either.  In Hawaiian culture they have the flower.  If it is placed behind the left ear it means you are married or taken, but behind the right ear means you are single.  So I thought of an American equivalent which could be something like the ‘ask me out’ pin.  This is what an ‘ask me out’ pin looks like:

Maybe under the right circumstances the ‘ask me out’ pin could become our equivalent to the Hawaiian flower behind the right ear.  However, it hasn’t happened yet.  Instead, in my experience, it just gains dirty looks from older women.  I actually still like the idea in theory but there are some obvious flaws with the plan.  Maybe just for fun i’ll wear as I travel to Europe and see who I meet on the plane.

While I was in PNG, online dating wasn’t an option.  I mean it really wasn’t an option because for various reasons our servers blocked the online dating sites.  I think they have changed that now but since I am in the US, I thought I would give online dating a try.  After trying out multiple sites, I realized that online dating was a fairly expensive and time consuming activity.  I would really have to be willing to put the proper time and energy into online dating for me to pay the prices.  But I could easily see my mind changing in the future.  With that said I have been on a few dates thanks to the free online dating site okcupid.  I guess since this post is already long enough, I will leave the tales of dating for another entry but, in general, I think online dating definitely has something going for it.

I guess all of this leaves me in a pretty good, if somewhat ambiguous, place.  Isn’t that just life?  While I still want marriage, I am content being single and yet it doesn’t hurt to have a few good and a few bad dates under my belt.  At this point until I have a ring on my finger, I will continue on my current path which is to pursue overseas literacy work because I love it and I can.  But I will continue to be open to, pray about and hopefully some day this will all lead to marriage.

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