Monday, 17 May 2010

When Silence is Golden

The other afternoon I was lamenting my youthful dating days with an old friend. I wasn't thinking about my post-divorce, post-annulment dating days, in which I was most definitely the most vulnerable party and a shadow of my former self. I was thinking about my pre-first marriage days, when I had buckets of confidence and, not that I knew this, power that I abused with abandon.

I didn't date much until I was eighteen, and then I was pleased when a handsome refugee from the Middle East decided that I was his girlfriend. Dating someone who did not share my traditional Catholic values became onerous and even scary, and I soon broke up with him.

But it never occured to me to question the whole concept of boyfriend-having, so I was pleased when it dawned on me a year later that a Catholic male friend hoped I'd become his girlfriend. So I did, and within a year or so we were even talking about marriage, and I even had the wedding hymns planned when I realized I was so bored, I'd rather shoot myself than marry my boyfriend. Unfortunately, I put it even worse than that in my break-up speech.

You would think I had learned my lesson, but no. After dating another exciting non-Catholic, I decided (again) to date another Catholic man who had taken a shine to me, and within a year or so we were even talking about marriage, and again I had the wedding hymns planned when I realized I was so bored, I'd rather shoot myself than marry this boyfriend, too. But I do not remember my break-up speech, although I do recall hitting on another Catholic guy before the break-up was final and listening to my new ex-boyfriend's angry diatribe on the subject in his high flutey voice that rose to the crescendo shriek of a tea kettle.

And then I got engaged to yet another exciting non-Catholic, which put an end to my behaving terribly to Catholic young men for a decade and, incidentally, almost ruined my life.

Having spent many many years feeling sorry for myself, I did not have the luxury to feel sorry for my Catholic ex-boyfriends. However, now that I am blissfully happy with B.A., I do feel rather bad about the imprudence of my youth, and I am sorry I was such a jerk to the Nice Catholic Boys I went out with. Of course, they did say some outrageously awful things about me once I toddled off into the sunset, so I won't cry too terribly much.

I think what I feel worst about was talking about marriage before I was 100% sure I wanted to marry either of those young men. In fact, I simply talked too much. I spun castles in the air. I painted word pictures of where we might live, and how we might live, and what we might call our children, and so on and so on, and my poor boyfriends just let me blether. No wonder they were so furious when I broke up with them.

"What will my parents say?" demanded the second. It struck me as very odd that he thought I would care.

So my great unsolicited advice for the day--more for the younger people than for the older--is to keep your daydreaming about your current flame to yourself, not because you're afraid of scaring him/her away (another possibility), but because deep down you don't really know if you want to marry him/her or not.


Christine Pennacchio said...

The wisdom you've gleaned from past relationships is something I can totally relate to. It really does both parties an injustice when marriage is discussed prematurely (before both know they want to marry the other). Once it's a topic of discussion, then naturally people construct their daydreams around it, and vice versa. Very good advice - keep quiet (for now).

theobromophile said...

Premature talk of marriage can also suffocate a relationship, which is a different thing from scaring a person off. If someone's already decided on matrimony, then it doesn't allow the other person room to establish boundaries and to continue moving forward with his or her own life.

Now, premature talk of anything is also hurtful; Exhibit A, my most recent break-up. He told his mother all about me mere hours after we met; on our second date, he asked me when I wanted to travel to Europe with him. Although he grew up with very religious parents (one devoutly Catholic, the other Evangelical), he expressed surprise that I would not get into bed with him (literally or euphemistically) after two months. (His friends were shocked; he sort of understood; I think sleeping around like that is disgusting.) For my birthday, he took me to the Ritz and the ballet.

That was the last time I've laid eyes on him, because he subsequently decided that he does not want a relationship. He probably does not understand that I would be a lot better off right now had he not messed around with my head.

That said, it's important for women (especially) to establish some expectations and boundaries in a relationship; otherwise, you're just setting yourself up for men to walk all over you.

some guy on the street said...

O pour l'amour du chocolat, that's terrible! It won't help much, but you do seem to be better off without such a one, whatever he's done to your head.

Alisha said...

Great post...just out of curiosity, were all the Catholics you dated boring and only the non Catholics exciting?

Seraphic said...

Alisha, yes all the Catholics were boring except for the post-marriage French-Canadian, and he never went to Mass except the one time I took him. I don't think it is possible for French-Canadians to be boring.

The non-Catholics were usually very exciting. I cannot think of a boring non-Catholic boyfriend at the moment.

Fortunately, my Catholic husband is not at all boring. Of course, he was brought up Scots Episcopalian, ha ha.

I am sure the boringness of my Catholic boyfriends had nothing to do with them being Catholic. It was just a case of familiarity breeding contempt, I'm afraid.

some guy on the street said...

Hmmm... for those among us here reading, who are singles seriously searching among the NC(Opposites), it seems to me that dating itself implicitly raises the subject of marriage. (I'm not looking to contradict our Auntie, here, I'm just trying to clarify various ideas jumbling my head...) So, is it that this implication is sufficient for mulling-over until Herr Fragge draws a decision from his discernment, and asks? Is it that the "M" word is too sacred to pronounce before contracting a solemn covenant? Is talking aloud about weddings similar to snogging, that way?

I understand about not confusing your date with untenable/irrelevant speculation and getting his/her hopes up (baby names!? wait 'till there's a baby to name!), but the process in some way is about marrying someone eventually. As it happens I absolutely adore Uncle Gilbert's account of falling in love with Frances Blogg, and the McAmbrose's tale has a similar precipitous quality to it; but is it always like that? Should it be?

Jen D said...

Talking about marriage way too early is a recurring theme in my relationships. It usually leads to the relationship lasting longer than it should!

Alisha said...

Interesting...I think you should do a post on that - familiarity breeding contempt. I've read something to the effect that because we are taught to see each other as brothers and sisters, amongst Christians, sometimes it is difficult to see the possibility for romance...what do you think?

Anna said...

I think that it is natural for us as women to start thinking about marriage as we head into a relationship. After all, that's why we're dating, right? To find a suitable man to marry. Having never been in a relationship, how soon has it been for people before marriage started becoming a part of the conversation? Should talking about marriage too soon be an automatic turn-off?

Seraphic said...

It is natural for us women to think about marriage once we're over 21 (12?), dating or not. But there is a big difference between thinking and talking.

The focus, when dating, should not be on marriage per se, but on getting to know another person. People are understandably terrified of other people wanting to marry them just for the sake of Getting Married. In the West, we don't like that. We want to be loved for our very own unique selves, selves our spouses know through and through and still admire.

Dating also helps us know ourselves better. It is hard to know that one goes ballistic is one is made to wait around for an hour because someone is late if it has never happened before.

In my experience, women should wait for men, not only to propose marriage, but to mention marriage in the first place. And until he does, women are perfectly free to go out on dates with other men or just hang out with other men. Devoutly Catholic adult men with jobs and IN LOVE tend to propose marriage within a year anyway.

This whole concept of "dating" strikes me as an artificial construct. I didn't "date" my husband. We were friends, and then we fell in love.

Meanwhile, most teenagers and university students do not date. They "hang out," just as men and women did before dating (which began only with the advent of popular car ownership, i.e. the 1920s). Uncle Gilbert "hung out" with Frances and the rest of the Bloggs. I don't think they dated.

As for men who date to get casual sex, a woman finds that out fast enough: there's no need to mention marriage. For the third date, he says, "Why don't we go to my place?" You say, "I'm not comfortable with that idea." He says, "Why not?" You say, "Because that might signal that I'm interested in sex, and I'm not that kind of girl." Then he says, "That's the most £$%@ judgemental thing I've ever heard. I can't believe you just said 'that kind of girl'. Who do you think you are?" And then you say, "I think I'm not the woman you're looking for. Bye."

The good part about this conversation is that you get it over with so soon!