Thursday, 23 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic & How Will We Know?

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I really appreciated your sweet post this morning, and hope you are enjoying the day celebrating BA's birthday!

I loved how you emphasized at the end of your post that BA is not perfect, but "perfect for you." I would love to hear you expand more on this.

I feel like many single gals (myself included) tend to swing the pendulum to either side. We either feel like we should seriously consider marrying any Nice Catholic Boy who is interested in us because they are so hard to come by (even if we aren't that excited about them), or we are way too picky and write guys off immediately for little incidental things.

How do we find the balance between the two? And how do you know when you have found the guy who is "perfect for you"? Are there certain tangible signs, or do you just "know"? How did you know that BA was the perfect man for you? Was it things he did or said? Certain qualities you noticed that he brought out in you? Were there things about him that didn't fit your own idea of the "perfect guy", but then these things turned out to be exactly right for you?

Elaborate, please! It would be sweet to hear more about this (or maybe you have already written about it in the archives somewhere), and would be enlightening to all of us single ladies. :-)


How Will We Know?

Dear How Will We Know,

Single girls are often told that you are too picky, but only once in my life have I ever met a long-term Single woman and thought "She's too picky." Honestly. And I felt bad for thinking it, and after months of subsequent thought, my conscience is clear because this woman simply wanted a clone of herself that looked like a handsome man.

She was a very good, admirable woman, but she hadn't yet grasped that no man is going to be exactly like herself, nor had she grasped that not all men with forceful personalities who could eat a Volvo, if they had to, want to marry equally forceful women. Sometimes the men who most admire go-go-go are men who aren't go-getters themselves, but have a lot to offer and it might be worthwhile to get to know a quiet man long enough to find out what that lot might be.

But that is moot--after a point*--because this is the West and the marriage model which is most likely to work for us Westerners is the love match. Unless you have strong feelings of affection and reverence for, and sexual attraction to, a man, you should not marry him.

I always liken marriage to a fire in the grate. A sound, mature character--yours no less than his--and shared values are the logs. "Falling in love" is the tinder. Sexual attraction is the match. Without the match or the tinder, the logs cannot burn. Without the logs, the fire will be of very short duration.

The match and tinder flare up in an exciting way. That would be the first year or first years of your relationship. The logs burn slowly and give off a slow heat. That would be the rest of it. They don't flare up excitingly, except occasionally in a sudden spark or snap, but they are what keeps the fire going.

So when you meet a man who you think is attractive, funny and interesting, it is a good idea to think about whether or not you share the same core values. It boggles my mind now that when I was a young woman I could continue dating a man after he uttered the fatal phrase "I'm an atheist." I am also sorry I associated with people once they made me feel badly, before my first (disastrous and soon annulled) marriage, that I wished to date only Catholics. Catholic Christianity, intellectual creativity and kindness are my core values.

Other people have other core values. I have at least one devoutly Catholic friend who is happily married to a Protestant. Whereas I am sure Catholicism is one of her values, it might not be a CORE value, whereas Christianity-in-general may be.

Sometimes a person's core value is ethnicity or a philosophy or the subtle manners of the socio-economic class to which they were born. And that's fine. That's just who they are. The important thing is that he/she marries someone who is highly sympathetic to his/her core values, ideally because she/he shares them, and would be sympathetic to them even if she/he weren't in love with their possessor.

It can take awhile to figure out what your core values are, and this can very much get in the way of finding the Perfect Man for You. I was so convinced that I was supposed to marry a Tenure-Track Professor type of man, that my friend Lily did an intervention and explained to me that I had to stop looking for a man who was smarter than I was, as I was already--despite having dropped out of my PhD--really smart. And lo, in the fullness of time, I married a fellow PhD drop-out.

Lily also said I should find someone who was kind, and she was right about that. Although outwardly bold and opinionated, I have fragile nerves and am easily influenced by the personalities of those I live with. Living with B.A. has made me more laid-back, and possibly kinder, and I don't worry about being yelled at, because B.A. never yells at me.

Now the weird thing about my situation is that it was a whirlwind romance. Yes. Ten days into my first visit to Scotland I was pretty sure B.A. was the Perfect Man for Me, and when he asked me to think about marrying him, I was absolutely sure. This is in part because I was 37 and--finally--knew exactly who I was and had learned enough about other people to have the ability to figure out who B.A. was, too. And then there was the Metaphysical Factor, which was the deep conviction that this was God's Call.

There is probably more to say on this, but as a matter of fact, B.A. is calling (it's his day off), and so I must go.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

*I did not think B.A. was that attractive when first I saw his photograph and then him in person. He did not look like my ideal. (My ideal was formerly 6 foot tall and clean-shaven, Slavic or Germanic, and definitely not Pictish.) And he showed up wearing a tweed jacket so bright it could knock your eye out. But now I love that jacket. And the beard seems normal. Or almost normal. Gracious, I'm married to a man with a beard!

P.S. So chuck out the shopping list of external features and hobbies you think the Perfect Man for You should have. You probably have only a few overarching Core Values, and they are such givens that you might be taking them for granted and aren't even aware of what they are.

Update: I realize that this doesn't answer the question of what he said or did. Basically after listening to B.A. tell me--Seraphic Single, remember; he was a reader like you--all about his ex-girlfriends, I thought that this excellent man really needed to get married to a Nice Catholic Girl to be kept out of trouble. And then I started thinking that I would be happy to take the job, although this would wane in the mornings as he talked so much. By late afternoon I would be simply crazy about this funny, smart, perpetually cheerful convert. He was just so thoughtful, and his everyday life was just so interesting.

It is possible that the timing was absolutely perfect, too. After all, he has a naturally sunny disposition and he was extra-sunny because he was about to be/was being/had just been received into the Church after ten or more years of praying about it.

Meanwhile, his friends stared at us in a sentimental yet scheming fashion and kept inviting us to parties and making cheeky remarks about us getting together. And most of these were MALE friends. So not only did we know, his friends knew too. Really, it was odd, but very nice indeed.


Anonymous said...

This post is particularly timely for a friend of mine, who have been dating a pair of friends for a few months. The guys are cradle Catholics who have in the past few years started getting more involved in diocesan events and going deeper in their faith, but not as much as the two of us girls, who are both converts and long-time evangelical intellectual types. We are both working in the legal world and love to talk endlessly about BIG IDEAS. We have been wondering if these more simple, but honorable guys are the ONES. My friend's spiritual director recently wrote her an email in response to these types of questions that I thought was uber-wise and very much along the lines of your post. Here it is:
" think the most important thing in this relationship is to preserve its simplicity and naturalness. You know that he is a practicing Catholic (could afford to do more....). But you also want to know that he is just a regular guy as well. Kick the tires. You want to know that he has the natural virtues necessary for you to entrust yourself to him. If he lacks them, no amount of devotion can suffice...and you should part ways. If he has them, then he has the platform necessary for more virtues."

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that the friend of mine and I are dating two different guys who are friends (one of us hooked the other couple up, which I strongly recommend all dating couples do - find your most quality friends and get them together!).

MEG said...

This post reminds me of a friend who had very specific expectations for her man. She planned to marry a Catholic, taller than herself (she's 5'9"), who had a simpler last name than her Polish one. She is now happily married to a short Baptist named Smith.

This is why I try to avoid picture my "perfect man"; aside from core values, expectations just seem to get in the way.

Seraphic said...

Dear me! I hope the short name wasn't her core value. ;-D

ceciliamaria said...

I was being pursued by a rather nice guy at the same time my sisters were in town visiting. My older sister told me to give the guy a chance after we had all gone out for drinks one night. He was a few years younger than my "age limit" allowed, but she reminded me that we had the same core values and he was very kind. I did give him a chance and it soon became obvious (to us and everyone around us) that he was the perfect man for me. I am so glad I didn't let his age scare me away.

He did do one thing, though, that won my heart: I asked for his help in finding a drum set for my autistic sister to practice with while she was visiting. His friend with a set was out of town, so he rented a music studio for my sister. It meant the world to her! And his kindness toward her melted my heart. :)

MEG said...

It wasn't--I think Christianity was. Oddly enough, they met at a Catholic university.

Beth said...

Thanks for writing your blog, as always. There are so many pearls of wisdom.

KimP said...

Interesetingly, a year so before I met my husband, I posted a profile on one of those Catholic dating sites you don't like. Nothing came of it, but it forced me to think, and write, about what sort of man I was looking for. It was harder than I ever thought possible. Until then, I just thought, "you get what you get". I really hadn't thought that I could have a say in what I wanted.

So I ended up writing something that boiled down to, "I'm looking for a man who loves God and can take a couple of two-by-fours and make something beautiful". And then I realized that I had basically described Jesus.

A year or so later, I met Jamie on another dating site that you hate even more, and while he was nice, I didn't think it would work out AT ALL because he had no college education and he didn't look like what I imagined "the one" to look. But then I came appreciate how nice he was, how into me he was, how smart he was. And he loved God. And he was a CARPENTER. Just like Jesus.

So go figure. The best I can say is to quote my grandmother: "When its right, you'll know. If you don't know, then he's not the right man." The other thing she used to say: "You want a man who fits like an old shoe but shines like a new one."

: )