“So this is just a formality for you guys, right?”
The young couple stares slack-jawed at my friend sitting across the room. They adjust uneasily in their seats and look to one another trying to decipher what type of trick question this is. A few more seconds of pause and both of them begin talking over each other.
“Of course not! We….”
“Take this very seriously!”
“And we’re committed to growing together as a couple!”
“This is definitely not a formality!”
My friend, Robb, is skeptical. He leans back and adjusts his horn-rimmed glasses knowing all too well the protests that are about to occur and braces for them.
“So let’s say then, after a few weeks, we come to the decision that there are communication issues and red flags that still very much need to be addressed and ask you to wait a while longer until you get married. For the sake of your marriage, of course. So that you can grow together a little longer as a couple and have a vibrant and healthy relationship that isn’t plagued by disunity. Would you be willing to wait?”
The gears in the young woman’s mind begin to turn quickly. She’s processing the coordination…the planning…the BIG event! And then the moment Robb has been waiting for comes pouring out.
“But! But! But the wedding venue!? And the flowers! We have everything booked already!!! We can’t change the date just like that if you think we’re somehow not ready! I can ASSURE you we are MOST DEFINITELY READY! We love one another and will fight for our marriage and do whatever it takes!”
The young woman looks pleased with her answer hoping she has convinced my friend.
Robb just leans back in his chair, collapses his hands and quietly says,
“So this is just a formality then…..”
This scene can easily be played out in nearly ANY premarital counseling session. A couple wants to get married, and so they say, “there are issues that need to be worked on so we can have a happy and healthy marriage.” But long before they ever show up in the counseling office they book a venue, try on a dress, a tux, ask their friends to come to the wedding, and then show up expecting to work on issues still plaguing the relationship.
If we’re honest. That’s stupid. And completely backward.
And thus our marriages are plagued by massive communication issues, simply because our dating relationships continue to set us up for failure. All because of what I like to call, “That day we fell in ‘Like’.”
THE DAY WE FELL IN “LIKE”
The problem with American-ized dating is that everyone falls in “like” but they don’t fall in love. We fall headlong into infatuation, as opposed to deep commitment. We don’t spend time developing a friendship, which is the bond and glue that makes us stick. Instead, the mentality is: “This person is so cute! So sexy! And we’re so happy together! All I can feel is lovelovelovelove!” And sure, it’ll last a while, but those feelings will always fade (in typically 3–6 months). When those feelings fade, men and women will jump from relationship to relationship to get that next “emotional high,” never truly understanding what commitment and sacrifice really look like.
The reason for this is everyone’s looking for the person that’s going to make them happier than anyone else in the world. This mindset leads to two significant problems. 1) It makes the relationship about you. And even if we are seeking to make them happy it 2) makes the relationship about feelings.Clearly, happiness and feelings are crucial, but they aren’t the point. They’re like the icing on the cake, but not the substance that gives it structure.
True love is choosing someone over your own selfish desires, even when you don’t feel it. When you’d rather strangle them for months on end, but instead make a choice each day to love them in spite of their glaring flaws and annoyances. I often think of my best friends and our relationships and the time it took to grow to that level. It happened over years, not just a few months. Additionally, as we grew, so did the amount of damage and hurt we could perform (and sometimes did do) to one another. But even when I was wounded by one of them, I knew they’d be there for me in a heartbeat and vice-versa.
Why this mentality vs. dating relationships?
Because in friendships we actually spent time building, growing, bonding, and loving the other person in spite of their messiness. Sadly, we don’t take the time to do the same in dating. We rush in, kiss, make out, hook up, shack up, break up — only become a vicious cycle. Then most of us are left lonely and wondering why all our relationships seem to implode after a few months.
On the flipside, there’s the couple that remains “in like” and chooses to ignore the glaring inconsistencies in their significant other. They love to think back to the early days of when they fell deep in “like,” believing that when they get married it will somehow go back to the good ‘ol days or fix the problems.
Here’s the issue with that: I can’t tell you the last time I spent on the couch making out with my wife for an hour and telling her how incredible she is or how she hung the moon. Never mind the fact that these days neither of us would even want to spend an hour on the couch just sucking each other’s face. But when we first started dating? That’s all I could think about. Sure, we have INCREDIBLY romantic times together still and days where my heart is so full it breaks at even the thought of being without her, but that infatuation we first felt is long gone. What it’s been replaced with is a deep soul bond that says “I see your flaws. I see all of you. And I choose to be with you through bad times, horrible times, unbearable times and continue to love you when those days come.” That’s a lot more romantic to me. There’s nothing romantic about saying, “I choose to stick with you as long as things are good.” That’s just straight selfish and reeks of someone who, down the line, will leave you for a younger, hotter version of your current self.
The sad reality is we’re spending our days getting struck by Cupid, and the glue that holds a relationship together is getting sacrificed for silly-putty. Instead of spending hours, months, and years growing as friends, we spend a few days obsessing just how “sexy/cute/funny the other person is and what they would look like naked” and then decide that’s a good enough reason to start dating. What a weird way to begin a relationship. To have that as the glue? And then if we can ignore the areas of our relationships that need work until we’re engaged, we hope that we can still cram some time in mending the relationship and fixing issues before our fast-approaching nuptials.
I wish we’d spend a lot more time growing together as opposed to obsessing together. I wish we’d invite wise council into our relationships long before we ever decide to get married. To ask “Hey, are we even right for one another or are we ignoring major issues for superficial happiness?” I wish we’d invite our close friends to speak more open and honestly about our relationships, because here’s the truth: A guy can always trick one girl, but he can’t trick her friends, and a girl can always fool a guy, but can’t fool his friends.
Just maybe if we spent more time doing those things we’d set ourselves up for some truly healthy relationships. Then when the storms and tempests come along, those relationships will be the ones that survive showing others a little wear and tear, but a house that’s still standing.