John’s first message to me says “I’m a bold man.” This, coupled with the fact that he has Catholic values and beliefs, intrigues me. My first meeting with him is at a restaurant that serves “diner food with a twist.” The first thing I notice about him is that he is a quick thinker and keeps me on my toes. We have a great conversation and I feel both interested and wondering if I can keep pace with him. He invites me for coffee after, which I take as a sign things are going well. And then, on our way to our cars, I say something like, “Oh, yeah, we must have parked in the same area. I’m down this way too.” And then, as we get to the end of the block, John finds his car and I realize that either A) my car was stolen, or B) I totally forgot where I parked. “Yeah, I’ll be in touch,” John says, in a tone which I assume means, “Wow, you can’t remember where you parked? How is that possible?! Goodbye.”
The next week, I receive an email from him about having a picnic in his living room. I am won over by the uniqueness of the plan, although my roommates caution me not to go to a guy’s home who I have only met once. I don’t listen to them 😦
John answers the door and seems – much more relaxed to be in his home. He has two friendly whippet dogs who greet me at the door. We sit out on his front porch, eating crackers and cheese, sipping wine. Minutes into our conversation, John encourages me to go across the street with him to meet his new neighbors. We spend hours showing each other YouTube music videos and talking about our favorite music. I feel very comfortable and at ease and lose track of time.
At the end of the evening, he very simply says, “I really like you, and I want to see you again. So, um, what are you doing tomorrow?” He confesses that he doesn’t really know how to go about dating, but I am secretly very happy that he is so direct (and committal) about his interest, after so many previous experiences of unclear communication.
Going home that night, I feel a sudden lack of energy about going on dates with other guys, because I am now more interested in dating John and seeing where things go. I am not ready to admit this to anyone else, though.
“Did you have a sense that God had led you two together?” was a question I would habitually ask my engaged friends. And they always said, yes. Often they said things like, “God told me I was going to marry him.” Sometimes, the circumstances had been so unusual, serendipitous, or perfectly timed, and that was how they knew. “You’ll just know,” almost everyone said. “But how did you know?” I asked, like many people before me, looking for some kind of data, quantitative or qualitative, with which to measure.
Because these were questions that perplexed me, and because those answers felt so vague, I want to be really honest about how I “just know.”
I don’t “just know.” I don’t have a deep feeling in my gut that John is “The One.” At least, not the way I thought it was going to be, like a deep primal recognition that my soul had met its mate.
But… our relationship feels different in some key ways:
- There’s an absence of anxiety in my stomach: John and I talked about this once, laughingly. With every guy I’ve ever dated, I felt a nearly constant internal stress – stress about whether it was “right,” stress about if my friends liked him, stress about whether he or I would do the right things. There would be key moments in relationships where a sense of “weirdness” crept up in my gut. Once I was looking at wedding dress patterns with the guy I was dating, and then I had a strange feeling of, “This isn’t right.” With another guy I dated, I just couldn’t imagine a house where both of our possessions were lying side by side. I needed a lot of reassurance from friends about whether they liked us as a couple, etc. What feels different now is the lack of second-guessing, and the overall peace that has been a part of my relationship with John. Now, this might just be that I’m older, know myself and trust myself more. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that John share basic values and faith in common, so I don’t worry about whether we’re truly on the same page. I think it also has to do with John’s very upfront, honest nature, and the comfort I feel communicating with him about almost everything.
- The door is open. In other relationships, I found that my will often came up against circumstances. At the end of college, my college boyfriend wanted to get married, but I was in turmoil about the fact that my mom disapproved of our relationship, and that I didn’t have a strong sense of what I wanted. I didn’t have enough internal peace to move forward. In my late 20s, I’d been dating a guy for nearly two years, but he became increasingly hesitant to talk about marriage, so in that case, too, the door wasn’t “open” to that possibility. With John, the door to marriage is “open”
in the sense that 1. he proposed, 2. nothing, either internally or externally, is keeping me from saying yes. I’ve never experienced the door being truly open before, so the rareness of this state gives me a sense of peace in going forward.
- It works! Relationships in my past felt like they were constantly in need of a “fix-it-shop.” They’d run smoothly for a while, and then something would break down. We’d sort of fix it or patch it, but it would break down again. John is the first person I’ve dated where we’ve worked through things in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow of our relationship. It’s not perfect, and it’s not bliss every day. But a disagreement or difference in opinion can usually be resolved in a few conversations, rather than needing to “take breaks” to re-evaluate.
- I feel comfortable with the fact that marriage is a choice. Christian communities often work hard to discount the idea of “happily ever after,” “fate” and “The One,” but sometimes they perpetuate a somewhat equally damaging view of “God’s Will:” i.e. don’t make a move until you know it’s GOD’S WILL. If God tells you he’s going to be your husband, that makes it all really clear and indisputable. But in my experience watching many Catholic friends, all very faithful, some friends experienced clear certainty when discerning a call to marriage. Many, like me, had to sift through questions, doubts, uncertainties. Meanwhile, we wondered if, because we hadn’t “heard a voice,” and because it wasn’t revealed in a sign, it was God’s will. My best friend felt uncertain about her future husband, and the rightness of marrying him, until a friend encouraged her just to choose to love him for a while without trying so hard to “figure it out.”. This choice proved to be the essential ingredient that led her to peace in saying yes, when he proposed. There are good choices in spouses, and there are bad choices, of course, and keeping your eyes open is really important. But realizing (and giving myself permission) to make this choice, with this man, knowing that it was entirely possible that I could have chosen other people or life paths, has given me a lot of freedom and actually made it easier to trust God. I used to think God had a perfect plan and that it was up to me to “figure it out” or else. Now, I trust that God trusts me, and that if I ask for help, he will guide me, and that there are a variety of circumstances and choices with which he can work and create something beautiful, and this keeps me from being paralyzed in indecision.