Though I’ve since switched majors, I remember the feverish hysteria of applying to nursing school—repeatedly refreshing your email, asking friends, and frantically calculating your GPA at wicked hours of the night. When my acceptance came in, I announced the news to friends and family with all the frankness of your average co-worker. I received well wishes, congratulations and questions about the rank, size, etc. of the program. Then, unexpectedly, I saw something else.
“Well Natalie, that’s great! And you want to know why?” Enthusiastic family friend.
“Because my hard work finally paid off?!” I asked cheerfully.
“No, because nursing means working in a hospital, hospital means working with doctors, and doctors mean marriage material!” she said with a smile.
I remember the unpleasant feeling I got when the girlfriend started talking about meeting her husband in college and how often people meet their husbands in their classes. I was a little offended at the effort I went to get accepted – meeting eligible singles or singles was far from my goal – but I also wondered why people brought up so much about marriage when I went to the went to university. The average age at which Georgian women get married is 26 and I am not necessarily close to that milestone. It’s not that I was against marriage, but in my twenties I had little desire to pursue it.
As I acclimated to my little southern university and made friends, I noticed that many of my new friends almost seemed to share exactly the same article with barely varied themes or diction generally written by a nice-looking white college student or boy from the south. The title was: “An open letter to my future husband/wife.” I’m serious: if you haven’t seen one of these articles, you haven’t been on the internet. They are everywhere† There were several varieties, but they were generally quite similar.
The religious woman might say she is looking for a “praying” or “God-fearing” spiritual leader to help guide her household or encourage her in times of uncertainty. The secular man might admit to having lax personal hygiene and request steamy nights and confirmation from time to time. But the common thread here was the youth – and single – of the writers (I suppose if you’re serious about dating someone you can just tell them straight to their face what you want them to be/expect).
I’ve become a self-proclaimed romantic since meeting my girlfriend. I think when you meet the right one, even the biggest skeptics, like myself, give in to a little mushy stuff. But I am also very ambitious and career oriented, so I know that marriage is not something I will have time for, at least for a few years. Some of my close friends and relatives got married young and that’s not what I’m trying to condemn here. What really makes me nervous about these articles is both the anticipation and the lack of satisfaction that these articles instill in their readers.
Imagine you are a single girl who is in love with the cute lab partner in chemistry. You followed him on Instagram and befriended him on Facebook. Business is going well and you even have a date!
One day, he posts an article on Facebook titled “10 things my wife-to-be should know.” She reads it excitedly, seeking to know all about him. Number one: “I seek a girl who knows her worth and who has not let a million boys tarnish her purity for me. A woman of God knows that her body is her temple.” The girl sits and thinks to herself, “Okay, I’ve had sex with 3 guys – will that be too much for him? Geez, I mean, I still respect myself and hold myself to high standards. Let’s see what the the next one.” Number two: “Understand I’m going to have some baggage. I’m not perfect, I’m a fallen man and I have problems like everyone else. I’m going to need you to encourage and lift me anyway.” The girl isn’t sure if she’s happy to know he has baggage ahead of time or if she has wishes that she’s figured out on her own over time. Number three: “I promise I’ll kiss you every day like I did on our wedding day. If you walk down the aisle I’ll probably choke. Can’t wait to see you in your dress and wipe you off your feet .” The girl gets a little nervous. “I can’t even pick a major, let alone a husband. Is he really ready to get married soon, because he thinks a lot about it for a single man.” The list otherwise essentially contains a Christmas wish list for a woman: hilarious, can enjoy a craft beer but don’t get “trashy drunk” and loves his family and his flaws.
Do you see where I’m going with this? By the end of the article, the girl reading it feels a little pressured to change or downplay some aspects of herself — all before the first date. My best first date happened when I had no preconceptions or expectations about the date at all. If you want to warn your future husband or wife about all your problems or let them know what you expect from them spiritually or emotionally, there will of course be plenty of time to discuss them as your relationship progresses. But don’t write off aspects of people or make promises until you meet someone.
When these articles are written by someone who is engaged, I understand that a little more – you are about to get married, so I understand why it weighs heavily on your mind and you already know your significant other’s strengths and weaknesses. But before you believe a single line about how she plans to always let you watch your favorite sport without complaining or how he will always support you in your decisions, try a few months or years together. †You prefer ESPN Sports Center to visiting my mother?” or, “You want me to work more so you can go to law school?“) These lists create a lot of expectations without any substance. It’s okay to have standards, they’re important, but it’s not fair to put them all together before the person knows your favorite color.
I know how important it is to choose a man or a woman when you decide to get married. But take life by day, month, or year. Do not live in a constant state of waiting – waiting for your boyfriend, then for husband, then for father of your children. Enjoy every stage of your life and make every stage beautiful in its own way. I have to admit that I like looking at pictures of beautiful weddings and sometimes think about marriage, but I am not in the financial, academic or emotional state to even want to do that now and that’s okay. So right now I’m just enjoying my travels, studies, meeting with friends, dates with my girlfriend and hobbies. I can think about my wedding checklist later, but for now I’m content to just enjoy Steak N’ Shake runs with my friends late at night.