A letter to my 20-something self about courtship and dating:
Dear Misguided fool,
You don’t deserve even the worst date. You are not God’s gift to all men, you are his gift to one man, possibly. You are not entitled to a happy marriage, or a happy life. In fact, without the grace of God, you would be completely lost and alone. God alone must guide you and you must be patient while His will unfolds in your life.
God’s will does not just “happen” to you, you must actively seek it.
This means finding every and all means possible to seek this. Pray those “Novenas to St Joseph for a good husband” back-to-back, and you may not realise but that may be the grace your future spouse needs to have a conversion. Spend those countless hours in Adoration talking to God about the intense longing you have to do His will in marriage. Offer up those masses and have masses offered up for your intentions of finding a good husband. Fast with the intention of finding a good husband. It may take a few years of praying faithfully, and your future spouse might be growing in his own faith and deep commitment to God so as to be ready to recognise God’s will when it hits him over the head. Ask any and all you know to introduce you to nice Catholic men. Join Catholic match or any other group, online or otherwise, which will help you put yourself “out there” so as to be actively seeking after God’s plan. Just remember to be honest and not intimidating in your profile. It is so easy as a perfectionist not to honestly represent yourself online. Why not include that you are praying and fasting for a good husband? That you can be too picky and intimidating? Why not let these men know you’re not as scary as your photo shopped perfect picture makes you look. You want to be a wife, not a goddess.
Allow yourself to pine. That grief and longing should not be squashed by a life of frenetic activity, even in the “Christian rat race”. You will not be able to listen to that desperate longing for a spouse which is a God-given desire to prompt you to action. That grief will help you know what it is to be poor before God and entirely dependent on Him.
Don’t give up on the concept that God might have called you to marriage, just because you’re still single and haven’t met anyone yet. Put away your fear of what other people might think of you, or of being that desperate girl that all the other girls with their aloof demeanour and seemingly superior “know-it-all” wordliness will disdain. Just be yourself.
I know you have a strong natural tendency to perfectionism. You also have a desire for certainty and become easily anxious about the future. These traits leave you with extra challenges at this time of unknowing. This is a cross you will carry your whole life, so you might as well embrace it now and start working on those traits that will not serve you well in ordinary life.
And that’s the key – discovering that an ordinary life, married to a flawed man and raising flawed children is far more exciting than the Rom-Com world of the perfect man – the MR RIGHT. You know the one- the handsome, funny, kind one. The man who always says just the right thing, perfectly scripted. He can read your mind. He brings you exactly the gift you always dreamed of on your first date. He doesn’t have anything in life to think about apart from you, and he takes continual rejection and unkindness as sign that you like him. The perfect man suddenly discovers that all those “no’s” to his face actually mean you really like him and turns around and chases you through the airport or main street or wherever else your fantasies play themselves out. Life gets in the way of the perfect fantasy, and it is not God’s plan for you to live a virtual life, but a real one. Letting the perfect get in the way of the good is going to kill you. As hard as it is, stop ruminating over every small defect in the other person when he comes along.
“We live in a culture today where Christian young people have bought into the Hollywood myth of only finding certain types ‘attractive,’ and this is very hurtful to guys like me who try to be manly in biblical ways and not worldly ways. Too many Christian girls today aren’t interested in seeking a Christian guy, but rather, a worldly guy who also happens to be Christian, just because they view him as more sexy or attractive.” Source
The wonderful story of how you met can one day be told to others, but for now you need to trust it is God writing this story, not you. When you have your first date and your future spouse does all the most disappointing things, like making you pay for dinner, not opening the door for you, blowing his nose on the serviette in the restaurant, and generally being blissfully unaware of the way you are analysing and dissecting his every gesture and word. He will learn over time what it is you love and grow to be more gentlemanly. Maybe he has a genetic heart disease that you don’t know about. And there are other things that won’t change, either. Things you may be secretly adding to your list of improvements required by him (you of course don’t think there’s anything that needs to change about you, silly fool).
Maybe you would make a wonderful wife and mother one day, who knows? Maybe there is someone out there who might love you enough to see past your prudish flaws and actually love you as you are even though you can be a real pain in the neck. And yes, you can be. Don’t get all righteous and indignant on me. You are just like everybody else, just as selfish and mean and critical. Just as sinful.
The only perfect wife and mother was Mary, and she had to majorly compromise. After all, when you’re sinless, who’s ever going to be good enough? She didn’t wait for years and years to find “THE ONE”. She did God’s will and accepted St Joseph’s proposal. However that played out, she still did it. Perhaps it was an arranged marriage? Perhaps she and Joseph met at the local synagogue? Perhaps a family member or kind friend introduced them? Perhaps they passed on the street and just knew. Perhaps Mary was the 50th girl Joseph had proposed to. Perhaps Joseph was the very first man she ever spoke to outside of her family. Who knows? Whatever the case, she did God’s will and is the one you should be turning to for help, along with Joseph. Can you imagine how Bethlehem would have played out without her agreeing to marry him? Joseph would have gone off alone to register, probably slept rough for a few nights and returned home, while Mary was left vulnerable and alone, caring for Jesus while being persecuted for having a child with no husband on the scene. No warning to escape from Herod’s soldiers ready to slaughter Jesus. Is that what you want? To be left persecuted and alone while the man God has chosen for you lives a lonely life too?
Get it in your head: God wants you to do His will. This will make you happier than the most carefully planned life of your choosing. Due to the New Religion you have come to believe that those crosses of perfectionism and control are not ones you should carry, and that the Cross of Christ is to be avoided at all costs. Being unhappy about not having the perfectly planned life is a sign not of virtue, but a twisted vice that has come to be idolised.
What if you knew already who you would marry? Would you just sit back and wait for him to do something about it? Don’t be fooled into a false humility which assumes it’s all up to the man. He might be just as scared and confused as you are. He might be misreading your very confusing signals into thinking you don’t like him at all. Don’t misjudge him as lazy and complacent when he might be trying really hard to sort things out in his head.
Beware of “paralysis by analysis”. You know how hard it is for you to even stick to a regular fitness schedule with 30 mins of moderate activity on most days, reasoning away your week and making excuses for why you shouldn’t do something. How much more paralysis sets in when the work and sacrifice involved in seeking a good Catholic marriage begins.
Like the Nike ad says: JUST DO IT.
God may have a couple of choices for you. How do you know there is only one person? As Simcha Fischer pointed out in her book, sometimes God offers a choice of a few good things, like a parent saying: “You need to wear a t-shirt, but you can pick out of these choices..” There might be 3 different men that God may allow you to pick from. Who knows? Maybe 2 have already been presented to you and you turned them down. Maybe the next one is your last chance. You need to wake up, girlie.
I know you want to have a solid Catholic marriage and family life, and to do that you need to find a solid Catholic man. You have slim pickings here in Australia thanks to the Catholic Apocalypse, but God is not limited by that. Travel if you need to. Embrace the Digital Continent and it’s opportunities to meet others. If you want to raise your children in a Catholic home it will take sacrifice. And lots of it. It starts with your own pride. You need to sacrifice your pride and self-sufficiency. Your natural Eve-like tendencies to have the power and knowledge. Your fiercely independent and capable nature will need to go to the cross. It will all be useful to God in time, but you first must give it to Him to make something beautiful out of it.
Hope for the right things. Maybe your man will not be handsome. Maybe he won’t have a quick wit. Maybe he’ll be socially inept at times and embarrass you in public. Maybe he isn’t someone you will be able to show off to your snobby friends. Maybe he will be kind and loving and faithful to God. Maybe he will see the kernel of goodness in you under all that prickly wit and over-intellectualising. And maybe, just maybe, God will hit you over the head with a revelation so that you don’t stuff up His plan for your life, and this amazing man who is beautiful and wonderful and flawed and fallible might hang in there through all your mistakes and love you anyway. Just as you are. Warts and all.
Be patient. Be kind. Love. Pray and fast. Do all you can and leave the rest to a God who is always willing to work with an imperfect vessel such as you are.
God bless you in your crazy state and sensitivity.
Your future flawed but slightly less proud self.