QUESTION: Question: I’m engaged to be married to a wonderful man. My problem is I was raised Christian and he has never been to church and seems to not be interested in anything spiritual and, yet, he has never said anything negative about my religion. He’s willing to be married in the church and has been to church services with me several times over the eight months we’ve been engaged.
My church is very important to me and now I’m having second thoughts about marriage because I want my life’s partner to attend church and church functions with me. I also want to raise our children in the church. I feel this is an issue that we need to be clear about before a wedding date is set and every time I try to talk to him about it, he just says everything will turn out just fine. I think we should agree about the part religion will have in our marriage and child rearing.
What can I say that will help him understand how important this is to me?
Dear Maybe Bride,
The clarity with which you describe your situation leads me to believe you know exactly what you want from your fiancé. Your challenge seems to be communication. You need him to communicate clearly and succinctly that he supports your faith and will engage in it with you and your future children. When he says, “Everything will turn out just fine,” this is not what you want to hear. So for you to get the type of response you need it will take a conversation in which he makes a commitment.
One way you can accomplish this is to ask him to clarify that when he says, “Everything will be just fine” he means that he is committing to engage your faith with you and your future children by attending church and church functions throughout your life together. You may think through past conversations about this topic and determine if it would benefit you and him to have a third person present who he trusts to help each of you work through your meaning, intent and words in the conversation.
I do agree with you that this issue should be settled in your mind and heart. I believe it would be a mistake to allow yourself to acquiesce to anything other than the commitment you need from him. Settling for something less than what you need will leave you with an unsettled life.
Mark Yeager, Senior Chaplain Director
Social Responsibility YMCA of the Foothills firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Maybe Bride,
It’s a difficult place that you are in and one I don’t envy. How do we make these important and hefty life choices never knowing the full extent of what our choices will engender later on? Some of us don’t acknowledge the red flag warnings and dive into the deep end hoping for the best. Others assess the situation and end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say.
I fall under the former rather than the latter category and with age, experience and wisdom I have learned to manage my impulsive nature by breathing, taking a step back and incorporating some prayer and meditation into my daily routine.
There is no “right” answer to a situation like the one you have put before us. When something like this comes up I often say to people, when in doubt, do nothing. And pray. Pray for wisdom to make the right choice. Pray for courage to see clearly what is in front of you, and ask God for lots of grace. My prayer for you is that with time and perhaps a really good couple’s therapist you will be able to follow your heart and listen to your intuition and make the best decision for yourself and your fiancé.
May the peace of the Lord be always with you.
Holly Cardone, MDiv.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Postulant
QUESTION: I’m interested in a relationship with a man I’ve known for several years. We both attend the same club meetings and we often sit together and have short conversations. He has never married and I’m divorced. We’re in our 60s and I know he experiences loneliness just as I do; however, he has never asked me out or even indicated he’s interested.
My problem is I was raised to believe the man needs to be the first to initiate a relationship and, frankly, I don’t have the nerve to tell him how I feel.
Is there a way to get beyond this impasse or shall I just be contented with the friendship as it is now?
~ Seeking a Companion
Although you feel it’s the man’s place to make the first move, why not try this: invite him over for afternoon cocktails and snacks. Make sure it’s light outside so that your time together isn’t seen by him as a “date,” but just a friendly get-together. Then see what happens.
Maybe you should tell him that you think he’s as lonely as you are and you wouldn’t mind seeing him more often. I realize that you don’t want to appear too “pushy,” but I think you need to know. A word of caution: he may not be interested in you. Also, I think that men who have never married may have some issues: maybe he is gay or maybe he is incredibly shy. Maybe his one true love jilted him long ago and he is not willing to risk again.
Still you need to know one way or the other. And risk something yourself by saying, “I really miss sleeping alone. I don’t mean for the sex, necessarily, but I miss being held. Don’t you?” If he looks at you funny, or runs for the door, at least you tried – and wouldn’t knowing the truth make you feel better than always wondering?
The Rev. Skip Lindeman,
La Cañada Congregational Church
Dear Seeking a Companion,
I believe we are able to handle our situations better than we realize. Our best answers come when we pray and listen, all the while keeping our awareness open to our thoughts and feelings.
At the beginning of your letter you say you know your friend is experiencing loneliness, as you. Unless he stated that outright, it might be an assumption that you’ve made. He might be doing just fine on his own. You have no way of knowing what’s going on with him unless you’ve discussed it and you’ve described your conversations as brief. The healthiest relationships are ones in which two people come together, each whole, seeking to share the joy of life in companionship together. They are not seeking to fill a void in their lives, but rather a complement to them.
There is a wonderful saying, “No matter where you go there you are.” It means until we are comfortable with who we are, as we are, no amount of people or things we fill our lives with can make us feel better about ourselves. Happiness is an inside job.
Taking a risk to initiate a relationship can be scary at any age. Many times we suspend our own happiness out of fear of a myriad of things – rejection, getting hurt, leaving our comfort zone or disappointment. You said that your friend doesn’t seem interested in a relationship. If that’s true, it’s time to let the relationship be what it is, but you will never know if there’s potential together until you spend some quality time together.
Why not ask him out for coffee so you can get to know one another? By doing so you take ownership of your feelings and he’ll reveal his by his reply. It’s time to go from “what if” to “what is.”
In prayer, state your desire and surround yourself with the faith that God’s guidance will always lead you to the right answer. The solution will unfold naturally and take you to the next step of your goal. Tune into the still, small voice within. Then follow those inner promptings for your best course of action.
Rev. Mary Morgan